Jamaica Observer http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/ JamaicaObserver.com, the most concise and in-depth website for news coverage on Jamaica and the Caribbean. Updated daily 7 days a week, 24 hours a day en-us copyright Jamaica Observer, 2011 Is Peter Phillips promising a new heaven and new Earth? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Is-Peter-Phillips-promising-a-new-heaven-and-new-Earth-_93829 Now that the major part of the 2017-18 Budget Debate has ended, the country is in a better position to see the Government&rsquo;s intentions for the fiscal year. Understandably, such intentions will not please everyone, and indeed could not. There are too many disparate interests to satisfy; too many competing demands on limited resources; too many expectations to be met within the context of a tribalised society which is slowly, by dint of necessity, being forced to move away from the practice of politics as a contest for scarce benefits and spoils.<br /> <br /> As the days move into months we will see what will become of the Government&rsquo;s prognostications. On the face of it, and given the constraints the country faces, the Government has presented a reasonable set of propositions to govern its intentions this fiscal year. Different groups have questioned the tax package outlined, with the Opposition party arguing that it is a wicked package visited upon the poor in the society. What is new here? Poor Jamaicans have always had to suffer the depredations of Jamaican governments in their often insatiable appetites to raise and deploy revenue.<br /> <br /> Indeed, this is the bane of governments everywhere. One of the prominent reasons for the failure of &ldquo;Trumpcare&rdquo; to replace Obamacare was the level of tax relief being given to the rich at the expense of the poorer and more vulnerable groups in the American society. The tax reforms that are being contemplated will certainly boost the pockets of the rich while denying the poor of safety programmes and other social benefits that are essential to their survival. But who cares? The wizards of Wall Street? The billionaire Cabinet that Trump has running the affairs of the country? The various well-connected interest groups that finance the party and who are constantly demanding payment for their loyalty?<br /> <br /> Back home, the Opposition was so outraged at the Government&rsquo;s tax package that it decided to walk out of the sitting of Parliament with the spurious explanation that it did not want to let the vote for the Appropriations Bill fail and so hurt the country. Here, the People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) is being disingenuous. With the slim majority of the governing party, Derrick Smith, who had not been too well, was waiting in the eaves to do what was necessary to get the Government beyond the mark. In any event, it was suggested that there were at least two members of the Opposition party that were absent.<br /> <br /> It is clear that the walkout was planned. It is good to register moral outrage at the tax package, but mounting a moral horse that does not exist is even more outrageous. Here the PNP has to be very careful. It is not lost on the insightful analyst that their walkout is a precursor to an agenda to give the Government a difficult time. Whatever honeymoon period they might have allowed Holness&rsquo;s Administration ended with the budget debate.<br /> <br /> Phillips knows that if he is ever to occupy Jamaica House time is not on his side. The political clock is ticking and the inevitable wearying and wearing away of the flesh is picking up pace. No more time can be lost in challenging the Government. Having been crowned the monarch of the party, he has to move with alacrity to establish his own bona fides, having been suffocated under the shadow of Portia Simpson Miller for too long.<br /> <br /> At his crowning last Sunday he promised the Jamaican people a new heaven and a new Earth. Forgotten were the almost 25 years of PNP leadership of the country in which they failed to implement many of the things that Phillips boasted would be part of the party&rsquo;s agenda going forward. Everyone in Jamaica will get a land title, people will move from poverty to the elusive prosperity (some say progress), education and housing of the poor will be front and centre of the PNP&rsquo;s efforts to humanise Jamaica and make it the envy of the world. Were we not in the age of fake news many might have taken him at his word if he had promised that Jamaica would soon send people to Mars.<br /> <br /> Phillips&rsquo;s speech was eloquent but hollow. It is the kind of hollowness that you get from Opposition politicians who suffer from political astigmatism when they are in power and miraculously have 20/20 vision when in Opposition. What people like Phillips and those who rant about their ability to deliver promises come up against is the increased feistiness of the Jamaican electorate, which has become quite fed up with these posturings. The Jamaican people will tolerate reasonable criticisms of one&rsquo;s political opposition, but they will reject any charlatan-like criticisms that are rooted in one-upmanship; that opposes for the sake of opposing without substance or without cognisance of one&rsquo;s own actions when one was in charge.<br /> <br /> The people have become more informed, whether by their own experiences or the abundance of social media. They will take what politicians say with a grain of salt until they deliver on what is promised. An alert and proactive citizenry will stand resolutely as a firewall against the basest instincts for predation that lurks in the heart of those they elect to lead them. Again, this seems to be a worldwide phenomenon. It is this firewall that politicians, especially those who have been around too long, are faced with.<br /> <br /> This is where Holness&rsquo;s presentation was refreshing in indicating that he would be an implementer of projects that will move the country forward. His budget speech was pragmatically cognisant of what could be done and the limitations imposed by scarce resources at the country&rsquo;s command. He has grown in the job and has a clearer grasp of what his prime ministerial role ought to be. A resurgent, confident Andrew Holness will in time emerge as Phillips&rsquo;s greatest nightmare. If his Government manages to attain the &ldquo;five in four&rdquo; initiative (growing the economy by five per cent in four years) Holness would have set the country on a solid path towards sustained economic growth which has to be a linchpin in digging poor Jamaicans out of poverty and squalor. Socialist proclivities or rhetoric will not do it.<br /> <br /> Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest and social commentator. Send comments to the Observer or<br /> <br /> stead6655@aol.com.<br /> <br />   http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13031758/207466__w300.jpg Local Opinion Wednesday, March 29, 2017 12:00 AM Men under siege http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Men-under-siege_93908 Our men are under siege and are involved in a daily and oftentimes ignored fight for their lives. While women&rsquo;s issues rightly are at the forefront of our minds and actions, and rightly so, as historically (and today still) they have been used, abused and ignored, we have at the same time in this society taken our eyes off of the men and boys and we are now reaping the deadly fruits.<br /> <br /> When it comes to the raising of our young men we have failed miserably. Take, for example, work ethic. We, as a society, complain and moan that our men have no drive and/or ambition, what do you expect when we live in a society in which a boy child is or may be mocked and called a &ldquo;mama man&rdquo; when he does any housework, even washing? How do you create a lust for success and ambition when our boys are either treated as little princes or thugs?<br /> <br /> When it comes to education we have the same issues, boys are given the rough treatment and we are seeing the negative results. Girls &mdash; again for &lsquo;just and correct&rsquo; reasons &mdash; have been pushed and fed the line that education and a thirst for knowledge is the key to life, and as such girls and women are now doing exceedingly well educationally (though more could be done). At the same time, boys have for years been left to their own devices. They have repeatedly heard, &ldquo;Boys will be boys&rdquo; when they underachieve. They have been ignored as they gravitate towards role models who call education and knowledge &lsquo;girly&rsquo; or &lsquo;gay&rsquo;, and now boys and young men only make up approximately 20 to 30 per cent of our colleges and are mainly stuck in hellish jobs &mdash; if they work at all.<br /> <br /> Social interaction &mdash; here, again, we have the same problems. While girls are taught to be polite and respectful, boys are again left wanting, left to imitate &lsquo;role models&rsquo; who are shocking examples of poor manners, etc. They are not taught to be courteous, maintain good deportment, or even speak properly.<br /> <br /> We want our men to respect women and treat them well &mdash; as we should &mdash; yet we berate a child because he is a virgin or congratulate an adolescent boy for losing his virginity to a grown woman &mdash; which, by the way, is a crime. How can we expect our men to respect our ladies if they are not taught from early on that certain things you don&rsquo;t do?<br /> <br /> A serious change needs to be made in how we raise our young men, and it needs to happen fast if we are to both hold back the rising tide of crime and actually grow the economy. With most crimes being committed by underemployed and unemployed men, with men making up the majority of the fatal victims of violence, and with men abusing women (both verbally and physically) it is obvious that our men need some form of attention, lest the situation becomes worse.<br /> <br /> This change is happening, but at a slow pace, because it is mainly charitable agencies doing this. Men need attention, but not at the expense of women; this much is obvious. If the State really wishes to curb the bad behaviour in our men then they must start when they are boys. It can be done, with boys taking lessons from their mothers and other influencers.<br /> <br /> Let us hope that this change is done fast. If not, the nation will continue to stagnate as only half the workforce would have qualifications to work, and the seeming increase in spousal murders will continue to rise as our men and boys continue down the path of self-destruction.<br /> <br /> Alexander Scott is a political and social commentator, legal clerk, sports enthusiast, and proud graduate of St George&rsquo;s College. Send comments to the Observer or alexanderwjscott90@gmail.com.