Columns

There is only one Jamaica

Jean LOWRIE-CHIN

Monday, June 16, 2014    

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OVER the past week, there have been signals that interest in Jamaica has not waned. Yes, it is true that Alcoa has pulled out, but look how many are still here, establishing or expanding their operations. On either side of our office building at Kingsway, two residential developments are heading to fast completion. The Marriott Hotel complex at Knutsford Boulevard is moving apace — and Sagicor has broken ground in St Ann for the largest water park in the Caribbean.

During the exodus of the 70s, I noted with interest that the very wealthy were staying put. Yes, they were raising their fences and sharpening their defences, but they were not leaving. After 9/11, I noticed that several who had been away were back and looking. It may have been a coincidence that Jamaican-Canadian billionaire Michael Lee-Chin took NCB off the auction block in 2002, a few months after that day of terror in North America.

Last week, Irish-Jamaican entrepreneur David Hall received kudos for his company's Club Kingston Travel Lounge, which was voted best in the world, beating a field of 700 lounges in 500 airports. The Priority Pass President Terry Evans, who was here to present the award, singled out the showcasing of Jamaica's culture in both Club Kingston and Club MoBay for special mention and said it was the first lounge under three years old that has copped the award.

Instead of resting on his laurels, David Hall announced that he has three new programmes to start this year with the intention of moving the number of employees at the operating company, VIP Attractions, from 172 to 250 by year-end.

We should, therefore, heed the call of Dr Omar Davies, minister of transport, works and housing, when he commended the vision of David Hall. "Do not stay on the sidelines," he urged. "If resources are limited, form a consortium and seek to maximise on the opportunities here." Here is something that we all know, but we don't seem to understand: There is only one Jamaica. This is the third-largest English-speaking country in the Americas, coming behind the US and Canada. We have the sixth best natural harbour in the world, and with good training, we also have some of the finest workers.

But we cannot ignore the threats to our development: crime, an increasing number of failing schools and environmental degradation. It is sad that some of our leaders are using government positions as 'jobs for the girls and boys' instead of facilitating a healthier private sector where they would get good pay for real work. We have heard media interviews with some of those misfits appointed to posts hurriedly emptied of non-political executives — they bring no credit to the organisations on which they have been foisted.

According to a JIS report, Jamaica received additional multilateral funding support, totalling just over $15 billion (US$140 million), from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) earlier this year, towards our Government's Fiscal Structural

and Competitiveness Programmes. We hope the IDB will be satisfied with the results. Now that all these new taxes are burdening the same beleaguered honest business people, we must insist that we are getting value for our money. As GraceKennedy CEO Don Wehby commented in a radio interview recently: "If it doesn't get measured, it won't get done."

MAJ has ganja concerns

Medical Association of Jamaica President Shane Alexis says his organisation has "taken serious note of our minister of justice's announcement of the decriminalisation of ganja in Jamaica". In a release they stated: "Any future use of medical ganja in Jamaica must be supported by scientific evidence that has been rigorously tested, locally and internationally, and

not emotions."

The MAJ says they have seen, first-hand, "the devastating effects of the misuse of ganja". They explained that, "The adverse effects of marijuana, include, but are not limited to: addiction, psychiatric disorders, and disruption of neurological development (especially in adolescents). Negative impact on all aspects of memory is also closely associated with ganja-use. The ability of cannabis to negatively impact reaction time and perception plays a major role in "drugged driving" often resulting in road traffic or workplace accidents after cannabis use... Many of those who smoke it are at higher risk of developing lung problems including cancer than

non-smokers."

However, the MAJ acknowledged the medicinal value of ganja. "The development of prescription medications such as Canasol and Asmasol by Dr Albert Lockhart and Professor Manley West demonstrates that this can successfully be accomplished in Jamaica under the existing laws and regulations," said Dr Alexis.

Police officers under stress

An acquaintance recently related to me the strange circumstances under which a police officer from a rural community and two of his colleagues were arrested and charged with murder after they went after a notorious criminal having received intelligence on his whereabouts. There are currently 14 police officers behind bars at one particular facility. What is deeply concerning is that our police are being asked to do the work of others, many better paid than themselves. They are running police youth clubs, mediating, counselling, and then are arrested and vilified — all this negative reporting about police distracts us from considering who the real culprits are. The Police Federation may have to see how they can get more members of the public to understand their level of accountability and hard work, in contrast to those who are lording it over them. Worse, they are being put at risk, afraid to defend themselves

in dangerous encounters. Members of civil society should refrain from describing all deaths involving police as 'police killings', if the police did not fire the first shot. Let us educate ourselves before allowing others to commandeer the justice conversation and undermine our national security.

Dahlia Huntington-Walker's positive message

Dahlia Huntington-Walker, widely known as the 'radio lawyer', brought a message of positivity as she addressed the Convent of Mercy — Alpha assembly recently to mark our school's 120th anniversary celebrations. "Today, as Jamaica is plagued with many ills, make no mistake that this is also a country richly blessed and for whom the best is yet to come," she opined. "As a nation and a people, despite our many world accolades in our almost 52 years of existence, you young ladies represent the future and

the best that Jamaica has

to offer."

Recalling the sacrifices of Alpha's founder, Jamaican Jessie Ripoll, Dahlia urged the students to "commit to being part of the solution for Jamaica, whether you live on her shores or overseas — always give back to your foundation to strengthen the establishment for the next generation". Indeed, this is how we work as the Almighty's co-creators. Great message, Dahlia.

lowriechin@aim.com

www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com

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