Caribbean Net News

HAVANA, Cuba (AFP) — Cuba approved a new property law aimed at attracting foreign investment in tourism projects like marinas and golf courses, including from the United States if Washington reverses its embargo on the island.

Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero announced on Tuesday that the government adopted “a policy of real estate development linked to tourism” as part of the strategy to boost such investment.

Tourism is one of the largest sources of hard currency for Cuba, which gets about two billion dollars annually from visitors.

Marrerro, opening an international tourism fair, said Havana had approved a legal instrument to regulate these marinas, golf courses and other tourism investments.

Cuba received 2.4 million visitors in 2009, and has relied more on foreign tourism since the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had provided considerable aid to the regime.

But Americans are barred from spending money in Cuba under an economic embargo in place since the 1960s.

Although the authorities would like to develop ecotourism and medical tourism, the immediate interest is golf, a sport virtually unknown in Cuba since the 1959 revolution.

Marrero met in March with US business leaders on prospects for American investment if and when the embargo is lifted.

He said American tourism could be “important” for Cuba following any move to lift the embargo.

US President Barack Obama has lifted travel and money transfer restrictions on Cuban-Americans with relatives in Cuba.

But the US president opposes ending the economic embargo on Cuba until Havana shows progress on human rights.

Venezuela buys Dominican Republic refinery stake

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AFP) — Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic signed a deal Wednesday under which Caracas took a 49-percent stake in state-owned Dominican refinery Refidomsa.

“If we don’t find a single barrel of oil in Dominican territory or a molecule of natural gas, everything you need is all there in Venezuela,” Chavez said after signing the deal.

Venezuela paid 130 millions for the stake in the refinery, which can process 110,000 barrels a day of crude.

Venezuela currently refines crude in other Caribbean facilities in Curacao, Cuba and Jamaica.

Caracas supplies oil and derivatives at preferential prices to the Dominican Republic and other regional allies.

Jamaican minister laments low tourism dollar retention in region

KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Jamaica’s Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett, has said Caribbean destinations must forge a collaborative unit in order to keep tourism earnings within the region.

Speaking on Tuesday at the Rotary Club’s District 7020 annual conference in New Kingston, the Minister said most Caribbean nations were solely or significantly dependent on tourism for their economic survival.

He said, as a result, it was essential for those nations to work together to find ways to minimise the “leak” of the tourism dollar, and to ensure that the earnings from the market stay in their countries.

Bartlett noted that one in every four jobs in the Caribbean is generated by tourism, some 60 per cent of foreign direct investment in the region is related to tourism investment and, perhaps, 40 per cent of general foreign exchange is driven by tourism.

However, he said that, in the Caribbean, the tourism dollar does not stay in the destination, but “goes back to where it came from.” He stated that many Caribbean destinations are retaining as low as seven cents of every dollar they gain from the tourist.

“Nobody in the Caribbean is saying that we are getting 60 cents or 80 cents of the dollar remaining. The failing is that we have not been able, in the region, to tap fully into the supply chain and to be able to ensure that every cent from the dollar stays in the destination,” he lamented.

Caribbean destinations have not been able to accomplish this, because they have not invested in the “supply side” of the industry, he said.

“We have invested mainly in the demand side and, in order to generate that demand, we have to spend overseas because our marketing is overseas,” he argued.

He said research has shown that currently only about three per cent of the produce from the agricultural sector goes into tourism, while other industries supply between 15 and 35 per cent.

“We quarrel about export issues and trade issues and competition in the global market for our commodities and agricultural produce, and we’re sitting right here with an export industry that has the capability to absorb every kilo of our supplies, every unit, and we ignore it.”

He said local farmers have the opportunity to tap into the tourism market, but must first work on a number of key points. He suggested that to deal with the supply side of the market, there must be volume, consistency, quality and a price point.

“Because it has to compete with the rest of the world and that is what we must be serious about,” he said.

He argued that while the Jamaican farmer might not be able to do it alone, this was an ideal point in which farmers in the region can collaborate and link with others in the industry.

“If we supply those demands for the tourism industry, the Caribbean can become self-sufficient in many regards. But, it requires some innovation, some new thinking and this is where we are going,”  Bartlett stated.

Commentary: President Obama’s Summit on Entrepreneurship

By D Brent Hardt, Chargé d’Affaires, US Embassy to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean

President Obama’s April 26-27 Summit on Entrepreneurship highlighted the critical role entrepreneurship can play in expanding economic opportunity throughout the world and deepening trade, investment and other economic ties between the United States and countries around the world. The Summit brought together 250 successful entrepreneurs from more than fifty countries who identified ways to advance economic and social entrepreneurship and build partnerships and networks among entrepreneurial stakeholders.

Summit participants recognized that promoting entrepreneurship will require new public-private partnerships. An example of such a partnership is the developing relationship between the US Embassy, the University of the West Indies Cave Hill School of Business, and the Barbados Youth Business Trust to launch a Young Entrepreneurs Business Plan competition. The winners of the competition will be those entrepreneurs who submit the best business plan as judged by a committee of experts. Each winner will receive a start-up prize to help them turn their business into a reality or to further their education. The competition in Barbados will be the first in the region sponsored by the US Embassy, which hopes to use it as a model for the rest of the eastern Caribbean.

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently observed: “The Obama Adminis-tration is dedicated to boosting entrepreneurism both in the United States and in other countries where talent is widespread, but opportunity often is not….events like the Summit and Global Entrepreneurship Week reflect a sense of collective responsibility to encourage young minds to pursue fresh ideas and unleash the full range of human potential.”

Wise political leaders and economic managers understand the value of supporting entrepreneurship. They know that even the most daring risk-takers need confidence that the merit of their ideas and effort will eventually result in profitable products and services. Young female entrepreneurs are often outside the economic mainstream of their countries, even though they typically have strong ties to their communities and make civic contributions such as promoting education, supporting charitable organizations, upgrading local infrastructure, or encouraging responsible stewardship of environmental resources.

Regions that innovate and successfully generate clusters of entrepreneurial enterprises have one thing in common: they are endowed with talent, capital and business know-how. Barbados and other countries in the Eastern Caribbean have the potential to be such an innovative region. There is an abundance of local talent, adequate capital, and a deep pool of internationally knowledgeable business experts including lawyers, accountants, management consultants and bankers. These often overlooked elements form the yeast that make new companies grow. They also explain why some regions continually generate dynamic, job-creating companies and others do not.

The US Embassy is pleased to see that the spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and well in Barbados. We look forward to working with the Government of Barbados, the University of the West Indies, and other local partners to support the creativity and ingenuity of a new generation of Barbadian businessmen and women.

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