<br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13741835/267190_92970_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Wednesday, March 29, 2017 12:00 AM Holness, Shaw still need to apologise to Jamaicans http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Holness--Shaw-still-need-to-apologise-to-Jamaicans_93887 The explanation given to the nation by Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Finance Minister Audley Shaw regarding their use of funds from National Housing Trust (NHT) to back up the budget is an insult to the nation.<br /> <br /> The approach by Shaw is not only ridiculous, it gives the impression that he has taken this entire nation to be incapable of basic thought processes. It was Shaw&rsquo;s party, while in Opposition, that took the then People&rsquo;s National Party Administration to court after they dipped into the NHT&rsquo;s funds. At the time, a very emotional and high-pitched Shaw declared the act to be one of stealth and rape of poor people&rsquo;s money. Holness then gave his solemn word that his party would not interfere with NHT funds.<br /> <br /> For Shaw to now tell us that his party&rsquo;s action of dipping into the NHT&rsquo;s funds is grounded in the fact that they are not just people who &ldquo;tek tek and don&rsquo;t give back anything&rdquo; is spurious and an insult to all of us. The issue is not whether the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration is giving back something or not. The bigger issue is one of morality, honesty and truthfulness. A promise was made to the country that the incoming JLP Government was capable of giving a $1.5-million tax break without additional taxes.<br /> <br /> Shaw and his colleagues have not kept their word and it has turned out the promise was a sham, it was a lie, knowingly and willingly told, to the electorate to obtain their votes. No matter how Shaw and Holness may try to sideline the issue, the fact remains that they gave their word, they have not kept their word, and therefore owe the people of Jamaica an apology.<br /> <br /> Over and over, our citizens have been found to be vulnerable to get-rich-quick schemes. It is for this reason so many of us were burnt by Olint and Cash Plus. The promise of a $1.5-million tax break without additional taxes being imposed has turned out to be an Olint/Cash Plus-type scheme mounted on the electorate.<br /> <br /> It probably gained them the victory in the last election and is therefore no different from the millions in US and local currency that Olint and Cash Plus were able to get from several Jamaicans who fell for the get-rich-quick schemes.<br /> <br /> Those governing us must bear an air of honesty, truthfulness and trust. Where there are breaches to these values those governing us should be prepared to be frank, apologise, and move on.<br /> <br /> Holness, Shaw and the rest of the Administration should be big enough to come clean and be frank with us. It would be more believable if Holness had said having now formed the Government he has realised that the $1.5-million tax break cannot be implemented without additional taxes. He should then proceed to tell us that he underestimated the requirements for the scheme to be implemented and ask us for his forgiveness. Should Holness do this he would turn out to be the biggest man in Jamaica today.<br /> <br /> Telling us that it is in the national interest for him to dip into the NHT&rsquo;s funds sounds like he is taking us all for fools. At no time during the election campaign did he give any hint or indication that this would be done.<br /> <br /> This Administration should use this opportunity to be frank, truthful and to encourage us to believe politicians can be relied on or taken at their word.<br /> <br /> Linton P Gordon is an attorney-at-law. Send comments to the Observer or <br /> <br /> lpgordon@cwjamaica.com.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13699136/263422_w300.jpg Local Opinion Tuesday, March 28, 2017 12:00 AM Navigating the realities of the teaching profession: Chronicles of a beginner &mdash; Part 2 http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Navigating-the-realities-of-the-teaching-profession--Chronicles-of-a-beginner---Part-2_93875 In my last article, published on January 31, 2017, I discussed the realities of the teaching profession that caught me off guard and how I learned to cope. In this piece I would like to share a few more observations I have made and how they have, to some extent, distorted my initial views about the profession.<br /> <br /> Unequivocally, the Jamaican education system, in my opinion, is a mirror of the pervasive culture which shifts blame by pointing fingers when someone is to be held accountable. My observation and perspicacity has found that educators are quite often blamed when children fail. On the flip side, when a child is successful, little is usually said about the contribution of the teacher. The accolades and the spotlight is shed on the child&rsquo;s success and rarely shines on the teachers who nurtured the child along the way.<br /> <br /> A few weeks ago I had my first &lsquo;parent/report day&rsquo; experience. In addition to distributing reports to my form class, I had to host parents whose children&rsquo;s fell short of the school&rsquo;s curriculum standards. During my interaction with parents I was overwhelmed by the number by parents who expressed disappointment in their child&rsquo;s performance, even those I thought performed reasonably well. There were also those parents who were quite nonchalant, even more so than their child, and seemed more irate about having to consult with teachers than with the actual performance of their children.<br /> <br /> Halfway in, I thought I was getting into a rhythm, until I met a parent who essentially attacked my capacity and competence to perform in my post. Before that interaction, we had never crossed paths, but she felt so convicted to conclude that if her child had failed it was simply the teacher&rsquo;s fault &mdash; my fault. The verbal onslaught continued and said parent began to insist that I make the class more interesting for her child. I was rather taken aback that an adult, a parent, would take it upon herself to assume that her child&rsquo;s failure was as a result of my inept instructional approach to teaching and learning. At no point in our conversation did she, in any way, shape or form, cast any of the responsibility on her child.<br /> <br /> I left that conversation feeling rather dumbstruck, slightly offended, and, quite frankly, disturbed by the message she was sending to her child and to the audience of children who stood in line when adults act in such a manner. Not only do we perpetuate the blame game culture, we are saying to our children that they have no reason to hold themselves accountable, because there is someone to be blamed for their failure.<br /> <br /> If the student fails, it&rsquo;s the teacher&rsquo;s fault, and the child&rsquo;s lack of interest and low output rate has nothing to do with their mediocre performance. Clearly, we have lost our way. The teacher is not the only important variable that affects the success or failure of the child, so why are we so hell-bent on casting the blame solely on teachers? Don&rsquo;t parents have a role to play in all of this? Doesn&rsquo;t the child?<br /> <br /> Parents must begin to, on a wider scale, hold themselves accountable for the success and/or failure of their children. From early on, we need to inculcate a culture of accountability. Parents must first awaken their consciousness about the importance of a good education and insist that their child sees the purpose in getting one. More importantly, they need to shed the subdued, complacent attitude and demand more from their child. It is not enough to send your child to school thinking that&rsquo;s where your responsibility begins and ends. Parents can no longer continue to be silent partners in their own child&rsquo;s development. <br /> <br /> Don&rsquo;t get me wrong, I am fully aware that teachers have a responsibility to foster an environment conducive to learning, and we are charged to make learning as engaging as possible. However, I have found, for me personally, that the expectations placed on the backs of teachers is a testament to the enormous task that we are mandated to fulfil. I fervently believe that teachers are held at a much higher standard than parents &mdash; the insanity! Funny enough, the standards we are called to maintain comes from the Government and the parents themselves, who make some unreasonable demands of teachers &mdash; it is still bewildering for me). <br /> <br /> It is imprudent of parents to think that teachers have magical powers, or that we single-handedly have the power to inflict the kind of changes in attitude that the masses would like to see in our youth. Positive attitudes must also be engendered in the homes! Far too many parents come confessing that they cannot contain their child, on the one hand, but expect a teacher in a class of sometimes 50-odd to contain that one child in addition to the other misdemeanours. A line has to be drawn somewhere; someone, other than the teacher ,must also be held accountable.<br /> <br /> Children come from home to school, not the other way around. Try as teachers may, and we do, if our youth are not socialised to operate in environments like the school and other institutions, then we will continue to practise the dangerous culture which continues to breed men and women who fail to take responsibility for their actions.<br /> <br /> Staecha Goulbourne is a recent graduate of the School of Education of The University of the West Indies. She currently serves as an English language and English literature teacher at the high school level. Send comments to the Observer or staechag@gmail.com.<br /> <br />   http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13739650/267027_92833_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Tuesday, March 28, 2017 12:00 AM A futurist, a PM, a path for Jamaica http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/A-futurist--a-PM--a-path-for-Jamaica_93710 The address by futurist Edie Weiner, last Monday, gave us a thought-provoking context for the budget presentation by Prime Minister Andrew Holness the next day. New Yorker Edie Weiner is the principal of Future Hunters, which for over 40 years has been using data to predict future developments, with impressive results.<br /> <br /> At an event presented by the Jamaica Chapter of the International Women&rsquo;s Forum (IWF), she challenged the roomful of leaders to rethink education, to capitalise on Jamaica&rsquo;s youthful population, to respect them so that they in turn will respect our environment.<br /> <br /> Ten years ago, she says her high-calibre clients were so impressed by her guidance that they wondered how she was getting it so right. She explained that her team uses 30 different thought processes to arrive at their recommendations. Learn more at www.thefuturehunters.com.