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Essex Valley Project to Transform Agriculture, Rural Development  Published: 12 April 2024

  • The Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining, Hon. Franklin Witter, says the Essex Valley Agriculture Development Project (EVADP) will revolutionise farming and rural development in South St. Elizabeth and its environs.
  • The project, which is slated for completion in early 2025, will deliver 1,700 cubic metres of water per hour, benefiting more than 700 farmers operating on 810 hectares of land in the Essex Valley region of the parish. By increasing access to irrigation, the project is expected to boost agricultural production and productivity, increase food security, and create a more vibrant and resilient local economy.
  • Witter noted that the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service approved a ceiling budget of $4.3Bn in the 2023/2024 financial year for the EVADP land irrigation development, and Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, recently committed a further $2Bn.
  • One of the key components of the project, Mr. Witter noted, is the installation of a solar plant that will provide the necessary energy to power the irrigation system and other facilities. This renewable energy source, he said, not only aligns with Jamaica’s commitment to sustainability but also ensures that the project remains cost-effective and environmentally friendly in the long run.

(Source: JIS)

CariCRIS Revises JN’s Rating Outlook to Negative from Stable; 'BBB+' Rating Affirmed Published: 12 April 2024

  • Regional rating agency Caribbean Information and Credit Rating Services Limited (CariCRIS), has reaffirmed Jamaica National Group’s (JN) ratings at CariBBB+ (Foreign Currency Rating) and CariA- (Local Currency Rating) on the regional scale. However, it has revised the company’s outlook to negative from stable.
  • CariCRIS stated in its release that the change in outlook is based on JN Group Limited’s subsidiaries reporting losses for 2 consecutive years. Additionally, this loss position is expected to persist over the next 12 months, albeit at a lower level.
  • It went on to state that given the challenged earnings, the Group’s cost-to-income ratio is expected to remain elevated.
  • Expansion of the Group’s product and service offerings and/or improvements in operating efficiencies, improvement in the Group’s cost-to-income ratio to 65% or below for at least 2 consecutive years, and changes to Jamaica’s sovereign rating are some of the main factors that would drive a change in the company’s credit rating.

(Source: CariCRIS)

 

World Bank Cuts LATAM 2024 GDP Forecast Published: 12 April 2024

  • The World Bank has revised downward its outlook for growth in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to 1.6% from its previous estimate of 2.3%, saying the region continues to lag growth rates registered in other parts of the world.
  • The World Bank forecasts that regional GDP will expand by 1.6% in 2024. GDP growth of 2.7 and 2.6 are expected for 2025 and 2026. These rates are the lowest compared to all other regions in the world and insufficient to drive prosperity, according to the World Bank.
  • LAC has reached a critical juncture. While the region has made significant progress in economic stabilization over recent decades, growth has stalled, undermining progress. 
  • Factors driving these growth numbers include low levels of investment and domestic consumption, elevated interest rates and high fiscal deficits, declining commodity prices, and uncertainty in the prospects of important partners such as the U.S., China, Europe, and other G7 countries.
  • "Persistent low growth is not just an economic statistic, it's a barrier for development. It translates into reduced public services, fewer job opportunities, depressed salaries and higher poverty and inequality. When economies stagnate, the potential of its people is constrained. We must act decisively to help Latin America and the Caribbean break away from this cycle," said Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean.

(Source: The World Bank Group)

Heritage Petroleum Commissions New Well Published: 12 April 2024

  • Heritage Petroleum Company Ltd has announced the commissioning of its latest offshore oil well, designated as S-938. According to Heritage, this marks a 'significant milestone' in its field development efforts.
  • 'Situated within the Soldado East Field, S-938 has an expected average daily rate of 500 barrels of oil per day (bopd), which promises to contribute significantly to the company's revenue,' a release from the company stated.
  • 'S-938 is the third well to be put into production after commencing its offshore drilling programme, in line with Heritage's strategy to grow high-margin production. Drilling of S-938 began in August 2023, and after rigorous design and engineering efforts, the topsides were completed in March 2024. This was followed by the requisite inspections and statutory approvals prior to commissioning,' it stated.
  • Heritage's chief executive officer, Erik Keskula, stated the strategic importance of S-938, highlighting its role in developing a track record of delivering new offshore wells and facilities to increase production.
  • 'Heritage anticipates ongoing benefits from this well and three additional wells that are expected to be commissioned in the coming months. Additionally, as Heritage continues to expand its offshore drilling programme in the third quarter of 2024, the company remains committed to operational excellence, environmental stewardship, and delivering returns to all its stakeholders, including the Government and people of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago,' it stated.

