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FACTA Reckoning Today

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 22:14

If T&T was always a sane, rationale country—in which politicians seek the nation’s interest, however that is construed—when Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert, gets up in Parliament today to put the Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEA) bill to a vote, he would have the unanimous support from the attending Opposition Members of Parliament.

Unfortunately for T&T, because there are periods in this country when neither sanity nor rationality can be guaranteed, there is no certainty that the Opposition MP’s will do the right thing.

And there can be absolutely no doubt that the passage today of the TIEA, which is a significant precondition of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), is in the nation’s best interest.

Or to cast the issue differently, it must be pellucidly clear to everyone that if the Opposition were to vote against the bill—or if it chooses to walk out of Parliament, effectively absenting themselves from the vote—they would be working against the national interest.

As the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce put it in a statement on Tuesday: “The threat of non-compliance raises the prospect of ordinary citizens, financial institutions and the entire country being placed in an extremely precarious position—not in the least, one that can effectively cause T&T to be blacklisted, while disrupting critical banking services to the public.”

The critical banking services, to which the chamber referred, include wire transfers, money transfers, online purchases, the use of credit cards while overseas and the extension of credit by overseas suppliers.

As well, if the correspondent banking relations that have developed in T&T over decades get cut, there may be issues surrounding the importation of rice, flour, potatoes, pasta and cooking oil, some of which have become entrenched in the country’s culinary habits.

There is also the strong possibility that this country’s failure to implement FATCA, in the timeframe that was agreed by the T&T and US governments, could result in the immediate downgrading of the country’s foreign debt, with further unintended consequences for the quality of life to which citizens have become accustomed.

With international payments in disarray, the country’s fiscal calculations in tatters and T&T businesspeople locked out of conducting the simplest foreign transactions, the obvious consequences for the country’s unemployment numbers would be stark as thousands of employees in the retail sector could be retrenched and hundreds of retail shops shuttered.

To say that financial chaos could result from the Opposition disregarding the nation’s interest would be an understatement.

The dire state of the T&T economy—as a result of the sharp plunge in the prices and output of the country’s main energy exports—requires both the Government and the opposition to put aside their tendency to partisan potshots and grandiose grandstanding.

Today ought to be a day of sober reflection for all Members of Parliament as they consider the consequences of their actions and words on the future.

The times require maturity and sobriety and it require clear-headed analyses of cause and effect.

The politicians also need to realise that with Carnival next week, which is also the end of February, there is no possibility of a do-over, yet another meeting of the Joint Select Committee or a further extension of the deadline in order to accommodate the demands of the Opposition.

Today is the final deadline.

Unilever drops $6.63

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 22:09

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 17 securities of which seven advanced, eight declined and two traded firm.

Trading activity on the first tier market registered a volume of 940,124 shares crossing the floor of the exchange valued at $18,895,016.18. National Commercial Bank Jamaica was the volume leader with 518,125 shares changing hands for a value of $1,940,337.19, followed by Guardian Holdings Ltd with a volume of 133,238 shares being traded for $2,170,445.42. The West Indian Tobacco Company contributed 73,945 shares with a value of $9,390,348.33, while FirstCaribbean International Bank added 49,125 shares valued at $449,985.00.

Scotiabank registered the day’s largest gain, increasing $1.15 to end the day at $58.65. Conversely, Unilever Caribbean registered the day’s largest decline, falling $6.63 to close at $51.37.

On the mutual fund market 23,252 shares changed hands for a value of $133,438.20. Praetorian Property Mutual Fund was the most active security, with a volume of 20,000 shares valued at $60,200.00.Praetorian Property Mutual Fund advanced by $0.01 to end at $3.01. Clico Investment Fund advanced by $0.02 to end at $22.52.

The second tier market did not witness any activity.

MoU signed for La Brea labour

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 22:08

In a bid to have fair and transparent recruitment at the construction site of the $6.3 billion petrochemical complex at La Brea, Caribbean Gas Chemical Limited (CGCL) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Labour Ministry.

The agreement was signed yesterday by Chief Executive Officer of CGCL Hiroshi Kita and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development (MOLSED) Isaac James, a month after residents from La Brea, Rousillac, Vessigny, Vance River, and Sobo Village staged five days of protest over unfair hiring practices.

Speaking at the official signing yesterday, Kita said the MOU was geared at fostering a collaborative approach with the Ministry in relation to recruitment and training. Saying 2,500 people have already been registered with MOLSED, Kita said he hoped that the Ministry will continue to work towards identifying the best recruits for the project.

James said the MOU was first discussed in October last year. Agreeing there was a need to regularise the system of recruitment, James said once people are registered, referrals are made to contractors for employment. Recruits are also given the opportunity for further training if their competence comes into question, James added.

Project manager of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Limited Koichi Ikeda said 430 people are currently employed at the site of which about 40 to 50 per cent are from La Brea and environs. Asked whether the recent protests by neighbouring villagers had affected the pace of construction, Ikeda admitted that the five-day work stoppage had a slight impact on the schedule. However, he said construction is continuing apace.

