Loop file photo of early construction of the GraceKennedy building and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in downtown, Kingston.

Investment plans among local businesses are at record levels, according to the latest Business and Consumer Confidence Survey. Firms’ willingness to invest in new plants and equipment records the highest in the history of the survey, soaring to 151 points in the fourth quarter of October to December, surpassing the record of 141 points set in the second quarter of 2016. Renowned pollster Don Anderson, Managing Director of Market Research Limited, revealed the survey findings on Tuesday at the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) Secretariat in Kingston. At the same time, the business confidence index increased to 147.5 points during the fourth quarter of 2018, up from 140.2 in the third quarter. Over 70 per cent of all firms surveyed agreed, “the time was right for expansion”, still exceeding the 58 per cent average in 2017. Don Anderson, Managing Director of Market Research Limited. Further, just over half of the firms surveyed, 55 per cent reported having solid plans to increase the level of investment in their firms over the next 12 months, according to results of the survey commissioned by the JCC Board. NCB’s Head of the Retail Banking Division Brian Boothe, said the results come as no surprise the business sector. “The significant improvement in indices is reflective of the improvements that we are seeing the macroeconomic environment,” he said. In fact, the bank has seen continued expansion in its loan books during the October to December quarter. NCB has also seen the significant rate of expansion in the small and medium enterprise sector, accelerate beyond the growth rate of the consumers, according to Boothe. “So it’s corroborating the survey results. To support expansion plans, they are borrowing more,” he said. Likewise, consumers held a positive assessment of business conditions, with the survey results showing an upward trend in the fourth quarter of 2018, increasing from 110, up from 106 in the third quarter. Invariably, confidence among consumers strengthened further in the fourth quarter of 2018. The consumer confidence index was 175.5 points compared to 172.6 points in the third quarter. Consumers’ anticipation of jobs being created is at the heart of this confidence. They explained that their observation of new businesses being opened as well as new investors in the market is driving this feeling. Equally, they express confidence in the current government’s ability to improve the job situation. “We tend to play down the extent to which the country as a whole understands the movement in the stock exchange, though not in detail. But the fact that the stock exchange has been extremely successful over the last couple of years, also says to the general public that this is a positive…” Anderson said.

The Jamaican dollar appreciated by$1.55against the United States dollarduring Monday’s trading according to theBank of Jamaica (BOJ). It closed at$130.01against the greenback from$131.56against on the prior trading day. The British Pound Sterling closed at$168.60from$169.62, while the Canadian dollar closed at$100.55from$100.37.

The Mighty Diamonds band performs at the recent Rebel Salute reggae festival in St Ann. PHOTO: Marlon Reid)

Finally! Jamaica will have its own museum for reggae music. Industry insiders have long recognised the need for a space to house the artefacts of local history, not just to keep them in storage, but to make them accessible to the nation. Now, with the establishment of the Reggae Museum, there will be a space which will represent all the struggles and achievements of Jamaican music while simultaneously showcasing the energy and vibrations of the Jamaican ethos. The Ministry of Tourism will create an international reggae music museum in Kingston, as one of the projects planned for Reggae Month in February. The announcement was made by Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlettduring Sunday night's media launch for the annual event at Ribbiz Ocean Lounge in downtown Kingston. He said the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) will provide the initial funding of $25 million. According to Bartlett, the funds will be utilised in the design and development of the museum, after which a location will be found and a budget allocated for its completion. “We need to collect all the artefacts from across the island and the world, and to bring them here, to repatriate that key part of our cultural patrimony that now resides in different places across the world and bring it to Jamaica,” Bartlett said. He hailed the designation of the music as a world intangible asset by UNESCO, and suggested that the museum would be a 'wonderful' thing which will provide the world with a point of focus for the appreciation and experience of the authentic reggae product, reflecting the history, reality and flair of the greatest exponents of the artform.

