2013 Caribbean year in review

Source: by Peter Richards Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Originally published in Caribbean 360 News Magazine

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The year 2013, will be remembered in the Caribbean for the ground breaking judgement by the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as it relates to the free movement of Caribbean nationals across the region.

 

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Tuesday December 31, 2013, CMC – Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart won the political battle but loss the economic war in 2013.

His Trinidad and Tobago counterpart, Kamla Persad Biissessar set a record by losing four political battles in a year, while Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell set another record by leading his New National Party (NNP) to a clean sweep of all 15 seats in the February general elections. This was the second occasion he had achieved the feat within a decade.

St. Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas defied calls to debate a motion of no confidence in his administration for a year even though the matter reached the courts and in Nevis, the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) defeated the Nevis Reformation Party (NRP) to take control of the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) after a year of wrangling in the courts over the validity of the last elections.

In Suriname, President Desi Bouterse dismissed calls to step down following the arrest of his son by United State law enforcement officials on drug trafficking and terrorist related charges.

But during the year, President Bouterse fired his Finance Minister, Adelien Wijnerman, because of the slow progress achieved in clearing government’s payment arrears. Since coming to office in 2010, Bouterse has replaced 10 ministers.

His record is perhaps matched in the Caribbean only by Prime Minister Persad Bissessar, who accepted the resignation of her embattled national security minister Austin Jack Warner, only to see him successfully defend the Chaguanas West seat in a by-election and form his own political party.

In Belize, Prime Minister Dean Barrow sacked his junior minister of Immigration Elvin Penner based on the fact that he “did not discharge his responsibilities with either the due judgment and balance, or the scrupulous regard for appearances, which the Prime Minister demands for all his Ministers”.

Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit continued to enjoy his honeymoon and birth of his new born son by taunting the opposition, which elected a new leader in Lennox Linton, with the possibility of an early general election.

Andrew Holness survived a challenge to his leadership of the main opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), but his former prime ministerial colleague, Stephenson King, was not so fortunate in St. Lucia, bowing out to his former tourism minister Allen Chastanet.

A Brazilian court gave the green light for former Turks and Caicos Islands Premier Michael Misick to be extradited to his homeland to face charges arising from a Commission of Inquiry into alleged corruption and maladministration during his tenure in office.

Yet politics did not dominate events in the Caribbean in 2013, economics did.

St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony summed up the economic situation perfectly when he said some Caribbean countries were refusing to face up to the impact of the global economic crisis on their countries.

“The tragedy of the times is that we are in the throes of a major crisis like the Caribbean has never ever experienced before, but we are refusing to face the reality that confronts us and all of us are engaged in one form or another of self denial,” Anthony said, challenging his regional colleagues to be honest about the “hard and unusual decisions” that must be made because of difficult global economic conditions.

“We don’t like frank talk. We don’t like open talk. We don’t like honest talk,” he added.

The Bermuda government laid it cards on the table by telling citizens that they should not expect the local economy to show much growth in 2013.

“Overall, the Ministry of Finance anticipates that Bermuda’s GDP (gross domestic product) will be flat to negative 0.75 per cent in 2013,” it said.

The Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago revised the economic growth for the oil rich twin island republic saying it was now projected to grow by 1.5 per cent this year as against earlier predictions of 2.5 per cent

The test of Anthony’s frankness came early in the year when he warned striking public servants that bowing to their demands for a 15 per cent salary increase would force the island into the clutches of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Public sector trade unions had rejected an offer of zero per cent increase and a onetime payment of EC$1,000 (One EC dollar= US$0.37 cents). But the government said the counter proposal by the  trade unions would increase its wage bill by an estimated EC$55 million annually while the back pay associated with this proposal would cost about EC$40 million, “leading to a worsening of the current deficit of close to EC$100 million for this financial year.

“It also means that for every ensuing year, Government would have to borrow an extra EC$55 million just to meet the increase. This is clearly a path that a responsible government should not take,” Anthony argued.

In the end, despite street demonstrations, the public sector unions signed on the dotted line, accepting the government’s offer.

The nine-member Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) has long relied on mono crops as well as the tourism industry for heir economic fortunes. But the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Sir Dwight Venner, said they needed, “to wake up and smell the coffee” and realise that the global economic crisis had exposed and exacerbate structural issues that had been hidden in the past.

“Let us get sensible, there is the politics in all of that, but in the end you have to do the maths,” he told the Dominica Association of Industry and Commerce (DAIC), noting that the private sector had a significant role to play in the newly formed Economic Union of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

Sir Dwight told the private sector officials “that’s the only game in town” and pretending that ‘we can solve things without doing the math is going to be a very frustrating exercise”.

It was a message not lost on Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, who has a doctorate in Mathematics.

He has had to present two national budgets to Parliament in 2013, stressing at all times the development of what he calls “the new economy” to deal with the socio-economic situation facing the Spice Isle.

The two essential building blocks of this new economy are fiscal and debt sustainability and the Grenada government has said it would present a strategy for the new economy in the first quarter of 2014.

But Mitchell insists the “Homegrown Programme” has been designed for Grenadians and was not a programme put together by the Washington-based IMF.

Caribbean people have long equated job cut backs, decline in social services and a cut in government expenditure with the abbreviation, IMF.

So when Barbadian voters kept with tradition and provided the incumbent Democratic Labour Party (DLP) a second consecutive term in power following a nerve jangling general elections in February, they would have been forgiven for linking the government’s announcement of public sector job cuts in December with a prescription ordered by the IMF as the DLP administration seeks to revive an ailing economy.

Their position may have been strengthened by the IMF report on Barbados following its annual inspection of the state of the country’s economy in early December.  The Washington-based financial institution noted that the Central government debt had risen to 94 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by September 2013; the government’s deficit is expected to rise to 9.5 per cent of GDP in 2013/2014; the government wage bill rose to 10.3 per cent of GDP in 2012/13 – “the highest in the region”; and, most worryingly of all, international reserves had fallen to US$468 million at end-October.

Despite the gloomy picture, Barbadians had taken comfort in the words of Prime Minister Stuart that his administration had always taken the position that, as far as possible, resorting to layoffs would be “a kind of last option when every other option has failed”.

Perhaps the first sign that all options had or were failing came when the government announced that it would no longer pay tuition fees for nationals studying at the University of the West Indies (UWI). The government’s message to students: free tertiary education was never intended to last forever.

But even as the debate raged as to whether or not the government would meet the economic fees for students, Barbadians were jolted by the announcement made by Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Chris Sinckler that the government would trim the public service as well as reduce by 10 per cent the salaries of ministers, government legislators, parliamentary secretaries and those considered to be a “political appointee”.

Sinckler said that the plan to cut public service jobs would result in the government saving as much as BDS$143 million (One BDS dollar = US$0.50 cents) and that the government had also agreed to institute a “strict programme of attrition” across the central public service, filling posts only where it is absolutely unavoidable, over the next five years, ending 2018-2019.

“This attrition is expected to reduce central government employment levels from approximately 16 970 to 14, 612 jobs – a projected loss of 2 358 posts; and savings of BDS$121 million. Over the current 19-month adjustment period public sector employment will be reduced by an additional 501 jobs with a projected savings of BDS$26 million,” he added.

The government said that the first 2 000 job cuts would take place by January 15, followed by others by March 1.

Despite assurances from Central Bank Governor Dr.Delisle Worrell that self confidence would help the island overcome  its economic problems, the international rating agencies like Standards & Poor’s and  Moodys Investor Services were not impressed, revising their outlook on Barbados that had “fallen back into recession”.

Former prime minister Owen Arthur suggested that the government consider cutting back on Cabinet portfolios as well as social entitlement programmes, while Opposition Leader Mia Mottley declared the island was in crisis.

“The decision to remove 3,000 public workers is the ultimate betrayal of the mandate of this government. We have heard over and over ministers say there will be no layoffs, there will be no sell offs before, during or after the election and the prime minister led the chorus,” she said, warning that the “storm is still coming” and that the measures being implemented would not stop the free fall of the Barbados economy.

For its part, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), which represents the majority of the 28,000 public servants, has submitted its own proposals to the government, including a reduction in the Value Added Tax (VAT) as well as a 30 per cent cut in the salaries of government ministers.

The NUPW is also calling on the government to consider the re-introduction of bus fares for school children as part of the new economic strategy to revive the ailing economy.

But the despite the criticism, the government has found support for its plan of action. Head of the Barbados Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAB), David Simpson, said that apart from the retrenchments, the government would still have to outline a plan to stimulate foreign exchange earnings and improve the economy.

“I feel this is just the start,” he said.

If the Barbados situation was worrying, Jamaica has had a long relationship the IMF which continued in 2013.

The island signed a four-year US$958 million External Fund Facility (EFF) with the IMF and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller urged Jamaicans to remain focused as the country goes through what is perhaps its most ambitious and far-reaching economic transformation programme.

She likened the economic reform programme to working out a business plan, saying “I speak of creating a profitable enterprise for all our citizens.

“I always speak of the importance of ‘balancing the books while balancing people’s lives.’  This requires, among other things, placing emphasis on poverty alleviation and eventual poverty eradication,” she added.

By year end, the IMF was making public a letter submitted by the Jamaica government with Kingston acknowledging that while economic growth remained weak and unemployment “much too high” it was nonetheless confident that the benefits of the economic strategy now being implemented would “become increasingly evident over time”.

The government had also urged nationals to accept the stringent measures that would accompany the IMF agreement including increases taxes and the launch of a national debt exchange offer.

The Simpson-Miller administration also had to reach wage agreements with public sector trade unions and other stakeholders in order to maximise the benefits of the IMF agreement and its own economic programme and in its year end letter to the IMF said it remained “fully committed to meeting the objectives of the programme, as well as the specific targets set out in the April 2013 Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies (MEFP), and its September 2013 supplement.

