The prime minister of Grenada says the country is working to rebuild its economy and boost tourism in an effort to continue funding pandemic supports for its residents.
Prime Minister Keith Mitchell told CTV News Channel on Sunday that it has COVID-19 stimulus packages specifically for the poor and vulnerable, but worries whether the country will be able to provide this aid for much longer.
He said the pandemic may continue for a “long time,” and the country needs revenue to continue supporting its people.
“Basically we are trying to do what we can to rebuild the economy of the country because that’s crucial,” Mitchell said. “So getting the economy back, investment back in[to] the country… and of course the support of the regional and international community.”
Mitchell, who is also Chairman of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Authority, says Grenada has done well in handling the pandemic, given that it is the southernmost island in the Caribbean Sea with a population of approximately 112,000.
The country saw an increase in case numbers in September, but Mitchell says hospitalization rates and deaths have since come down.
“Yes, we have a lot of problems like many countries around the world, but because of the united effort of the people in the country, we are now seeing a serious reduction in the spikes,” Mitchell said.
According to data tracked by the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been 5,531 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Grenada since the pandemic began, in addition to 167 deaths. On Sunday, the country reported 47 new cases in the past 24 hours.
Following the country’s uptick in cases in September, the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel advisory from Grenada, advising Americans to avoid all travel there. For those who must travel to the island, the CDC recommends they be fully vaccinated before they go.
The Public Health Agency of Canada does not have any special advisory in place for Grenada but continues to advise Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of the country and to use extra caution if they must travel.
While the country is open to tourists, Grenada has some of the strictest travel policies in place to ensure everyone is kept safe, according to Mitchell.
Effective July 31, all travellers entering Grenada are required to be fully vaccinated. In addition, they must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result 72 hours prior to their flight’s departure. Once arriving in Grenada, travellers will have to take another PCR test and quarantine for up to 48 hours while they await their results.
Once that second test comes back negative, Mitchell says tourists are then free to visit their friends and family, and tour the island “as they wish.”
Grenada is one of the world’s top producers of some of the most common spices including nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and turmeric, all of which Mitchell says Canadian travellers love to get their hands on when they visit.
“We tell them we have a lot of supply here, so please come,” he said.
Mitchell said September’s surge in COVID-19 infections actually encouraged more locals to get vaccinated and is hopeful the trend will continue, despite case numbers decreasing.
Grenada has administered a total of 58,985 COVID-19 vaccine doses as of Oct. 1, according to the WHO, and the number of Grenadians fully vaccinated against COVID-19 currently sits between 31 and 32 per cent. But Mitchell says is still “much too low.”
“We hope that is not just a temporary thing that people will consider this as very serious evidence that they must protect themselves, they must vaccinate, they must be adhere to the protocol all the time — where your masks, social distance, and of course sanitize and wash your hands on a regular basis,” Mitchell said.
He says misinformation about the vaccine, spread through social media, has hampered Grenada’s vaccination campaign.
“The misinformation is enormous,” he said. “Just like in Canada, there’s a lot of misinformation coming from quarters that you don’t expect.”
Despite this, Mitchell says Grenadians living abroad have actually returned home to help with the country’s vaccine rollout. In addition, he said there has been people living in other countries, including Canada, continue to send supplies to aid Grenada’s fight against COVID-19.
“We have seen a collective effort by the people of the country,” he said.
Dollar set for another week of losses even as Fed tapering looms
The dollar was heading for a second week of declines on Friday as sentiment stayed tilted towards riskier assets, while an intervention by the Australian central bank put a halt to the Aussie dollar’s recent surge.
The dollar index was last at 93.733, little changed in Asian hours but off 0.24% on the week, as it continues its fall from a 12-month high of 94.565 hit in earlier this month.
It had managed to stem losses on Thursday, bouncing on better U.S. jobs and housing data, but the rally petered out on Friday morning in Asia, where risk sentiment was boosted news that beleaguered developer China Evergrande Group has supplied funds to pay interest on a U.S. dollar bond, averting a default.
But traders are still trying to assess whether the dollar has scope to fall further, or if this is a temporary blip on a march higher.
“People are wondering whether we are at an inflection point, as the dollar has been weakening and that doesn’t really fit with the broader narrative that global growth is cooling and the Fed is on the path to tapering, which should be supportive for the dollar,” said Paul Mackel, global head of FX research at HSBC.