Asked whether the Ministry had investigated claims by residents that MOLSED officials were victimizing residents from the neighbourhood, Manager of Corporate Affairs at CGCL Josie-Ann Richards said she had no reports of those allegations.

Saying no such victimization will be permitted, Richards said the recruitment office was in charge of offering referrals to contractors once applicants meet requirements. Asked whether OJT’s will be considered for employment at the site in light of the recent restructuring of OJT, Richards said no.

“For the purposes of construction there is no accommodation for OJT’s. We have a schedule to maintain and with the minor setbacks to work stoppages and weather conditions we wish to press on with construction,” Richards said. She also said that CGCL has an OJT programme where people from the fenceline are invited to submit applications for temporary employment during the vacation period.

Chief Manpower Officer at MOLSED Susan Smith-Bailey also denied that the current recruitment process was flawed adding that background checks are done on the applicants to verify certification before referrals are done.

A member of the La Brea General Council said yesterday that he hoped the new MOU would bring relief to the unemployment crisis that was facing La Brea residents over the past few years. The complex which will produce methanol and dimethyl ether (DME) at the Union Industrial Estate, La Brea, is expected to be completed by 2019.

BATT president on FATCA legislation: No snooping on Trinis

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 22:07

President of the Bankers Association Anya Schnoor said she listened to the February 13 debate on the TIEA bill and some of the remarks made on the bill were “misrepresenting” the goal of the bill. Describing the remarks in the last debate on the TIEA bill as “fake news,” she said there was need to clear the air on the bill.

Defining what the bill is about she said, “It has nothing to do with reporting on the US-dollar accounts of T&T citizens who are not US persons, whether in this country or outside of this country. It narrowly defines the conditions and information which financial institutions must report to the Board of Inland Revenue and the very serious consequences for any breach of the Act.”

Quoting the Inland Revenue Services website, she said T&T is already behind time when it comes to reporting information because the financial institutions and banks should have started reporting since 2015. The deadlines dates are set by the IRS and not by the banks she said.

Addressing the issue of privacy of T&T nationals being interfered with, she said the only information that will be reported to the BIR is the account information of US persons only.

“There is no provision in the TIEA or in the Inter-governmental Agreement which allows either the government, BIR or any other government body to gain access to any information on any T&T citizen without following the normal due process which exists today.”

Schnoor also dispelled rumours that T&T would be giving into the US by complying with TIEA.

Group chief executive officer of First Citizens Karen Darbasie said local banks who do not have parent companies internationally would have a bigger task to gather their information, adding that there is a backlog of information to report.

“There is a lot of work to get done between the reporting financial institutions and the BIR between now and September when the information must be reported.

“We have lost a whole lot of time; we have to report information going back into 2016, 2015, 2014. We have work to do as a country, several institutions too. This is not one institution with the Board of Inland Revenue, we have a lot of work to get done.”

According to today’s order paper, House of Representatives sitting is at 2.30 pm.

Bankers yesterday said the three-fifths majority vote on the Tax Information and Exchange Agreements (TIEA) Bill, 2016 is needed in order to protect the rights of the individual. Therefore it cannot be removed.

Digicel retrenching 25% of all workers

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 22:05

Digicel chief executive Colm Delves said yesterday that the company will reduce its global workforce by about 25 per cent over the next 18 months or so, starting on March 1, Ash Wednesday.

“As such, the first step in this headcount reduction process will be the offer of an enhanced voluntary seperation programme, which will open on March 1,” Delves told the company’s staff in a 6 minute 48 second You Tube video that was sent to all Digicel employees.

Dpending on the response of the separation programme, “we may have to look at other forms of headcount reduction,” the Digicel CEO said, assuring employees that they would be kept updated and promising that the company would “look after people as they leave the Digicel family.”

Digicel’s head of group public relations, Antonia Graham told the Guardian yesterday that Digicel has over 6,500 full-time employees, plus contractors and part-time workers in the Caribbean, Central American and in the Pacific.

Delves said across the company’s markets there is a great deal of duplication of functions, which results in unnecesary complexity.

“This is about consolidation with a focus on a small number of hubs, two in the Caribbean and Central American regions and two in the Pacific,” Delves said, adding that these hubs would deliver centralised functions and shared services

He said Digicel was delayering and simplifying the organisation to move to a flatter, more agile company.

In a statement yesterday, the telecommunications company said that it signed a global partnership agreement with Chinese equipment provider ZTE last week in Shenzhen, China for an ongoing multi-year network upgrade programme.

According to Digicel: “These initiatives occur as telecoms providers across the globe move to benefit from significant technology advances and manage changing customer needs in terms of data usage and competitive threats from unregulated OTT operators.”

With rollout commencing in the coming months, this is the largest network transformation ever undertaken by Digicel and customers will very soon start to see the benefits.

