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Caribbean leaders join forces on downturn 

ST. JOHN'S, Antigua (AP) — Caribbean leaders said they will push regional banks to provide more loans to builders and exporters, boosting jobs and trade to counter the world economic crisis.
Leaders from Antigua, Belize and the Bahamas made the pledge Saturday but gave no specific details, speaking to the news media briefly after a closed-door meeting in Antigua.
Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said only that countries will have to make adjustments to weather the downturn.
Global economic turmoil is fueling joblessness across the Caribbean, which relies heavily on tourism, foreign direct investment and remittances from the U. S. — all of which are plummeting. Several governments already unveiled plans to slash social spending programs as the crisis threatens to reverse years of economic gains.
Trinidad and Tobago is set to cut government spending deeply, as prices fall for its oil, natural gas and petrochemical exports. It will name the programs it is cutting next week.
Unemployment, meanwhile, is expected to climb 2 percentage points to 10.7 percent by year's end in the Bahamas, as slowing tourism costs at least 1,500 hotel jobs, Ingraham said. The Atlantis resort, the island's largest private employer, already laid off about 800 workers.
In Jamaica, where joblessness is now 12 percent, the government this week revealed that unidentified companies are warning of more layoffs.
«Every day there are new situations that generate new worries and new uncertainties within the framework of the international economy, » Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez said Saturday during a two-day economic conference he is hosting.
He called for emerging economies to have greater say in a new world financial system.
The meeting in the Dominican Republic includes Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, Haitian Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis, U. S. billionaire George Soros, and Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who warned that the current crisis will be long and deep.
When the U. S. economic bubble burst, it left behind a black hole that will likely worsen gaps between rich and poor in developing countries, Stiglitz told the conference.
To overcome the turmoil and ensure that global financial systems benefit more people, the world needs a new understanding of governments' role in the economy, he added.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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