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Online PR News – 18-December-2009 – – Caribbean 2009-10: Trouble In Paradise

Braced For The Worst In 2009/10

Given the small, open nature of the regional economy, we believe that the Caribbean will suffer a prolonged period of economic recession – far worse than the downturn witnessed during the post-September 11 tourism slump. We are projecting regional real GDP growth of -2.5% and -0.3% this year and next, but warn that the risks remain skewed to the downside should global demand destruction hurt the Caribbean’s key industries – specifically, financial services, real estate and tourism – more than currently anticipated. As economic activity cools and unemployment rates start to grind higher, there is a risk of widespread public disgruntlement, which could lead to increasing protests, provoke an already-fragile security environment and erode the popularity of governments across the board. In this Special Report, we assess which countries are likely to suffer most as a result of the acute external headwinds, and which are best placed to recover once the global dust settles. ( )

With none of the major countries in the Caribbean facing general elections this year, we expect a measure of political stability in 2009. Having said that, local authorities will have their work cut out to curb the growing violent crime problem that has plagued the region in recent years. According to preliminary figures, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago both suffered their bloodiest year on record in 2008, registering homicides of 1,600 (62 per 100,000) and 549 (42 per 100,000) respectively. While both governments have outlined a more dynamic security policy framework going forward, we believe that the crime issue will remain a major problem for policymakers going forward.

The economic outlook in the Caribbean is gloomy, with much of the region staring down the barrel at recession. Few countries, if any, will remain unscathed, with only Trinidad & Tobago out of our ‘big six’ (including Puerto Rico, Guyana, Barbados, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica) projected to register positive growth in 2009. The main risk is a deeper and more protracted recession in the US and UK – two developed world markets which are vital for the influx of tourism, remittances, and financial services earnings into the region.

The government bailout of Trinidad & Tobago’s financial giant CL Financial Group and the Stanford Group scandal have sent shockwaves across the Caribbean financial system. Given the exposure of the firm to a wide array of industries across the regional economy, the resilience of the Caribbean banking sector could come under pressure in 2009. Add to the mix the likely weakness of offshore financial hubs (such as the Cayman Islands) due to the precarious position of developed world hedge funds and Washington disapproval over regulatory frameworks, and we caution that the outlook for Caribbean finance looks sombre.

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