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CARIBBEAN NEWS SUMMARY for the week ending June 7th, 2013

07 Jun

CHINA OFFERS CARIBBEAN NATIONS LOANS TOTALING $3 BILLION—06/02/13
The president of China Xi Jinping has offered loans to nine nations in the Caribbean totaling about $3 billion. The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced the loans and said they would be used to pay for infrastructure and development projects. The Chinese president visited Port-of-Spain with a delegation to meet with Caribbean leaders before traveling on to Costa Rica, Mexico, and the United States.

FIRST MEETING ON MINING EFFORTS HELD IN HAITI—06/03/13
Mining experts from around the globe will meet in Haiti in the first conference on mining to be held there. Haiti hopes that the meeting will aid in the development of precious metals there. That Haiti had precious metals like gold, copper, and silver was little known until 2012, when two mining firms began drilling in the northeastern mountains of the country. Testing suggests that the metals could be worth as much as $20 billion, which would be welcomed by Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the world.

VENEZUELA BEGINS FOOD RATIONING—06/04/13
Venezuela’s second-most populated state has implemented food rationing for 20 products under price controls. It is as yet unclear how the rationing will work, and if the initiative may spread to the rest of the country. The state head of Zulia, Vladimir Labrador, said that computer chip cards will be utilized to track and limit how much of the 20 products a consumer purchases. Products subject to rationing include rice, chicken, flour, cooking oil, sugar, powdered milk, and toilet paper. Sixty-five supermarkets will participate in the program.

FLIGHT DIVERSION OF LIAT PLANE BLAMED ON SMOKE IN CABIN—06/05/13
LIAT, the Caribbean airline, reports that one of its flights was diverted due to smoke in the cabin. The airline, which is based in Antigua, said a flight from Barbados was diverted to Guadeloupe after a cabin attendant and passengers saw what seemed to be smoke entering the cabin area. Maintenance crews later found that the smoke resulted from a problem with the plane’s air-conditioning. The plane is now again in service.

VISIT OF CHINESE PRESIDENT EXPECTED TO ENCOURAGE CHINESE TOURISTS—06/06/13
The visit of Xi Jinping, the president of China, to the Caribbean is likely to draw more tourists from his home country to the area. Jinping will visit Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica, and Mexico, and these nations hope that his travel through the region will encourage more tourists from the Chinese market. According to Cong Ling, manager of the American Department of China Travel Service’s Beijing branch, fewer than 100 calls per year come from tourists wanting to visit the Caribbean.

CTO SAYS TOURISM BARELY STAYING ALIVE—06/07/13
According to Winfield Griffith, Director of Research and Information Technology at the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the region is “barely keeping its head above water,” despite forecasts that the tourism sector will show a small increase in the number of tourist arrivals in 2013. Griffith said that the numbers indicate that the region did not do better than Asia and the Pacific in 2012. The Middle East represented a major competitor to the Caribbean in the recent past, but tourism rates have dropped slightly because of political instability in the region.

UNICEF NOTES VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN IN JAMAICA—06/05/13
Robert Fuderich, representative of the United Nations’ child welfare agency, UNICEF in Jamaica, has stated that the recent crimes against children have highlighted a “chronic” problem on the island, which has caused worry among parents and authorities. According to Fuderich, the recent killings of children coming so close together represents a reminder of the level of violence imposed on Jamaica’s children every day.

JAMAICAN ALLSPICE FIGHTS PROSTATE CANCER—06/06/13
Jamaican allspice, known for its mixture of spicy flavors, may soon become known for its medicinal properties in treating or even preventing prostate cancer. A study from the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami in Florida has found that Ericifolin, a compound found in the allspice berry (Pimenta dioica) had a significant effect on slowing the growth of prostate cancer tumors. The compound works by suppressing the androgen receptor.

PUBLIC HOSPITAL STAFF FRUSTRATED BY VIOLENT, ANGRY PATIENTS—06/06/13
Physicians and nurses in the public hospital in Jamaica have experienced higher levels of stress since the nation’s government introduced its no-free policy in 2008. Health care workers in the public sector have complained of having to deal with daily abuse from angry patients, higher stress levels, and greater exhaustion resulting from the environment resulting from the no-fee policy. These factors came to light in a study by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute, which reviewed the system. Workers were upset that the government had not provided adequate resources for handling the higher patient-to-staff ratio experienced after the policy was in place.

AUDITOR GENERAL SAYS FISCAL POLICY DOCUMENT NOT IN COMPLIANCE—06/07/13
According to Jamaica’s Auditor General, Pamela Monroe Ellis, in an opinion stated in a paper titled “Examination of the Components of the Government’s Fiscal Policy Paper (FPP),” the FPP does not comply with the fiscal management concept established in the Financial Administration and Audit Act. This Act requires the Minister of Finance to take action to decrease the total debt to 100 percent or less of the GDP by the end of the year ending on March 31, 2016. The FPP, on the other hand, suggests that the debt-to-GDP ratio is projected to 112.1 percent by fiscal 2015-2016, or beyond the legislated target of 100 percent.

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