Commenting on the programme, Digicel Group CEO, Colm Delves, explained; “We are building Digicel for 2030 and beyond. Our transformation programme sees us taking the bull by the horns and daring to be different by challenging the status quo and by innovation-led growth. That’s what we are known for and that’s what we will continue to be known for into the future.”

Digicel also said that over the last three years, it had invested over US$1.65 billion in upgrading its networks and platforms and in rolling out fibre to the home and mobile broadband connectivity.

“Of particular note is the success of its fibre to the home offering with Digicel racking up 120,000 customers to date - well ahead of its business plan.”

Digicel announced its Digicel 2030 global transformation programme promising customers a completely new communications and entertainment experience made possible by a more agile, customer-centric application of resources and investment.

OCM down 12.6%

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 04:24

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 16 securities of which five advanced, six declined and five traded firm.

Trading activity on the first tier Market registered a volume of 102,811 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $838,203.99. Scotia Investments Jamaica Ltd was the volume leader with 59,817 shares changing hands for a value of $128,647.75, followed by Sagicor Financial Corporation with a volume of 18,760 shares being traded for $175,868. Guardian Holdings Ltd contributed 6,881 shares with a value of $113,986.19, while JMMB GROUP LIMITED added 5,776 shares valued at $7,393.28.

Praetorian Property Mutual Fund enjoyed the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.15 to end the day at $3.00. Conversely, One Caribbean Media suffered the day’s greatest loss, falling $2.45 to close at $17.

On the mutual fund market 12,276 shares changed hands for a value of $237,223.16. Clico Investment Fund was the most active security, with a volume of 10,276 shares valued at $231,223.16. Clico Investment Fund declined by $0.01 to end at $22.50. Praetorian Property Mutual Fund advanced by $0.15 to end at $3.

The second tier market did not witness any activity.

Chamber: Parliament must pass FATCA bill

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 04:23

Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce yesterday reiterated its call on the House of Representatives to pass the Tax Information Exchange Agreements Bill (TIEA) 2016 when it goes before Parliament tomorrow.

In a statement, the Chamber said: “Now that the TIEA bill has gone through the Joint Select Committee stage, with issues of confidentiality and a competent authority being appropriately addressed, we are confident that the path is now clear for the seamless passage of the legislation.

“Hopefully, this Thursday’s sitting will not be tainted by any of the political posturing and stonewalling to which this Bill appeared to have been subjected over the past months.

“The threat of non-compliance raises the prospect of ordinary citizens, financial institutions and the entire country being placed in an extremely precarious position - not in the least, one that can effectively cause T&T to be blacklisted, while disrupting critical banking services to the public.”

The Chamber called upon the government and the opposition “to conscientiously execute their duty, and ensure that T&T does not run afoul of the Inter-Governmental Agreement signed with the United States in August 2016.”

For the last five months, the government and the opposition have been wrangling over the TIEA, which is a precondition to T&T’s implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)—an American law that seeks to mitigate tax avoidance by US citizens and green card holders living outside of the country.

Debate on the TIEA comes very close to the deadline for its passage that T&T agreed with the US Treasury Department.

The vote on the legislation was postponed from last week as the opposition insisted that the Joint Select Committee, which was appointed to consider the TIEA, should meet one more time.

Turn ADB into a commercial bank

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 04:22

President of the Couva-Pt. Lisas Chamber of Commerce Liaquat Ali is calling on the Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharat to turn the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) into a full-service commercial bank to cater to the needs of the agricultural sector.

Ali was delivering the opening remarks at a seminar entitled “Banking and Finance Made Simple” hosted at the Chamber’s head office on the Southern Main Road in Couva yesterday.

Ali added that such a move would facilitate in a greater way higher levels of production and activity in the domestic agricultural sector.

He said: “Immediately a lot more money will become available to the farming community of Trinidad and Tobago which will stimulate the sector.” He added that funds provided by a repurposed ADB would lead to much needed infrastructural development across the sector.

“The funding that the government provides for the ADB could go into basic infrastructural projects that would aid in the agricultural needs of T&T and the wider farming community” he said. The chamber president also called on state-owned First Citizen’s Bank (FCB) to re-examine its fees, charges and interest rates, citing it as a matter of national duty.

“We are also calling on the board of directors of FCB to do the patriotic act in such difficult economic times, to lead from the front and to begin the process of reducing if not completely eliminating some of the nonsensical charges that now exist and to increase the interest rate on deposits as well. FCB belongs to the people and should be the representatives of the people,” Ali said.

Also speaking at the event, Independent Senator David Small highlighted what he perceived to be a significant gap between deposit rates and interest rates at commercial banks.

Small said: “I am very clear in my mind. I think that the current spread between interest rates on lending and deposit rates is too high. The existing legislation has room right now for the Central Bank to act.”