 (Source: Trinidad Express Newspapers)

Fitch Downgrades China’s Outlook Over Economic Worries Published: 12 April 2024

  • Fitch downgraded its outlook on China’s credit rating on Tuesday, citing increasing risks to its finances as it faces economic challenges. Lowering its outlook from stable to negative does not automatically mean the rating agency will downgrade China’s creditworthiness, but it increases the chances.
  • The revision “reflects increasing risks to China’s public finance outlook as the country contends with more uncertain economic prospects amid a transition away from property-reliant growth to what the government views as a more sustainable growth model,” it said in a statement. Fitch kept its rating on Chinese sovereign bonds at A+.
  • China’s general government deficit is projected to rise to 7.1% of gross domestic product in 2024 from 5.8% last year. This year’s deficit is expected to be the highest since 2020, when pandemic-related controls began to weigh heavily on public coffers.
  • China’s Finance Ministry has expressed “regret” over the revision. “We had a lot of in-depth communication with the Fitch Ratings team in the early stage, and the report partly reflected China’s views,” it said in a Wednesday statement. It added that the agency’s methodology “fails to effectively and prospectively reflect the positive role of fiscal policy in promoting economic growth.”
  • “In the long run, maintaining a moderate deficit and making good use of precious debt funds will help expand domestic demand, support economic growth, and ultimately help maintain good sovereign credit,” it said.
  • The fiscal budget deficit ratio for 2024 is set at 3%, according to the statement, which describes it as “overall moderate” and “conducive to stable economic growth.” The ministry has targeted 5% for economic growth for this year, which it says is “in line with realistic conditions.”
  • “The long-term positive trend of China’s economy has not changed, nor has the Chinese government’s ability and determination to maintain good sovereign credit,” it said. In December, rival rating agency Moody’s downgraded its outlook on China’s credit rating from stable to negative, citing risks related to “structurally and persistently lower medium-term economic growth” and ongoing troubles in its property sector.

(Source: CNN)

 

IMF: Higher US Rates Could Become a Worry if They Persist Published: 12 April 2024

  • IMF Chief Georgieva expresses concern over the impact of higher U.S. interest rates on the global economy, noting that they make the U.S. more attractive for financial flows, potentially leaving other countries struggling.
  • While acknowledging the prudence of the U.S. Federal Reserve's actions, Georgieva suggests that the U.S. government could explore additional measures to prevent overheating of the economy, although she doesn't provide specifics.
  • Higher interest rates lead to a stronger dollar, weakening other countries' currencies, which could pose challenges to financial stability if sustained over a prolonged period. Recent consumer-level inflation data casts doubt on the Fed's forecast of rate cuts later in the year, with reports indicating stronger inflation than anticipated, prompting investors to reconsider their expectations for the timing of rate adjustments.
  • Georgieva highlights the strengths of the U.S. economy, including its innovation, robust labour market supported by immigration, and recent government initiatives such as the Inflation Reduction Act and COVID aid. The IMF sees potential for the U.S. government to address inflation concerns and navigate towards a soft landing for the economy.

(Source: Reuters)

MFS Capital Partners Limited (MFS) – Acquisition Published: 11 April 2024

  • MFS Capital Partners (MFS)has announced that it has completed the 100% acquisition of Microfinancing Solutions Limited. The transaction, which was first announced at the end of 2022, was finalised in time for the quarter ending March 31, 2024. Microfinancing Solutions is now the flagship operating entity in the company’s portfolio.
  • Microfinancing Solutions is a Kingston-based money services company that began operations in 2010 as a microlender. Since then, it has expanded its operations into other areas of finance, including FX trading, remittances, bill payment services, and private credit. Furthermore, the company has taken equity positions in several other entities. 
  • Through this strategic acquisition, MFS CAP strengthens its presence in the local finance market, expanding its financial products and services offerings. By leveraging the combined expertise and resources of both entities, MFS CAP aims to enhance its ability to meet the evolving needs of clients and drive sustainable growth and value for shareholders.
  • Microfinancing Solutions will continue to operate under its current brand name from its current locations, with its existing management team led by Tamar Webley, who has been at the helm for the last 12 years since it began operations. 