<br /> <br /> Most important of all, she says, is to recognise your &ldquo;educated incapacity&ldquo;, as you can &ldquo;know so much about what you already know that you are not looking outside&rdquo;. She observed that educated people tend to acquire so much knowledge that they hang on to it like an expensive piece of luggage. This is backward, as she pointed out that, while we are hanging on to these brand-name &lsquo;bags&rsquo;, someone is racing into the future with their futuristic &ldquo;backpacks&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> Therefore it was encouraging that in his budget presentation (well worth the read at http://jis.gov.jm/contribution-prime-minister-andrew-holness-201718-budget-debate/) Holness recognised the huge potential the global market has for outsourcing. He noted: &ldquo;The first segment to have been established, and the largest in relative terms is the information technology outsourcing (ITO) segment, where activities are focused on providing information technology support&hellip; Currently, the market for ITO services globally is US$76 billion. The second segment is the business process outsourcing (BPO) segment, which is linked to the outsourcing of administrative services and back office tasks...The global market for BPO services is US$38 billion. The third segment is the knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) segment, which involves knowledge-based services, including research and development, innovation, design, testing, business consultancy, legal services, accounting, medical, and biotechnology services among others that require highly skilled personnel and involve more value-added activities&hellip; Knowledge process outsourcing is the fastest-growing segment in the industry, with an average growth rate of over 8.6 per cent compared to the industry average of 4.1 per cent. Jamaica is well poised to do well in this segment.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> While these are great plans, we should heed Edie Weiner&rsquo;s warnings that the rapid advance of technology is creating disruption. She noted that what was described as a recession in the early 90s was actually a result of the new disruptive technology. &ldquo;This was not a recession,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;it was a fundamental global revolution.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> She says, when asked the question &lsquo;What should children be studying now to be assured of employment?&rsquo;, her answer is that they should become plumbers, electricians and stone masons. Weiner urged an emphasis on critical thinking in education, stating, &ldquo;In the future no one will be paying for &lsquo;smart&rsquo;. They will pay for the intelligence that enables you to figure out things that you have never seen before.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Our &lsquo;unattached youth&rsquo;<br /> <br /> Weiner&rsquo;s advice should be taken on board as the Government develops the &lsquo;employment&rsquo; aspect of their commendable HOPE Programme. &ldquo;It is estimated that there is a pool of approximately 120,000 to 130,000 young persons, between 15 and 24 years of age, who are not in school, not in a programme of training, and are unemployed,&rdquo; noted Holness. &ldquo;While a considerable portion of the unattached would have other institutions which keep them engaged and supported, such as their family, their church, community activities or sports, a significant proportion of them have no structure, order or guidance in their life.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Many of them would not be in institutions long enough to develop character and good citizenship, positive attitudes and skills to assist them in negotiating the challenges of life,&rdquo; said the prime minister. &ldquo;We see them on the street corners every day when we are going to work, and we see them at the same place when we are coming home. They are at home every day becoming increasingly hopeless and frustrated&hellip; These are the most productive years in the human life cycle and we cannot afford to lose the productive value of our human resource. This is also the age group that is most affected by crime and violence.&rdquo; With so many unattached youth, we should not wonder at the mindlessness and cruelty of recent crimes; the tragedy at Moncrieffe&rsquo;s, a respected landmark on Old Hope Road is horrifying. I believe we should incentivise more students to become social workers.<br /> <br /> We have seen the transformation of such communities as Grant&rsquo;s Pen and Trench Town when young people have been offered training to make them employable. Being sensitive to their immediate needs, when we led the partnership of the Stella Maris Foundation with HEART Trust/NTA, we established the Norma Chang Daycare Centre so that young women could have a safe place to leave their children while they attended classes.<br /> <br /> As we consider Weiner&rsquo;s reminder that the fastest period for brain growth is between zero to three years old, we congratulate the previous and current boards of the Early Childhood Commission in the Ministry of Education led by Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan and Trisha Williams-Singh. Both women continue to collaborate as they have a healthy respect for what each brings to the table &mdash; academic understanding of the issues and sound organisational skills. Thus, the certification of early childhood institutions is being accelerated to give those precious young minds every chance for healthy development.<br /> <br /> The prime minister noted that several educational bodies would be merged: &ldquo;The services would be more effective, have greater reach, and enrol more numbers if they were streamlined and coordinated. The Government has therefore decided to merge HEART Trust/NTA, the NYS [National Youth Service], JFLL [Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning], and the Apprenticeship Board into a single entity,&rdquo; he said. The streamlining of technology for the public sector should promote greater efficiency at less cost for this and other such mergers.<br /> <br /> Let&rsquo;s drop that expensive but burdensome baggage of old thinking &mdash; we have Bolt as our symbol of the world-beating speed we can achieve with our own home-grown talent and strategic application.<br /> <br /> Congrats, Ian Boyne on Profile&rsquo;s 30th<br /> <br /> Congratulations to Ian Boyne on the 30th anniversary celebration of his inspiring series<br /> <br /> Profile. I had written a column on Ian some years ago, as I felt he deserved some &lsquo;profiling&rsquo; too. This was his kind response when I asked him to share memories of the personalities he had featured: &ldquo;I am humbled that you are thinking of paying some attention to my work in your Profile-newspaper-version column, that breath of fresh, inspiring air in print journalism&hellip; I would say Derek Walcott was perhaps my most impatient guest, asking me abruptly over 20 years ago to cut the pre-talk and just get to the taping. Berthan Macaulay I found almost intellectually intimidating when I interviewed him almost 25 or so years ago. His brightness was dazzling. As to &lsquo;aha moments&rsquo; they are too numerous to single out.&rdquo; Thank you for your weekly positivity booster, Ian. So uplifting!<br /> <br /> lowriechin@aim.com<br /> <br /> www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13053061/208889__w300.jpg Local Opinion Monday, March 27, 2017 2:00 AM Dealing with homelessness in Jamaica http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Dealing-with-homelessness-in-Jamaica_93757 Homelessness in Jamaica has become a chronic problem post-Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. The National Committee on Homelessness, in a 2012 report, regarded the aftermath of this hurricane as one of the main events that led to the development of deep-seated homelessness in Jamaica.<br /> <br /> According to this report, &ldquo;There are at least 1,160 persons who are homeless islandwide. The majority &mdash; a total of 616 persons &mdash; reside in the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew. St James, the second city and one of the major tourist areas, has a total of 138 homeless people.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> One cannot discuss homelessness in Jamaica without reflection on the general attitude of the masses toward the homeless who are all perceived to be mentally challenged and incapable of reason or meaningful occupation. We have seen the homeless relegated to the &ldquo;dump&rdquo; as we recall the events of July 15, 1999 where they were gathered in Montego Bay, transported and dumped by the mud lakes of St Elizabeth. This resulting in what is today known as the &ldquo;MoBay Street People Scandal&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> Fast-forward to 2017 and the pronouncements are that there are approximately 2,000 homeless people are residing on our streets in abject poverty across the island. The comprehensiveness of these reports are very suspect as they tend to indicate only incidents of homelessness known to the Poor Relief Department. It is a fact, based on mini surveys conducted by Unite Jamaica People/Association of Businesspersons (UJP/AOB), there are many homeless people who do not interact with the Poor Relief Department or its affiliated agencies. As a result, it could be fair to say, data from the Poor Relief Department does not provide an accurate or comprehensive representation on homelessness in Jamaica.<br /> <br /> If reliable information is not available on homelessness issues in Jamaica, future policies and programmes developed to relieve the plight of the homeless might not be adequately represented or channelled. It is suggested that a comprehensive population survey be conducted in Jamaica to ascertain the true number of homeless people, as well as those who live and work on the streets and in temporary places of shelter. Further, it is necessary that this survey takes into account the biometric and social and mental capacity of the cadre of homeless as not all are incapable of occupation or are unwilling to contribute to their re-socialisation.<br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> Homelessness in perspective<br /> <br /> There are several reasons that contribute to individuals becoming homeless. These include, but are not limited to, mental challenges, crime and violence, health issues (non- mental), family challenges, eviction, drug abuse, general poverty, unemployment (National Committee on Homelessness, 2012). It is also fair to add that deportation and urban drift are also responsible for and contribute to some of the issues related to homelessness being experienced today.