Noting the Central Bank Act, Small added: “Section 44A says the Bank may fix minimum and maximum interest rates payable and may fix the maximum and minimum interest rates, fees and charges to be charged on loans, advances or other credit facilities by a financial institution.”

Small said the Governor of the Central Bank should seek the best interest of the public in treating with commercial banks.

He said: “My position is that the governor should act as if he’s seeking the interests of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago rather than say that he has limited power or authority. Make a decisive move.”

Other presenters at the event included Christopher Gouveia, agency manager - Sagicor Life who spoke about the suite of mortgage products offered by Sagicor, Gregory Hill, managing director Ansa Merchant Bank who discussed the Bank’s investment products and role as a non-banking financial institution and Ved Seereeram who provided commentary on financial terms and the structure of the local financial industry.​​

GHL up by $0.50

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 00:11

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 16 securities of which five advanced, four declined and seven traded firm.

Trading activity on the first tier market registered a volume of 1,180,833 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $3,282,609.83.

JMMB Group was the volume leader with 838,419 shares changing hands for a value of $1,019,342.64, followed by Scotia Investments Jamaica Ltd with a volume of 103,650 shares being traded for $226,993.50. National Commercial Bank contributed 101,500 shares with a value of $403,000, while GraceKennedy Ltd added 70,100 shares valued at $184,363.

Guardian Holdings Ltd enjoyed the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.50 to end the day at $16.50. Conversely, Republic Financial Holdings Ltd suffered the day’s greatest loss, falling $0.75 to close at $103.25.

Clico Investment Fund was the only active security on the mutual fund market, posting a volume of 11,575 shares valued at $260,610.17. Clico Investment Fund remained at $22.51.

The second tier market did not witness any activity.

Look to foreign markets

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 00:07

Despite the economic recession, T&T companies can survive by looking to foreign markets, says Andrew Ramroop, owner of the elite British tailoring firm, Maurice Sedwell.

“It is important that business people persevere in whatever they are working on. Although the country is in a recession, it does not mean that your business will be in a recession. This is a huge opportunity for people to expand their businesses even though the country is in a so-called recession. How they can do that is by looking at market places abroad out of T&T,” he said.

Ramroop spoke yesterday at Scotiabank’s Insight Series at the Teaching and Learning Complex, University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine.

Maurice Sedwell is a prominent tailoring shop on London’s famous Savile Row which produces luxury suits for famous people ranging from the former British Prime Minister to wealthy businesspeople to Hollywood stars.

The average suit that he tailors costs £10,000.

The Trinidad-born Ramroop, who moved to London in the early 1970s and bought Maurice Sedwell in the late 1980s, said not long after the acquisition there was a deep recession when unemployment doubled and many businesses went under.

“There was a depression in the British economy during this time and this is when I expanded and developed my business. How I did it was by looking for markets and customers abroad. At that time only one or two per cent of my business was the international market. Today the international market accounts for 70 per cent of our business in 60 countries. I just did not want to tailor for people in London but for customers globally,” he said.

Ramroop said last year he did a proposal for the T&T’s Ministry of Trade but so far he has not received any feedback from them.

“I sent a pretty comprehensive proposal to them and I am afraid that I have not had the courtesy of a response as yet. I had sent it July last year and it was they who asked for the proposal. It was a proposal to develop the fashion industry in T&T. No one seems to want to have a conversation but I am interested,” he said.

He said he has developed his own programme to sell T&T as the region’s center for fashion.

“In November this year, I have a project I am funding where I am going to promote T&T as the centre for excellence in the field of fashion. I have fashion designers from throughout the Caribbean and they will be showing their collection here in Tobago. If the Government does not support it, I will do it with my own money,” he said.

Caricom to employ lobbyist to tackle ‘de-risking’ issues

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 00:08

GEORGETOWN—Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders have agreed to employ the services of a lobbyist to help the region deal with the issue of de-risking in the banking sector, Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne has said.

Correspondent banks, which are mainly large, international banks domiciled in the United States of America, Europe and Canada, provide Caribbean states with vital access to the international financial system, by offering services to smaller, domestic banks and financial institutions to complete international payments and settlements.

However, many banks, which provide correspondent banking services have been seeking to manage their risks by severing ties with institutions in the region.

The issue of corresponding banking was a major item at the annual summit of Caricom leaders in Guyana in July and the meeting is here is as a result of such deliberation

Browne, who is leading the region’s response to the issue, said that the regional leaders, who ended their two-day inter-sessional summit here on Friday had taken the position on the first day of their deliberations.

“We agreed that we will employ the services of a lobbyist to help us lobby this issue and to make sure that we continue to manage this existential threat that is facing the region,” said Browne, who is also the Chairman of the Committee on Correspondent Banking.

He told reporters that “informally” there has been a stay in banks de-risking.

“There is no formal agreement to that effect, but in terms of the action…we have not seen or heard any such notice for further de-risking,” Browne noted.