On Friday, benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yields were at 1.6872%, slightly off from Thursday’s multi-month high of 1.7%, as markets continue to prepare themselves for an announcement by the Federal Reserve that it will start to wind down its massive bond buying programme, which is widely expected for November.
Mackel said part of the reason for the dollar’s weakness had been strong performances by currencies from most commodity exporting countries.
These were quieter on Friday, however, as traders took profits, analysts said, and energy prices softened.
Brent crude, which had risen above $86 dollars a barrel on Thursday, continued its tumble and was last at $84.10.
The Australian dollar was at $0.7475, off Thursday’s three-month top, as the boost to the China-exposed currency from Evergrande’s news was outweighed by action from the Reserve Bank of Australia to stem a bond sell off, as well as the pause in energy price rises.
The RBA said on Friday it had stepped in to defend its yield target for the first time in eight months, spending A$1 billion ($750 million) to dampen an aggressive bonds sell-off as traders have bet on inflation pulling forward rate hikes.
Also affected by energy prices, the Canadian dollar slipped to C$1.2352 per U.S. dollar, off Thursday’s C$1.2287, a level last seen in June.
The British pound paused for breath at $1.3798, off a month peak hit earlier in the week, to which it had been carried by growing expectations of an interest rate hike to combat rising inflationary pressures.
The euro was little changed at $1.1627, while the yen wobbled within sight of its multi-year lows, with one dollar worth 114.01 yen, compared with 114.69 earlier in the week, a four-year low.
China’s yuan eased against the dollar on Friday after the FX regulator warned of possible action if the currency market is hit by greater volatility following its recent rally. But the yuan still looked set for the biggest weekly gain since May.
Bitcoin was at $63,928, a little off Wednesday’s all-time high of $67,016
(Reporting by Alun John; Editing by Sam Holmes and Kim Coghill)
UN sets up trust fund for 'people's economy' in Afghanistan – The Globe and Mail
The United Nations said on Thursday it had set up a special trust fund to provide urgently needed cash directly to Afghans through a system tapping into donor funds frozen since the Taliban takeover in August.
With the local economy “imploding”, the aim is to inject liquidity into Afghan households to permit them to survive this winter and remain in their homeland, it said.
Achim Steiner, the U.N. Development Programme’s (UNDP) administrator said Germany, a first contributor, had pledged 50 million euros ($58 million) to the fund, and that it was in touch with other donors to mobilize resources.
Some 97% of Afghan households could be living below the poverty line by mid-2022, according to UNDP.
“We have to step in, we have to stabilize a ‘people’s economy’ and in addition to saving lives we also have to save livelihoods,” Steiner told a news briefing.
“Because otherwise we will confront indeed a scenario through this winter and into next year where millions and millions of Afghans are simply unable to stay on their land, in their homes, in their villages and survive,” he said.
The International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday that Afghanistan’s economy was set to contract https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/afghanistans-economic-collapse-could-prompt-refugee-crisis-imf-2021-10-19 up to 30% this year and this was likely to further fuel a refugee crisis that would affect neighbouring countries, Turkey and Europe.
The Taliban takeover saw billions in central bank assets frozen https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/un-chief-liquidity-needed-stem-afghanistan-economic-humanitarian-crises-2021-10-11 and international financial institutions suspend access to funds, although humanitarian aid has continued. Banks are running out of money, civil servants have not been paid and food prices have soared.
Steiner said the challenge was to repurpose donor funds already earmarked for Afghanistan, where the Taliban, the de facto authorities, are not recognized internationally. The fund allows the international community to be “confident enough that these funds are not meant as government-to-government funding”, he said.
VIRTUALLY NO LOCAL CASH
The U.N. has discussed the programmes with the Taliban, he said, noting that 80% of the micro-businesses being helped were led by women.
“Our greatest challenge right now is that there is a economy in which there is virtually no domestic currency in circulation,” Steiner said, adding that the U.N. wanted to avoid foreign currencies dominating, which would undermine the economy.
“Our intent is to find ways very quickly in which we can convert international support into local currency in order to be able to stimulate local markets, local livelihoods. This is how you keep an economy alive,” he said.
Kanni Wignaraja, director of UNDP’s regional bureau for the Asia Pacific, said that cash would be provided to Afghan workers in public works programmes, such as drought and flood control programmes, and grants given to micro-enterprises. Temporary basic income would be paid to the vulnerable elderly and disabled, she said.
The UNDP had costed activities to be covered over the first 12 months at approximately $667 million, she said.
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