Caribbean Business News Round-Up

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The Surinamese government has eight oil blocks up for auction.
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Compiled By NAN Business Editor

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Mar. 5, 2021: Here are all the top headlines you can use, making Caribbean business news this week:

REGIONAL

Caribbean countries, with the exception of Guyana, are now more in debt than ever, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s according to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Regional Report: 2020 Review and 2021 Outlook, released on February 25th, 2021. Regionally, debt is projected to continue rising to 81.5% of GDP in 2021.

Here’s where the GDP declines were:

Anguilla: -29.7 percent

Saint Lucia: -26.3 percent

Turks & Caicos: -26.8 percent

US Vrigin Islands: -18.9 percent

Belize: -13.3 percent

Trinidad and Tobago: -11 percent

Barbados: -8.3 percent

Montserrat: -7.9 percent

Jamaica: -6.7 percent

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: -4.8 percent

Haiti: -4 percent

In 2020, debt rose in every of the 19 Borrowing Member Countries (BMC), except Guyana. The regional debt-to-GDP average moved from 66.5% to 79.5%. In Barbados debt reached almost 150% of GDP.

This comes as A new study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has urged Caribbean countries to build sound fiscal, monetary and financial institutions in order to boost growth.

“To build resilience against external shocks and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, Caribbean countries must advance key fiscal and financial reforms that range from stronger tax and pensions systems to improved debt and financial management,” recommends the study, released on Wednesday in the book, ‘Economic Institutions for a Resilient Caribbean.’

It recommends that the region strengthen its institutions to promote economic growth in line with sustainable fiscal management, effective monetary policy and resilient financial systems.

The analysis lays out specific reform agendas for the Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago, which are borrowing member countries of the Washington-based IDB.

“As Caribbean governments pivot towards smart and resilient investments, strong economic institutions are needed to ensure public spending benefits all citizens,” said Therese Turner-Jones, general manager of the Country Department Caribbean Group at the financial institution.

GUYANA

Exxon Mobil has disclsoed that its exploration well in the prolific Stabroek Block off Guyana’s coast did not find oil in its target area.

Exxon, which operates the Stabroek Block in a consortium with Hess and China’s CNOOC, has made 18 discoveries in the area in 5 years, totaling more than 8 billion BOE, for a combined potential for producing up to 750,000 B/D of crude. The Hassa-1 exploration well was the giant’s second setback to its drilling campaign in recent months.

Meanwhile, the country’s Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, has revealed that in 2020, two new markets for Guyana’s rice exports were secured in Hungary and Latvia, two Eastern European countries. Additionally, Guyana will soon be exporting an additional 24,000 tons of rice to Brazil, taking the total to 34,000 tons.

And Scotiabank, which has for some time been looking to sell its operations in Guyana, has reached an agreement with the Trinidad and Tobago-based First Citizens bank to sell its operations. This is despite the fact that Government approval has yet to be granted.

Scotiabank made the announcement on Wednesday, noting that after it sells its operations, all of its approximately 180 employees would remain to continue supporting operations in its four local branches.

According to Scotiabank’s statement, the transaction supports First Citizens’ strategic growth across the region, and leverages its strengths in innovation and excellence to the benefit of all stakeholders.

SURINAME

The Surinamese government has eight oil blocks up for auction. The eight blocks offer over 13,524 km2 of unexplored, but “highly prospective” acreage in the Guyana-Suriname basin. This is the same basin where ExxonMobil and its consortium of oil companies have made 18 discoveries, totaling to in excess of nine billion oil equivalent barrels.

JAMAICA

Sagicor Bank Jamaica (SBJ) and the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to form the Sagicor Bank Business Resource Centre to provide free technical, business advisory, marketing, as well as research and project management services to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Through the Sagicor Bank Business Resource Centre participating business owners will also have immediate access to other services such as investments, property, health and life insurance products and services offered under the Sagicor Group umbrella.

GRENADA

Venezuela may be threatening Guyana and many citizens may be suffering and fleeing but it has donated US$200 000 to Grenada for the purchase of vaccines. Minister of Foreign Affairs Minister, Oliver Joseph made the disclosure in parliament this week, and described Venezuela as a genuine friend to Grenada.