Hope springs for 2014
THERE were so many moving moments over the past week that give us hope for this new year. We heard our beloved Governor General Sir Patrick Allen appealing to the nation at our National Prayer Breakfast for peace in our nation: "We must live in comfort and peace in Jamaica. Let us get together and defeat this crime monster," he urged.
Bishop Dr Delford Davis, who delivered the key message at the event, challenged those who vie for political power to make not only party, but also country, the winner: "This is now high time for Jamaica to win. Jamaica must win for all Jamaicans, and not for a select few." His bringing up on stage the leaders of our two major political parties, and holding their hands in prayer harked back to that Peace Concert in 1978 at the National Stadium, when Bob Marley did the same with Michael Manley and Edward Seaga.
The engaging PM Simpson Miller
Gathered under a tent in Grant's Pen last week, we felt the connection that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller makes with her people at the launch of Digicel Foundation's 10th anniversary programme. Commenting on the great work of humble Jamaicans who had partnered with the organisation, she engaged us as she declared: "Together, let us give diligent, ambitious Jamaicans an opportunity to shine...Let us not leave them to those who are only too willing to recruit them for their evil intents."
The PM continued: "I commend the Digicel Foundation for partnering with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to work islandwide to provide special needs assistance to those on the PATH [Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education] programme. ...Your partnership with PATH complements the efforts of the Government, which has allocated $4.1 billion to the PATH programme in this current fiscal year. In April this year, for the financial year 2014/15, this will move to $5 billion."
As the elderly struggle to pay basic living expenses and students to pay fees, we welcomed this from her: "We have increased PATH benefits for the elderly by as much as 67 per cent, and provided $100 million in scholarships to 1,000 tertiary-level students from PATH households."
So far, the Digicel Foundation has funded 437 projects in the areas of education, special needs and community development to the tune of US$19 million or $1.9 billion, impacting the lives of over 400,000 persons.
P J Patterson's lively history lesson
At the recent RJR National Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year Awards, former PM P J Patterson gave us a lively sports history lesson. "There is no other country of comparable size and population that has produced the very best in so many areas of sport over such a long time," he declared.
As social media became crowded with positive comments on the address, Mr Patterson took us through decades of excellence. He said our legendary cricketer George Headley was dubbed "Atlas" for his exploits at a time when we were "struggling against the dogma of racial supremacy". He noted that he had heard the arguments about the variant of the African gene that contributes to "high-twitch" muscles and the effect of yam and green bananas, but argued "other countries have access to that also". Rather, he believes, "It has to do with the Jamaican's sense of self and refusal to be typecast".
Mr Patterson said the "remarkable achievement of Tessanne Chin" was an example of our "irrepressible fighting spirit that has pushed us into other spheres of endeavour — bobsled, skiing, dogsledding in the Arctic".
As he spoke of outstanding individuals, we agreed when he declared: "Nothing can prevent us from lauding Veronica Campbell Brown." While reminding us that he could not say too much, Mr Patterson remarked that as the performance of Jamaicans stayed extraordinary from Beijing to London, "it went from 'enough is enough' to plainly 'just too much', attracting the envy of detractors". He said that cheating cannot be tolerated, and therefore everyone must be held to the same high standards. "Those who hold high office should know that our athletes are precious and should have access to the best available defence."
The acceptance speeches of our international as well as now local athletes of the year, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Usain Bolt, made us proud of these articulate superstars. Best of all, their roots remind every Jamaican that with training, mentorship and discipline any talented Jamaican can make it big.
The Bold Ones of Manufacturing
Even as some wring their hands in despair, others are stepping up to the challenge and providing employment for others. Eight such companies were named 'The Bold Ones of Manufacturing' and awarded with marketing and promotional packages by National Bakery. The brainchild of Chair Gary "Butch" Hendrickson, the company is sponsoring this multimillion-dollar programme for the third time since 2010.
Previous 'Bold Ones' Michelle Smith of Chocolate Dreams and Dennis Hawkins of Spur Tree Spices said the boost from National Bakery helped them on a path to success, with both expanding and entering the export market. They warned, however, that no one who is afraid of hard work should go into manufacturing.
Jamaica Manufacturers' Association President Brian Pengelley, who was guest speaker at the presentation, also gave us an education on the challenges facing manufacturing and called on the authorities for tax reform — widening the tax net instead of the near-harassment of current taxpayers — removal of bureaucracy and facilitating a business and investment climate; a stable dollar; and an adequate supply of foreign exchange.
It was heartening to see the well-finished products on display by 'Bold Ones' Springvale Enterprises, Lincoln Gordon and Sons, EcoFarms Jamaica Limited, Lifespan Company, Irie Rock Limited, Journey's End Wine Company, Bartley's All in Wood, and D'Nex Step Sandals and Accessories.
"It is true that we at National Baking get a lot of compliments about this programme," said Butch Hendrickson, "but I can assure you that, as the whole programme unfolds and we learn more about these outstanding Jamaicans, we also draw a lot of inspiration from them."