Most of the banks that have been de-risked are primarily local banks and Browne warned “if this process continues, then we may end up with a cartel of foreign banks literally operating within the region and you know the consequences of that: they will continue to gouge us”.

The Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minster noted that 80 per cent of most Caricom states consume imports, particularly from the United States. Additionally, 16 per cent of receipts and payments are done in United States dollars.

Caricom, through the Committee on Correspondent Banking, had mounted active advocacy on the issue. Browne said that there has been success in raising the issue with international institutions.

“Even within the US, the Office of the Controller would have issued certain guidelines for correspondent banks to deal with the issue of correspondent banking, and to avert the type of willy nilly de-risking that we have seen in the past,” Browne said.

Meanwhile, Browne, has been commended by his colleagues for his handling of the de-risking issue.

“We congratulate you on your stewardship and advocacy of the Caribbean cause regarding the importance of correspondence banking,” Chairman of Conference, President David Granger of Guyana said.

His sentiment was also echoed by several other colleague heads of government.

Sources close to the meeting said PM Browne described the corresponding bank relations or de-risking issue as “one of the most significant threats facing the region at this time”,

Browne told the leaders that the Caricom countries had adopted a unified approach to tackling the issue and they implemented a number of initiatives to confront the threat.

In his report, PM Browne also recommended that the region pool its resources as it seeks ‘push-back’ on the de-risking issue. He also announced that the region has received the commitment from the European Union (EU) to provide resources to help strengthen CARICOM’s ‘technical capacity’ on this matter. (CMC)

CDB: Caribbean must act now

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 00:05

President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr Warren Smith says the Caribbean region must act aggressively in order to stem the tide of economic decline that had been inflicted upon it since the onset of the global financial crisis and the fallout in global commodity prices.

Delivering the feature address at the bank’s annual news conference at its headquarters in Barbados on Friday, Smith noted that though the region registered some growth in 2016, the recovery was fragile and uneven.

“The big challenge for each and every one of us, then, is to reverse this pattern and place the BMC’s (borrowing member countries) firmly on to a path of sustained and inclusive income growth with discernible improvements in living standards,” Smith said.

Smith noted that in order for regional territories to achieve this result, greater attention must be paid to engaging in activities that allow for the generation of foreign exchange.

He said: “In order to realise this goal, all of our BMC’s must be earning sufficient foreign exchange to pay for the goods we import for consumption and for production.”

The CDB president pointed out that there were two main policy imperatives that the Caribbean needed to get right in order to unlock the vast potential of the region.

“First, our governments must offer services that promote efficiency and cost-competitiveness whilst fostering inclusive growth and protecting vulnerable groups in our society. The second imperative is that government activity must be financed by revenue systems that meet the sufficiency criterion while promoting equity and economic efficiency,” he said.

According to Smith however, regional fiscal performance was caught in a “vicious cycle”.

He said: “Because economic growth rates are so low, many governments are unable to generate the primary balances needed to correct adverse debt dynamics, so public debt remains unsustainably high.”

Smith noted that as a result of the inefficacy of fiscal policy across the Caribbean, tremendous wastage of resources in the state sector of the region occurred, hampering the future prospects of the territories.

“Government services are not being delivered cost-effectively, social safety nets are still not being adequately targeted, institutional and regulatory reforms for improved private sector competitiveness are lagging behind the rest of the world, and state-owned enterprises are not adhering to universally-accepted financial management policies,” the CDB president said.

Noting that some greenshoots were being seen across the region, Smith stated that territories that had begun the process of adjustment needed to stay the course.

He said: “Regional governments which have begun to take corrective measures and implement adjustment programmes are to be applauded for their efforts. But, there is still a lot of work to be done, and the risk of policy reversal or abandonment is very high. Now more than ever, regional governments cannot become distracted and relax in their resolve to stay what might appear to be a painful course.”

CDB lending

Smith announced that the CDB approved US$306 million in loans and grants to Caribbean countries last year, the highest approval total for the past five years.

He told reporters that Belize, St Lucia and Suriname were the three largest beneficiaries of loans and that in addition to the grants approved in 2016, the bank began implementing the United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund (UK CIF).

UK CIF is a £300 million (US$375 million) grant programme for transformational infrastructure projects in eight Caribbean countries and one British overseas territory, which CDB administers. The bank said £16.4 million in grants was approved for projects and technical assistance in Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Dominica and Grenada.

“We reached noteworthy milestones in deepening our strategic partnerships and successfully mobilising financial resources that our BMCs (borrowing member countries) can use to craft appropriate responses to their development challenges,” said Smith, noting that UK CIF was among the Bank’s partnership highlights in 2016.

Last year, the bank also signed a Credit Facility Agreement with Agence Française de Développement. It included a US$33 million loan to support sustainable infrastructure projects and a three million Euro (One Euro=US$1.29 cents) grant to fund feasibility studies for projects eligible for financing under the credit facility.

