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Bank of Jamaica's CBDC Pilot Project a Success Published: 04 January 2022

  • Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) has announced that it has successfully completed the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) pilot. In March 2021, BOJ announced that it was testing a prototype central bank digital currency with vendor, eCurrency Mint Inc. in BOJ's Fintech Regulatory Sandbox. This was followed in May 2021 by the commencement of an 8-month long pilot which ended on December 31, 2021. 
  • Success of the pilot project was dependent on whether a central bank digital currency along with the attendant technology solution could be successfully implemented in Jamaica. Several activities were targeted and completed during the pilot. This included minting CBDC, issuing CBDC to wallet providers and distributing CBDC to retail Customers. 
  • The National Roll-Out of the CBDC is scheduled for the first quarter of 2022 whereby NCB will continue onboarding existing customers and new customers. Two additional wallet providers, who are now conducting virtual simulation testing, will be able to order CBDC from BOJ and distribute it to their customers. The testing of transactions between customers of various participating wallet providers will also be undertaken as part of the national Roll-Out. 
  • CBDC is a form of central bank-backed currency and is, therefore, legal tender. It can be exchanged, dollar for dollar, with actual cash and is issued to licensed deposit-taking institutions (DTIs). Individuals, households, and businesses can use it to pay for goods and services, as obtained with cash. According to the Bank, the benefits to be derived by citizens, businesses and the Government from the adoption and introduction of a viable digital currency solution include increased financial inclusion and another means of efficient and secured payments. Additionally, the BOJ says CBDC represents an opportunity for DTIs to improve cash management processes and costs.

(Sources: Bank of Jamaica)

$100Bn for Social Protection Without Increase in Borrowing Published: 04 January 2022

  • Prime Minister the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, has said that the Government was able to reallocate resources within the Budget to deliver over $100.0Bn for social protection and recovery support without any increase in borrowing. 
  • The Prime Minister noted that while for some this may not seem like a big deal, in the past, shocks such as a storm or commodity price shocks as experienced in the 1970s and 80s, or a global financial recession as experienced in 2009, would have precipitated major economic crises with long recovery periods. 
  • The International Monetary Fund observed in its recent Concluding Statement on Jamaica, that unlike in the past, the pandemic related shock was not followed by a fiscal, financial, or balance of payments crisis. The Prime Minister noted that this is a solid testament of the maturing of Jamaica's economic management and how far the country has progressed in its quest for economic independence. 
  • He further noted that this solid fiscal platform underpins the strong recovery that is already being seen in the Jamaican economy. Tourism has rebounded to almost 70.0% of pre-pandemic levels, employment is rebounding with the return of some 93,000 jobs, and expectations are that the country will record growth of around 8.0%.

(Sources: JIS News)

Economist & Private-Sector Heads Predict Slump For Trinidad And Tobago Published: 04 January 2022

  • Several heads of various sectors of the economy believe Trinidad and Tobago is in for significant declines in 2022, as the pandemic persists and uncertainty looms. 
  • Their comments came after the Central Bank on Friday issued its final Monetary Policy Announcement (MPA) for 2021 which said there would be further increases in food and core inflation. 
  • "Food inflation surged to 7.6% from 5.8% in September and is likely to rise further given the situation in the global grain markets," it said. 
  • The Central Bank pointed out that headline inflation in October moved to 3.9% year-on-year when compared to 2.4% in September. Core inflation, which excluded food, doubled to 2.9% and the index of building material prices rose by 12.6% during the third quarter of 2021. 
  • Economist Dr. Vaalmikki Arjoon told Sunday Newsday that the increase in wheat prices has started a chain reaction that would further exacerbate an already high cost of living.