“In the fiscal area, the government will press ahead with implementing comprehensive tax reform, prepare and legislate the fiscal rule, and adopt a range of measures to strengthen public financial management.”

The political configuration in the National Assembly in Guyana, translated into economic problems for the Donald Ramotar administration in 2013.

Blacklisted by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) after it failed to approve legislation to combat money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT), the Guyana government watched helplessly as the opposition legislators used their one seat majority to block the multi-billion dollar Amaila Falls Hydro Power (AFHP) project.

Government described the opposition vote not to support measures aimed at raising the guarantee limit of loans for the development of hydro-electricity in the country as a “travesty against the people of Guyana”.

Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh said that the passage of Hydro-Electric Power (Amendment) Bill as well as the accompanying motion to increase the guarantee limit of loans, from GUY$1 billion to $150 billion (One Guyana dollar = US$0.01 cents) was necessary to ensure the continued development of the country.

But the opposition was not impressed and stuck to their guns, indicating that the local government reform bills were necessary before the holding of local government elections which were last held in 1994.

Dominica did not have that problem as it sought to further develop its geothermal energy potential in 2013.

Roseau remained buoyant about the prospects of developing geothermal energy for local consumption after hosting a two-day international forum that provided an opportunity for stakeholders to re-commit themselves to the project.

“One of the very important points that has come out of the two days of deliberation is that there is a reiteration of commitment and support by all stakeholders who were present for the geothermal project,” said Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, whose administration has spent millions of dollars developing the sector over the past three years.

Not to be left out on the geothermal landscape, the tiny island Nevis announced that it had awarded the

Nevis Renewable Energy International Company, a consortium of international companies, an award to develop geothermal energy on the island.

“We were looking for the company that had the technical ability and the financial ability to deliver this project to the people of Nevis and I think that we would have done a good job of selecting this particular company,” said Alexis Jeffers, senior minister responsible for renewable energy and the environment.

The economic problems of the Caribbean in 2013 provided yet another opportunity for two of the world’s super powers, seeking to consolidate their relationship with regional countries.

On the heels of a visit to Trinidad and Tobago by US Vice President, Joe Bidden, China’s President Xi Jingping came bearing a three billion US dollar concessionary facility gift for eight Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.

“We did thank him for that very generous gesture. The three billion dollars are for infrastructure projects…in the region,” said Prime Minister Persad Bissessar, who hosted the Chinese and the regional leaders.

Dominica’s Prime Minister Skerrit said the facility comes at a time when “the Caribbean and indeed the world is challenged with all sorts of economic and fiscal issues.

Biden had described his discussions with CARICOM leaders as “frank and cordial” and pledged Washington’s assistance on a wide range of issues affecting the socio-economic development of the 15-member regional grouping.

Not to be outdone, Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province, pledged support for its handful of Caribbean supporters.

President Ma Ying-jeou, as he did in  St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia, signed a joint communiqué with Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas of St. Kitts-Nevis praising the Caribbean island for its friendship over 30 years and promising to lend assistance in areas such as climate change, renewable energy, tourism, education and infrastructural development.

The year 2013, will be remembered in the Caribbean for the ground breaking judgement by the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as it relates to the free movement of Caribbean nationals across the region.

Two years after claiming she had been denied entry into Barbados and subjected to a humiliating experience by Immigration authorities, the Jamaican Shanique Myrie received a substantially lower figure than the one million Barbados (One BDS dollar = US$0.50 cents) compensation she had sought. But the CCJ ruled that Bridgetown had breached her rights when she sought entry into the country.

Myrie had alleged that when she travelled to Barbados on March 14, 2011 she was discriminated against because of her nationality, subjected to a body cavity search, detained overnight in a cell and deported to Jamaica the following day.

Myrie also claimed that she was subjected to derogatory remarks by a Barbadian Immigration officer and asked the CCJ to determine the minimum standard of treatment applicable to CARICOM citizens moving around the region.

On September 27 last year, Jamaica was granted leave to intervene in the matter.

Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, Sharon Saunders, who was present in the court when the ruling was given, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) “my first reaction…is that in principle it has been a victory for Myrie and Jamaica because it has validated her claims and that was indeed the objective.

‘The award of damages that was secondary and in fact her costs will be met by the amounts announced. This I think is a landmark judgement and the court has been very fair. Of course in any court the burden is on evidence and clearly the court deliberated long and hard and this i think is an extremely good outcome”.

The CCJ in its judgment held that CARICOM nationals were entitled to enter CARICOM member states “without harassment or the imposition of impediment” and to stay up to six months.

The right was derived from the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and a 2007 CARICOM Decision made at the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM.

The court found that the right requires member states to give both “written reasons for the refusal” and to “advise them of their entitlement to access meaningful judicial review.”

The right can only be denied, the court said, when the visitor is an “undesirable person” or “one likely to become a charge on public funds.”

But less than two months after the court ruling, the issue of free movement flared up again after Trinidad and Tobago deported 13 Jamaican nationals.

The issue led to calls for an economic boycott of Port of Spain and it took the intervention of the foreign ministers of both countries meeting in Kingston to bring about a resolution.

A ruling by the Constitutional Court in the Dominican Republic that had the effect of rendering stateless, thousands of Dominican nationals of Haitian descent was roundly condemned by regional and international agencies and CARICOM took the unprecedented decision to put on hold, Santo Domingo’s application to join the 15-member regional bloc.

By yearend, the leaders of Haiti and the Dominican Republic were holding talks aimed at rectifying the situation, although it seemed the road ahead would not be an easy one.

Crime continued to have a serious effect on the socio-economic development of the region in 2013, as it has done over the past years.

Regional governments have complained about spending scarce resources on having to beef up security for their nationals. In Jamaica where more than 1,400 people were murdered this year, National Security Minister Peter Bunting acknowledged that the fight against crime seemed to be a futile endeavour.

“I am not embarrassed to say that right now as Minister of National Security, I am going through a kind of a dark night of the soul,” he said, noting that despite the efforts of law enforcement authorities “yet so little headway, such slow headway is coming out in the statistics”.

The opposition JLP demanded his resignation and by yearend renewed the call as the murder toll increased.

Murders continued to be a major headache for countries like Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas and Belize.

Death continued to stalk the Caribbean as the year came to a close. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia, heavy rains and winds associated with a slow moving low level trough was blamed for at least 14 deaths in the two islands.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said that St. Vincent and the Grenadines would need “hundreds of millions of dollars” to fund the reconstruction effort, while in Dominica, which was also affected by the weather system, Prime Minister Skerrit put the cost at EC$45 million.

Prime Minister Anthony described the situation in St. Lucia as a “humanitarian crisis” and that the cost of reconstruction would run into “tens of millions”

Dominica’s deputy Prime Minister Reginald Austrie said that the damage caused in St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines would impact heavily on the efforts by the sub-region to develop its economic union.

“We in the OECS region have been attempting to make strides in terms of improvement to our economies, improving in the quality of lives for our people and these activities and destruction only seek to reverse some of the benefits we have made.”

In 2013, the Caribbean lost a number of its personalities, including Dame Hilda Bynoe, Grenada’s first-ever native head of state, former president of the Barbados Senate, Sir Branford Taitt,  Alimenta Bishop, the mother of Grenada’s slain prime minister Maurice Bishop, broadcaster, cultural activist and musicologist, Anthony “Tony” Laing of Jamaica, Justice Wendell Kangaloo, a judge of the Appeal Court in Trinidad and Tobago as well as media personalities Ferdinand Frampton, the former general manager of the state-owned DBS radio in Dominica and Timothy Augustin James, the former St. lucia correspondent for the Caribbean News Agency (CANA) and the now defunct Montserrat based Radio Antilles. He had also served as the first director of the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO).

The Caribbean also joined the rest of the world in saying farewell to the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who died from cancer on March 5 and  nine months later, the South African anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela, who died on December 5, at the age of 95.

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Mixing Business With Fun: Time To Invest In The Caribbean

By Dr. Leonard Madu
Diaspora News | 7 May 2013 Last updated at 12:52 CET

The Caribbean has always been associated with fun, beaches and carnivals. But it is much more than that. It is not just a fun destination, but a vibrant business destination.

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The $20 billion tourist industry plays a big role in the Caribbean economy, but business travelers are also drawn by off shore finance and banking interests, pharmaceuticals and energy.

The Caribbean is the third largest market for U.S. Exports in Latin America, behind Mexico and Brazil. Despite the upturn in the world economy, the Caribbean economies have proved resilient and expanded. The unprecedented infusion of Chinese funds have bolstered the Caribbean economies tremendously.

Economically, Trinidad and Tobago is head above all members of the 15 nation CARICOM group because it has the most advanced and diversified production structure in the region. It has a heavy industrial sector-machinery, steel, oil refining, methanol, etc and a light manufacturing sector-glass, batteries, air conditioning equipment. Currently, it is ranked the number one single site exporter of ammonia and methanol in the world.

The Jamaican economy is dependent on services which account for nearly 65% of the GDP. Most foreign exchange is derived from tourism, remittances from abroad and bauxite/alumina. Remittances from the diaspora account for about 15% of the GDP.

In Belize, no sector of the economy is closed to foreign investors, but special permits and licenses are required for activities mostly reserved for Belize citizens-internal transportation, sugar cane cultivation, accounting and merchandising-may not be granted to foreigners.

The government also sells citizenship to those willing to pay from $35, 000 to $50, 000 for the honor. Priority areas of investment are agro-industries, food processing, tourism aquaculture and horticulture, light manufacturing and assembly plants.

With a population of about 60, 000 and a GDP of $661 million, St. Kitts and Nevis does not have a personal income tax. With one exception, foreign investments are not subject to any restrictions and foreign investors receive national treatment.

The only restriction is to obtain an Alien Landholders License for foreign investors seeking to purchase property for residential or commercial purposes. Qualified companies enjoy full exemptions from taxes on corporate profits for up to 15 years.

