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0.3% spurt

Geralyn Edward and Maria Bradshaw

0.3% spurt

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THE OPPOSITION SAYS the news is simply too good to be true, but Government’s lead economic planners are over the moon today with revised figures showing the economy grew by 0.3 per cent at the end of last year and had not contracted by 0.4 per cent as earlier believed. 
And so confident that the improvement will continue, the Central Bank is now said to be revising its economic growth projection for the first three months of 2011, upping it from two per cent to 2.5 per cent. 
The positive news as reported by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler is based on significant increases in tourist arrivals in January from almost every market, including Britain which recorded a ten per cent jump.
It comes as analysts from Washington-based rating firms Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s prepare to descend on the country next month for their annual rating reviews.
Sinckler told the SUNDAY SUN yesterday that when the local economic team met last Friday, it was heartened by the figures particularly after having to impose harsh economic measures in last November’s Budget.
According to Sinckler, arrivals from Germany for January were up 42 per cent over January 2010. Caribbean travel has also improved with the island recording a 7.2 per cent increase in arrivals from Trinidad and Tobago. 
The minister also reported that Brazilian arrivals were on the rise, noting that carrier GOL Airlines had been forced to increase its flights here. He also said the recently inaugurated American Airlines service out of Dallas “has outperformed even AA’s expectations”.
A beaming Sinckler also spoke of increased Value Added Tax?receipts during December to January. 
He noted the non-traded sector also performed better in January than expected but said he was particularly pleased about a contraction in Government spending and a reduction in the fiscal deficit below the projected 8.4 per cent. 
“The Accountant General, who has more up-to-date figures than the Central Bank for the January period, believes that when all the figures are reviewed the fiscal deficit might even be below eight per cent,” Sinckler added. 
But speaking to reporters yesterday, Opposition spokesman on the economy Clyde Mascoll sought to pour cold water over the Government’s latest forecast.
He warned there was still a gaping hole in the Government’s finances and that “even if the economy grows at the projected rates, they will not be enough to assist us out of our misery”.
Opposition spokesman on tourism Ronald Toppin also maintained that it was too early to be rejoicing over tourism numbers. He warned that although January’s arrivals were up, the decline in?December was a continuing cause for concern.