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ECLAC explores role of Caribbean Ministries of Social Development during COVID 19

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#Caribbean – April 22, 2020 — Social protection systems are coming under considerable pressure with the implementation of mitigation strategies to control the spread of COVID-19 in the Caribbean.  Efforts to mitigate the negative effect of the pandemic on the well-being of those most at risk are now underway across the Caribbean. Attention is being given in particular to those most economically vulnerable, notably women, youth, older persons, persons with disabilities and migrant populations. 

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), as part of its outreach under the auspices of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Social Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, convened a virtual meeting on 21 April 2020 to offer countries an opportunity to share information on the actions being taken to meet this challenge, and on potential areas for collaboration and support. Representatives of Caribbean regional organizations and UN Resident Coordinators of the subregion attended as well as heads of UN agencies, funds and programmes.

Addressing the ministers of Social Development of the Caribbean, ECLAC Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, underscored that “in urgent circumstances such as those we now face, it is you, the leaders responsible for social welfare, who are charged with finding solutions to the needs of those living on the street, persons with disabilities, migrants, and senior citizens”.

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The meeting recognized that the crisis will affect several social sectors, including health, labour and education, with a disproportionate impact on vulnerable people with underlying health conditions, older people, unemployed youth, underemployed, women, unprotected workers and migrant workers.

In the Caribbean, medical and health facilities are insufficient for the level of potential demand and are heavily dependent on imports of equipment and inputs. This is a major problem because, to date, 24 countries around the world have restricted exports of medical equipment, medicines or their ingredients.

It is expected that COVID-19 will affect the job market by increasing unemployment and underemployment, and impact the quality of work, by reducing wages and access to social protection for the most vulnerable groups, such as informal sector workers. The loss of labour income will translate into lower consumption of goods and services, and could drive many workers into poverty.

The novel coronavirus will also disrupt activities in educational establishments, and will have a significant impact on learning, especially for children in rural areas in light of existing disparities in access to digital devices and broadband Internet. More generally, the limited access to ICT implies a low level of readiness in the subregion to operate in a virtual environment in the current crisis.

Ian Allen/PhotographerRecently refurbished Hilo Barbican branch.

High dependency on food imports creates additional challenges in terms of food security; challenges  that are further aggravated by the specific vulnerability of the Caribbean to climate-related natural disasters. Moreover, the looming 2020 hurricane season, which starts in less than three months, places the subregion and its people at greater risk, even as it grapples with the impacts of the pandemic. 

In this context, it was considered urgent that policies be fully coordinated to address the health crisis, which has brought grave socio-economic impacts.  ECLAC called for regional coordination and cooperation in the face of the pandemic, taking into account the Regional Agenda for Inclusive Social Development (RAISD) agreed by the member countries of the Conference in Mexico City, in October 2019.

The meeting, which was held online, was attended by ministers and senior decision makers from Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, The Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Maarten, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands. 

Following an introduction and presentation of the social and economic situation of the region by ECLAC Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, each country representatives had the opportunity to briefly present the actions being taken by their respective governments.

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Bahamas News

Guys, Have 2 Minutes? Here’s How to Check Yourself for Testicular Cancer

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Testicular cancer is a rare form of cancer for men in The Bahamas.  It is highly curable — if you know it’s there!

 

November 30, 2021 – Men…how often do you perform a self-exam to check yourselves for testicular cancer?

While it’s a relatively rare form of cancer, young men aren’t exempt – in fact, testicular cancer occurs most often in young and middle-aged men. The good news is, it can usually be treated successfully.

The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a lump on your testicle. But that’s not the only sign of this disease.

Men who have testicular cancer may experience several different kinds of symptoms, says oncologist Timothy Gilligan, MD, a Medical Oncologist at Cleveland Clinic who specializes in treating testicular cancer.

Testicular cancer most frequently strikes men younger than age 44, and is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for men ages 15 to 34. It is almost always curable if found early, Dr. Gilligan says, and it is usually curable even when at a later stage. So it’s important to know signs and symptoms.