(Source: JSE)

Jamaica Had Second-Highest Domestic Crop Production in 2023 Published: 11 April 2024

  • Jamaica produced some 779,254 tonnes of domestic crops in 2023, which is the country’s second-highest recorded production figure. In making the disclosure, Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining, Hon. Franklin Witter, said that this was achieved despite unfavourable weather conditions.
  • “Jamaica, like the rest of the world, experienced one of the hottest years ever recorded last year. Consequently, the drought, as well as the short period of intense rainfall that we experienced, did have some impact on our productivity here in Jamaica,” he said.
  • Witter was addressing the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) 41st Annual National Farmers’ Month church service held at the Kettering Baptist church in Duncans, Trelawny, on Sunday (April 7).
  • “Our strategic vision is embedded in our New FACE of Food strategy, and this is an acronym for a strategic layout of food security, agro-business development, climate-change technologies, and export expansion,” he noted.

(Source: JIS)

Guyana Reiterates Commitment to a Peaceful Solution of Border Dispute Published: 11 April 2024

  • Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, has reiterated her country’s commitment to a peaceful solution to the border dispute with Venezuela, which is claiming the Essequibo region in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.
  • The UN Security Council met in private on Tuesday, April 9, to discuss the recent developments regarding the territorial dispute between the two countries at the request of Guyana’s President, Irfaan Ali, in an April 5 letter he had submitted to the Council. The meeting was held under the theme “Threats to international peace and security” with the Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and the Americas Miroslav Jenča providing a brief to the Council.
  • This meeting comes in light of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's promulgated Organic Law for the Defence of Essequiba on April 3, 2024. By this new law, Venezuela purports to exercise control over two-thirds of the sovereign territory of Guyana. This legislation appears to create a new state in Venezuela. The Head of State of Venezuela will have the power to elect a governor, and the National Assembly of Venezuela will have legislative functions in this territory. Additionally, all political maps of Venezuela will now include the ‘state of Guyana Essequiba’. 
  • Rodrigues-Birkett, in her presentation to the Council, provided a thorough overview of the history of the border controversy and highlighted the actions taken by Venezuela in contravention of diplomatic agreements, including the Argyle Declaration, and international law, including the legally binding orders of the International Court of Justice.
  • She emphasized Guyana’s commitment to peace, the rule of law and the resolution of the controversy through the International Court of Justice (ICJ). She called on the Council to impress on Venezuela the need to pursue a peaceful settlement of the controversy by the ICJ, as it is bound to do by the 1966 Geneva Agreement.
  • Venezuela’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Samuel Moncada Acosta, who was present at the session, ruled out any occupation plan by the South American country. The UN Security Council, following the meeting at which both Haiti and Suriname addressed the delegates has so far issued no official statement.

(Sources: Loop Caribbean News & NCBCM Research)

Mexican Pemex Crude Output Reduced by 20,000 Bpd After Platform Fire Published: 11 April 2024

  • Mexican Pemex crude oil production is down some 20,000 barrels per day (Bpd) following a fire at an offshore platform on Saturday, April 6, that left several injured and at least one dead, a source at the state energy company said.
  • While the reduction amounts to a 1% decrease, a prolonged outage would further dent already falling crude oil production that hit its lowest level in 45 years in February.
  • According to anonymous sources, the Akal-B platform in the Gulf of Mexico was still out of service on Tuesday as workers sought to restore operations.
  • The company has not provided updates on the fire since Sunday, when it reported that it was carrying out an inspection and evaluating the causes of the fire "to reestablish operations at the processing centre."
  • Pemex puts its current production of oil and condensate at 1.8 million bpd, of which 1.5 million is crude oil, the lowest level in 45 years.
  • In recent years, the oil company has recorded several fatal accidents at its offshore facilities, which some experts attribute to a lack of investment in key maintenance. Pemex has repeatedly denied this.

 (Source: Reuters)