Caribbean orders extreme measures as depression deepens

viva fidel

“The energy situation we face is critical and if we do not adopt extreme measures we will have to revert to planned blackouts affecting the population,” said a recently circulated message from the Council of Ministers.

Cuba orders extreme measures to cut energy use

By Marc Frank

HAVANA, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Cuba has ordered all state enterprises to adopt “extreme measures” to cut energy usage through the end of the year in hopes of avoiding the dreaded blackouts that plagued the country following the 1991 collapse of its then-top ally, the Soviet Union.

In documents seen by Reuters, government officials have been warned that the island is facing a “critical” energy shortage that requires the closing of non-essential factories and workshops and the shutting down of air conditioners and refrigerators not needed to preserve food and medicine.

Cuba has cut government spending and slashed imports after being hit hard by the global financial crisis and the cost of recovering from three hurricanes that struck last year.

“The energy situation we face is critical and if we do not adopt extreme measures we will have to revert to planned blackouts affecting the population,” said a recently circulated message from the Council of Ministers.

“Company directors will analyze the activities that will be stopped and others reduced, leaving only those that guarantee exports, substitution of imports and basic services for the population,” according to another distributed by the light industry sector.

President Raul Castro is said to be intent on not repeating the experience of the 1990s, when the demise of the Soviet Union and the loss of its steady oil supply caused frequent electricity blackouts and hardship for the Cuban public.

The directives follow government warnings in the summer that too much energy was being used and blackouts would follow if consumption was not reduced.

All provincial governments and most state-run offices and factories, which encompasses 90 percent of Cuba’s economic activity, were ordered in June to reduce energy use by a minimum of 12 percent or face mandatory electricity cuts.

The measures appeared to resolve the crisis as state-run press published stories about the amount of energy that had been saved and the dire warnings died down. The only explanation given for the earlier warnings was that Cuba was consuming more fuel than the government had money to pay for.

The situation is not as dire as in the 1990s because Cuba receives 93,000 barrels per day of crude oil, almost two-thirds of what it consumes, from Venezuela. It pays for the oil by providing its energy-rich ally with medical personnel and other professionals.

Cuba has been grappling with the global economic downturn, which has slashed revenues from key exports, dried up credit and reduced foreign investment.

You can find the rest of this article at AlertNet

Job Losses hit 40,000 [In Jamaica]
Published: Sunday November 8, 2009

Jamaica’s informal sector has expanded as the economy failed to deliver jobs in the formal sector. This man decided to take a nap at his cart on Maxfield Avenue in Kingston recently. – Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer.

The number of Jamaicans to lose their jobs since the worldwide recession started is now estimated at 40,000.

The update was presented by Prime Minister Bruce Golding on Friday after months during which the Ministry
of Labour reported that 30,000 persons had lost their jobs.

Golding announced the new figure and pointed to the fallout in the bauxite industry as the main culprit. However, he argued that Jamaica still had much to be thankful for.

According to the prime minister, while there has been a major fallout in the bauxite industry, the country has shown that it can be resilient in some areas, such as the tourism industry, which has withstood the challenge of the times.

Golding noted that between the end of 2008 and May 2009, three of four bauxite refineries had shut down, and that remittances, the country’s biggest foreign-exchange earner, had fallen off significantly because of the recession in the United States.

“Bauxite/alumina accounts for almost 60 per cent of our total merchandise exports, so when you have an almost total collapse in that industry, you know what that means in terms of our foreign-exchange earnings and the loss of jobs,” Golding said.

He was addressing the 14th annual Caribbean multi-national business conference at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Montego Bay.

The four-day conference is designed to stimulate thought and pave the road to joint investments and partnerships while expanding opportunities for doing business in the Caribbean, as well as finding creative financial solutions in a resuscitated economic environment.

Golding congratulated Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett, who the prime minister said, had mobilised the best team in the business, and was now off to China to explore the possibility of tapping into that massive tourism market.

“Jamaica is the only Caribbean destination that has shown increased numbers, although our earnings are slightly down,” Golding said.

However, it appears that the prime minister has missed the latest report of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, which stated that in the Caribbean, Guyana enjoyed the biggest increase in visitor arrivals for the period January to October of this year.

You can find the rest of this article at Jamaica Gleaner

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