<br /> <br /> With the above in mind, it would indicate that because of no timely political intervention post-Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 and with weak data and policy direction the issue has been allowed to reach chronic proportions with subsequent impact on the health, social services, housing, security, and the crime situation in Jamaica. <br /> <br /> The continuous thought of opening homeless drop-in shelters, in our view, is retrograde and does not address the real issues of solving the problem of homelessness in Jamaica. In recent times, and proposed for the budget of 2017/18, we are advised that two additional shelters for the homeless are to be built in rural Jamaica. As one noted psychologist suggested, &ldquo;If we want to encourage more tourists to visit Jamaica we build more hotel rooms.&rdquo; In like fashion, if we want to encourage expanded homelessness we build more homeless shelters. This is a profound observation, as these shelters will only serve to stymie productive and occupational solutions, encourage the entitlement mentality to what is already a chronic situation.<br /> <br /> Recommendations<br /> <br /> The UJP/AOB and their unity partners recommend comprehensive and strategic policy direction and reform as it relates to the treatment of the issues and the &ldquo;victims&rdquo; involved in this worsening situation of homelessness. Our recommendations are as follows:<br /> <br /> 1. Proclaim a Homeless People Awareness Week to build awareness and sensitise the nation to the real issues involved with this worsening national scourge. (Proposed date: December 18-24 annually)<br /> <br /> 2. Undertake a comprehensive national audit of all institutions providing services to the poor, homeless and destitute to include remedial squatter assessment and rectification.<br /> <br /> 3. Undertake a comprehensive census of all homeless people ensuring that they are categorised based on rehabilitative needs with occupation and social reintegration being the primary focus of the survey.<br /> <br /> 4. Rationalise all shelter and shelter activities with a view to long-term facility retirement as the concept shifts to enabling people to be productive, self-actualising and independent providers.<br /> <br /> 5. That the mandate of the Bellevue Hospital be reviewed and rationalised and a modern, more secure community of mentally challenged individuals is established that will cater for &ldquo;communal therapy&rdquo; and recovery.<br /> <br /> 6. That a structured, dedicated residential drug-rehabilitation facility be established with a focus on comprehensive targeted individual needs response including, detoxification; counselling; mentoring; psychological, occupational and other related solutions.<br /> <br /> 7. That housing solutions for all the homeless be developed under a National Empowerment Shelter Transformation (NEST) concept, where occupation in residence is developed in a structured, disciplined community, geared to rehabilitation, return of dignity and re-socialisation, all designed for social reintegration of participants.<br /> <br /> In conclusion, it is the view of the UJP/AOB that homelessness is a solvable issue which requires national attention coupled with political will and support to end this scourge on our country. All are encouraged to become stakeholders as we strive for the empowerment and transformation of the lives of the less fortunate among us.<br /> <br /> Sheryl Muir is a director of Association of Business Persons. Send comments to the Observer or <br /> <br /> ujp.aobja@gmail.com.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13501702/246870_73428_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Monday, March 27, 2017 2:00 AM The fault, dear PNP, lies not in the stars, but deep within the PNP http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-fault--dear-PNP--lies-not-in-the-stars--but-deep-within-the-PNP_93520 A roofer&rsquo;s house leaks. &mdash; Zulu proverb<br /> <br /> At<br /> <br /> a public function last week I met upon two acquaintances, who described themselves as &lsquo;PNP&rsquo; [not Comrades, they say there is difference, but that is for another article], and who took me to task for my piece last Sunday. Somehow they seem to have got it into their heads that my articles have the power to foment political dissonance in the 79-year-old People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP).<br /> <br /> After a long, friendly verbal exchange I believe I convinced them that political woodpeckers posed far less danger to the PNP when compared to the political termites that are rapidly eating at the core of Norman Manley&rsquo;s party.<br /> <br /> The deadly orange lava which flow from several exploding political volcanoes in the PNP are triggered by Mount Vesuvius-type tectonic shifts internally.<br /> <br /> Sixty-eight-year old Dr Peter Phillips, who is being affirmed today as president of the PNP, is inheriting a party which is like a political Pompeii after Mount Vesuvius has erupted.<br /> <br /> The fault, dear PNP, lies not in the stars, but deep within the PNP. I hope my readers will forgive me for taking liberties with lines from Shakespeare&rsquo;s &lsquo;Julius Caesar&rsquo;.<br /> <br /> Recall the following headline: &lsquo;PNP used people; Councillor says party destroyed self-worth, pride of J&rsquo;cans and used them as pawns in a game&rsquo;. (<br /> <br /> Jamaica Observer, April 26, 2016)<br /> <br /> The story said, among other things: &ldquo;Outspoken People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) Councillor Venesha Phillips has blamed her party for deliberately destroying the self-worth and pride of Jamaicans and using them as pawns in a game.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The Papine councillor made the charge on Sunday during a &lsquo;reasoning session&rsquo; at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, where members of the organisation were asked to express their views about the party as the organisation seeks to reposition itself and move on from its recent loss in the February 25 General Election.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Comrades who attended the inaugural forum, dubbed &lsquo;Comrades Grassroot Reasoning&rsquo;, were asked to answer two questions: The PNP, who are and what are we? and Have we been true to our cause?<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Phillips, in her answer to the latter question, claimed that the PNP has not been true to its cause.<br /> <br /> &ldquo; &lsquo;We have not really been true to the cause, because self-worth and pride have been gutted from our people, and deliberately so.<br /> <br /> &ldquo; &lsquo;Our people today are not recipients of empowerment, but instead they have become pawns used in the games by those who wish to create the PNP that they want to exist in,&rsquo; she said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Phillips claimed that the party has used money to control and manipulate the people.<br /> <br /> &ldquo; &lsquo;&hellip; So, Comrades, we have moved away from when Michael Manley (former party leader and prime minister) gave us that sense of purpose that we are not for sale, and today we are for sale, because today every man have dem price.&rsquo;<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Phillips charged that money has been used to manipulate the people because they have not been able to afford some basic items.<br /> <br /> &ldquo; &lsquo;&hellip;Instead of empowering them&hellip; we use money as a weapon, and we have brought our people to their knees just so we can establish our own cause,&rsquo; said Phillips.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;She added: &lsquo;We have not been true to the cause because we have allowed those who would want to break our people so that they can exalt themselves, we have allowed them that space to do it.&rsquo; &rdquo; (<br /> <br /> Observer, April 26, 2016)<br /> <br /> Recall this political forecast by Derrick Kellier, former part-time agriculture minister.<br /> <br /> &ldquo; &lsquo;Our political machinery has broken down badly, and that&rsquo;s why we are where we are today&hellip; we will have to climb Mount Everest to get back to where we were,&rsquo; Kellier told delegates at the party&rsquo;s Regional Executive Council of Region Six meeting at John Rollins Success Primary School in Rose Hall, St James.<br /> <br /> &ldquo; &lsquo;Going forward is not going to be easy&hellip; we are in a state of flux, we are all about power, personal power, and personal aggrandisement and one-upmanship, that is what we are about. We are no longer a cohesive force that can deliver the knockout punch to the Opposition, and can spread the word of hope and progress to the people,&rsquo; he said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo; &lsquo;We have to be baptised again. We need a refresher so that we can &lsquo;wheel and come again&rsquo; in the true sense, because you should not take this Labour Party in power lightly. If you take them lightly, you are making a very serious mistake,&rsquo; he stressed.&rdquo; (<br /> <br /> Observer, May 30, 2016)<br /> <br /> Recall these powerful political uppercuts delivered by Lisa Hanna while her party staggered against the ropes: <br /> <br /> &ldquo; &lsquo;Today, the PNP appears to be a relic of the past, with obsolete messages desperately trying to appeal to a generation whose sights are set on their future. We are disconnected by deep chasms of brutal internal conflicts and division. The courage that once epitomised the movement has been replaced by fear from being bludgeoned into submission from having an independent view. Comrades are now quiet; resolved to whispers so as not to be labelled subversive, and the internal structures no longer function. &lsquo; &rdquo; (<br /> <br /> Sunday Observer, April 3, 2016)<br /> <br /> Recall also that Deacon Ronald Thwaites, ex-minister of education, told the country some years ago that &ldquo;the PNP has presided over the greatest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich since slavery&rdquo;. Rural folks, in their philosophical brilliance, warn that, &ldquo;When fish come from the river bottom and tell you that crocodile down there; believe him.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Incidentally, the birds, the ubiquitous Black-Bellied Plovers, John Chewits and Banana Quits warble that Deacon Thwaites is not a political favourite of the incoming party president. Is it that Thwaites is to be sidelined for someone whose surname begins with a &lsquo;G&rsquo;? More anon.<br /> <br /> But back to the PNP which is suffering with stage four inverted Trojan Horse Syndrome.<br /> <br /> Recall the recent campaign funds scandal.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The Opposition People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) is now reeling from damaging allegations of misuse of campaign donations by some of its candidates in the February 25, 2016 General Election.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The allegations were made by PNP Treasurer Norman Horne in his report to the party&rsquo;s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting on July 23 and 24, but which only surfaced publicly yesterday.