Priority sectors are tourism, financial services, information technology and agriculture.

Haiti continues to suffer from lack of investments, partly because of limited infrastructure and insecurity. The apparel sector accounts for 90% of Haitian exports and nearly one tenth of the GDP. Remittances from the diaspora are the primary source of foreign exchange and accounts for 20% of the GDP.

And more than twice the earnings from exports. The new government has granted important concessions to new industries not competing with local production. Companies that locate outside metro Port Au Prince will receive 100% tax exemption for 5-15 years. Key sectors for investment include tourism, agribusiness, apparel, etc.

St Lucia has significantly diversified its economic base in the last decade, by creating a light manufacturing base that includes metal sheeting, corrugated cardboard cartons, sporting goods and apparel.

It has no income tax, no inheritance tax, no property tax and no capital gains tax. Investment sectors include manufacturing, tourism, international financial services, information and communication technology and agro processing.

Barbados, Bahamas, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and St, Vincent and the Grenadines have investment sectors based on financial services, tourism, information technology and agriculture.

Which countries are the best and easiest to invest in? According to the Wold Bank’s Doing Business 2012, ten CARICOM countries top the list of the best places to do business in the Caribbean. These are in descending order-St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis and Belize.

According to the report, Trinidad and Tobago top the list in protecting investors, Jamaica is tops in starting a business, and St. Lucia is number one over all in doing business. Haiti was rated the worst among CARICOM countries.

The criteria used in choosing these countries include, ease of starting a business, steady electricity, protecting investors, paying taxes, resolving insolvency, dealing with construction permits, employing workers, getting credit, registering property, enforcing contracts and trading across borders.

As an exporter, what kinds of goods and products should I export? Household consumer goods, building materials, computers, cosmetics, food processing and packaging equipments, drugs and pharmaceuticals, automotive parts and services and telecommunication equipments and services.

What are the language problems to be encountered?. Apart from Haiti and Suriname, all the CARICAM countries are English speaking.

African Caribbean Institute and allied organizations have been partnering Caribbean businesses with those in the United States and Africa and educating business persons on how to do business in the Caribbean.

Editor’s Note:
Dr. Leonard Madu is President of the
African Caribbean Institute and Chamber of Commerce.
He is also a Fox TV analyst and writes from
Nashville, Tennessee.

 

IMF predicts growth for Caribbean

Published Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Originally posted in the GuardianMedia 

WASHINGTON DC—The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says Caribbean countries will experience economic growth of just over one per cent this year, even as Latin America and the Caribbean will record half a per cent economic growth in 2013. The IMF said the growth will be supported by stronger external demand, favourable financing conditions and the effects of earlier policy easing in some countries.

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In its Regional Economic Outlook for the Western Hemisphere, the IMF said Latin America and Caribbean countries will experience growth from three per cent in 2012 to 3.5 per cent this year.

But the Washington-based financial institution said in much of the Caribbean, high debt and weak competitiveness will continue to constrain growth and these economies are projected to grow by about 1.25 per cent in 2013 from 0.5 per cent per cent in 2012, as external demand strengthens gradually. The key challenge for these countries remain broadly unchanged, reducing high public debt, containing external imbalances, and reducing financial sector vulnerabilities, the IMF said.

It said the external risks to the near-term outlook have receded and policy actions in the Euro area and the United States have removed immediate threats to global growth and financial stability. But the IMF warned that failure to replace the automatic fiscal spending cuts in the United States with more backloaded measures before the start of the next fiscal year in October will affect growth in late 2013 and beyond.

The new report reaffirmed an earlier message that countries in the region should take advantage of the current favourable economic conditions to build a strong foundation for sustained growth in the future. Policy priorities include building stronger fiscal buffers, improving policy frameworks, and pressing ahead with structural reforms to increase productivity and potential growth. Growth in the financially-integrated economies in 2013 is projected at about 4.25 per cent.

“For these countries, the IMF pointed out that “the key policy priorities are to strengthen public finances and protect financial sector stability. Stronger public balance sheets would help ease pressure on capacity constraints and arrest the widening of current account deficits.”

Growth in the other commodity exporters is expected to increase to 4.6 per cent in 2013, from 3.3 per cent in 2012. However, in the large energy exporters growth is projected to moderate. The IMF said these countries would benefit from saving a much larger share of their commodity revenues.

Average growth in Central America is expected to remain close to potential in 2013. Looking ahead, the report said gradual tightening of fiscal policy in these countries would be necessary to reduce fiscal and external imbalances and ensure debt sustainability.

 

New study: Caribbean businesses view little prosperity on horizon

Jamaica and Barbados report lowest confidence gains in 2013

Story Created: Apr 30, 2013 at 10:13 PM ECT Story Updated: Apr 30, 2013 at 10:13 PM ECT
This article originally published in the Trinidad Express Newspapers 

j0407067Confidence is low among Caribbean businesses, with only the largest companies reporting signs of an upward swing in prospects for the future, according to new research.

The Global Economic Conditions Survey from ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), which gauges the views of finance professionals across the world, revealed that the Caribbean’s business community had little to feel good about in first quarter of 2013.

The global survey of 2,000 finance professionals working in businesses of all sizes showed that in the region just 23 per cent said they were more confident about the prospects of their organisations, while 31 per cent reported a loss of confidence.

Emmanouil Schizas, Senior Economic Analyst at ACCA, said: “Globally, finance teams, who have their fingers on the pulse of business, have reported glimmers of hope for the future. The Caribbean region, however, while still reporting confidence gains, has a more subdued outlook…
“The Caribbean seems to be going through its own credit crunch with pressure on cash-flow and new orders combining with a continued lack of growth capital. While there are some signs of hope amongst businesses, the situation remains volatile.”

Head of ACCA Caribbean, Brenda Lee Tang said: “There were, of course, variations in how finance professionals in the region reported business confidence. Professionals in Jamaica and Barbados were the least likely in the region to share in the buoyant global mood in early 2013.
“However, it is not all bad news. Business opportunities have generally been on an upward trajectory for the last year and a half, and grew strongly in early 2013. FX volatility and inflation have fallen for the last six months, after peaking in Q3 2012, while reported investment opportunities surged after falling for nine months straight. As a result, and although a good deal of dynamism was lost in Q1 2013, business capacity building has strengthened.”

The global outlook
The survey found that globally, nearly one quarter (24 per cent) of respondents reported they were more confident about the prospects of their organisations than three months earlier, up from 19 per cent in late 2012, while 37 per cent reported a loss of confidence, down from 43 per cent. The highest confidence levels were in the Middle East.
Over two fifths (43 per cent) of respondents in early 2013 believed the global economy was improving or about to do so, up from 30 per cent in the previous quarter, while just over half (54 per cent) expected deterioration or stagnation, down from 65 per cent in late 2012.
ACCA’s Emmanouil Schizas said: “The global confidence gains recorded in Q1 2013 are much larger than what would be expected given the conditions on the ground. It seems confidence is being fuelled by an expectation of economic improvement in the future, but it’s not clear, when looking at the fundamentals, where this is meant to come from. As a result, we believe this surge in confidence is likely to be short-lived.”

 

Canada’s trade deficit widens to $1.6B

cbcOn Thursday August 11, 2011, 1:44 pm EDT

 

Canada’s trade deficit with the rest of the world grew to $1.6 billion in June as exports fell more than imports, Statistics Canada said Thursday.

Analysts had expected the deficit would be unchanged from May’s $1 billion figure.

Drops in energy and automotive product exports were the main reasons behind the overall decline in exports, which fell 1.7 per cent to $36.5 billion.

Exports of energy products slumped 5.1 per cent to $8.7 billion in June. StatsCan said that was due to lower volumes of exports and lower prices.

“The headwinds facing Canadian exporters have clearly been too much: a persistently strong Canadian dollar, weak U.S. demand, and Japanese supply disruptions, to name a few,” TD economist Francis Fong wrote in a commentary.

“The export sector is clearly in no position to take on the responsibility of being the major driver of growth going forward and it appears that economic growth in the coming quarters could be weaker than originally anticipated.”

Merchandise imports fell just 0.2 per cent to $38 billion.

While Canada was in a deficit position with the rest of the world, it recorded a trade surplus with the United States. The surplus shrank slightly to $3.6 billion in June, down $100 million from May.

Canada’s trade deficit with countries other than the U.S. hit a record $5.2 billion in June, up from May’s $4.8 billion.

Also Thursday, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that the U.S. trade deficit rose 4.4 per cent to $53.1 billion US in June. That’s the largest trade imbalance since October 2008.

 

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The International Education Market in Jamaica – April 2007

October 2008

Executive Summary

The rising demand worldwide for international education services is driven largely by the following global trends: more youth aspire to higher education; more jobs require highly skilled workers; higher per capita incomes enable higher discretionary spending on transnational education; and, more governments are recognizing the connection between a highly educated workforce and economic growth (Hosein 2004).

Although most Jamaicans (90%) are satisfied with the education their children receive in Jamaica’s public school system, (i.e. kindergarten through grade 12) some are willing to send their secondary school-aged children abroad to boarding school. This market segment holds little promise for Canadian providers of education services.

Almost half a million of Jamaica’s 2.7 million citizens are between the ages of 18 and 24; close to 17% of these young people attend a tertiary institution (Planning Institute of Jamaica 2005). The proportion of Jamaican youth seeking higher education has more than quadrupled since 1994, part of a global trend that is expected to continue. In 2004, the number of international students reached 2.5 million; by 2025, it is expected to reach 7.2 million. Australia, the United Kingdom and China are expanding their educational systems to meet this global appetite for international education.

With both regulatory and technological frameworks in place, Jamaica is a worthwhile market for Canadian providers of education services. Domestic Internet network services are expanding and new providers are coming on-line, which has in turn enabled more students to access education services, including part-time programs. Under the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), there are no trade barriers to the transnational delivery of education in Jamaica.