 

(Source: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday)

Guyana's Tourism Sector Earns $24Bn In 2021 Published: 04 January 2022

  • GUYANA recorded 106,428 visitors as of September 2021, a 23% overall increase when compared to 2020, the Guyana Tourism Authority (GTA) has reported. The GTA noted that the reopening of the international borders has resulted in a stark improvement in the visitor arrivals statistics when compared to 2020. 
  • In 2021, most visitors travelled to Guyana for holiday (64%); business (12%) and visiting friends and relatives (10%), among other reasons (14%). 
  • So far, Guyana has earned approximately $24Bn (up to September 2021) based on the average expenditure per visitor per type at US$1,060. Regardless of this growth, the GTA said it is important that Guyana maintains the standards that have been developed and adhered to, to win this fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • It also noted that a consistent level of support is needed by tourism businesses to ensure that the sector continues to recover safely. As such, through the support from the GTA, there has been a marked increase in tourism businesses being licensed.

(Source: Guyana Chronicle)

Apple Becomes First Company To Hit $3 Trillion Market Value Published: 04 January 2022

  • Apple Inc on Monday became the first company in the world to hit $3 trillion in market capitalization, thanks to investor confidence that the iPhone maker will keep launching best-selling products as it explores new markets such as automated cars and metaverse. 
  • On the first day of trading in 2022, the company's shares rose to $182.88 in mid-day trading, a new record. 
  • The world's most valuable company is the first to reach the milestone as investors bet that consumers will continue to shell out top dollar for iPhones, MacBooks and services such as Apple TV and Apple Music. 
  • Apple's march from $2 trillion to $3 trillion in market value took about 16 months as its stock roared higher, leading a group of megacap technology companies that benefited as people relied heavily on tech during the coronavirus pandemic.

(Sources: Investing.com)

UK Government Seeks To Mitigate Workforce Disruption From Omicron Published: 04 January 2022

  • The British Government has asked public sector managers to test their contingency plans against a worst-case scenario of 25% staff absence as part of efforts to minimize disruption from the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. 
  • With daily infection numbers at a record high and people who test positive required to self-isolate for at least seven days, the Government expects businesses and public services to face disruption in the coming weeks, it said in a statement. 
  • "So far, disruption caused by Omicron has been controlled in most parts of the public sector, but public sector leaders have been asked to test plans against worst-case scenarios of workforce absence of 10%, 20% and 25%," it said. 
  • This latest development by the U.K is an indication that governments may have to tighten up their stringency measures in order to curb the spread of the new Omicron variant. In the local context of Jamaica, the Government will likely revisit its guidelines as it relates to mandatory work from home restriction if cases continue to surge.

(Source: Reuters and NCBCM Research)

Producer Price Index Continues To Grow YoY Published: 31 December 2021

  • For November 2021, output prices for producers in the Mining and Quarrying industry increased by 1.4%, with an upward movement in output prices in the Manufacturing industry of 0.8%, as released by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN). 
  • The increase in the index for the Mining and Quarrying industry was influenced mainly by a 1.5% rise in the index for the major group ‘Bauxite Mining & Alumina Processing’. The index for the other major group ‘Other Mining & Quarrying’ rose by 0.3%. These increases were due to the depreciation of the Jamaican dollar against the United States dollar. 
  • For the period under review, the Manufacturing industry continued to be impacted by increases in the cost of raw materials on the international market, as well as, rising freight costs. The main contributors to the 0.8% rise in the index for the Manufacturing industry were the major groups: ‘Refined Petroleum Products’ which increased by 1.6%; ‘Food, Beverages and Tobacco’ up by 0.5% and ‘Chemicals and Chemical Products’ which increased by 1.5%. 
  • For the period November 2020 – November 2021, the point-to-point movement for the Mining & Quarrying industry was 27.4%, due mainly to an increase of 28.4% in the index for the major group ‘Bauxite Mining & Alumina Processing’. The point-to-point movement for the Manufacturing industry was 20.2%. 
  • Point-to-point PPI has grown in November relative to the results for October, while Consumer Price Index (CPI) had fallen for the same period. This could be influenced by the challenges manufacturers face passing on higher input prices to consumers. Further, with supply chain challenges expected to continue into 2022, the output prices for the manufacturing sector are expected to remain elevated.

