BRIDGETOWN, BarbadosIf you could buy $1.00 for $0.90 cents, would you? Today, Barbados is offering that deal to anyone willing to risk buying its heavily discounted external debt.

Of course, there is a reason for that discount. In the first 40 years of Barbadian independence, annual public revenue was exceeded by public spending just four times. By contrast, in the last 10 years, spending has been less than revenue only once. Result: public debt is spiralling and the price of Barbados bonds is being marked down as confidence wanes in our ability to repay.

Imagine out of this quandary that we aim not only to tame the debt. We also target creation of an additional economic pillar that can buttress against the hurricanes of future crises and contribute to national development. Call it a National Investment Fund (NIF).

What might it do?

The overarching goal of an NIF would be to harness Barbadian savings to invest primarily – though not exclusively – in overseas markets. This would create a pool of capital denominated principally in hard currency and able to provide a stable stream of future revenues for the national good.

But for what exact benefit?

The most crucial benefit is that a substantial NIF can counterbalance the impact of recessions. For example, by providing government with a dividend to finance spending plans when revenues fall short, an NIF helps maintain programs that protect the vulnerable.  Moreover, the mere existence of a hard currency focused NIF would bolster our foreign exchange reserves and strengthen our credit rating.

In normal times a NIF can spur growth and development by (for example) persuading worthy local small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to take it on board as an investor. Thus it might be part of a broader campaign to inject life into the moribund local stock market.

BELMOPAN, BelizeThe remnants of Tropical Storm Harvey passed by Belize barely noticed yesterday.

While the system had redeveloped to become Tropical Depression Harvey by this morning after degenerating last Saturday, it did not pack much of a punch, and a hurricane hunter sent to investigate it earlier today found maximum sustained winds remain near 35 miles per hour.

Now that it has passed Belize, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) in Miami says some strengthening is expected and Tropical Depression Harvey could become a tropical storm again later tonight and a hurricane on Friday, threatening the US states of Texas and Louisiana.

It said Harvey should be approaching the Texas coast late Friday, and is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 10 to 15 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 20 inches over the middle and upper Texas coast and southwest Louisiana through next Tuesday, with heavy rainfall beginning as early as Friday morning.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana Religious, humanitarian and non-governmental organizations in Guyana have rapped the David Granger administration for its treatment of Venezuelans fleeing their homeland because of the worsening political and economic environment.

Venezuelans who enter Georgetown illegally are taken before the law courts, fined and deported.

But the groups insist that Venezuelans should not be treated as illegal migrants but have proposed that Venezuelans be registered on arrival.

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The Gaston Browne administration has scoffed at calls by the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) for the Minister of Tourism Asot Michael to resign.

Last week, Political Leader of the UPP Harold Lovell called on Michael to give up his position based on the continued downward trajectory of stay over arrivals and the “missed opportunity to properly market Antigua and Barbuda’s 60th anniversary of Carnival”, which recently concluded.

The opposition said statistics for the month of July showed a 10 percent decline across all markets, indicating that the projected arrivals did not meet expectations.

ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Police have charged three men in connection with Friday night’s shooting at Cedar Grove, which led to the death of a 20-year-old woman, Xavier Thomas.

Dorian Marshall, Jason Millette and Shalom Bailey, all of Donavans, were jointly charged on Monday with murder and two counts of shooting with intent to murder.

They are accused of opening fire on Thomas, 49-year-old Lorne Nicholas and 32-year-old Shane Mathew, all of Cedar Grove, while they were sitting on a corner in the village.

Thomas was shot in her left leg and abdomen and was later pronounced dead at hospital.

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