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;In his report, Horne painted a picture of a party in campaign disarray that spilled over to its ability to raise funds for the election that it eventually lost by one seat to the Jamaica Labour Party.<br /> <br /> &ldquo; &lsquo;Throughout the 2016 national campaign the treasury worked assiduously to overcome the handicap the party endured due to the fragmentation of the political leadership, machinery and consequently the national campaign itself, which resulted in multiple non-cohesive and disjointed campaigns being run by distinct groupings and individual members of the party,&rsquo; Horne wrote.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;He said that prior to February 17, 2016, when the party communicated its decision not to participate in three planned national debates, the treasury&rsquo;s greatest competition in the marketplace was the membership of the party who held senior positions in Government.<br /> <br /> &ldquo; &lsquo;These persons were actively in the market for what seemed to be sole benefit of their personal campaigns and collected significant amounts from members of the private sector who were earmarked by the treasury as potential substantial donors for the benefit of the PNP as one cohesive unit,&rsquo; he wrote.<br /> <br /> &ldquo; &lsquo;On numerous occasions, information received by the treasury from the potential donors was that contributions had already been made to senior party members for the benefit of the party. However, only a few members reported or accounted in full, or even in part, for the receipt of these donations to the treasury or the party executive. This heavily affected the party&rsquo;s income and short-changed the party, resulting in a negative effect on the national campaign. Financially speaking, there was not one central bank, but several banks; some of which had more resources than the treasury,&rsquo; Horne stated.&rdquo; (<br /> <br /> Observer, August 23, 2016)<br /> <br /> &lsquo;What missing funds?&rsquo; This banner headline is still fresh in the minds of many, for reasons of mirth, reflection, and maybe for points of irony. Just like the Trafigura scandal, Portia Simpson Miller was oblivious of the goings-on in the party she headed.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Portia Simpson Miller yesterday said she was unaware of the campaign funding scandal in which her People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) has been mired for more than a week and which has triggered a fresh round of conflict within the ranks of the fractious political Opposition.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;However, she told the press that she would check on it as soon as she got home.<br /> <br /> &ldquo; &lsquo;What missing funds?&rsquo; she asked with a puzzled look on her face in response to questions about PNP Treasurer Norman Horne&rsquo;s report that some of the party&rsquo;s candidates in the last general election collected money from donors but have not accounted for the funds.<br /> <br /> &ldquo; &lsquo;I don&rsquo;t know about that. Where, who, what?&rsquo; she replied when she was pressed on the issue.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;When she was asked if she was not aware of Horne&rsquo;s report she said: &lsquo;What report? They have been keeping me very busy on the road. I&rsquo;ll have to check it when I get home later.&rsquo;<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Chairman of the PNP Hanover Eastern constituency organisation, DK Duncan, who was in the company of the party president and Opposition leader, rushed to her defence by stating that he was there to brief her, as she had been indisposed.&rdquo; (<br /> <br /> Observer, August 31, 2016)<br /> <br /> Recall also the direct words of Simpson Miller. She was chiding dissenting Comrades at the meeting, which was held on Wednesday, November 16, 2016, in Claremont, St Ann:<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I represent one of the strongest constituencies in Jamaica; don&rsquo;t play with me, I don&rsquo;t play games. I work hard for this movement from 1974 &lsquo;til now; nuh boy, nuh gyal can&rsquo;t talk to me&hellip; I will come back here for another meeting, and I know who I will bring...I&rsquo;m not afraid of anyone.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> At that meeting, she also warned Comrades, &ldquo;This is one woman who never run from a fight with anyone yet.&rdquo; (<br /> <br /> Observer, November 19, 2016)<br /> <br /> While ex-Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (PSM) awaits her political midnight train to Georgia, or maybe Miami, I suspect she is still reeling from the unceremonious manner in which she was jolted from her presidential perch.<br /> <br /> Time will tell if the deep political wounds which were evident in the comments from Simpson Miller at the PNP&rsquo;s National Executive Council political OK Corral, in Hatfield, in Manchester, on Sunday, February 5, 2017 can heal.<br /> <br /> PSM: &ldquo;Like how you glad fi si mi out, don&rsquo;t be glad to call mi when you need mi to win election.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> PSM: &ldquo;I worked like a donkey for this movement.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> What of Simpson Miller&rsquo;s warning about men in her party who &ldquo;don&rsquo;t like female leadership&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> The fact that 89 Old Hope Road is in a near-constant state of political implosion is the fault of 89 Old Hope Road.<br /> <br /> The PNP needs to escape its fixation with blaming everything and everyone else but the PNP for its political &lsquo;nine-a-clocks&rsquo; [travails].<br /> <br /> It&rsquo;s not the political woodpeckers, it&rsquo;s the political termites, stupid!<br /> <br /> You don&rsquo;t need a mirror to see what you are wearing on your hand. &mdash; Nigerian proverb<br /> <br /> Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or<br /> <br /> higgins160@yahoo.com.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13666398/260586__w300.jpg Local Opinion Sunday, March 26, 2017 2:00 AM Jamaica&rsquo;s future choked by cancer of corruption http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Jamaica-s-future-choked-by-cancer-of-corruption_93609 Corruption in Jamaica is &ldquo;entrenched and widespread&rdquo;. Jamaica must give serious consideration to what lies ahead should the Government and the country&rsquo;s lawmakers fail to decisively and aggressively confront its corruption problem.<br /> <br /> Jamaica has long suffered from a perception that it is a highly corrupt country. Only a few days ago, the United States Department of State, in its March 2017 annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, described corruption in Jamaica as being &ldquo;entrenched and widespread&rdquo;. Even more disturbing is the fact that the US State Department has utilised virtually the same language for at least the past seven years running to characterise the magnitude and depth of the problem.<br /> <br /> In the 15 years in which Transparency International (TI) has ranked the country in its annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Jamaica has averaged a CPI score of only 35 out of 100, where zero means highly corrupt, and a score of 100 representing the state of being very clean. Jamaica&rsquo;s 2016 CPI was 39.<br /> <br /> Tipping point<br /> <br /> TI has said that a CPI score of under 50 signals prevalent bribery, a lack of punishment for corruption, and public institutions that do not respond to the needs of citizens. Jamaica has probably reached a &ldquo;tipping point&ldquo;.<br /> <br /> It is also noteworthy that a major study that was conducted in 2015 by a global think tank, the Institute for Economics and Peace, concluded that when a country&rsquo;s CPI falls beneath 40 it would have reached a &ldquo;tipping point&ldquo; for the collapse of government institutions, instability, and a rise in internal violence.<br /> <br /> It is arguable that Jamaica may have reached this tipping point and is already witnessing some of these manifestations.<br /> <br /> To begin with, while none of Jamaica&rsquo;s institutions has collapsed, some are in a state of relative dysfunction. It is also indisputable that Jamaica has achieved notoriety as a murder capital of the world, and as a country that&rsquo;s stricken with inordinately high levels of crime and violence.<br /> <br /> For the 10-year period 2005 to 2014, Jamaica was ranked, after Honduras and El Salvador, as having the world&rsquo;s highest murder rate per capita, with 14,968 murders committed, or 49.1 murders per 100,000 people.<br /> <br /> The World Economic Forum (WEF), in its 2016/2017 Global Competitiveness Report, has ranked Jamaica as being among the world&rsquo;s three worst countries on &ldquo;the business costs of crime and violence&rdquo;, and among the world&rsquo;s five worst on &ldquo;organised crime&rdquo;. The report was based on a survey of 138 countries.<br /> <br /> Perceived corruption<br /> <br /> Jamaicans, themselves, do not have a favourable view of their country&rsquo;s leaders, nor of some of the country&rsquo; most critical institutions, when it comes to the issue of corruption.<br /> <br /> The TI Global Corruption Barometer, which assesses the perception of corruption in national institutions globally, in 2013 found that 86 per cent of Jamaican respondents saw the country&rsquo;s police as &ldquo;corrupt/extremely corrupt&rdquo;. Some 85 per cent felt the same way about the country&rsquo;s political parties, while 74 per cent viewed the Parliament in a similar light.<br /> <br /> Only three senior public officials have been jailed for corruption in Jamaica since the island became independent, nearly 55 years ago. This is a striking phenomenon. It can only be interpreted as supporting the view that corruption and impunity in Jamaica are deeply entrenched and widespread.<br /> <br /> Weak structures and legislation<br /> <br /> The 2017 Jamaica Integrity Commission Bill is weak.<br /> <br /> Despite promises that have been made by successive administrations to strengthen the country&rsquo;s anti-corruption institutional framework, Jamaicans are yet to see anything of substance that will effectively address the pervasive and endemic corruption that has long afflicted the island.<br /> <br /> The much-heralded and long-awaited Jamaica Integrity Commission Bill, that was passed in the House of Representatives on January 31, 2017, will not advance Jamaica&rsquo;s anti-corruption fight.<br /> <br /> I have argued elsewhere that the Bill, in many respects, is weak, and does not reflect present-day international best practices in anti-corruption and anti-bribery. Further, the Bill has failed to fulfil some of Jamaica&rsquo;s key international anti-corruption treaty obligations.<br /> <br /> The proposed Jamaica Integrity Commission is structurally flawed.