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News Round UP: Week Ending 8/13/16

Guyana

The Guyana government says its economic performances are being hampered by the past actions of the former government even as it announced that the economy grew by two per cent up from the 0.9 per cent growth it recorded for the first half of 2015.

“We have inherited so many liabilities and so many judgments that are now coming to the fore that we have to pay, once it is a court judgment we have to pay. We have many small ones, but there are many big ones to come up,” Finance Minister Winston Jordan said ahead of presenting the 2016 Mid-Year Report on the performance of the economy to the National Assembly.

Jordan described the performance of the economy as “very good” and attributed the overall growth to the successes of the mining and quarrying sector which grew by 65.7 per cent. He said gold production increased by 93.3 per cent while bauxite grew by 2.2 per cent.

Other crops and fisheries also recorded a two per cent growth while revenue collection grew by nine per cent. Exchange rates have remained stable.

But he said that there were many unsettled liabilities of the previous administration before the David Granger government.

“People may not want to pay, but that’s the life of the government. Since it came in we have so many outstanding liabilities and so many judgments that have been given, in fact I am not even counting the amount that we transfer to GUYSUCO (Guyana Sugar Company),” he told reporters.

He said more than one billion dollars (One Guyana dollar =US$0.004 cents) had to be paid to the Suriname-based Rudisa resulting from a Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling which the former administration failed to honour.

In addition, the government had to pay in excess of one billion dollars to BK construction as an out of court settlement of claims relating to the construction of the Haags Bosch landfill site, and a projected large settlement owed to Booker Tate by the GUYSUCO.

Referring to the anticipated Booker Tate judgment, Jordan said, “… if you are already in the red who has to pay it? I’m not saying government will pay, but if you are already in the red and getting bailouts from government, technically who has to pay?

“Then to compound matters of outstanding payments by the former PPP/C administration is all of these shoddy works that have been done on projects in the past, whether is Kato School, East Bank road, Skeldon Sugar factory, you name it.

“They pile up, so it is difficult trying to implement government’s current programme when we are under the guns with all of these huge liabilities that are there,” he said, asking “how can you lower taxes when you are faced with all of these expenditures which are not current expenditures to add value to people’s lives and improve their welfare?”

In terms of projection for the rest of the year, gold declaration is set at 650,000 ounces while the outlook for Gross Domestic Product is set at four per cent which is in line with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) prediction but down from the budgeted forecast of 4.4 per cent.

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Brazil

Jamaican sprint sensation Usain Bolt has warned he will be gunning for the World record in the 200 metres, when he lines in the half-lap at the Rio Olympics, now in full swing in Brazil. The marquis track and field athletics program starts today and will jump, throw and run for the next nine days.

The 28-year-old currently holds the record of 19.19 seconds which was set seven years ago at the Berlin World Championships, and the charismatic multiple-time Olympic sprint champion said he was keen on going below 19 seconds.

I really want it (world record). I really, really want that one. I’ve always wanted to run sub-19. I’ve always focused on that,” Bolt told a media conference here.

Jamaican sprint sensation Usain Bolt gesticulates during a media conference in Rio.

“I think it’s going to be a little bit harder because I missed out on trials and a week of training in the last part of the season. [But] you never know. After the 100 rounds it always helps my 200 so hopefully that will help and I can go on and run fast so I’m looking forward to it.

Bolt enters what is expected to be his final Olympics, chasing an unprecedented clean sweep of the sprint events for a third straight Games after dominating Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

And he said while he was always confident about the 100 metres, it was his pet event, the 200m, which always presented butterflies.

“I think I am more nervous over the 200 metres than anything else, for some reason. I always get nervous but the 100 is never really as stressful,” he said.

“I know where I am weakest and I know where I am strongest so for me it’s all about getting it right and I’ll be fine. But for some reason when I get to the 200m, I’m always nervous right throughout the rounds — from the day I start until the final.”

Over the last month, Bolt’s fitness has been under a cloud, especially after he was forced to withdraw from the Jamaica trials due to injury.

But he said he had worked his way into great shape for the Rio Games, noting he was always intent on being at his best for the big moments.