The Paramin Blue Devils are a major attraction on Carnival Monday. Photo: David Wearas

Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival will officially culminate on March 4 and 5 and will set off another Carnival circuit throughout the Caribbean and the diaspora for yet another year. But with so many Carnivals to choose from and with all basically offering similar events, parties with the same top soca stars and costumes with the same aesthetic, Carnival lovers are spoiled for choice. If you’re wondering if T&T’s Carnival should stay on your list of must-do Carnivals in 2019, here are some experiences we guarantee you will only have there. Fancy sailors captured by Maria Nunes for her book 'In a World of Their Own: Carnival Dreamers and Makers' Traditional Mas Carnival in T&T is steeped in history and tradition and the mas reflects that. This Carnival has more than just sexy bikini mas, here you will find traditional characters such as Fancy Sailors, Blue Devils, Pierrot Grenades, Baby Dolls, Bats, Jab Molassie and many more characters. There are a few communities and events that you can visit to see these characters. A popular place is the hills of Paramin, a community on the outskirts of Port-of-Spain where masses trek every Carnival Monday to witness the spectacle of the Blue Devils. A stickfighting scene from Canboulay 2013. Photo by Maria Nunes A production on Carnival's history If you don’t know the story of Carnival in T&T, the re-enactment of the Canboulay Riots in the early hours of Carnival Friday morning is where you should be. This full-scale production portrays the successful efforts by citizens in 1881 to resist efforts by the British government to suppress Canboulay celebrations on the streets. The production includes traditional Carnival characters, stick fighting, drumming and other traditions that preceded the modern Carnival celebration. Machel Monday is a mega event on the calendar Machel Monday T&T Carnival has had a long history of mega-events during the Carnival season and Machel Monday is a modern version of those. A mega show starring soca king Machel Montano, Machel Monday is the lone event on the Monday before Carnival week and features a who’s who in soca with a sprinkling of international acts plus performances by the man himself. While Montano headlines many events across the region, it is only in T&T you will find him staging this monumental event. Bands such as K2K provide stunning alternatives to the bikini mas. Photo: Gary Jordan Costumes of all kinds Watching images of people playing man in magazines and professional photos you could easily believe that Carnival is for the svelte or super fit. But in T&T, Carnival is for each and everybody, literally. If baring skin is not your thing for whatever reason, there are a variety of alternatives to the skimpy mas. Bands such as K2K and The Lost Tribe marry fashion with mas and provide costumes for those who want the experience of playing mas but actually portraying a theme with substance. Then there are bands such as The Vulgar Fraction, for instance, which uses the mas to make social statements and steelbands also produce their own mas. There are also bands for children so you could make the experience a full family affair. Crossing the stage is the ultimate experience for masqueraders The stage While some islands do incorporate the use of a stage, in T&T, crossing the stage is the ultimate experience. The Queen’s Park Savannah is the mecca of Carnival and the stage is where your mas experience culminates. The Socadrome is also another stage created to provide a solution to the congestion at the Savannah and gives masqueraders the added benefit of crossing two stages on Carnival Monday and Tuesday if they are lucky. The Punchy Punch crew at Panorama Panorama T&T is the birthplace of the steel band and nowhere would you find pan celebrated as it is there. Panorama, a competition that pits all of the country’s bands, large, medium and small, together in a fierce battle, draw out fans from all corners of both islands. While the semifinals are a big Savannah party complete with crews and riddim sections, the preliminaries, which takes place in various pan yards, sees people following the judges in what is now known as the Panyard crawl. Rikki Jai and Ravi B during their winning performance at Chutney Soca in 2017 Chutney Soca When it comes to music, T&T is known for calypso and soca but there is another genre that was created there called Chutney Soca. T&T has a large East Indian population and Chutney Soca marries Indian music with soca rhythms. There is a Chutney Soca Monarch competition which pits the best in the genre against each other for a grand prize. Etienne Charles and Friends with Calypsonian Lord Nelson on the street in 2018. Photo by Maria Nunes Live Music From the riddim sections to the brass bands in the fetes, T&T Carnival is full of live music everywhere. There has also been a return of live music to the streets in recent years with acclaimed jazz trumpeter Etienne Charles bringing brass back to Carnival Monday with his band Etienne Charles and Friends. The T-shirt band attracts a large cross-section of people who have been nostalgic for live music on the streets. In 2019, another band, Brass to De World, will also be on the road on Carnival Monday.

