Monday, February 17, 2020

February 4, 2020  -Jamaicans have been warned to expect property insurance rates to rise by 10-15 per cent this year because of “increasingly destructive Atlantic hurricane seasons in recent years”, even though the island itself has been spared the wrath of killer storms.

The caution was issued yesterday afternoon by the Insurance Association of Jamaica (IAJ), whose executive director, Orville Johnson, cited the Caribbean’s increased risk rating as a defining factor behind the impending hike, which is likely to bump up mortgage payments.

The rise in fees will reinforce the growing concern over climate change and the dangers it poses to small island states that are at greater risk of vulnerability to planet Earth’s temperamental swings, with record temperature highs, testing tempests, and brutal floods.

Harvey, Irma and Maria were among the most destructive Atlantic hurricanes on record, delivering a body blow to the insurance industry in 2017 with losses topping US$90 billion. Swirling storms have ping-ponged from the eastern to the northern Caribbean, carrying death and destruction in their wake, but Jamaica has in recent years escaped their wrath.

Last year, Hurricane Dorian, the most powerful storm to make landfall in the Caribbean, decimated The Bahamas, causing dozens of deaths and a US$8-billion wipeout to the economy.

Johnson said that Caribbean insurers subscribe to a common reinsurance pool, which has translated to Jamaica’s fling with fortune failing to insulate the island from the financial headwinds that have troubled the industry.

“International reinsurers are increasing their cost of coverage to the region in order to recover prior years’ losses, forcing local companies to also increase insurance rates,” the insurance sector leader highlighted in a press statement yesterday.

Speaking with The Gleaner yesterday afternoon, Johnson explained that a significant amount of insurance premiums – just over 50 per cent – is channelled into buying reinsurance coverage in the major catastrophes.

“We are exposed – there’s no question about it. With climate change being a factor, hurricanes are getting more intense and we just had a bout of an earthquake, so we have those double catastrophes that we are exposed to,” he said.

Johnson’s conservative estimate of 20 per cent property insurance compliance among residences here indicates that thousands of Jamaicans are at risk of losing their homes with no hope of recovery. Mortgages have the greatest power of compulsion, because of insurers’ determination to protect their investment.

“What you find is that when people take mortgages out, they insure their houses because they have to, but outside of that, there is a reluctance of persons to insure. Those persons who have paid for their houses, sometimes they feel no pressure to insure,” Johnson told The Gleaner.

The IAJ executive director said that mortgagors will not have the option of withdrawing when the hikes take effect, but noted that rates would differ in a competitive market among the 11 local general insurance companies that have membership in the association. Its other seven members trade in life insurance.

Of note, some of the local insurance agents have operations in Trinidad and Tobago, the Cayman Islands and The Bahamas, among other countries in the region.

Johnson bemoaned Jamaica’s blasé culture of property, life and health insurance – all of which are estimated to be below 30 per cent.

“People tend to be insurance averse for various reasons - cost factors, trust factors, sceptical or perhaps they are just risk takers,” he said, adding that locals have often chosen to ride their luck believing that “everything will be all right”.

February 16, 2020  AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) — An emotional Elton John had to cut short a performance in New Zealand on Sunday after he lost his voice due to walking pneumonia and had to be assisted off stage. John reached out to his fans on Instagram on Sunday, apologizing for ending his show at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium early. “I want to thank everyone who attended tonight’s gig in Auckland. I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia earlier today, but I was determined to give you the best show humanly possible,” he wrote. “I played and sang my heart out, until my voice could sing no more. I’m disappointed, deeply upset and sorry. I gave it all I had. Thank-you so much for your extraordinary support and all the love you showed me during tonight’s performance. I am eternally grateful. Love, Elton xx”

February 2, 20202  MIAMI (AP) — Descending from the air, Lady Gaga kicked off a pre-Super Bowl concert by mimicking her entrance to her Super Bowl halftime performance three years ago, which earned her rave reviews. Headlining the big sports stage was a recurring theme of her Miami concert Saturday night, and the pop star sent a message to Sunday’s featured performers: “I better hear no lip-syncing tomorrow!” Jennifer Lopez and Shakira will join forces to perform at Super Bowl 54 at the Hard Rock Stadium, when the San Francisco 49ers will take on the Kansas City Chiefs.

MIAMI (AP) — Fat Joe brought New York hip-hop to Miami for an energetic pre-Super Bowl concert a day ahead of the big game. The Bronx rapper was joined by fellow New Yorkers 50 Cent and Remy Ma for the Pepsi Super Splash Pool Party on Saturday at Clevelander South Beach. Joe performed a number of hits, including the Grammy-nominated smashes “What’s Luv?,” “Lean Back” and “All the Way Up.” Ma surprised the audience, rapping on the latter two songs, while her rapper-husband, Papoose, freestyled onstage, earning cheers from the crowd. 50 Cent, who is from Queens, got the loudest applause from the hyped crowd when he performed “What Up Gangsta” and his debut hit, “In Da Club.”

MIAMI (AP) — Vin Diesel says it’s the spirit of Paul Walker that motivates him to continue starring in the “Fast and Furious” saga. Diesel and the cast spoke of the memory of their late screen partner at a special event surrounding the upcoming release of the franchise’s ninth chapter, “F9: Fast and Furious 9.” The recent death of Kobe Bryant reminded Diesel of the loss of his friend. “I can’t make a ‘Fast’ without Pablo in my thoughts, in my everyday activity, in my approach to every scene,” Diesel said, invoking his affectionate nickname for Walker. “His spirit must live in this saga, because his spirit, in so many ways, is what drives me to continue the saga.”