“As a young kid, you grow up looking forward to the big games. I think over the years having really gotten into it, championships are what matters,” he stressed.

“So for me, I always work towards these championships and try and do my best here and always come out here and give it 150 per cent always.

Before he competes in the 200m, Bolt will take aim at the 100m when the rounds get going on Saturday (tomorrow). The 100 meters final, one of the most eagerly anticipated sporting event, is set for Sunday morning.

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Barbados

The Barbados health authorities on Tuesday said they were investigating the cause of microcephaly in two babies delivered at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) this week.

A statement from the Ministry of Health said that the doctors at the QEH are carrying out investigations to determine whether the birth defects are linked to the mosquito borne Zika virus or cytomegalovirus infection during pregnancy.

Microcephaly is a birth defect in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared to babies of the same sex and age. Babies with microcephaly often have smaller brains that might not have developed properly.

On average, two to three babies are born with microcephaly every year, unrelated to Zika, in Barbados, the statement noted.

“To date, there has been no increase in the number of new borns with microcephaly. Additionally, no children born to mothers who tested positive for Zika have been diagnosed with microcephaly.”

The statement said that pregnant women suspected or confirmed with Zika infection are monitored at the high-risk antenatal clinic at the QEH, and these two cases of microcephaly were not among those being monitored.

“Currently, 14 pregnant women have been identified with the Zika Virus; of these seven have given birth and there were no obvious birth defects detected in those babies,” the statement noted.

It said that the Ministry of Health is advising women who are pregnant and experiencing any of the symptoms of Zika – fever, rash, conjunctivitis (red eye), headache and temporary arthritis, mainly in the small joints of the hands and feet, to contact their doctor as soon as possible for testing.

“The Ministry of Health further urges pregnant women and women of child-bearing age to be especially careful, and to take all necessary steps to protect themselves from mosquito bites as the rainy season progresses. “

–end—

Jamaica

The formal commissioning of BMR Jamaica Wind Limited in Malvern, St Elizabeth, this week, was coloured by news that the company, as well as its United States-based parent BMR Energy, is being acquired by international investor Sir Richard Branson.

Even as he introduced Branson to make brief remarks, Bruce Levy, president of BMR Energy, told those gathered at the ceremony at Potsdam that Branson’s conglomerate Virgin Group  “are now in the process of acquiring BMR and BMR Jamaica Wind”.

Branson, a Briton who lives in the Caribbean, declared that his decision to buy BMR was not motivated by any desire to make money but rather to help speed up the clean energy “revolution” and assist the drive for universal “carbon neutrality” by 2050.

The BMR project in Malvern priced at US$89.9 million is being described as the single largest investment in St Elizabeth since the construction of the Alpart alumina plant in the late 1960s. The project involves 11 3.3 MW wind turbines, which will provide wind energy to light and power company, Jamaica Public Service’s national grid at 12.9 US cents per KWH.

Energy sector leaders say it will reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels by about US$500 million over the 20-year life of the plant.

“I decided recently that we needed to get one, get one or two core (clean energy) companies under our belt so that we can actually get out there and speed up this revolution,” said Branson in explaining the decision to buy.

“We were delighted to acquire BMR and we will be out there trying to hustle and bustle governments all over the Caribbean and other countries to hurry up towards carbon neutrality by 2050. Personally I don’t need to make money out of it, if it makes a bit of money, fine, if it doesn’t, fine. I just want to get the sun out there, get the solar out there, get … powered by sun , wind, sea… get a green energy revolution and bring the cost of energy down for everybody; get rid of the dangers of coal and oil and the dirty (energy sources) that we are using today…” he said.

Jamaica’s Energy Minister Andrew Wheatley said the wind farm in Malvern formed part of the government’s drive to significantly reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Ninety-two per cent of Jamaica’s energy needs are currently filled by oil, he said. Wheatley said the move to renewables would also gradually reduce the country’s oil bill of about US$2 billion.

Levy said BMR had plans to expand the wind farm at Malvern by an additional three wind turbines.

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