Petra Kvitova celebrates.

Petra Kvitova ended hopes of a home Australian Open winner with a commanding 6-1 6-4 quarter-final victory over Ashleigh Barty. The mightily impressive Czech continued her record of not dropping a set this tournament, with her exquisite movement and power enabling her to book a maiden last-four appearance in Melbourne. Barty was aiming to become the first Australian woman to reach a singles semi-final since Wendy Turnbull in 1984, but was never able to gain a foothold in the match. An emotional Kvitova was in tears during her on-court interview after the match and she can now focus on a first slam semi-final since she won Wimbledon in 2014, while it is the furthest she has gone in a major since returning from a knife attack in her home in December 2016. "I didn't really imagine being back on this great stadium and playing with the best. It's great," Kvitova said. "I started better, I served well, I took the first break. In the second she came back, she didn't give me anything for free and I really had to fight until the end." Kvitovahad Barty under pressure as early as the second game and the home star had already saved a couple of break points before putting a forehand wide to cede the first break. Barty was playing like the proverbial rabbit in the headlights, while the cool Kvitova was quick around the court and landing punishing winners. It came as little surprise when a second break arrived, converted with an exquisite drop-shot, before Kvitova duly served out for the set. Encouraged by a partisan Rod Laver Arena crowd, Barty settled and had Kvitova on the back foot with a couple of break points early in the second set. But Kvitova stood firm and, after each player coasted through a couple of easy holds, took her opportunity with aplomb in game nine – putting away a clinical shot from mid-court to take control before breaking to 15. Kvitova then served out at the first time of asking to book a last-four date with Danielle Collins.

Spain's Rafael Nadal, front, is congratulated by United States' Frances Tiafoe after defeating him in their quarterfinal match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019.

Rafael Nadal powered his way into the Australian Open semi-finals with a convincing straight-sets win over Frances Tiafoe. American youngster Tiafoe has wowed Melbourne during his run to the last eight, the furthest he has gone at a grand slam, but the gulf in quality and experience was evident from the off on Rod Laver Arena. Nadal rarely had to shift through the gears en route to a 6-3 6-4 6-2 victory that was wrapped up in just one hours and 47 minutes, sealinga sixth Melbourne semi - and 30th in all slams -for the 32-year-old. The Spaniard, who has won just one of his 17 slam titles in Melbourne, will now face impressive NextGen star Stefanos Tsitsipas for a place in Sunday's final. Nadal blew Tiafoe away with an outstanding opening 10-minute display of power, precision and outrageous quality – breaking in just the second game when his opponent found the net after a series of brilliant groundstrokes. To Tiafoe's credit, he held a couple to love but Nadal raced through his own service games to clinch an opening set lacking in extended rallies. A similarly poor start to the second set from Tiafoe in which he failed to land his opening three first serves was punished as Nadal broke to love with a clean winner. Tiafoe did not win a point on Nadal's first serve until game four of the second set and a couple of poor shots and sloppy errors handed the Americantwo break points that were quickly quashed. Three set points came and went with Tiafoe serving to prolong the inevitable, but in Nadal's next service game a trademark crunching forehand down the line set him up to finish the job. Another break arrived immediately at the start of the third and the writing was one the wall when Tiafoe dropped serve again in game seven, with Nadal giving the 21-year-old the run-around before putting away another forehand. A simple hold for the match followed and Nadal, who is still to drop a set this tournament, looks in ominous form ahead of his date with Tsitsipas.