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Barbados Reporting 17 Per Cent Increase In Visitor Arrivals From The United States – Sealy

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Barbados Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy is reporting that the island recorded a 17 per cent increase in visitor arrivals from the United States market for the year so far compared to the same period last year, which he attributed to the partnership the island has with low-cost US-based carrier JetBlue.

The Canadian and Caribbean markets remained very strong the Minister said, while the United Kingdom market registered a moderate increase, which was particularly encouraging given all the problems, politically and economically in that country. BM

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I Have No Funds Currently With SSL And I Have Not Done Any Business With SSL Since September 2021.

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“I have no funds currently with SSL and I have not done any business with SSL since September 2021. I wish to also make it clear that neither I, nor any member of my family, have ever borrowed from SSL or received any form of credit facility from SSL.”- Prime Minister Andrew Holness

Following on Cabinet meeting yesterday, and the general direction I have given to the government regarding transparency, I have asked all Ministers to check and disclose the status of any accounts or investment relationships their Ministries or Agencies may have with Stocks and Securities Limited. The NHT and the NHF have already made their release in keeping with this directive. As I previously disclosed to the public in February 2016, I held an investment brokerage account with Stocks and Securities Limited. This account was opened in 2008 and has formed part of my statutory declarations since. In September 2021, I liquidated the last remaining financial instrument managed by SSL on my behalf and gave instructions for my account to be closed. I have no funds currently with SSL and I have not done any business with SSL since September 2021. I wish to also make it clear that neither I, nor any member of my family, have ever borrowed from SSL or received any form of credit facility from SSL.

These current allegations of fraud at SSL and the international attention it has drawn to our Financial Sector requires a commitment to the highest level of transparency, probity and accountability. The public must be assured that the political class has no ‘conflict of interest’ that would prevent, delay or dilute efforts to ensure that the truth of the allegations is uncovered, those responsible are held to account and the victims receive justice.

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Jamaican Entrepreneurs Head to Guyana

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Local businesses across various sectors will be exposed to new buyers in the Guyanese market as part of the second ministerial trade mission to the country.

The mission, which will be led by the Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Senator the Hon. Aubyn Hill, is scheduled to take place from January 23 to 28.

“With export being a primary focus for JAMPRO, one of the important inroads that we want to make in Guyana is to expose our exporters, both on the manufacturing and agricultural side, to new buyers and new distributors in the Guyanese market,” said President (Acting) of the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), Shullette Cox.

She was addressing a Think Tank held recently at the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) head office in Kingston.

Ms. Cox said that technology companies, including those involved in the Global Digital Services Sector, will be participating in the weeklong mission.

She noted that Senator Hill got Cabinet approval last year for the implementation of a new national strategy to develop the sector, which will open up new markets to technology-based companies and will provide a blueprint for the expansion of the industry.

It will also support the development and diversification of outsourcing in Jamaica, she noted.

Ms. Cox told JIS News that focus is also being placed on exposing local construction companies to the Guyanese market.

“As you can imagine, with the economic boom that is coming to Guyana, there is going to be heavy demand for construction, not only for services but also supplies, and so we have a couple of companies from the sector that will be making the trip with us,” Ms. Cox said.

Other companies that will form the 60-member delegation include those involved in education, banking and finance.

The Acting President informed that members of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association will be in attendance to represent and pinpoint areas of opportunities for those companies that are unable to participate in the mission.

Reflecting on the first trade mission to Guyana, which took place in October 2022, Ms. Cox said that “there are companies that…are busily making inroads with their partners in Guyana, having made several trips to the country since then”.

She hinted that “a few of those companies have some announcements to make in the coming months”.

For this second trade mission, JAMPRO hopes to establish more business relationships between the two countries as well as to secure export contracts in both goods and services.

“As a Government entity, we also reinforice the relationship between the Governments of Jamaica and Guyana, and we are looking forward to achieving and coming back to report on all of the successes coming out of those discussions,” Ms. Cox shared.

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STATIN Reports Decrease in December Inflation Rate

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The rate of inflation for December 2022 decreased by 0.9 percentage point to 9.4 per cent, compared to November, the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) has reported.

The reference week for the December 2022 Consumer Price Index (CPI) was the first full week of the month.

Director General, Carol Coy, says the negligible decline in the index was mainly influenced by a one per cent fall in the out-turn for the heaviest weighted division – ‘Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages’.

Speaking during STATIN’s digital quarterly media briefing on Tuesday (January 17), Ms. Coy said the decline in the division mainly resulted from a 1.1 per cent drop in the index for the ‘Food’ group, despite the ‘Non-Alcoholic’ category rising by one percentage point.

She told journalists that the inflation rate was also impacted by the ‘Transport’ division, which fell by 0.9 percentage point, due mainly to a 3.7 per cent decline in the index for the group ‘Operation of Personal Transport Equipment’, as the costs for petrol continued to decrease over the period under review.

“The inflation rate was, however, tempered by increases in the index for the divisions ‘Restaurants and Accommodation Services’, up 3.4 per cent, mainly impacted by increased prices for meals consumed away from home, and ‘Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels’, up 0.7 per cent, due mainly to increases in the rates for electricity, water and sewage,” the Director General pointed out.