The CDB said that in 2016, it entered an arrangement with the Government of Canada for the establishment and administration of a five million Canadian dollar (One Canada dollar=US$0.76 cents) fund to build capacity in the energy sector, The Canadian Support to the Energy Sector in the Caribbean Fund.

Smith said these recent partnerships are part of the bank’s drive to raise appropriately-priced resources mainly for financing projects with a strong focus on climate adaptation, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Smith also announced that the CDB became an accredited partner institution of both the Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund in 2016.

“The Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund have opened new gateways to much-needed grant and or low-cost financing to address climate change vulnerabilities in all of our BMCs,” Smith told the media.

The president also confirmed that, in 2016, CDB completed negotiations for the replenishment of the Special Development Fund (SDF), the bank’s largest pool of concessionary funds.

Contributors agreed to an overall programme of US$355 million for the period 2017-2020, and lowered the SDF interest rate from a range of two to 2.5 per cent to one per cent.

The programme approved includes US$45 million for Haiti and USD40 million for the Basic Needs Trust Fund. This marked the ninth replenishment of the SDF, which helps meet the Caribbean region’s high-priority development needs.

In his statement, Smith also reaffirmed the bank’s commitment to drive sustained and inclusive income growth, complemented by improvements in living standards in its BMCs. This, he said, was critical, as economic growth across the Region remains uneven, with fragile recovery expected to continue into 2017.

ANDRE WORRELL

 

Republic sheds $1.99

Sat, 02/18/2017 - 04:40

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 12 securities of which four advanced, two declined and six traded firm.

Trading activity on the first tier market registered a volume of 88,808 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $1,260,008.21.

Sagicor Financial Corporation was the volume leader with 31,795 shares changing hands for a value of $295,693.50, followed by Angostura Holdings Ltd with a volume of 20,948 shares being traded for $314,220. Trinidad Cement Ltd contributed 16,000 shares with a value of $70,400, while Massy Holdings Ltd added 5,844 shares valued at $309,732.

Trinidad Cement Ltd enjoyed the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.23 to end the day at $4.40. Conversely, Republic Financial Holdings Ltd suffered the day’s greatest loss, falling $1.99 to close at $104.

Clico Investment Fund was the only active security on the mutual fund market, posting a volume of 106,440 shares valued at $2,395,964.40. Clico Investment Fund advanced by $0.01 to end at $22.51.

The second tier market did not witness any activity. MORA VEN HOLDINGS LIMITED remained at $14.49.

Hilaire: Competition driving bank fees, rates

Sat, 02/18/2017 - 04:39

Central Bank Governor Dr Alvin Hilaire says the existing bank fees and interest rates on consumer loans are determined by competition in T&T. He said interest rates on deposits and on loans have decreased internationally and to some extent in T&T.

Hilaire was responding to questions from members of the Joint Select Committee at a conference room in the Parliament at the International Waterfront Centre in Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

Explaining the rationale behind local banks charging different monthly service fees, Hilaire said there is competition in relation to the cost of providing the services.

“Clearly in a situation where interest rates have gone down to rock bottom and they try to maintain some profitability, then they would use other avenues. We don’t have the capacity to discuss these issues, to look at them. We don’t have the power to regulate these things.”

Urging the population to regularly browse the Central Bank of T&T’s website, the governor said: “This is where we think it is important for consumers to know exactly what is happening so they can make informed decisions and could adjust their behaviour. They could complain. They could lobby. They could move their accounts. They could do anything.”

He said there has been a downward trend in interest rates with respect to mortgage loans internationally, adding that consumer loans have stayed relatively flat but credit card rates were high.

Responding to questions from JSC member, Opposition MP Prakash Ramadhar, the Central Bank Governor said: “We have noticed a slight movement downwards in recent time. There has been a lot of competition and you would see it in the mortgage market, a tapering of the increases of interest rates on loans.”

Hilaire said he wrote to the banks last year to find out what were they doing about interest rates for citizens.

He said he was informed that the banks have been reducing fees for the elderly and young people.

Hilaire said the Central Bank has been meeting directly with the commercial banks and some five meetings were held last year to address matters of interest.

He said those meetings have been taking place since 2011.

“It is important to have lobby groups and consumer power and strength so that these issues can come to the fore, Hilaire said, adding that even if the Central Bank does not have the legislative authority to address bank fees, public pressure “could facilitate our dialogue with the bank short of having legislation or something that empowers us to do that.”

Asked what was the Central Bank doing to ensure that delinquent homeowners do not lose their homes, Hilaire said: “We know we have a situation where the credit quality could be compromised to some extent because of the macro-economic situation. It is no secret but we do have to strike a balance because although we want to make sure that people do not lose their homes, at the same time we want to make sure that credit quality does not slip unduly. It is a delicate balance.”

Another committee member, Housing Minister Randall Mitchell said: “Many (citizens) out there are of the view, including me, that these commercial banks are really an oligopoly and they go about their business with concerted practices and they are really anti competitive.”