Almost 2,400 Jamaican university students studied abroad during the 2004-05 academic year; Canada accounted for just under 4% of this market. Most students (77.5%) opted to study in U.S. universities, while almost 19% chose the United Kingdom (Planning Institute of Jamaica 2005).

Canadian suppliers of transnational education programs and services are advised to focus their recruitment efforts at the tertiary level.

Opportunities

The international student population is growing. In 1999, the number of international students studying at the tertiary level worldwide had reached 1.7 million; in 2004, the number had risen to 2.5 million; by 2025, the student population at the tertiary level is expected to reach 7.2 million. Australia, the United Kingdom and China are striving to satisfy the growing worldwide demand for international education (Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada 2007).

The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) includes provisions for the cross-border delivery of tertiary education among its 144 participants; and, as such governs the recruitment of students from Jamaica and the transnational delivery of education to Jamaican students. The signatories to the GATT have defined the following types of educational services:

  • those in which the service “travels” but the provider and the consumer remain at home, e.g. distance education, education software and virtual education institutions;
  • those supplied locally to the consumer by a foreign provider, e.g. satellite college campuses;
  • those supplied to a consumer in the territory of the provider; and,
  • those brought into a country by individuals, e.g. teachers, researchers and trainers (Hosein 2004).

A major issue for domestic policy makers and educators alike is the transferability of credits and the authenticity of diplomas being awarded to local students. While Jamaica has made an unconditional commitment to the existing terms of the GATT, it is the first country in the region to establish a regulatory framework – the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ). Established in 1987, the UCJ is a statutory body that aims to increase access among Jamaicans to tertiary level education by accrediting appropriate programs and courses.

With its own accreditation framework in place and its telecommunications network expanding, Jamaica affords some of the best opportunities in the region for Canadian exporters of education services.

Canadian universities provide educational services worth an estimated $16 billion,1 close to $3.5 billion of which derives from fees paid by international students. In 2006, some 70,000 full-time and 13 000 part-time international students were registered in Canadian educational institutions. International students represent 20% of Canada’s full time student population at the graduate level, and 7% of its undergraduate population.

Historically, Canada has recruited students from 10 countries: China, the United States, France, India, South Korea, Iran, Japan, Hong Kong (S.A.R.), Mexico and Pakistan which together account for 60% of Canada’s total international student body (Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada 2007).

Prospective students applying to institutions in Canada may face a number of hurdles, including visa requirements and immigration controls. Processing an application for a Canadian student visa can take up to two months; U.S. student visa wait times are shorter.

Student Recruitment

K-12

Some primary schools lack the facilities to deliver curricula effectively. Jamaica’s Ministry of Education and Youth also acknowledges that the number of available Advanced Level secondary school spaces is insufficient to meet demand, despite efforts to construct new schools and expand and refurbish existing ones.

One solution would be to create additional spaces in the two upper secondary school years which would take into account the geographic distribution of students (Wilson 2006).

A recent survey indicates that 92% of Jamaicans are satisfied with the quality of education their children receive in the K-12 years. On the other hand, Versan Educational Services, a local recruiter for foreign schools and colleges, reports that it has witnessed a resurgence of interest in both Canadian and U.S. boarding schools (Jamaica Observer 2007).

Nevertheless, student recruitment at the secondary level may not be sufficiently lucrative to warrant attention from Canadian education service providers.

Community College, Technical Institute and CEGEP

Community colleges, which are a relatively recent concept in Jamaica, provide general education, pre-university instruction in addition to training in “para” professional fields. They represent recruitment opportunities for Canadian universities and offer potential for joint diplomas and articulation with Canadian tertiary institutions.

The following eight community colleges operate in Jamaica:

  • Bethlehem Moravian College
  • Browns Town Community College
  • The College of Agriculture Science and Education (CASE)
  • Excelsior Community College
  • Knox College
  • Moneague College
  • Montego Bay Community College
  • Portmore Community College

Moneague College, Bethlehem and CASE, all multidisciplinary, are among Jamaica’s ten teacher training institutions. The majority (80%) of student teachers are female. Bethlehem, Excelsior and CASE all offer a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Studies. Montego Bay Community College offers Bachelor of Science degrees in Hospitality, Entertainment and Tourism Management and Management Information Systems (Planning Institute of Jamaica 2005).

There are more full-time students in all programs than part-time students and almost two thirds of community college students are female. Total enrolment at community colleges and teachers’ colleges combined approaches 49,000 students, two thirds of whom are female.

The Joint Board of Teacher Education (JBTE) and the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica (CCCJ) are responsible for the management of both types of institutions. Canadians providing education in Jamaica would be required to work with these two entities.

The JBTE was established by the University of the West Indies (UWI) to approve syllabi, conduct examinations, award certificates and make recommendations concerning teacher education.

The CCCJ is a statutory agency supervised by the Ministry of Education and Youth to co-ordinate the work of community colleges. It is responsible for standardizing curricular materials, procedures and regulations.

The Human Employment and Resource Training (HEART) Trust provides technical and vocational training to the Jamaican workforce, including the construction, tourism and bauxite industries. Instruction is delivered through academies, school leavers training opportunities programs (SL-TOPs), apprenticeships, vocational training centres (VTCs), the Vocational Training Development Institute (VTDI) and the Social Development Commission (SDC). Total enrolment increased 43%; Hospitality and Building Construction were the most popular programs.

Enrolment during the 2004-05 academic year in the National Council on Technical and Vocational Training (NCTVET) (a training institution) also increased substantially (36%), possibly due to the increased participation by technical high schools and C$211 million in funding by the Jamaican Government.

University (Undergraduate)

In the 2004-05 academic year, the Jamaican Government’s Ministry of Finance and Planning (Corporate Management and Development Branch, Scholarship and Assistance Unit) provided scholarships enabling 180 students to study overseas: 39 were offered for undergraduate studies; 17 for post-graduate; and the remainder were for short-term programs. Recipients pursued studies in the following fields: Management; Education; Engineering; Law; Social Sciences; Communications; and, Science and Technology.

The United States, the United Kingdom and Canada are the preferred destinations for Jamaican international students. For the 2004-05 academic year, the Embassy of the United States of America issued about 1,800 student visas to Jamaicans seeking entry to traditional four-year colleges and universities; some 440 students received permission to study in the United Kingdom; and the Canadian High Commission issued 90 student visas (education@canada 2007).

Nine of Jamaica’s fifty-two tertiary institutions are universities: one is regional, two are local and six are offshore facilities that have been granted licences to operate in Jamaica. Earning a baccalaureate degree typically requires four years of full-time study.

The University of the West Indies (UWI) is the only regional institution that serves the countries of the Caribbean Commonwealth: Anguilla, Antigua/Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Christopher-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

UWI’s faculties offer a wide range of programs at the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels in Humanities and Education, Pure and Applied Sciences, Science and Agriculture, Engineering, Law, Medical Sciences and Social Sciences. For the 2003-04 academic year, students were mostly full-time and predominantly female (72%).

Northern Caribbean University (NCU) and the University of Technology (UTech) are both local universities. NCU offers 84 programs comprising 13 Certificate programs; 3 Diploma programs; 19 Associate degrees; 40 undergraduate programs, 7 master’s programs and 2 doctoral programs. Almost two thirds of the students attend full time; almost 80% are female (education@canada 2007).

At UTech, just over half the students attend full time, and a little over half are female. During the 2004-05 academic year, UTech became the first local university to join the Global Development Learning Network (GDLN); membership enabled UTech to deploy distance learning technologies and methods in its program development.

Students seeking admission to any of these three institutions must perform well on the Caribbean Secondary School Certificate Exams.

Between 2000 and 2004, the Jamaican Government’s annual contribution to tertiary education via tax revenues averaged $53 million. In 2004-05, this was increased to $113 million; the government provided an additional $15 million in scholarships to local institutions.

Students at the tertiary level are able to fund their studies through loans from the Student Loan Bureau. Each year, approximately 6,500 students apply to the Bureau for loans to pay their tuition fees. During the 2002-03 academic year, the Bureau disbursed a record $550 million in loans to over 7,000 students and an additional $80 million in grants (Ministry of Education and Youth 2004).

University (Postgraduate)

The global demand for postgraduate education is growing. Since 1990, the number of full-time jobs filled by postgraduates has increased from 55,000 to one million. 

As in Canada, universities in Jamaica are degree-granting institutions while the colleges offer vocational oriented programs which grant diplomas and/or certificates.

The duration of a typical master’s program in Jamaica spans 24 months of full-time study beyond the bachelor’s degree, or 36 months part-time; doctoral programs require 3 years of full-time study, or 5 years part-time, beyond the master’s degree. Each of the five faculties within the UWI offers postgraduate programs; UTech offers one master’s program.

Language Institute (ESL)

In Jamaica, English is the official language; it is also recognized as the international language of commerce, science and technology. Although most Jamaicans speak a dialect known as Jamaican Creole, the lack of orthography restricts its use within the formal educational system. English is therefore the language of instruction in the school system, and is offered as a major in baccalaureate programs.

UWI’s Jamaican Language Unit (known as Mona), part of the Department of Language, Linguistics and Philosophy, conducted a survey aimed at investigating perceptions about language prior to the introduction of bilingual education into Jamaica’s primary schools (grades one through four). The survey results revealed that individuals who spoke standard English were perceived as being more intelligent, more educated, more helpful and more honest than those who communicated using the local patois.

Language Institute (FSL)

French is not taught as part of the regular school curriculum in Jamaica at either the pre-primary or primary levels; however, French instruction is offered at some private preparatory schools. While both French and Spanish are offered as electives at the secondary level, most students choose Spanish.