Ms. Coy advised, however, that the December 2022 inflation rate represented an increase on the out-turn recorded 12 months earlier.

This [December 2022] inflation rate was mainly attributed to increases in the index for the divisions, ‘Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages’, up 13.8 per cent;, ‘Restaurants and Accommodations Services’, up 23.9 per cent, and ‘Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Fuels’, up 2.8 per cent,” she indicated.

STATIN advises that the 2022/23 fiscal year-to-date inflation rate is 6.2 per cent.

The CPI measures changes in the general level of prices of consumer goods and services purchased by private households.

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Reassurance Given to Preserve Integrity of Country’s Financial System

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Jamaica’s authorities have given reassurance of efforts being committed to preserve the integrity of the country’s financial system and safeguard stakeholders’ interests.

This assurance comes from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service and the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ), in light of a case of alleged fraud being investigated at investment firm, Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL).

The Financial Services Commission (FSC) indicated that the investigations are being undertaken by the Financial Investigations Division (FID), among others.

The agency appointed Ken Tomlinson of Business Recovery Services Limited as the Special Auditor for SSL. He is also serving as the securities firm’s Temporary Manager.

Finance Minister, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, in a statement, noted that the country is the leading financial centre in the English-speaking Caribbean and, as such, assured that “we will do everything in our power to protect Jamaica’s position in this regard.”

Dr. Clarke, who said the matter being investigated has been the “source of public discussion and anxiety,” acknowledged that “at this time, it is tempting to doubt our financial institutions”.

“But I would ask that we don’t paint an entire hard-working industry with the brush of a few very dishonest individuals,” he urged, while expressing “great confidence in the investigative authorities to unravel all aspects of this [matter] and bring all perpetrators to justice”.

Meanwhile, the BOJ, in a statement, indicated that its supervised deposit-taking institutions, comprising commercial banks, building societies, and one merchant bank, remain adequately capitalised, liquid, safe and secure.

Additionally, the Central Bank said its ongoing regulatory oversight of these institutions “remains rigorous”.

The BOJ alluded to recent reports of alleged fraud involving financial institutions and intimated its concern about these developments and their potential to negatively affect confidence in Jamaica’s financial system.

“The Central Bank notes that in the recent case of alleged fraud at a commercial bank, the stringent internal controls insisted on by the BOJ assisted in the early detection of irregular transactions and ensured that the risk was kept to a minimal level, relative to the capitalisation of the institution,” the BOJ pointed out.

The Bank of Jamaica advised that the institutions it supervises are required by law to have all their assets and liabilities recorded on balance sheets and is working with them to continuously upgrade and strengthen their internal safeguard controls.

This entails ensuring fraud prevention and early detection systems, including the deployment of advanced, technological reporting and analytic tools at globally accepted levels.

“The basis of a strong and resilient financial system is the confidence clients have in knowing that their funds are safe and secure and can be accessed in a timely manner. Bank of Jamaica continues to work with all stakeholders to ensure that this confidence is maintained,” the Central Bank said.

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Jamaica’s Business Ministry Strategic Objectives For 2023 Will Focus On Increasing Exports And Local Direct Investments.

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The Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce’s strategic objectives for 2023 will focus on increasing exports and local direct investments, and training unattached youth.

Portfolio Minister, Senator the Hon. Aubyn Hill, outlined details of these during the Ministry’s Rebranding and Quality Recognition Ceremony on Wednesday (January 18), at the AC Hotel by Marriott in Kingston.

Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, and executives of the Industry Ministry’s departments and agencies, were among the guests attending.

Senator Hill said the Ministry will be looking to meet the targetted objectives under its new unofficial brand, ‘Jamaica’s Business Ministry’, by collaborating with businesses, engaging trade missions, implementing legislative frameworks, and working closely with its relevant agencies and departments.

Senator Hill emphasised the importance of increasing exports, in order to significantly boost earnings generated for Jamaica.

“If we only keep selling to Jamaicans, we will never become a wealthy country. We cannot remain poor people… we must export to the world,” he said.

Consequently, Senator Hill advised, the Ministry and its agencies will be advocating for more local direct investments as financial institutions continue to provide the private sector with more opportunities for accessing capital.

“The banks have a lot of money to lend, because the Government is not borrowing; we stepped out of the market. So, you [the private sector] can have all the money you want,” he declared.

Senator Hill advised that businesses are the “largest providers of money that the Government spends”, which requires the Ministry to take a “laser-sharp focus” on helping, encouraging and facilitating these entities to excel and be profitable.

Meanwhile, the Minister said the training and certifying of approximately 400 unattached youth will be pursued through a programme with the HEART/NSTA Trust.

“We need to take them (youth) in. HEART/NSTA is working out a programme that will start… this month. We must train, because the businesspeople say they want [to employ] people,” he argued.

The Minister encouraged the business community to take greater responsibility in providing training opportunities for youth.

“What I found is many businesses overseas, especially in developed economies, [and] some very astute emerging market economies… are training their people well. If we don’t, we’re going to remain poor. Those of us who are privileged to lead must help them get to a better place,” Senator Hill stated.

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