Caribbean News Roundup April 28, 2016

Caribbean News Roundup April 28, 2016

The Caribbean

Caribbean needs Billions to deal with Housing problem
A study on the state of housing in six Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries has revealed that approximately US$1.8 billion is needed to end poor housing conditions for more than one million citizens.
The study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) looked at the housing problem in The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The study, which analysed the implementation of social housing programs in the Caribbean from 2000 to 2015, underscores the importance of housing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the larger agenda in poverty alleviation, economic development, and climate resilience.
It noted that rapid urbanization has created a housing deficit in the Caribbean, prompting a large share of the population to live in informal settlements that are disproportionately affected by landslides, flooding, and storm surges.
The study notes also that the absence of efficiently functioning land markets, inaccurate property registries, and land disputes, have compounded the problem and slowed the pace of housing programs.

Trinidad and Tobago
Warnings of further Economic Contraction in T&T
The Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (CBTT) says the effects of depressed oil prices and global growth uncertainties will weigh on the Trinidad and Tobago economy in 2016.
In its latest economic bulletin, the CBTT said that real gross domestic product (GDP) is projected to contract by close to two per cent as a result of forecast declines in both the energy and non-energy sectors.
It said year-on-year inflation is forecast to settle around its 10-year average of six per cent, given the impact of the widening of the value added tax (VAT) based on food prices, while the unemployment rate is expected to rise marginally to 4.1 per cent.
But the CBTT noted that provisional data for January 2016 from the Ministry of Energy indicate that crude oil production declined by 13.9 per cent to 72,190 barrels per day (b/d) in January 2016 from 83,883 b/d one year earlier. Natural gas production was 7.2 per cent lower at 3,819.0 mmcf/d in January 2016.
Meanwhile, activity in the non-energy sector, particularly in construction, manufacturing and distribution is expected to deteriorate.
The bank said constrained by declining revenues, particularly from the energy sector, the government has reduced its current and capital spending and has conducted a mid-year evaluation of the budget for 2015/2016 with a view to streamlining expenditures even further.
Former Central Bank Governor Jwala Rambaran annouced in December 2015 that the Economy was officially in recession after four consecutive quarters of negative economic growth (economic contraction). In theory, the country had been in an economic recession at least six months before the Governor made the announcement since the universally accepted definition of a recession is at least two quarters without economic growth.
Since then, government has had to cut spending, increase substantially the basket of goods that Value added taxes (VAT) are paid on, removed the fuel subsidy for vehicles and earliers this week also placed a 7% tax on online shopping.


Bahamian PM Says no to Same sex Marriage
Prime Minister Perry Christie says the proposed referendum to amend the constitution will not allow for same sex marriages to become legal in the Bahamas.
Christie launched the YES Bahamas Campaign “Equal Rights for our Sons and Daughters” on Sunday, telling his audience that the Bahamas will only recognize marriage as being between a man and a woman.
The referendum will be held on June 7.
“I repeat: This referendum will not cause same-sex marriage to become legal in the Bahamas. Marriage in the Bahamas will be legal only if it is between a man and a woman, and male and female are determined at birth,” he said.
Since word of the referendum was released, rumors have circulated that the purpose of the referendum was to legalize gay marriages. However, the Prime Minister has moved to dispel those rumors.
Prime Minister Christie said that the referendum was necessary to change the 1973 Constitution, which prevented Parliament from passing laws which would discriminate based on race or creed or place of origin.
He said that the framers of the Constitution “did not include sex, that is, they did not insert any language in the Constitution which would prevent Parliament from passing laws which discriminate against men or women.
In other words, the purpose of the referendum is to make it illegal to discriminate against someone because of sexual orieantation.
Since word of the referendum was released, rumors have circulated that the purpose of the referendum was to legalize gay marriages.
With the legalization of gay marriages in the US and the movement gaining steam in all corners of the world, Caribbean governments have been pushed to legalize gay marriages as well, but they have so far maintained their stance of a zero tolerance of gay marriages.


Martinique can soon Join OECS
France has presented the instruments to the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) allowing for its French Caribbean territory, Martinique, to become an Associate Member of the nine-member, sub-regional grouping.
Deputy Head of Mission from the French Embassy here, Philippe Seigneurin, in presenting the documents to OECS Director General, Dr. Didacus Jules, said “It is a great day for Martinique, for the French government and for me.”
Jules said he was pleased that Paris had signed the necessary documents, adding “We would like to express our deepest appreciation to the French Republic …for assiduously pushing this through the legislative processes required for its proclamation.”
“We also would like to recognize the historical commitment of President of the Executive Council of the Territorial Authority, Alfred Marie Jeanne, who has consistently advocated the integration of Martinique into the family of the Caribbean,” Jules added.
The ceremony was attended by St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Ambassador to the OECS, Ellsworth John, who said Martinique’s contribution and participation is a very important milestone for the OECS.
Martinique formally signed the documents to initiate membership of the OECS on February 4, 2015 .
The French first settled on the island of Martinique in 1635. Between 1635 an 1815, the island changed hands several times (both the British and French occupied it), but the French regained control of the island in 1815 and has maintained control since then.
Many Caribbean intellectuals have consistently argued for islands like Martinique, which are still under colonial control, to join regional trade blocks like CARICOM and OECS. Most of these arguments have centered around the fact that Martinique has had a very similar experience to most Caribbean countries and therefore will have much larger bargaining power and benefits if they were to become more involved in Caribbean integration.