<br /> <br /> The Integrity Commission, as proposed by the Bill, and which will merge the Office of the Contractor General, the Parliament Integrity Commission, and the Corruption Prevention Commission, is also structurally flawed. There&rsquo;s no question that it will fail as an effective and efficient anti-corruption institution.<br /> <br /> Contrary to international best practices, the commission will have no CEO to co-ordinate, direct and manage its day-to-day operations, or to be held accountable for its affairs.<br /> <br /> Added to this is the fact that the commission&rsquo;s several directors will be subjected to the directives of five commissioners who, by law, can give any of them (except the prosecutions director), &ldquo;special&rdquo; or &ldquo;general&rdquo; directions. This will obviously lead to a very unwieldy situation, while undermining the operational integrity, effectiveness and efficiency of the commission.<br /> <br /> It is also important to note that the Integrity Commission will neither be a &lsquo;single&rsquo; nor &lsquo;independent&rsquo; anti-corruption commission &mdash; as it was intended to be. It will have no powers of detention or arrest. Neither will it be independent in its criminal investigative function. It will have to rely upon other law enforcement agencies, inclusive of the police &mdash; which do not report to it &mdash; for assistance in the foregoing regard.<br /> <br /> These are serious best practice deficits. At the end of the day, the commission will lack full control over who is investigated, when, and how they are investigated and, ultimately, who is to be prosecuted by its prosecutions director.<br /> <br /> Playing politics with corruption<br /> <br /> Successive Administrations haven&rsquo;t honoured anti-corruption commitments. But what is concerning is that, although Jamaica knows precisely what must be done to escape the tentacles of corruption, it appears to lack the courage of leadership, and the political will, to effectively implement even the very corrective measures that its successive administrations had promised they would bring to the fore, if they were elected into office.<br /> <br /> The ruling Administration, for example, had &ldquo;committed&rdquo;, in its pre-election manifesto, to &ldquo;bring an end to the incidence of rampant corruption&rdquo; in Jamaica. Very importantly, it had acknowledged that &ldquo;corruption impedes economic growth, undermines the rule of law, and tears down the fabric of society&rdquo;. It had also said that Jamaica can be transformed, but &ldquo;only if corruption is tackled in an uncompromising manner&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> That said, it then committed that if it were elected into office, it would be &ldquo;revising the work already under way&rdquo;, on the Integrity Commission Bill, regarding the proposed Integrity Commission, and &ldquo;making revisions to ensure its effectiveness&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> However, and as is now well known, this was not done. The Bill was passed in the House on January 31, 2017, almost one year after the Government was elected into office, but without the promised &ldquo;revisions&rdquo; taking place.<br /> <br /> The immediately preceding Administration is not blameless either. Prior to entering office, it, too, in the then pre-election debates, had committed to combat corruption and, in particular, to strengthen the Office of the Contractor General (OCG). However, within just six months of being elected to office, it filed several applications in the Jamaica Supreme Court to curtail the powers and functions of the OCG. The move was subsequently frowned upon by the court when it summarily dismissed the applications in its February 2013 ruling.<br /> <br /> Breaking pre-election commitments goes to the root of credibility and trust. When leaders, anywhere, act in this way, it goes to the very root of their credibility, and the trust that a believing electorate has reposed in them.<br /> <br /> Transparency International, in January 2017, while commenting on elections in Africa, was moved to urge African leaders, who win elections on the anti-corruption platform, to live up to their pledges. The Speaker of Nigeria&rsquo;s Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Onofiok Luke, a lawyer by profession, has gone one step further. On February 7, 2017, during an address, he said that a failure by politicians and political parties to fulfil election campaign promises should be seen as a form of corruption, and that offending politicians should be prosecuted.<br /> <br /> The cost of corruption<br /> <br /> The costs of corruption are far-reaching. Corruption is a major concern for developing, emerging and developed economies, alike. However, for developing countries, like Jamaica, the magnitude of the potential for the adverse socio-economic consequences that corruption portends is substantial.<br /> <br /> Corruption erodes the quality of life of citizens by diverting public funds away from critical social necessities, such as health care, education, water, roads and electricity. <br /> <br /> Corruption also leads to human rights violations, steals political elections, distorts financial markets, reduces investor confidence, stunts business activity, wipes out jobs, fuels migration, increases the price of goods and services, undermines and destroys confidence in public institutions, and enables organised crime, terrorism, and other threats to human security to flourish. And, yes, corruption also kills.<br /> <br /> Many studies have been undertaken in an effort to estimate the monetary costs of corruption and bribery. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in 2014, estimated that the cost of corruption equals more than five per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), or approximately US$2.6 trillion, with over US$1 trillion paid in bribes each year.<br /> <br /> The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in a May 2016 news article, estimated the annual cost of bribery at a massive US$1.5 to US$2 trillion, globally.<br /> <br /> The Center for Strategic and International Studies has equated private sector bribery in developing countries to a tax on growth. It says it&rsquo;s costing at least US$500 billion each year, or more than three times the total amount of foreign assistance that these countries received in 2012. <br /> <br /> The WEF estimates that corruption increases the cost of doing business by up to 10 per cent on average. Other studies have estimated that the cost of corruption is akin to a 20 per cent regressive tax that foreign investors must face.<br /> <br /> Interestingly, the World Bank estimates a four times increase in a country&rsquo;s per-capita income, in the long run, when it fights corruption.<br /> <br /> What of Jamaica&rsquo;s future?<br /> <br /> Sustainable economic growth is not possible without combating corruption. Jamaica has averaged GDP growth of 0.5 per cent per annum over the last 20 years, and 0.2 per cent per annum over the past 10 years, and has now set its eyes on an ambitious GDP growth target of five per cent in the next four years, but, curiously, without the support of a clearly articulated and aggressive anti-corruption plan.<br /> <br /> The country is not short on eminent advice as to why this is futile. In his July 2013 visit to Jamaica, Professor Tommy Koh, Singapore&rsquo;s ambassador-at-large, cautioned Jamaica&rsquo;s leaders that a zero-tolerance approach for corruption, and a strong rule of law, are &lsquo;the two strategies that Jamaica will need in its efforts to achieve economic growth and sustainable development&rsquo;. He said that these were the cornerstones of Singapore&rsquo;s success.<br /> <br /> In an October 25, 2016 joint press conference with Pakistan&rsquo;s Foreign Minister, the IMF&rsquo;s Managing Director Christine Lagarde was quoted as saying that the &lsquo;economic progress of a country is impossible without curbing corruption. Earlier, in May 2016, at the London International Anti-Corruption Summit, Lagarde warned: &ldquo;If you are pro-growth, you must be against corruption.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Combating corruption, as a driver of foreign investment, sustainable economic growth, and development, is a principle that is universally acknowledged. It has been consistently enunciated by the United Nations, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the European Union, the G20 and G8, the IMF, the World Bank, and a host of other multilateral institutions and world leaders.<br /> <br /> No excuses<br /> <br /> Jamaica has run out of excuses for failing to end corruption. But Jamaica does not need to be persuaded about the perils of the cancer of corruption, nor why it must be decisively and aggressively tackled. The Government&rsquo;s own 2013 National Security Policy speaks lucidly, instructively, and convincingly on the issue.<br /> <br /> This is what it says:<br /> <br /> (a) Crime, corruption and violence are the primary threats to the nation.<br /> <br /> (b) Violence, crime and corruption have profoundly retarded Jamaica&rsquo;s development.<br /> <br /> (c) The economy is now, at best, one-third of the size it should have been, and may be only one-tenth of the size it could have been.<br /> <br /> (d) Effective action against crime and corruption would do more to improve the economy of Jamaica than any other measure.<br /> <br /> (e) The most important task facing Jamaica now is to root out crime and corruption, and thereby address the underlying causes of poverty and suffering in the country.<br /> <br /> Quite recently, on March 6, 2017, Ghana&rsquo;s President Nana Akufo-Addo, on the occasion of his country&rsquo;s 60th independence, said that Ghana had run out of excuses for failing to end poverty and corruption.<br /> <br /> It occurred to me then, that Jamaica, as it approaches its 55th year of Independence in August, had also run out of excuses for failing to end corruption and poverty.<br /> <br /> Greg Christie is an attorney-at-law, governance consultant, and a Jamaica public body director. He is a former contractor general of Jamaica; country director, vice-president and assistant general counsel for Kaiser Aluminum; and a university law lecturer. Send comments to the Observer or<br /> <br /> gjannat@jol.com.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13603298/255211_82006_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Sunday, March 26, 2017 2:00 AM Fighting crime strategically http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Fighting-crime-strategically_93606 It was hoped that when Prime Minister Andrew Holness made his budget presentation he would have articulated a comprehensive crime-fighting plan that reflects a combination of tactical and reactive interventions, on the one hand, that deals with acute and chronic crisis situations; as well as strategic and proactive measures as a part of an overall effort of societal re-engineering. Such a comprehensive plan would contain hard and soft crime-fighting measures that are built around principles of working with members across the aisle and strengthening community alliances and building trust.