Students who have successfully completed some secondary school courses in French may continue their French studies at the tertiary level. French is offered as a major at the UWI in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures.

The Alliance Française de la Jamaïque, a non-profit organization promoting the French language and culture, offers French language instruction and certification for both children and adults.

Transnational Delivery of Education and Training

Jamaica is a signatory to the General Agreement on Trade in Services which is administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO specifies four modes of trading in services which should be unrestricted between signatories to the agreement. One of these modes allows a company from one country to establish itself in another country in order to provide educational services. The agreement has fostered the development of offshore universities in Jamaica.

The transnational delivery of education in Jamaica occurs mainly at the tertiary level. Distance education technologies are used mainly by the UWI, UTech, and foreign universities.

Offshore Campuses

Articulation arrangements have been established between some regional and offshore-based tertiary institutions and local community colleges, teachers colleges and universities. To enable smooth transitions, these arrangements rely on the well-defined accreditation system provided by the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ). The UCJ has developed the Tertiary Qualifications Framework, a means of standardizing the academic and vocational qualifications required in the higher education sector. The framework defines the main criteria for qualifications required at each level and in each educational category. Emphasis is placed on the following programs: Education; Pure and Applied Sciences; Science and Agriculture; Engineering; Law; Medical Sciences; Social Sciences; and, Caribbean Issues.

The framework also facilitates the articulation of programs and the transfer of credits between institutions (Ministry of Education and Youth 2007). Articulation arrangements, including a few with Canada, facilitate access to higher education for students in different parts of the country. The UCJ recognizes three kinds of articulation arrangements:

  • Part of the university program is delivered at the college; graduates of the college portion are automatically admitted to the university;
  • Graduates of the college program are entitled to advanced placement with the university; and
  • Graduates of the college program are granted matriculation.

The following lists the nine offshore institutions that offer accredited degree programs in Jamaica:

Accredited Offshore Degree Programs in Jamaica

Eastern Connecticut State University / Hanover Education Foundation (U.S.)
Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Applied Social Relations

Florida International University / Institute of Management Science (U.S.)
Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Manchester Business School / Jamaica Institute of Bankers (U.K.)
Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Mount Saint Vincent University / JACAE Canada
Bachelor of Education in association with St. Joseph’s Teacher’s College
Bachelor of Education in Association with the College of Agriculture, Science and Education
Master of Education in Studies in Lifelong learning (formerly Adult Education)
Master of Arts in Studies in Lifelong learning (formerly Adult Education)

Nova Southeastern University (U.S.)
Bachelor of Science in Professional Management
Bachelor of Science in Applied Professional Studies (concentration in Teaching and Learning)
Master of Business Administration (MBA)
Master of Science in Human Resource Management
Master of Science in Instructional Technology and Distance Education
Master of Science in Education (specializations in Teaching and Learning and Special Education) Doctorate in Education in Instructional Technology and Distance Education

Temple University / Church Teacher’s College (U.S.)
Bachelor of Science in Education

University of New Orleans (U.S.)
Master of Business Administration (Executive MBA)

University of South Florida / Shortwood Teacher’s College
Master of Early Childhood Education

Nova Scotia Agricultural College / CASE
Bachelor of Agricultural Technology, in partnership with the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) via the four-year Canadian College Partnership Program

Distance Education

Jamaica began delivering distance education in the 1980s through its University of the West Indies Distance Teaching Experiment (UWIDITE) program, which was offered by the UWI via audio conferences. During the 2001-02 academic year, more than 2,300 students were enrolled the program.

The development of Internet-based technologies in Jamaica has extended distance learning systems to a broader group of students; geographical location is no longer a deterrent to accessing higher education. With the advent of this practical and cost-effective alternative to standard classroom instruction, enrolment in distance education programs has risen.

All public and private higher education institutions in Jamaica have access to information and communications technologies (ICT). All of the institutions registered by the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) are equipped with Internet-enabled computer laboratories. The UCJ stipulates that computer facilities in registered institutions utilize the latest software, e.g. the most current version of Microsoft Office.

Females outnumber males in both full-time and part-time programs. While students typically attend public institutions for full-time studies, private institutions tend to offer mostly part-time programs. More part-time programs are being introduced to meet the needs of workers unable to attend school full-time.

The Canada Caribbean Distance Education Scholarship Programme (CCDESP) is an example of a successful collaboration between Canada and Jamaica in the field of education. The CCDESP enables students holding diplomas or associate degrees to upgrade their credentials to the university undergraduate level on a part-time basis. Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Dominica are the regional countries involved in the program. The Canadian partner institutions comprise Athabasca University, which provides information technology programs in Jamaica; Memorial University of Newfoundland, which develops teacher education in Dominica and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and, Mount Saint Vincent University, which offers tourism management in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The CCDESP is managed by Vancouver-based Commonwealth of Learning and receives substantial funding from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT).

The University of the West Indies (UWI) is a full partner in the CCDESP, contributing local knowledge, experience and infrastructure aimed at enriching the learning experience.

Education System

The Jamaican education system is based on the British system and, as such, shares some characteristics with the Canadian education system. As in Canada, the school year in Jamaica begins in September and ends in June; the academic year includes ten public holidays. In Jamaica, kindergarten through grade 12 is publicly funded as it is in Canada. Students in Jamaica proceed through the following four levels:

  • Early childhood/pre-primary (ages 3-6);
  • Primary (ages 6-11);
  • Secondary 1 (ages 12-16 years); secondary 2 (ages 16-18 years) offered at some schools for students who have successfully completed secondary 1; and,
  • Tertiary.

The education system also includes adult education centres and special education schools for students with cognitive, physical and emotional needs.

About 22,000 teachers are employed in 1,000 public institutions in Jamaica. Most teachers (83%) are graduates of teacher training colleges; an additional 4% hold a university degree but have no formal teacher training. Only 20% of teachers hold both a university degree and a teaching diploma (Planning Institute of Jamaica 2005).

Pre-primary and primary education is compulsory and fully subsidized, and in some cases provided in partnership with churches and trusts. Jamaica is a mostly Christian country comprising equal numbers of Anglicans, Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, Methodists, members of the United Church of Christ and Pentecostals. The main religion within the Chinese, Lebanese and East Indian communities is Roman Catholicism. Some 800,000 students from early childhood to the tertiary level are enrolled in Jamaica’s public and private schools. In the 2004-05 academic year, about 460,000 students were enrolled at the pre-primary and primary levels; enrollment is traditionally high (97%) at this level, but falls to 78% towards the end of secondary level 1.

Both Jamaican and Canadian systems offer academic and vocational curricula at the secondary level; students have the choice of courses that lead to university, college or to the work force following additional vocational training.

The Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) has developed 50 syllabi, 19 at the basic proficiency level, 33 at the general proficiency level and 3 at the technical proficiency level. The Council offers examinations in all syllabi between May and June. Since 1998, a passing grade of “3″ has been set for matriculation to tertiary level institutions (Carson 2002). After five years of secondary school, Jamaican students must undergo examinations in the five CXC subjects, which include mathematics and English, and must obtain a passing grade in each before being admitted to grade 12.

To be admitted to the University of the West Indies (UWI), students must take Advanced Level subjects. The Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) facilitates access to further study or entry to the labour market. In 2005, more than 87% of students were granted university admission. Students performed best in Caribbean Studies, Computer Science, Spanish, Communication Studies and Food and Nutrition (Planning Institute of Jamaica 2005).

Jamaica’s universities also facilitate non-traditional admission using such criteria as experiential learning and portfolio assessment (Ministry of Education and Youth 2004). Certain community colleges offer introductory courses for the UWI and UTech, which have expanded their offsite campuses to strategic locations to increase accessibility to their programs.

The responsibility for improving the quality, equity and access to public education lies with Jamaica’s Ministry of Education and Youth, which is headquartered in Kingston and manages six regional offices. The Ministry provides financial assistance to students whose parents are unable to contribute. A number of privately operated, fee-based primary level institutions (preparatory schools) are also registered with the Ministry of Education. These schools are regulated by the Ministry to ensure that all children benefit from a high-quality education that conforms to national standards. Preparatory schools benefit from government subsidies for teachers’ salaries, class materials, and school meals.

At the secondary level, funding for capital costs derives from fees charged to students under a cost-sharing program introduced in 1994, as well as from fund raising. Cost sharing has enabled the purchase of additional instructional materials and equipment.

Females are outperforming males at every level of the system; to encourage more young males to stay in school, both genders are now presented with a common curriculum, rather than one that has been separated into male-oriented or female-oriented subjects.

The Jamaican Government’s current annual education budget is approximately $37 million. The Government also absorbs 80% of the cost of education at the tertiary level.

The Ministry has introduced the following projects to correct disparities in the vocational education system:

  • Technical and Vocational Rationalization Project: provides students with well-equipped laboratories and workshops;
  • Work Experience Program: provides students in technical and vocational schools with on-the-job training under the supervision of qualified individuals; and
  • High School Equivalency Program: gives individuals who were not able to complete their high school education an opportunity to achieve certification through a program of self-instruction.

In light of the high demand for teachers with competencies in mathematics, science, information technology and foreign languages, the Ministry has been awarding scholarships to teachers wishing to earn a first degree in these subject areas. The program, which allows a teacher to continue teaching while studying, is delivered via distance education by the UWI (Ministry of Education and Youth 2004).

Total household spending on education is estimated at $311 million. (A large portion of the education budget for primary school-aged children in a typical Jamaican household is spent on food, followed by uniforms, transportation and extracurricular lessons.)

Relevant legislation pertaining to Jamaica’s education system is listed in the 2007 publication, National Taskforce on Education, published by the Ministry of Education and Youth. (See the Bibliography.)

