Columns

Comments, threats, allegations and innuendos

James Moss-Solomon

Sunday, September 02, 2012    

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WE have become a nation that overlooks the really important things and seizes the fashionable but unrewarding events that sometimes have a major effect on our own lives. We love the spectacular, the bright lights, the idolatry of the rich and famous have all become the features of interest. We love to see who got the "jacket" rather than who pays the school fees.

Well "back to school" is here like it is a big surprise and we seem to be more concerned with the cost of school books rather than the quality of education. The public outcry is for freeness, but according to Minister Thwaites, when exams are paid for by the Government many fail to show up to take advantage of the taxpayers' generosity. This is in the face of a widespread and growing belief that we think freeness is bliss. Perhaps I am wrong and it may be possible that we Jamaicans crave the self-respect derived from doing something for ourselves.

If in fact the latter is correct, then perhaps we have turned an important corner with regard to earning our way rather than begging. We should therefore offer a widespread scheme and call it "I will work for school fees". This will open up a way for people who are unemployed but who really care about their children, to have a respectable way of fulfilling parental responsibility. It will pose problems, on the other hand, with accusations about the distribution of work, and whether the person with 10 children should get twice the pay of the person with five, but we can deal with that.

It is time to ask for some introspection and realistic responsibility. The cost of raising a child who will be a doctor is about $20m from birth to graduation, and this includes the cost of shelter, fees at different levels, food, transportation, books, medical, dental, and optical care. I think I may be guilty of under-budgeting, but this gives a totally different view of the true cost/benefits of contraception, and responsible parenting.

It is unreasonable to ask the Government to "take the bun without the fun". Parental responsibility is not a careless discussion, and although I hear that laws are in the draft stages, what has been the citizens' experience with the Family Court? Certainly it has not satisfied the needs of adequate child support. So new laws without a fundamental change in our attitudes towards careless and uncaring reproduction seem doomed to failure and will lead to greater poverty.

Renewable resource?

So I see we are again considering reopening of the scrap metal trade which now appears to be the "scrapped" metal trade as it is not a renewable resource. This is peculiar as scrap metal is not a naturally occurring raw material like bauxite. It is quite finite, so at some stage it dries up and then we create more scrap by destroying good metal. So rather than think of this as an activity that is related to a cleaner environment, we may be knowingly contributing to the start of a destructive process that will encourage vandalism and criminal actions in the name of "industry".

The question of rum is again taking centre stage in world trade with regard to what is seen by Caricom as unfair trade, practices (subsidies), which, if proven in the WTO, could allow for remedial action and payments for damages being assessed against the USA. Sir Ronald Sanders has written extensively on the matter, so I will not repeat the information here.

But the questions do involve, one of the international alcoholic beverage giants. They are the owners of Red Stripe and many other well known international brands including the internationally renowned Guinness.

The comments attributed in the international press to Diageo, if correct, present an ugly side of a respected corporate giant that through the history of the former Desnoes & Geddes Limitedcontinues to enjoy a respected Jamaican "citizenship".

No matter how large a company may be, there is no reason to issue the veiled comments attributed by the media which are at very least subliminal threats to Caribbean countries. The sense that a member of the WTO could legitimately mount a challenge is being resisted by the fact that Diageo has indicated that it would re-evaluate its investment options in the Caricom markets. If that is true, then the very Jamaican Red Stripe would endanger its hard won trust of Jamaicans at home and abroad. This would indeed be an ugly corporate side to expose.

Rumours in the marketplace and among investors have been whispered about the intention of Diageo to buy the Lascelles Group from the current Trinidadian owners and thereby take control of the subsidiary J Wray & Nephew and, by extension, the Appleton brand. This would be a final nail in the coffin of Jamaican brands that are no longer ours, including Captain Morgan, Tia Maria, Myers among others. Jamaican investors need to pay attention as the true value potential of these brands today is multiplied a million times now that global access is easier.

We cannot hold back progress but we need to be aware that each day we spend focused on only our depressed current domestic state is a day wasted in alleviating our needs for economic growth. This can only be developed in global markets and in order to do this we require ownership of the brands that will endear us to consumers internationally.

Building global brands is an expensive and time consuming effort so we should really weigh the short-term cash flows from sales against the long-term profits from investment. Our attitude and inclination to sell everything today is detrimental as we are unable or unwilling to invest in brand development to replace those that we have lost.

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