Here, Dr. Gilligan says, are five possible signs of testicular cancer you might not know about:

5 Testicular Cancer Symptoms That Aren’t a Lump  – Know what to look for and catch it early

  1. A feeling of heaviness or pressure in your scrotum.
  2. Change in testicle size or firmness.Certain types of testicular tumors can reduce testosterone or increase estrogen in the body, which can result in a change in testicle size or firmness.
  3. Swollen legs.When a tumor spreads to the lymph node, it can constrict blood flow in the veins and result in a blood clot. The clots often occur in the legs, which causes them to swell. You might even experience blood clot symptoms such as pain and difficulty breathing.
  4. Lower back pain and shortness of breath.These are symptoms of advanced testicular cancer, meaning the cancer has spread to lymph nodes behind your stomach. Shortness of breath also may signal that the cancer has spread to your lungs, which may make it harder for air to move in and out.
  5. Breast growth or tenderness.In rare cases, hormone changes also can cause breast tenderness or growth of breast tissue. Some tumors can secrete high levels of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which stimulates breast development.

If you experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor right away, Dr. Gilligan says. If your physician diagnoses you with epididymitis or orchitis and the symptoms do not resolve quickly with antibiotics, request an ultrasound to evaluate for a testicular tumor.

“While up to 95 percent of men with testicular cancer are cured, it’s important to get care quickly if you’re experiencing symptoms because testicular cancers usually grow fast,” Dr. Gilligan says. “If there is disease, the earlier it is treated, the greater than chance for success.”

 

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Caribbean News

Central Bank Digital Currency to Facilitate Financial Inclusion

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#Jamaica, November 30, 2021 – Deputy Governor of the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ), Natalie Haynes, says Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) implementation is consistent with the Government’s overall financial inclusion strategy.

CBDC is a digital form of central bank-issued currency and, therefore, is legal tender that can be exchanged dollar for dollar with physical cash.  Households and businesses will be able to use CBDC to, among other things, make payments as now obtains with cash.

“Financial inclusion is access by all to financial services and products [and] is a critical factor of Jamaica’s digital transformation. The Bank of Jamaica contributes to this by acting in its role as technical secretariat of the country’s national financial inclusion strategy,” Mrs. Haynes notes.

Through the CBDC, the BOJ will contribute to the financial inclusion process by enabling Jamaicans to seamlessly access financial products and services.

“CBDC is simply a digital form of money issued by a central authority. The Bank of International Settlements defines CBDC as a digital payment instrument denominated in the national unit account that is a direct liability of the central bank. In other words, the Central Bank is responsible for the CBDC that is issued,” Mrs. Haynes explains.

“With amendments to the Bank of Jamaica Act, CBDC will become legal tender. Legal tender means that all merchants, whether for goods or services, will confidently accept CBDC and know that they will get value for the good or the service that they provided,” she adds.

Mrs. Haynes points out that the CBDC should not confused with cryptocurrency.

“CBDC is not a cryptocurrency. A cryptocurrency is privately issued, and it’s not backed by a central authority. So,  you have some of them out there [such as] Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple,” she informs.

The Deputy Governor tells JIS News that the central bank will be using the hybrid approach in introducing its CBDC.

“BOJ will not be issuing CBDC directly to retail customers. We are going to be issuing directly to deposit-taking institutions (DTI) that are licensed under the Banking Services Act; these are commercial banks, building societies, and merchant banks,” Mrs. Haynes outlines.  She adds that in order to foster financial inclusion, “we will also issue to a group called payment service providers, that are currently operating and testing payment products in the bank’s FinTech regulatory sandbox”.

The BOJ will be issuing CBDC to payment service providers and DTIs who, in turn, will distribute it to their customers, clients, merchants and consumers through either an E-money wallet, card networks or other digital options for persons and entities to utilise in transactions.

“In this case, the BOJ issues to wallet providers (the collective name for DTIs and payment service providers) on a wholesale basis, just as we do with physical cash. When a bank wants physical cash, they place an order with BOJ and then they send their cash in transit courier to BOJ to collect the cash. In this case, they will still place their orders with BOJ, and we will issue them with the digital currency,” Mrs. Haynes explains.

The Deputy Governor is reassuring Jamaicans that the CBDC will add to the current pool of retail payment instruments in Jamaica, such as debit and credit cards, as well as prepaid cards offered by payment service providers.

“Think of it, basically, as cash that you have in your wallet. In this case, you’re going to have a digital purse or wallet. It is not e-money, which is a liability of e-money issuers, and, of course, because it is very much like cash, it does not earn interest. CBDC in Jamaica is going to be only for domestic use and will not be used for cross-border transaction,” Mrs. Hayes says.