<br /> <br /> Regrettably the prime minister&rsquo;s dissertation on crime fell short in some of the key areas. His focus was largely on hard, aggressive policing, symptom treatment, and the use of legislation that reflect Trump-like discrimination that could be unconstitutional.<br /> <br /> There is no doubt that some element of hard policing is needed to tackle the problems Jamaica faces, but the bulk of the resources and the focus of the strategy must be on strategic, soft measures, with the possible exception of the proposed ban on corporal punishment in schools.<br /> <br /> In some respects what the prime minister&rsquo;s speech lacked, with respect to the overall crime-fighting agenda, was a failure to articulate and integrate various strategic and soft measures that are being put in place and continued by his Administration. For example, earlier this month, the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) announced that it is setting up two bases in western Jamaica and, in addition, has introduced a new recruitment drive called the National Service Enlistment (NSE). This enlistment initiative will be implemented alongside a government initiative called Learning Earning Giving back and Saving (LEGS). According to Major Basil Jarrett, who was quoted in the Sunday Observer of March 12, 2017, the NSE will train &ldquo;approximately 1,000 persons, aged 18 - 23&hellip;over a one-year period in military, vocational, and broader life skills&rdquo;. There was also a report in the middle of the month that the Ministry of Education plans to introduce life skills, under the Career Advancement Programme, in 20 schools.<br /> <br /> The NSE and LEGS, while not new in content and focus, represent an attempt to address root causes of crime. And, while training a mere 1,000 individuals per year is a drop in the bucket, it is a move in the right direction. It would therefore have been good for the prime minister to spend more time exploring measures such as these, and to commit to effective monitoring and evaluation of these programmes so as to ensure that the expected results are realised, and qualitative &mdash; not just quantitative &mdash; targets are met or exceeded.<br /> <br /> It would have also been opportune for the prime minister to place greater emphasis on the efforts that are being made by groups like the Adventists who will be investing in the training of 7,000 youth. The initiative of the Adventists, which is similar to what other churches and NGOs have been doing &mdash; perhaps on a smaller scale &mdash; confirms what we have long known &mdash; that fighting crime requires the input of the entire community; and this is true regardless of which party is in power. In this regard the prime minister&rsquo;s speech would be less of a report card and a burnishing of his Government&rsquo;s record, and more of a call to action.<br /> <br /> Facts on crime in Jamaica<br /> <br /> The need for greater emphasis on strategic (medium to long-term) and soft measures to tackle crime is justified given what has been established as the underlying causes of crime.<br /> <br /> A Jamaica Observer story of November 4, 2014, entitled &lsquo;Study reveals link between unemployment and crime&rsquo;, reported on research done by Senior Superintendent Norman Heywood and Deputy Superintendent Michael Lawrence. One conclusion of the research was that:<br /> <br /> &ldquo;&hellip; Kingston and St Andrew, combined, accounts for 51 per cent of active gangs in the country, followed by St Catherine with 13 per cent; St James, 10 per cent; and Clarendon seven per cent. The JCF&rsquo;s [Jamaica Constabulary Force] crime data show that these five parishes have consistently accounted for upwards of 73 per cent of total murders and shootings in Jamaica over the last decade.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> The study also found that, &ldquo;&hellip;60 per cent of the murder victims in 2013 [were] aged between 15 and 24 years, and were either unemployed or unskilled labourers&rdquo;. The research found further that &ldquo;&hellip;over the last three years, 60 per cent of murder perpetrators were between 15 to 24 years and were unemployed&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> In addition to the location of criminal activities and gangs, and the demographics of perpetrators and victims, we also know that 70 per cent of murders committed in Jamaica are gang-related. These are not domestic crimes or crimes targeting women and children per se. Thus, for example, of the 1,350 murders that took place in 2016, nearly 1,000 were the result of the activities of gangs. With this being so, then one would expect that a significant amount of the Government&rsquo;s attention would be devoted to dealing with gangs. The 2011 anti-gang strategy of the JCF showed that &ldquo;there were at least 200 criminal gangs operating in Jamaica&rdquo;. A report in the Observer on Friday, November 13, 2015 reported then Police Commissioner Dr Carl Williams as saying there were 266 gangs. We also know some gangs identify themselves as either being aligned with the PNP or the JLP.<br /> <br /> It is therefore a valid argument that the factors that produce criminal gangs are the root causes of crime in Jamaica and, given the age group of the perpetrators of crime, tackling the crime problem requires that the focus be placed on youth, and in particular unattached youth.<br /> <br /> Unattached youth<br /> <br /> A 2009 study by HEART Trust/NTA, entitled Unattached Youth in Jamaica, asserts that there were 127,000 unattached youth in Jamaica, ages 15 to 24. This age cohort accounted for 549,910, according to the 2009 study, representing 23 per cent of the 15 to 24 age cohort. The classification for the unattached youth cohort now covers the ages 15 to 29 and, according to the latest census, that age cohort accounts for 26 per cent of the total population of Jamaica, or just over 750,000. Assuming a similar share of unattached youth as in the 2009 study, the number could now be in the region of 172,000.<br /> <br /> With such a large cohort of unattached youth, the efforts of the JDF, while laudable, are shown to be almost infinitesimal. I am sure that if the Government examines its options more closely it can find resources to train larger numbers of youth in skills areas that are in real demand in new industries globally and locally. The further $300 million to be spent on de-bushing &mdash; and such other sums that are buried in the budget &mdash; may be better spent in increasing skills training opportunities for unattached youth.<br /> <br /> In 2015 the then Government introduced a National Unattached Youth Programme (NUYP). This programme offered a stipend, remedial education, skills training, and apprenticeships to youth, aged 17 to 30, who are not in a job or studying. The programme was short-lived, and up to early 2016 a total of 3,877 youth across the island were registered in the NUYP.<br /> <br /> As late as November 2016 the future of the programme seemed uncertain, prompting the Member of Parliament for St Andrew South Eastern Julian Robinson to call on the Government to indicate when the programme would be resumed. Robinson argued that the programme had a positive impact on young people across the country.<br /> <br /> There needs to be greater articulation between LEGS and NUYP, or clarification about the relationship between the two. The resources required to support these initiatives cannot be the subject of political pulling and pushing, as this is likely to reduce efficacy.<br /> <br /> Given what has been established about the relationship between youth and violent crimes, particularly murders, as well as youth and gangs, and unemployment and involvement in crime, the focus of strategic crime-fighting efforts must be:<br /> <br /> (1) The provision of funding for and greater monitoring of the various programmes that target unattached youth, including the Career Advancement Programme.<br /> <br /> (2) The resumption or remodelling of the NUYP, and the defining of a clear articulation with LEGS.<br /> <br /> (3) The passing of legislation that will make it mandatory for unattached and unemployed youth under the age of 18 years to be attached to a programme of education and skills training, including greater investment in children&rsquo;s homes and places of safety, and for street children under age 18 to be automatically removed from the streets to places of safety. Once removed, contact can be made with parents or guardians, who would be duly processed, charged if warranted, and also kept involved in the child&rsquo;s life.<br /> <br /> (4) Increased investment to reduce teenage pregnancy and among those who are unable to provide for the children they produce.<br /> <br /> (5) Strengthening of the parenting support systems.<br /> <br /> (6) The continued strengthening of institutional working relationship between the JDF and the soon-to-be merged entity comprising HEART Trust/NTA, the National Youth Service and the Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning.<br /> <br /> (7) Increased investment in, and non-partisan spending on social infrastructure (with strict compliance with the procurement guidelines) to create employment opportunities, increased economic activity, reduce the number of criminal sanctuaries, and raise the standards of living for greater numbers of citizens.<br /> <br /> Dr Canute Thompson is a management consultant and lecturer in educational policy, planning, and leadership at the School of Education, The University of the West Indies. He is also co-founder of the Caribbean Leadership Re-Imagination Initiative and author of three books on leadership. Send comments to the Observer or canutethompson1@gmail.com.<br /> <br />   http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13733941/266538_w300.jpg Local Opinion Sunday, March 26, 2017 2:00 AM SMEs may have to pay for election campaign promises http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/SMEs-may-have-to-pay-for-election-campaign-promises_93616 Approximately 300,000 micro, medium and small businesses, many of which have managed to ride the waves of the global economic recession and the years of its after-effects, are set to feel the brunt of the new tax measures proposed in 2017/2018 budget tabled in Parliament last two weeks.<br /> <br /> The Government led by the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which has begun its second year in office, must be commended for its fiscal discipline and management, which was inherited from the previous People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) Government.