Columns

This Jamaica train is rolling

Jean
Lowrie-Chin

Monday, June 04, 2018

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“The traffic!” is a common complaint here in Kingston. My theory is that, with our efficient ports and infrastructure, Kingston became a hub after the passing of hurricanes Irma and Maria. Within a week after the storms I noticed busy hotel lobbies and a deluge of traffic. It follows that with the damage to ports and infrastructure in neighbouring islands there was dislocation and some relocation to Jamaica.

I believe these newcomers discovered that we are not as bad as the headlines make us out to be, and have been quietly investing. When your press is rated in the top 10 in the world it helps to make leaders honest. The fact that we have parliamentary discussions that pull no punches is testimony to our durable democratic system.

Construction is buzzing, and our own company's modest initiative showed us that this is a promising industry. The units we had put for sale at our Phoenix Central complex went before the building was completed, and the rentals are all taken up. The lot was bought in 1988 and has turned out to be one of our best investments.

Life can be challenging for our young professionals, so I want them to remember that Jamaica has always been and continues to be a land of opportunity. If we had not tightened our belts in those early days and invested when the chance came up we would have missed out. Business gurus remind us to invest in what appreciates, for example real estate and shares in blue-chip companies.

Jamaica is becoming even more attractive to foreign investors and we welcome them, so we should be motivated by their enthusiasm to stake claim in this land we love. You can start small – the National Housing Trust offers great rates for that first home or apartment — but start you must. Read the business pages, watch the business interviews, and remember that some of our most successful entrepreneurs had very humble beginnings and failures, but they persevered. This Jamaica train is rolling; get on board now!

Labour Day inspiration

We had such an active Labour Day that the news stories detailing the substantial efforts by both the public and private sectors are still making headlines. Kudos to Senator Floyd Morris for his call to focus on the special needs community for Labour Day and to Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange for embracing the idea and exciting us with her 'Ramp It Up, Fix It Up' campaign. This brought together Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Leader of the Opposition Dr Peter Phillips at the Cumberland Road Health Centre in St Catherine, where they both pitched in. What a fine expression of national unity.

The prime minister made a special call for Jamaica's disabled to be allowed access, and reminded us that our labour can make a vast improvement to facilities in our communities. It was good to be in the company of movers and shakers for empowering the disabled: Henrietta Davis-Wray and Gloria Goffe, chair and executive director of the Combined Disabilities Association; and Dr Christine Hendricks, executive director of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities.

We proceeded to the Portmore Self-Help Disability Organisation (PSDO). The founder, Bridgette Johnson, having lost a leg and realising how difficult it was to source mobility aids, started the organisation to build and repair wheelchairs and other items. Digicel Foundation, which I am honoured to chair, has provided funds for the expansion of their facilities, and I could not have been prouder of the PSDO staff members, themselves in wheelchairs, who were diligently painting the newly modified containers. As for Bridgette, who uses crutches, we could hardly keep up with her.

Australia — the can-do country

On a recent visit to Australia, we enjoyed the energy and good humour of its people. With colleagues Peta-Rose Hall, chairman of the Jamaica Chapter of the International Women's Forum (IWF), and Valerie Facey, we attended the IWF Annual Cornerstone Conference entitled 'Evolution – Revolution'. Thought leaders explored critical global issues including shifting geopolitical alliances, fake news, artificial intelligence, genetics, human origins, and the #MeToo movement. We were addressed by Australia Defence Minister Marise Payne and Kelly O'Dwyer, minister for revenue and financial services and minister for women.

We always look forward to 'Dine Arounds', as we get to know a little more about each other. At the home of Sophia Bobeff we heard stories of courage and realised how much we had in common.

Education in Australia must be at a high standard; regardless of position, service personnel were courteous and articulate. Patriotism was in evidence as the 'Proudly Made in Australia' label was like a badge of honour on multiple products. When we asked for directions, people stopped and took their time to explain exactly what routes to take.

So there we were, walking around in a strange country unafraid and enjoying the free tram that circled downtown Melbourne, which, for the seventh year in a row, has been rated as the best city in the world; and then to Sydney, more diverse but equally hospitable. We enjoyed a magical cruise to Manly Beach to meet gracious Irish-Australians Daniel and Elaine Mulcahy.

In Australia citizens are bound by law to vote; perhaps this accounts for the engagement of its people. The Australian model is worth a good study. It has a successful superannuation retirement scheme and is now in its 27th consecutive year of economic growth.

Kids Conference at The UWI

Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan continues her innovative work to ensure that our children get the best chance in life. It was she who had created the Jamaica Children's Passport which tracks their health and educational development. I was unable to attend the two-day Kids Conference last week at The University of the West Indies, but I recommend the presentations which were recorded and posted on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmmxtHS8__As0wUsA6c-E6g.

The research team focused on the first five years of our children. Sadly, most fathers had left the relationship after four years, leaving the mothers to soldier on. They have not failed, as we have 99 per cent of children enrolled in infant schools — a global high for school attendance.

ATL/Observer/Food Awards milestones

At last week's 20th anniversary celebrations of the Jamaica Observer Table Talk Food Awards we also noted that its parent, the Jamaica Observer newspaper, is full throttle in its 25th anniversary celebrations. What's more is that its sister company ATL is celebrating its 50th anniversary. These are impressive milestones and a reminder that Chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart, also creator of the world-renowned Sandals Group, has taken thousands with him on his journey of high achievement.

Food Awards conceptualiser Novia McDonald-Whyte delighted guests last Thursday with the presentations. The awards programme has been showcasing Jamaica's culinary excellence over these many years. We are blessed with the best-tasting crops and meats and with gifted chefs who have elevated our flavours. Congratulations to the award winners, especially colleagues at Rainforest Seafoods, Michelle Smith of Chocolate Dreams, and Colin Hylton of Guilt Trip.

lowriechin@aim.com

www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com

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