He said there was a general “barrier to shopping around by going to another bank to open an account.”

No need for CLF agreement—shareholder

Sat, 02/18/2017 - 04:35

There’s no need for an extension of the CL Financial (CLF)shareholders’ agreement with Government since shareholders have presented Government with a plan to get back their companies and settle the debt to the government from bailing out, says Dalco spokesman Carlton Reis.

Dalco represents CLF majority shareholder Lawrence Duprey, according to Reis.

Duprey was the centre of some attention at last weekend’s Panorama semi-finals in the Queen’s Park Savannah. Duprey has been coming to T&T more frequently since last October—including a prolonged stay since Christmas—after the repayment plan was presented to government.

He has been meeting company officials. His visits since last year were the first in seven years since the January 2009 collapse of the insurance giant, which Government had to bail out.

Yesterday, Reis said Duprey is home for good, “and he will be staying to ensure shareholders get back the companies. He won’t be involved in management, merely in an advisory capacity.”

Reis was asked on Tuesday about the shareholders’ agreement following Monday’s Parliament session at which Prime Minister Keith Rowley was asked why there had been no renewal of the June 2009 agreement between CL Financial shareholders and Government, which had expired since last August, after being extended on more than a dozen occasions.

Rowley said there had been no agreement on the way forward. He said teams require talks before extension of the agreement and while talks are ongoing, the other parties have advanced a “variety” of positions.

Contacted subsequently on what the “variety” of positions entailed, Reis said there was one plan presented by shareholders and there no need for an extension of the agreement since shareholders last October had presented that plan to get back the company and they are now waiting on a response from the government.

Reis said the plan also involves CL Financial “putting money in government’s hands and we also aim on to kick-start the economy.”

The plan is now with the Finance Ministry.

“So it makes no sense extending the agreement since we’re in a position to pay back the Government and need to resume control of our companies - they belong to us. Clico is solvent and it’s time to hand back the companies.”

Reis said he believed Price Waterhouse and Government had been meeting since last year to finalise figures on the matter.

Government’s last estimate of the bailout debt in Parliament statements was $23 billion. In 2016, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said he aimed to resolve the issue for all concerned.

Reis said shareholders had agreed to dispose of certain assets to pay off government in their targeted 150 day time frame.

While shareholders want to retain control of core CL Financial companies—including Angostura, Colfire, Clico, CL Marine, Home Construction and the malls, they are willing to give up bonds in statutory funds and dispose of the group’s properties.

Reis said that included lands in Arima and the Buccoo estate in Tobago that government wants to obtain for the Sandals development. He said shareholders are also open to disposing of lands the Government wants for HDC housing development. Some of this includes Home Construction projects in the east and south that already have plans and approvals for housing.

Reis added: “We have the expertise to go forward. We’ve also learned from our past lessons. We have the financing to start-up using natural resources. Considering the issues of the availability of US currently, we’re also pivoted some projections regarding South American markets at this point.”

Finance Minister Colm Imbert had no comment on the status of the issue.

‘State bodies owe contractors $4b’

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 22:34

Government owes local contractors in excess of $4 billion and the major culprit, according to the T&T Contractors Association (TTCA), is the Estate Management and Business Development Company Limited (EMBD).

Other state agencies that owe hefty sums of monies to the members of the TTCA include: the Education Facilities Company Limited (EFCL), Housing Development Corporation (HDC), Ministry of Works and Transport, National Insurance Property Development Company (NIPDEC) and the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA). This was disclosed yesterday by TTCA’s president, Mikey Joseph at a news conference that was held at the Professional Centre Building, Fitzblackman Drive South, Port-of-Spain.

Joseph said that following the announcement the association made last August that they were owed $2.4 billion by the government and state-owned enterprises, two payments were made. The last one was in October, which totalled about $530 million, which reduced the debt to $1.9 billion.

He explained that the $2.4 billion figure did not include monies owed by WASA, EMBD and the Tobago House of Assembly (THA). He added that several other contractors approached them complaining that they were yet to be paid for various projects.

He said that another cause for major concern was that in most contracts now, state bodies are removing payment clauses which he said creates an even greater risk for contractors.

Joseph said he believes that the excuse of contractors having to have completion certificates to get paid “is an excuse for a con game so they play politics instead of trying to treat with the situation in an attempt to bring relief so that the country can move forward.”

“If you are a responsible government and you come in and meet a bad situation, I don’t think it should take you 18 months to find out where you are at because as the Minister of Finance you have to get the country’s finances in some kind of good order,” Joseph said.

“If you listen to the Minister of Education, Anthony Garcia, he admitted that EFCL owed $800 million. If you listen to the Minister of Works, his debt is in excess of $600 million, so clearly there must be some figures known,” he added.

On the issue of foreign contractors operating in T&T, Joseph said that they too owe local contractors and service providers millions of dollars and added that the local contractors have no redress in recovering the funds. He said more is needed to be done, maybe with legislation, to protect the contractors.