Market Environment

Jamaica is a democratic country with a population approaching 2.7 million, whose economy is increasingly influenced by the reduction of state-owned enterprises and the expansion of the private sector. Indeed, since the first quarter of 2006, the Jamaican economy has grown significantly (an unprecedented 3% in 2006) in concert with a steady rise in the production of goods and services. Investments in the transportation and utility infrastructure and gains in the tourism, mining, and service sectors have all contributed to GDP growth. In 2006, the rate of inflation declined 6%, and the unemployment rate fell to 9%. Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Catherine are Jamaica’s most heavily populated urban centres.

The inputs to Jamaica’s GDP comprise services (65% of GDP); manufacturing and mining (28%); and agriculture (7%). The agriculture sector employs almost one fifth of Jamaica’s workforce.

The Government of Jamaica (GOJ) encourages foreign investment in areas that earn or preserve foreign currency, generate employment, and utilize local raw materials. The Government has also adopted a program of fiscal consolidation, seeking to contain inflation, accelerate GDP growth, reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio and stabilize the economy. Between 2004 and 2005, overall spending on education increased 20%; in Kingston and the Metropolitan area education spending increased 64%.

In terms of education, the sharp socioeconomic divide between rural and urban populations is a contributor to poor performance at the upper-secondary level. One half of the Jamaican population lives in rural areas; half of these citizens account for nearly 80% of Jamaica’s poor, who tend to be concentrated in the parishes of St. Andrew, St. Mary, Westmoreland and St. Ann.

Technology Profile

According to Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI), which is responsible for fostering investment in Jamaica, the all-digital telecommunications network provided by Cable and Wireless Jamaica is among the region’s most robust and highest capacity telecom backbones. Jamaica’s 21 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are regulated by Jamaica’s Telecommunications Act which promotes competition and innovation.

In its “Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Policy”, the Ministry of Education and Youth outlines its intention to leverage Jamaica’s capacity in the field of information and communications technologies (ICT) in the following ways:

  • equip all education and training institutions with Internet-enabled computers;
  • design and implement ICT-based curricula and course materials; and
  • create opportunities for all learners (teachers and students alike) to acquire ICT skills.

Funding to implement the policy derives from the “universal service obligation” levy charged to telecommunications carriers by the Ministry of Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce (MITEC). The MITEC will use the proceeds from the levy to promote the use of technology in education and to meet the rising demand for Internet and data-related services.

University Council of Jamaica Accreditation Process

The University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) (www.universitycouncilja.com) is the statutory body responsible for the accreditation of institutions, courses and programs to determine whether they can be recognized and accepted by Jamaican universities. The UCJ currently falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education and Youth. The UCJ adheres to the following accreditation process:

Application and Self Study

A registered institution seeking accreditation must first submit an application to the UCJ and then conduct a self-study. The self-study is a thorough and formal evaluation by the institution of its strengths and weaknesses, and the manner in which it intends to capitalize on its strengths and minimize its weaknesses. This part of the process is intended to assist in institutional planning and development.

The institution submits the completed application form detailing the philosophy and structure of its program; the method of assessment; learning resources; staffing; admission requirements and selection procedures; analysis of intake and destination of graduates. This is accompanied by (i) required supplementary information such as syllabi, examination papers, booklists, timetable and samples projects; and (ii) the institutional self-study.

Processing by the UCJ

The UCJ reviews the material supplied by the institution to verify completeness of application submissions in order to determine if the institution is a candidate for accreditation. The UCJ then sets a date for a site visit that is acceptable to all parties.

Team Selection

The UCJ selects a team of professionals who will visit the institution and evaluate the proposed program. The evaluation team is usually drawn from professional educators and practicing professionals chosen for their competence in fields relevant to the program being evaluated.

The institution is informed of the names of the team members to avoid any conflict of interest. While the Council reserves the right to make the final choice, the institution may inform the Council of any concerns it may have about the composition of the team.

Site Visit

The evaluation team conducts a visit to the institution which comprises (i) a series of interviews with administration, faculty, students, graduates and employers of graduates from the program, and any other relevant stakeholders, (ii) an inspection of the institution’s facilities, e.g. lecture rooms, library, laboratories, computer facilities, and recreational equipment. The team may also observe classes in session.

Evaluation Report and Response from the Institution

Following the visit, the evaluation team prepares a report, which summarizes the strengths and weaknesses of the institution and offers recommendations.

A copy of the report is sent to the Principal/President of the institution who is invited to submit to the UCJ a written response to the comments and recommendations.

Review

The team’s report and the institution’s response are each reviewed by the UCJ’s Accreditation, Curriculum and Development Committee, which makes recommendations to the Council regarding accreditation of the institution.

Decision

The Council makes the final decision at its next sitting and informs the institution in writing of this decision, stating the conditions for accreditation (University Council of Jamaica 2007).

Market Entry Considerations

Canadian providers of educational products and services are advised to seek assistance from agencies when recruiting Jamaican students. Versan Educational Services, a local firm, has been assisting Jamaican students apply to boarding schools and colleges, and for scholarships, since the mid-1990s. Versan tours and evaluates facilities in order to provide clients with up-to-date and comprehensive recommendations (Jamaica Observer 2007).

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) administers more than 150 scholarships, fellowships and internship programs on behalf of its members (Foreign Affairs and International trade Canada 2007).

Canadian companies operating in Jamaica fall into three main categories: those that provide equipment and software; those that provide services; and consultants.

Perhaps the most visible Canadian business in Jamaica is the Bank of Nova Scotia Jamaica Limited (Scotiabank Jamaica), a subsidiary of the Bank of Nova Scotia. Scotiabank Jamaica has offered retail and commercial banking services through a network of 45 branches in Jamaica since 1889. The bank is active at the primary and secondary education levels in Jamaica.

First Caribbean Bank, part of the CIBC Group, provides a full range of financial products and services to Jamaican clients.

Although based offshore, the following companies are representative of commercial enterprises in Jamaica. Their services suggest a need for corporate training in these areas for Jamaican nationals:

  • Viamar Scilla Transport Intl. Inc. provides transportation services for heavy equipment (e.g. bulldozers, graders, and other road-building machinery) from Toronto to Kingston, Jamaica.
  • Anthony Macauley Associates creates and implements software product solutions for government agencies, and has done work for: the National Lands Agency, the National Environmental Protection Agency and the Management Institute for National Development (MIND).
  • The Airborne Sensing Corporation has been involved in various local aerial survey projects since 1981.
  • Raytheon Canada Waterloo has provided Jamaica with air traffic control equipment (Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada 2007).

Competitive Environment

There are many private institutions, both local and offshore, operating in Jamaica which represent direct competition for potential Canadian institutions.

The University College of the Caribbean (UCC) offers professional training in business-related courses such as Management Studies, Business Administration, Management Information Systems, Accounting, and Human Resource Management. UCC offers 16 diplomas, 3 associate degrees, and 3 bachelor’s degrees. In addition, the UCC offers nine programs (at both the baccalaureate and master’s levels) in association with the Florida International University, the University of South Florida and the University of London.

The UCC plans to provide its Associates in Science and Bachelors in Science degrees through its Distance Education and Global Learning program.

The B and B University College offers six business related programs:

  • Diploma in Business Administration;
  • Certificate in Management Studies;
  • Certificate in Public Administration;
  • The Certified Administrative Professionals (CAP);
  • Association of Accounting Technician (AAT); and
  • Professional Secretary Certificate (CPS).

B and B offers bachelor’s degrees in Management and in Business in collaboration with Heriot-Watt University in the United Kingdom. For the 2004-05 academic year, 287 students were enrolled (94% female).

The University of New Orleans offers the executive MBA program and has 56 students enrolled (62% female).

The College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) is Jamaica’s only agricultural training institution. After forming a partnership with the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC), CASE extended its basic practical and theoretical curriculum to include managerial, entrepreneurial and conceptual skills training.

The ability to deliver these programs on a part-time basis via distance education is also being developed so agricultural extension officers can access skills upgrading opportunities.

Bibliography

Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. Trends in Higher Education Vol. I. Accessed from www.aucc.ca 3 in May 2007.

Carson, Beverly and Janet Quallo. ROSE II Report 2002.

education@canada International Gateway to Education in Canada. April 18, 2007.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. Canadian Companies Capabilities. Accessed from http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/sc_coinf/ccc/engdoc/homepage.html in April 2007.

Hosein, Roger, Tommy Chen and Reanti Singh. The International Supply of Tertiary Education and Services Trade Negotiations: Implications for CARICOM. October 25, 2004.

Jamaica. Ministry of Education and Youth. National Report on Higher Education 2004.

  • The Development of Education: National Report of Jamaica. August 15, 2005.
  • National Taskforce on Education. Accessed from www.jis.gov.jm/EducationTaskForce.pdf on April 12, 2007.
  • Wilson Maxine. Minister of Education and Youth. Contribution to 2006-07 parliamentary Sectoral Debate.

Jamaica Observer. May 9, 2007.

Planning Institute of Jamaica and Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN). Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions 2005. pg 2.2.

Planning Institute of Jamaica. The Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica. Kingston 2005.

STATIN. Demographic Statistics 2005.

University Council of Jamaica. Accreditation. Accessed from www.universitycoucilja.com on May 13, 2007.


Prepared by the Canadian High Commission in Jamaica
Fax: (011-876) 511-3491
E-mail: kngtn-td@international.gc.ca

Education market reports are available from Edu-Canada: http://www.edu-canada.gc.ca

The Government of Canada has prepared this report based on primary and secondary sources of information. Readers should take note that the Government of Canada does not guarantee the accuracy of any of the information contained in this report, nor does it necessarily endorse the organizations listed herein. Readers should independently verify the accuracy and reliability of the information.


1 All monetary amounts are expressed in Canadian dollars, unless otherwise indicated. The conversion to Canadian dollars is based on Bank of Canada rates.

NOTE: This is a repost of the original report made by the Government of Canada and is meant to be information shared only with the members of Caribbean Entrepreneurs Association Online (CEAO).

