Caribbean News in Brief – May 20, 2010

ASSISTANCE

St. John’s, Antigua and Barbuda: The European Commission has approved a grant of 10 million Euros (US$12.4 million) for Antigua and Barbuda.

The financing will be provided under the European Union’s Vulnerability Flex (V-Flex) mechanism, which was introduced in August 2009 in the wake of the global financial crisis.

The V-Flex provides budget support to the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries most affected by the world economic downturn.

In order to qualify for the grant, requesting countries must have “a high degree of economic, social and political vulnerability, the right policies in place to fight the crisis and sufficient absorptive capacity as well as a financing gap in their budgets where EU support can make a difference by closing or significantly reducing this gap”.

Finance Minister Harold Lovell says the approval of the grant is “yet another indication that our Fiscal Consolidation Program is the correct way to put us on a path of sustainable development”.

Antigua and Barbuda is the second member of the currency union to be approved for the V-Flex. Grenada has received five million Euros (US$6.2 million).

FINANCIAL CENTER

Kingston, Jamaica: The government is working to achieve its goal of making the nation a centre for international financial services.

Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Karl Samuda says that a draft bill to establish a statutory body for the development and promotion of the country has been referred to the Attorney-General for legal opinion.

He said it was hoped that the Bill would be passed during the first quarter of the 2010/11 fiscal year.

Samuda also indicated that an evaluation of Jamaica’s ability to position itself competitively in this industry and to identify the nation’s possible product offerings or options for a local International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) is also underway.

“A comprehensive preliminary report has already been submitted and is being reviewed by a committee, established to oversee the implementation of Jamaica’s international financial services centre,” he said.

In addition, Samuda said work will be undertaken to review the double taxation treaties in order to determine their relevance in the current environment and whether they need to be renegotiated to support the attractiveness and development of the IFSC.

Samuda said the government has identified the financial services sector as a priority area for development in this fiscal year.

EARTHQUAKE

San Juan, Puerto Rico: An earthquake measuring 5.8 caused moderate damage to the island last Sunday morning, but did not cause any fatalities.

The quake, which hit 63 miles west of San Juan, occurred just after 1 a.m. and cracked foundations in buildings in several towns.

Puerto Rico’s emergency management agency said a rock slide, resulting from the tremor, caused debris to block a highway.

There were no tsunami threats as a result of the quake.

The earthquake was also felt in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but there were no reports of damage there.

OPTIMISTIC

Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis: The government is expecting the twin-island federation’s economy to improve in the near future.

Minister of Information, Senator Nigel Carty, says that although small and large economies around the world have been hard hit by the global economic crisis, the government is confident that the nation’s economy will return to growth in the medium term, and macro-economic stability will be bolstered, particularly assisted by the implementation of several initiatives.

Carty said the commitment had come from Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Denzil Douglas, during a presentation to the Cabinet, following a debriefing by an International Monetary Fund team that ended a month-long visit to St. Kitts and Nevis earlier this month.

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