She points out that one chief benefit of the CBDC is that there will be a more inclusive system for persons where every citizen will have a quick, safe and reliable digital retail payment instrument.

“It’s more efficient than cash. It is instantaneous, even for remote transaction, meaning you don’t have to be in front of the person. For cash, you have to be in front of the person to exchange cash. We can do person to person, person to business, and it goes both ways,” Mrs. Haynes adds.

She says the CBDC is also an incentive for persons who are apprehensive about the formal banking system to reap benefits if they plan to start a business.

“For example, you have a CBDC wallet with bank ‘A’ and then after a couple months of operating, your bank knows you and you can say ‘hey, I need a loan for my medium to small or microbusiness’; it gets you into the formal system. If your bank doesn’t know you and doesn’t know you exist, then it’s going to be very difficult to obtain those facilities,” Mrs. Haynes tells JIS News.

To access the CBDC, the Deputy BOJ Governor says customers will need to have a wallet, which is going to be different from your regular bank account.

“Of course, it’s going to be much easier and simpler to obtain with streamlined and simplified Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements,” Mrs. Haynes states.   She also states that once an individual has a relationship with a bank, in that they already have a bank account with them, they can automatically get a CBDC account.

For those who are unbanked or do not have an account, then DTIs and authorised payment service providers will be able to onboard these individuals, who can then request a CBDC account.

To carry out CBDC transactions, consumers will be able to access, download and deploy a mobile wallet app on any mobile phone, tablet or similar device using the networks of both major telecoms service providers.

Customers will be able to top up their accounts with CBDC through all authorised agents or smart ABMs and do business using CBDC phone-to-phone with merchants.

“To get CBDC wallet, simply contact your wallet provider of choice. If you do not have a bank account, all you need when setting up your CBDC account is your name, Tax Registration Number (TRN), and government-issued photo ID (driver’s licence, passport or voter ID card),” Mrs. Haynes said.

When the CBDC is fully launched, all Jamaicans will be eligible for a CBDC wallet subject to the simplified KYC and the wallet providers’ risk assessment of the customer.

The BOJ is slated to commence national rollout of the CBDC platform during the first quarter of 2022.

It is anticipated that, by then, additional deposit-taking institutions (DTIs) will be onboarded to enable the issuing of wallets to facilitate an expansion of the number of individuals and businesses utilising the currency.

National Commercial Bank (NCB) is currently the sole DTI participating in the CBDC pilot, which commenced in June and is slated to conclude in December.

 

By: Lisa Rowe

Release: JIS

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Caribbean News

Construction Industry Continues to Grow

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#Jamaica, November 27, 2021 – The Construction industry continues to figure in Jamaica’s gradual recovery from the economic fallout precipitated by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The sector is estimated to have grown by 1.7 per cent during the July to September 2021 quarter, relative to the corresponding period last year, and contributed to the Goods Producing Industry’s 2.8 per cent expansion over the three months.

Director General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Dr. Wayne Henry, said the out-turn for construction was spurred by growth in the ‘Other Construction’ and ‘Building Construction’ components.  This, he added, reflected a 5.6 per cent increase in sales of construction and related inputs.

The Director General was speaking during the PIOJ’s digital quarterly media briefing, on Wednesday (November 24).

Dr. Henry said growth in the ‘Other Construction’ component resulted from increased capital expenditure on civil engineering activities during the review period  This was mainly reflected in the National Works Agency’s (NWA) disbursement of $9.1 billion, up from $5.1 billion in the corresponding quarter of 2020.

The Director General said the provision largely covered work on the Yallahs to Harbour View leg of the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project (SCHIP).  Additionally, Dr. Henry said the National Road Operating and Constructing Company Limited (NROCC) disbursed $2.2 billion, as against $1.3 billion in 2020.

“Expenditure facilitated works on the SCHIP Part ‘A’; that is, the May Pen in Clarendon to Williamsfield in Manchester component,” he told journalists.

Dr. Henry indicated that growth in the ‘Building Construction’ component was driven mainly by the performance of the non-residential category.  This, he said, reflected hotel construction and renovation activities, as well as the buildout of commercial office space.

The economy is estimated to have grown by an overall 6.3 per cent during the July to September 2021 quarter, with the Service Industry recording 7.3 per cent and the Goods Producing Industry 2.8 per cent.

 

Contact: Douglas McIntosh

JIS

 

 

 

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