The Caribbean Entrepreneurs Association Online (CEAO) assumes no liability for the accuracy and reliability of the market information and intelligence provided herein.

D.R. Ramsundar

Trinidad & Tobago – Overview

POLITICAL

Political Structure Constitutional Republic/ Parliamentary democracy
President George Maxwell Richards
Prime Minister Patrick Manning
National Legislative Body
Bicameral Parliament, sits for 5 years
• House of Representatives (41 members) – elected by direct popular vote
• Senate (31 members) – 16 appointed by the ruling party, 9 by the President, and 6 by the opposition party. Major Parties (by seats in House of Representatives)
• Governing Party: People’s National Movement (PNM) – rightist (26 seats)
• Opposition: United National Congress (UNC) – centre-left (15 seats)
Last Elections
November 2007 (General)
January 2005 (Tobago)
Next Elections
General Election 2012
Press Freedom Survey:
• 2008 Score: 23 (0: Free; 100: Not Free) www.freedomhouse.org
Control of Corruption Index:
• 2007 Score: -0.19 (-2.5: Worst; +2.5: Best) www.worldbank.org

October 2008 Barbara Grinfeld

General Political Environment:

Politics in Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) are defined by ethnic cleavages. There are two major parties, and generally speaking Afro-Trinidadians support the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) headed by Patrick Manning, and Indo-Trinidadians support the United National Congress (UNC).

From the early 1990s, Patrick Manning and Panday alternated in the roles of Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. In 2001, the UNC government collapsed under the pressure of internal dissidence. Elections were held but inconclusive results led to a legislative stalemate. Another election was held in 2002 in which the PNM prevailed and solidified its control of Parliament.

In September 2005 the UNC voted to replace long-time leader Baseo Panday with a new leader, Winston Dookeran. Despite this loss, Panday maintained his influence by refusing to relinquish his position as Leader of the Opposition. Panday was charged with corruption, and his insistence on preserving his status broke his party apart. In 2006, Dookeran formed the Congress of the People (COP) with dissidents of the UNC. Despite suffering high-level corruption scandals, the PNM retained power in the November 2007 elections. However, this was, at least in part, due to discord within the UNC and the COP capturing 23% of the popular vote.

All major political parties in T&T are supportive of market-oriented policies and favor foreign investment. However, vote-splitting along ethnic lines and a lack of cooperation between the parties on most issues, with the exception of security, there is an enduring threat of deadlock in the House of Representatives.

The government is under pressure to increase funding for employment and social programs. Government critics, including the local business community, have called for returns from T&T’s abundant oil and natural gas reserves to be directed to benefit the population at large.

Investment Environment:

Trinidad and Tobago offers one of the most favourable business environments in the Caribbean. Foreign investment is a central element of economic policy and is supported by the business and labour sectors. The country also has a well-developed financial sector. Personal security is an issue of mounting concern.

Foreign investors have, however, complained about a lack of transparency and delays in the investment approval process. T&T is a signatory to international investment dispute settlement mechanisms.

Scandals threaten to tarnish the country’s credibility with investors. In April 2006, Panday was convicted on charges of failing to declare a London Bank account while Prime Minister. In March 2007, the appeals court overturned the conviction citing ‘procedural issues that created an appearance of bias’. In 2008, corruption allegations are accumulating against Manning’s government. Transparency, including fair bidding procedures, is an issue for investors to note.

Political Violence:

Serious episodes of political violence are unlikely, but radical groups may engage in violent activities. The Jamaat-Al-Muslimeen (JAM) – the group behind a 1990 coup attempt –is a Muslim Afro-Trinidadian group with alleged links to Al-Qaeda, and was thought by some to have engineered a rash of small-scale bombings in 2005.

The principal issue facing Trinidad is the rise in violent and petty crime and its potential to act as a disincentive for investment. Kidnapping rates eased in 2006, but are rising in 2008. Several high-profile business families have been the victims of kidnap/murder. Both local and foreign businesses are exposed to violent crime. Drug trafficking and related gang activity in low income areas are the primary factors.

 

Political Outlook

Manning’s electoral victory combined with the PNM’s relatively stable parliamentary majority and a strong economic outlook will ensure policy continuity in the near future. The PNM needs to address the pressing issue of rising crime levels, particularly the increase in kidnappings. Failure to rein in crime and deal effectively with corruption has led the business sector to become a more vocal critic of the government. Given Trinidad and Tobago’s demographics, ethnic divisions and tensions will remain part of the islands’ political culture and pose a challenge to governance in the country for the foreseeable future. Prudent management of oil sector windfalls, natural gas exploitation, and economic diversification would mitigate those challenges.

 

Economic

Credit Agencies
Moody’s: Baa1
S&P: A
Fitch: –
Nominal GDP (USD, 2007)
USD21n
Population (2007):
1.3mn (estimate)
Merchandise Trade / GDP:
92%
Currency: Trinidad and Tobago Dollar
Exchange regime: Managed Float
Merchandise Exports from Canada (2007):
CAD210mn
Main sources of Foreign Exchange (excl. FDI):
Fuels
Largest Merchandise Export Destination (2007):
US (60%)
Main imports (2007):
Intermediate Goods (18%)
Consumer Goods (16%)
Risks to the Outlook
Higher than anticipated energy prices.
Lower than anticipated energy prices.

August 2008 Geoff Stone

Market Spotlight:

Canadian exports of goods to Trinidad and Tobago have risen 20% ytd (up to June) and have increased an average 20% in each of the last three years. ■ GDP growth has averaged an impressive 9% in the 5 years ended 2007 and should average 6% in 2008-09. ■ Inflation is the highest it’s been since 1994 and the unemployment rate has plummeted. The economy is overheated and skilled labour shortages / high construction costs could constrain investment going forward.

Real Economy:

GDP growth was an estimated 12% in 2006 and 5% in 2007. Growth prospects remain positive with annual increases over the medium term of 4-7% annually. Government spending has increased considerably and should continue to do so, supported by energy related revenues. Investment in heavy industries offers considerable prospects as the country leverages its energy resources (including the supply of energy/feedstock needs for steel, potentially aluminum and downstream chemicals production). But with gas reserves equal to only 12 years of current production (BP, 2008) the government is working to further diversify the economy into ICT, finance and tourism. Skilled labour shortages / high construction costs could be a near term constraints, but the greatest long term risks are a sustained plunge in natural gas prices or continued drop in reserves. Last year oil and natural gas production were 154bps and 39bcm respectively.

Monetary:

The Central Bank has maintained a de facto peg of US$6.3 since late 1997. Fundamentally the currency should be appreciating but it is unlikely to move up or down in the medium term. Inflation continues to rise and the Central Bank has tightened monetary policy. A rapid reversal of inflation is unlikely considering higher food prices and the booming economy, including government’s spending plans.

Fiscal:

The government is rated investment grade by both Moody’s and S&P and public sector net debt is very low. 2008 Q1 government revenues were up 64% y/y while spending rose 25%; the government maintains a moderate surplus position while contributing to the Heritage Stabilization Fund (now equal to approximately 10% of GDP). Revenues are up on increased prices and production of energy related products. The boom is driving significant spending increases which are likely to be sustained over the medium-long term as the government pursues its Vision 2020 plan, which seeks to secure developed nation status. Given rapid economic growth and low unemployment rate there may be capacity constrains within the government that limit its ability to execute its spending plans. The non-energy deficit is significant, and gas reserves finite, thus the need to diversify the economy while building government savings. The latter is being pursued via contributions to the HSF.

External:

T&T has ample hard currency reserves and a massive current account surplus. Foreign exchange earnings rely heavily on exports of natural gas but there is wiggle room if natural gas prices were to fall. T&T is the largest supplier of liquefied natural gas to the US and a global player in the exporting of ammonia and methanol. Inbound foreign direct investment is significant and is expected to remain so.

Outlook:

Trinidad and Tobago remains one of the safest sovereign risks in Latin-America. The country’s high level of exports flowing from oil, natural gas and related downstream industries allows for significant fiscal flexibility. Over the medium term, FDI flows of about US$1 billion annually will help boost export capacity which will continue to support the country’s debt payment capacity and industrial development. Energy intensive industries are likely to be attracted to the country by the abundance of energy resources and the government’s aim to diversify its industry. On the downside, violent crime, such as kidnappings, poses a threat the government’s economic diversification plan.

Sources: EDC, EIU

NOTE: This is a partial repost of the original report made by the Economic Development Bank and is meant to be information shared only with the members of Caribbean Entrepreneurs Association Online (CEAO).

The Caribbean Entrepreneurs Association Online (CEAO) assumes no liability for the accuracy and reliability of the market information and intelligence provided herein.

D.R. Ramsundar

Service Industries & Capital Projects Profile[1] – Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

 

1. Sector Overview

Trinidad and Tobago (T&T), a twin-island state located in the southernmost part of the Caribbean, has earned a reputation as a leader in the energy and petrochemical sector in the Caribbean, as well as for being the most industrialized nation of this region. It is a leader in ammonia exports, and has become the world’s leading exporter of methanol and fifth largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG). In fact, it is the largest supplier of methanol and LNG to the U.S. With a population of approximately 1.3 million people, T&T has strong manufacturing, construction, and finance and insurance sectors, all driven by the energy sector. The energy sector, comprising oil, LNG and gas-based industries, accounts for over 40% of gross domestic product (GDP), over 60% of government revenues and 90% of exports. GDP was estimated at approximately TT$114.5 billion in 2006[2], while per capita income was US$14,790 in 2006[3]. The services sector grew by 5.9%, led by construction sector growth resulting from T&T government investment in housing and infrastructure, and ongoing projects in the energy sector[4].