Joseph said that while contractors acknowledge that T&T is in a difficult place financially, they still do not believe that the industry is supposed to suffer. He added that the industry can be used to diversify the economy and to earn valuable foreign exchange.

Having been unable to meet with government officials and the head of state bodies over the last 17 months, Joseph said it was disheartening.

He advised local contractors to, in the future, take government jobs at their own risk.

Jodhan named as Angostura CEO

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 22:31

Angostura Holdings Limited announced yesterday that Genevieve Jodhan has been confirmed as the company’s Chief Executive Officer, a position that she had been acting in since September 2016.

In a statement, Angostura said before her appointment as the company’s top executive, Jodhan led the company’s international sales and marketing division as its executive manager.

In her new role, Mrs. Jodhan will lead Angostura’s executive management team, and support the board of directors on the company’s strategic business and growth strategies as well as other key decisions.

“Genevieve has the experience and track record of delivering results and has proven leadership. She spearheaded our international sales growth increasing market share and sales of our signature rums and bitters in Europe, Asia and Australia and has directed the development of the brands in many emerging markets including Russia, Czech Republic, and Armenia. Dr. Balgobin added that the Board is confident that the new CEO would lead and execute Angostura’s vision to expand globally,” said Angostura chairman Rolph Balgobin in the statement.

Mrs. Jodhan said it was an honour to be appointed CEO.

“I am both humbled and honoured to be appointed CEO. I have been with the Company for close to a decade and my commitment has always been to Angostura’s people, products and values. I am keen to build on the long outstanding achievement of our manufacturing business, through the execution of forward looking business strategies that add to the customer experience, and build on our shareholders’ value.

Jodhan assumed her new role on Tuesday. She has three children and is the first woman to head one of Trinidad and Tobago’s largest manufacturing companies, outside of the energy sectors.

Income inequality in T&T an issue says Farrell

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 22:26

Chairman of the Economic Advisory Board of T&T, Dr Terrence Farrell said yesterday that trends are showing that there is income inequality in T&T and this can be bad for the domestic economy. He said globalisation has even worsened income inequality.

Farrell said: “Globalisation has in fact created a lot of wealth but at the same time it has also worsened income inequality. Within T&T, US and the UK we are also seeing widening income inequality. What happens is that social dynamics are such that, at some point in time that widening inequality becomes socially unpopular as people begin to rise up.”

Farrell was part of a panel discussion on the external environment in which business must operate, titled, “Optimising your business in the new normal.” The panel was hosted by the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Westmoorings. Farrell added that both the National Tripartite Advisory Council and the Economic Development Advisory Board are expected to discuss the issue of income inequality. The dynamics of income and the political atmosphere in T&T are to be talked about by both boards also, he said.

Referring to the salaries of senior public servants and ministers, Farrell said the both groups are underpaid and something should be done to improve their salaries. He said there is need to design policies in tandem with the labour market.

Witco trades $14m

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 22:25

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 11 securities of which five advanced, four declined and two traded firm.

Trading activity on the first tier market registered a volume of 538,719 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $17,592,946.93.

JMMB was the volume leader with 251,611 shares changing hands for a value of $301,602.39, followed by West Indian Tobacco Company Ltd with a volume of 110,000 shares being traded for $13,969,996.80. NCB Jamaica LIMITED contributed 69,575 shares with a value of $278,300, while National Enterprises Ltd added 52,824 shares valued at $578,142.59.

Massy Holdings enjoyed the day’s largest gain, increasing $1 to end the day at $53. Conversely, Republic Financial Holdings suffered the day’s greatest loss, falling $0.70 to close at $105.99.

Clico Investment Fund was the only active security on the mutual fund market, posting a volume of 184,833 shares valued at $4,168,335.05. Clico Investment Fund declined by $0.01 to end at $22.55.

The second tier market did not witness any activity.

GHL up by $0.20

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 01:53

Overall market activity resulted from trading in 12 securities of which two advanced, four declined and six traded firm.

Trading activity on the first tier market registered a volume of 144,155 shares crossing the floor of the Exchange valued at $819,907.31.

NCBJ was the volume leader with 81,454 shares changing hands for a value of $325,816, followed by Sagicor Financial Corporation with a volume of 42,001 shares being traded for $390,609.30. Scotia Investments Jamaica Ltd contributed 7,755 shares with a value of $17,066.26, while JMMB added 5,500 shares valued at $6,545.

Guardian Holdings Ltd enjoyed the day’s largest gain, increasing $0.20 to end the day at $15.30. Conversely, Plipdeco suffered the greatest loss, falling $0.04 to close at $3.66.

Clico Investment Fund was the only active security on the mutual fund market, posting a volume of 6,110 shares valued at $137,815.95. Clico Investment Fund advanced by $0.05 to end at $22.56.

The Second Tier Market did not witness any activity.

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