(Sources: STATIN & NCBCM Research)

Main Events Reports Year-End Net Profit Published: 31 December 2021

  • Owing to a reduction in expenses, Main Event Entertainment Group Ltd. reported a net profit of $16.14Mn (EPS: $0.05) for the year ended October 31, 2021, versus the loss of $18.23Mn in the previous year. 
  • The company continued its focus on cost management this year, seeing a reduction in direct costs of 46.1%. The bottom-line also benefited from by a reduction in admin & general expenses (14.7%), selling & promotional expenses (50.3%), depreciation (4.4%), and amortization (13.9%) costs. 
  • Tempering the results was a 27.5% decline in revenues. The decrease is a result of very modest activity in Main Event’s core business of entertainment and promotions throughout this year. While client interest in its M-Style (Main Event’s premiere lifestyle and experience brand) services was encouraging, actual activity was tempered by the restrictions on gathering. 
  • With the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 spreading, new lockdown measures and a further delay in the reopening of the entertainment sector can be anticipated. Nevertheless, the company expects demand for entertainment and event services to rebound swiftly when restrictions ease. 
  • Main event’s stock price has appreciated by 35.0% since the start of the year and closed Thursday’s trading session at $4.32 per share. At this price the stock currently trades at a P/E of 86.4x.

(Sources: Main Event Financials & NCBCM Research)

Mexican Growth Revised Down to 2.8% in 2022 on Mounting Headwinds Published: 31 December 2021

  • Mexican growth will slow in 2022 as higher inflation, decelerating US growth, the spread of the Omicron variant, and an unfavourable policy environment constrain activity. Fitch highlighted that Inflation is expected to average 5.9% in 2022, eating away at household purchasing power. The high inflation has also pushed the Banco de México (Banxico) into a tightening cycle, which will increase the cost of consumer loans over the year. 
  • Nevertheless, economic activity will recover from the contraction recorded in Q321, as fiscal spending ticks higher, supply chain disruptions slowly ease and Mexico’s vaccination rate rises. Mexico has seen modest case levels since a surge in Q321, due in part to a vaccination rate that has climbed above 60%. 
  • According to Fitch, real GDP growth is expected to slow to 2.8% in 2022, down from the 3.3% previously forecasted, and an estimated 5.6% in 2021, though this remains above the 2.0% growth averaged from 2015-19. 
  • This downward revision is due to softer demand from the US, rising interest rates, and uncertainty over policy direction, coupled with a more challenging outlook for private consumption, which is expected to slow to 3.0%, from an estimated 7.4% in 2021, as higher inflation and weaker remittance inflows undercut household spending.

(Source: Fitch Solutions)

BCRD increases its annual monetary policy rate from 3.50% to 4.50% Published: 31 December 2021

  • The Central Bank of the Dominican Republic (BCRD), at its monetary policy meeting in December 2021, decided to increase its monetary policy interest rate by 100 basis points, from 3.50% per annum to 4.50% per annum. In this way, the rate of the permanent liquidity expansion facility (1-day Repos) increases from 4.00% per year to 5.00% per year and the rate of remunerated deposits (Overnight) from 3.00% per year to 4.00% per year. 
  • This decision regarding the benchmark rate is based on a comprehensive assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on the world economy and the persistence of external inflationary pressures. In that order, the dynamics of prices continue to be affected by more permanent supply shocks than expected, associated with higher prices of oil and other important raw materials for local production, as well as the increase in global freight costs due to container shortages and other distortions in supply chains. 
  • In particular, the monthly variation of the consumer price index (CPI) in November was 1.08%, while the accumulated inflation during the first eleven months of 2021 was 7.71%. On the other hand, core inflation, which excludes the most volatile components of the basket, reached 6.63% year-on-year in November 2021, reflecting second-round effects due to higher production costs associated with external shocks. 
  • Going forward, the BCRD forecasting system indicates that, in an active monetary policy scenario, year-on-year inflation (variation of the last 12 months), which stood at 8.23% in November 2021, would converge to the target range of 4% ± 1% during the second half of 2022, at a slower rate than originally planned.

(Source: The Central Bank of the Dominican Republic)