Trinidad and Tobago’s heightened level of construction activity-fuelled mainly by oil and gas revenues-include projects undertaken by the Trinidad and Tobago government in housing and infrastructure, ongoing projects in the energy sector, as well as real estate development by the private sector. The construction sector expanded by 5.56% in the first quarter of 2006, having been stimulated by government projects and the government’s robust housing drive. In 2006, the sector contributed 8.4% to GDP, with its economic activity up by TT$1.86 billion over the level in 2005.

The construction boom is evident everywhere in Trinidad and Tobago. From individuals building new homes to business people opening new retail outlets, from massive low-cost housing programs to luxurious million-dollar gated communities, from refurbishment of existing office buildings to new mega-office and hotel complexes, performing arts centres and stadiums, from the paving of existing highways to building of entirely new roads, from the laying of new gas pipelines to the development of rail systems and new industrial estates-every aspect of the construction industry has been drafted into the country’s massive private and public sector construction program.

Meanwhile, private sector residential construction has been stimulated by a property boom, with some real estate prices increasing by over 50% last year. For low- and middle-income households, the government is pursuing an ambitious housing construction program aimed at delivering 100,000 houses in 10 years. The mammoth East Port of Spain Redevelopment Project is also set to start in early 2008 under the management of the East Port of Spain Development Company Ltd. The Housing Development Corporation plans to demolish 682 rundown apartments to make way for about 2,000 new housing units.

During 2007, the value of construction and quarrying activity within Trinidad increased in real terms by 5.2% to TT$6,658.3 million, an acceleration of the 4.3% increase registered during 2006. The improved performance reflects the government’s continued investment in upgrading the country’s public infrastructure, through the launch of a number of new projects, including the highway interchange, alongside ongoing works such as its intensive housing construction drive. The surge in construction activity over the past five years has exposed the sector’s physical and human resources limitations. Under the circumstances, the country’s construction thrust has become increasingly dependent on the import of foreign skills, labour and capital equipment.

2. Market and Sector Challenges (Strengths and Weaknesses)

Domestic competition in building products is fierce, with several manufacturing firms being solidly established and having integrated distribution channels. Many international firms are also well established and have manufacturing and distribution operations in the Trinidad and Tobago market.

Canadian contractors active in the sector include consulting engineering firms such as Genivar, Dessau Soprin, Ellis Don, NDLea (recently acquired by Marshall Macklin and Monaghan International Inc.), Stantec and Cansult. Companies registered in China, France, Malaysia and the Turks and Caicos Islands are currently contracted for projects worth US$472 million.

The construction boom has translated into greater demand for contractors and construction workers, and the government has had to temporarily import labour from outside the Caribbean region to complete some of the major construction projects. There are shortages of all the skills needed in construction, for example, steel-bending and steel-fixing specialists, crane operators, equipment operators, mechanics, masons, plumbers, scaffolding erectors and joiners.

There are only about six construction companies in the country that can handle projects valued at between US$15 million and US$48 million. As a result, a number of foreign-based companies have been given contracts to build projects. Examples include Johnston International (Turks and Caicos), design and build for the Chancery Lane complex, San Fernando (US$50 million); Bouygues Batiment International (France), through a Bouygues Batiment T&T Construction Company-HCL joint venture (US$265 million); Sunway Construction Caribbean (Malaysia), campus for Ministry of Legal Affairs, Port of Spain (US$60 million ); Johnston International, multi-storey car park and retail, Port of Spain (US$28 million approx.); Helmuth Obata & Kassabaum, design services for the Brian Lara Academy, Tarouba (US$500,000); Shanghai Construction Group, Social Development Towers, Port of Spain (US$60 million approx.); China Jiangsu, three housing contracts (US$12 million).

There is an abundance of foreign labour brought in primarily by Chinese contractors. There may be about 3,500 foreign workers in the building construction sector with wages as much as 60% lower than prevailing wages in the local construction sector.

The ongoing expansion of Trinidad and Tobago’s construction sector provides a number of opportunities for both Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises and larger companies. With energy-related, public sector and commercial activity expanding, the construction sector is fully stretched. Two critical issues continue to emerge: the shortage of skilled and unskilled labour, and the award of contracts to foreign companies.

The islands are also experiencing shortages of gravel, sand, clay blocks and other building materials. To ease the aggregate shortage, some companies have turned to import shipments of aggregate from Canada at a lower cost than from within the region.

The majority of buildings, both commercial and residential, are constructed largely of concrete, with embedded steel and mesh for added strength. Roofs are made from a range of materials, including galvanized steel sheets, clay tiles and asphalt shingles. Wood-framed roofing has now been replaced by 2″ x 4″ steel beams and zed-purlins to which steel-galvanized sheets are fastened. Flooring is often tile (ceramic, clay or porcelain), vinyl or hardwood over concrete. Some carpet flooring is still acceptable.

There are local and regional manufacturers of some of the products used in building, such as steel and aluminum windows and door frames, PVC tubing, clay blocks, tiles, galvanized roofing, interior finishes and electrical fittings. Building-related products are imported from the United States, China, Canada and Latin America.

The T&T government’s massive construction program, particularly in housing, has opened up demand not only for labour but also for new technology to speed up the construction process and reduce costs. The market is generally receptive to new building and construction products and technologies. Companies are looking for innovative ideas and technologies, and they welcome products that make the building process easier and more efficient. One example of this is the use of steel forms, which enable rapid construction and can be reused. There is also a demand for new systems such as styroprene panels between the concrete for insulation, panels made of fibreglass and plastic composites, and panels in which window and air-conditioning openings are pre-set and into which walls are poured.

Because of its long-lasting structural qualities, concrete remains the most popular building material. Residential homes are constructed from concrete blocks, and industrial buildings use steel and concrete in framing the roofs. Prefabricated buildings are not popular in Trinidad and Tobago. There is, however, growing interest in alternatives such as wood (particularly for joinery purposes, mainly doors, windows, flooring and panelling) and steel structures.

Products currently in high demand include lumber, lightweight steel framing, home-improvement products, flooring, exterior cladding, and insulation products and systems. In addition, fixtures and fittings, roofing material, plumbing material and equipment, and kitchen and bath supplies are in great demand.

3. Sub-sector Identification

The main sub-sectors are as follows:

  1. The highway construction program;
  2. The roads and bridges maintenance program;
  3. Urban renewal and development;
  4. Development of a mass transit system; and
  5. Housing.

The increased economic prosperity in Trinidad and Tobago has delivered significant benefits to the population, but it has also produced some adverse consequences. The rapid rise in private vehicle ownership and use (due in part to massive imports of re-conditioned vehicles), increases in goods and cargo transport, and continued urban and rural development have precipitated a need for improvements to public transport facilities, possible light rail transit systems, water taxi services, new waterfront link roads, expansion of the trunk road system, and the construction of more highway overpasses and interchanges.

The development of the infrastructure in these areas will require the full range of expertise and skills, including engineering, architectural, social and economic, financing, contract administration and information technology. While there is a need to incorporate the highest standards in T&T’s development thrust, the nation also faces a dearth of the qualified professionals needed to implement these programs.

4. Case Study

Canadian firms active in the construction sector include consulting engineering firms such as Genivar, Dessau Soprin, Ellis Don, NDLea (recently acquired by Marshall Macklin and Monaghan International Inc.), Stantec and Cansult.

The biggest success story in the sector involved Genivar. In 2004, Genivar was contracted by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago as development manager for the Port of Spain International Waterfront Project, which calls for the transformation of the capital city’s port area. The $220-million project, which will be completed in early 2008, will include a five-star hotel, two office towers, a conference centre and a commercial centre.

Genivar’s role as development manager included initial commercial and planning studies and analysis to determine the optimal size and type of facilities to develop on the site, along with analysis and recommendations as to the delivery method. The company subsequently recommended a “design-build” delivery basis and early contractor involvement (ECI). Following this recommendation, the company developed the design-build request for proposal, including outline performance specifications, code requirements, contract conditions and terms, commissioning, and quality control and quality assurance requirements. Genivar now acts as project manager and owner’s advocate, managing the delivery of the contract by the design-builder. The International Waterfront Project was the first in Trinidad and Tobago to involve ECI.

Genivar has been awarded an additional mandate to design and manage the construction of new facilities for the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago, prior to delivery of the site to the design-builder. These facilities include the new cruise ship terminal, port security building, transshipment shed, and the telecommunications switchgear hub for the Port Authority. Genivar has since won contracts for several other projects in Trinidad and Tobago, further enhancing its expansion in that market. Over the past few years, it has developed a sizable portfolio of projects in Trinidad and Tobago, representing more than C$0.5 billion. The company has acquired a local Trinidad company and established an office in Port of Spain.

 

Bibliography

Canada. Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. “Construction Sector Report: Trinidad & Tobago.” October 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. EIU Country Profile-Trinidad & Tobago 2007

United States and Foreign Commercial Service and U.S. Department of State. “Country Commercial Guide: Trinidad & Tobago.” September 3, 2003. Accessed from http://www.stat-usa.gov

Tourism and Industrial Development Company of Trinidad & Tobago Limited. “Trinidad & Tobago: Building on Investments.” Undated.

 

Footnotes:

[1] The Government of Canada has prepared this report based on primary and secondary sources of information. Readers should take note that the Government of Canada does not guarantee the accuracy of any of the information contained in this report, nor does it necessarily endorse the organizations listed herein. Readers should independently verify the accuracy and reliability of the information.

[2] All monetary amounts are expressed in foreign currency, unless otherwise indicated. Foreign exchange rate is based on Bank of Canada rate, 2006.

[3] Trinidad and Tobago Budget Statement 2008.

[4] US$1=$TT6.29

NOTE: This is a partial repost of the original report made by the Government of Canada and is meant to be information shared only with the members of Caribbean Entrepreneurs Association Online (CEAO).

The Caribbean Entrepreneurs Association Online (CEAO) assumes no liability for the accuracy and reliability of the market information and intelligence provided herein.

D.R. Ramsundar