<br /> <br /> The JLP&rsquo;s radical populism is much like what we have recently witnessed amongst our Caribbean neighbours, where formerly Opposition parties were chosen by their respective electorates to form governments. New ideas abounded and elicited the support of the majority of the people.<br /> <br /> They must be commended for moving the country from 0.9 per cent growth at the end of 2015 to a projected 1.3 per cent growth at the end of 2016. While the unemployment rate has dropped slightly from 13.5 per cent to 12.9 per cent, it is significant to note that this represented 34,000 new jobs which were created.<br /> <br /> In our country of almost three million people, where there is a high rate of unemployment particularly within the unskilled labour force, the self -creation of jobs via the private sector fulfils several important functions: reducing unemployment, contributing to the stabilisation of the economy and growing the gross domestic product. Unemployment also has a significant impact on crime, where the proceeds of crime particularly from the lottery scamming has been a pull for many, among them, the skilled and educated.<br /> <br /> Although they are often overlooked because of their sizes, micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) continue to play an important role in the development of Jamaica. According to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, the MSMEs in Jamaica account for 90 per cent of jobs.<br /> <br /> In Jamaica&rsquo;s case, small businesses (which are not to be confused with what micro and medium-sized businesses, as these are legally classified based on several factors, including size, asset value and profits) are unique. Jamaica&rsquo;s entrepreneural class operates in a wide variety of areas and includes shop owners, taxi drivers, those in the creative arts industries, arts and craft, agriculture, retail, imports and exports, just to name a few.<br /> <br /> Many of these businesses barely survive and will be negatively affected by the proposed measures in the new budget tabled by Finance Minister Audley Shaw on March 10, 2017.<br /> <br /> The package presented by the finance minister includes taxes amounting to $13.5 billion. The tax package contains several measures that will negatively affect SMEs and careful consideration ought to be given in this regard.<br /> <br /> On the whole, SMEs are impacted by increased taxes and this will be inimical to growth. When the cost of operating a business increases there are few ways small businesses can really improve their profits without raising the selling price of products or cutting staff .<br /> <br /> Small businesses have been struggling over the last nine years since the global recession and its after-effects including volatile movements of oil prices internationally. This coupled with Jamaica&rsquo;s arrangements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with its attendant austere measures have negatively impacted disposable incomes, which SMEs depend on for survival.<br /> <br /> GCT of 16.5 per cent on group health insurance will see companies having to pay more on health insurance on behalf of the staff or pass it on to employees. This will have a direct impact on companies&rsquo; profits. If companies were to pass on the increase of health insurance cost to these staff, this will likely result in an unstable industrial relations environment. Staff may agitate for salary increases to cover higher cost of insurance, transport and electricity in most cases. On the other hand if a company chooses to absorb the cost then it may choose to cut staff benefits and or reduce the workforce.<br /> <br /> From a business perspective, the situation is untenable and governments &ndash; past and present should know as they employ a large number of Jamaicans in the public sector and civil service, and they more than anyone else, understand the difficulties with wage negotiations and the loss of skilled labour to the private sector or abroad.<br /> <br /> Reducing the threshold for the application of GCT on the consumption of residential electricity from 350 KWh to 150 kWh per month is going to result in an increase in light bills for many who operate their small businesses &mdash; salons, barber shops and corner shops from home.<br /> <br /> When the standard GCT at 16.5 per cent was re-introduced on electricity by the then Finance Minister, Dr Peter Phillips in 2015, it affected about 30,000 or approximately six per cent of customers who used electricity above the 350 kWh level (according to the Jamaica Public Service Company).<br /> <br /> The JPS which will now pay more on fuel and will pass on the cost on consumers. With these expected increases, raising the Pay As You Earn tax (PAYE) income tax threshold to $1.5 million will be detrimental to far more Jamaicans than the approximately 200,000 who benefit.<br /> <br /> Jamaica&rsquo;s economic situation has brought us to a point where we must call on leaders to be cognizant of the decisions they are entrusted to make on behalf of their constituents.<br /> <br /> By the stroke of a pen, people&rsquo;s livelihoods can be affected negatively. One of the most prominent examples of this is the American President Donald Trump and his popular utterances to revoke ObamaCare (which ensures millions of poor Americans can afford healthcare and are protected from predatory pharmaceutical companies).<br /> <br /> ObamaCare and its impending revocation was one of the main talking points of the Trump Campaign. It would appear that insufficient research was done and any revocation will jeopardise the lives of millions &mdash; including those who voted for Trump. Similarly it appears that insufficient research was carried out in promising to raise the tax threshold without additional taxes.<br /> <br /> The long and short is that in the same way the Trump Administration is now enslaved to the repeal of ObamaCare, the JLP administration is enslaved to deliver on the $1.5 million, regardless of the imbalances or growth impediments that may arise.<br /> <br /> Politicians have a duty to be responsible and practical when developing policies which can affect the lives of people. Unlike days gone by, technology abounds and in the hands of the average Jamaican it easy for them to go back and fact check what the politician said, and whether it aligns with what he/she is doing as is evident in the recent pronouncements of Prime Minister Andrew Holness in reneging on his position on using National Housing Trust (NHT) funds to plug the shortfall in the budget.<br /> <br /> It also makes it easier for constituents to see and understand how policies affect the middle class, as well as the most vulnerable in society.<br /> <br /> While some SMEs have proven to be more resilient than others by weathering one storm after another, increasing taxes will always increase the burden of doing business.<br /> <br /> Last year, Jamaica led the Caribbean at 67th place in the world prestigious &lsquo;Doing Business Report 2017. The Government, however, ought to be reminded that the private sector (large, medium and small businesses and individuals) is the engine of growth and, in order to improve on this ranking, there is a responsibility to create an environment conducive to doing business, where the impact of incentives and taxes are taken into consideration.<br /> <br /> We need to get to a point where taxation policy becomes reasonably predictable.<br /> <br /> If the government is not careful, its 5-in-4 plan may be thwarted by a consumer recession, where people spend less or where their budgets are squeezed as commodity prices go up.<br /> <br /> Tax increases do suppress business activities or, in unfortunate cases, put companies out of business.<br /> <br /> Putting more money in the pockets of Jamaicans is always a good idea, but it is not a solid economic plan to prevent a recession, and with the Government under strict fiscal management, the possibility of spending to stimulate economic activity is not on at this time.<br /> <br /> There is also the impact of limited government resources being available to fight crime and improve health care and education.<br /> <br /> Therefore, I urge that consideration be given to the protection of SMEs and that their broader contribution to the economy be recognised.<br /> <br /> Being a business owner myself, constantly looking at ways to expand, I will have to carefully examine this process to ensure that the taxes being imposed will not negatively affect my staff, nor my strategic business goals.<br /> <br /> Employee satisfaction is important to me as I believe that a happy worker is a productive worker, and I fully understand that with increased costs for electricity, health insurance and taxi fare, so too will food and other expenses go up, and this will undoubtedly affect staff morale.<br /> <br /> It is imperative that the Government shows its support for the growth of SMEs by carefully considering the total impact of this tax break: Will it create a greater encumbrance as it re-distributes the burden to the most affected &mdash; the poor and vulnerable? Or will it enhance growth?<br /> <br /> Afterall, if public sector workers and civil servants were considerate enough to agree to wage freezes, as the Government sought to instill fiscal discipline under the IMF, so too should we be able to wait for the completion of this $1.5-million write off.<br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> (Hugh Graham is Managing Director of Paramount Trading (Jamaica) Limited and People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) Councillor for the Lluidas Vale division of the St Catherine Municipal Corporation.) http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13735775/266559_92557_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Sunday, March 26, 2017 12:00 AM Vision or perish? Part 2 &mdash; We need an igniting vision http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Vision-or-perish--Part-2---We-need-an-igniting-vision_93521 The year 1980 was a horrendous year in Jamaica&rsquo;s journey from Independence towards prosperity. Hundreds of Jamaicans lost their lives to horrific politically motivated violence by the time the election took place in October 1980.<br /> <br /> Two months before ballots were cast, Stanley Beckford and the Starlights won the prestigious Jamaica Festival Song Contest in August 1980 with the song New Jamaica:<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I&rsquo;m dreaming of a new Jamaica, a land of peace and love.<br /> <br /> Some say they cannot see no hope, that&rsquo;s why they leave this land. <br /> <br /> I know there is hope somewhere, that&rsquo;s why I wrote this song<br /> <br /> So all who believe in love, come sing this song with me&hellip;&rdquo;<br /> <br /> What will it take?<br /> <br /> Stanley&rsquo;s vision of a new Jamaica was motivated by the reality of the Jamaica at that time. Sadly, though, his visionary song was not, and has not been enough to usher in that new Jamaica. What will it really take?<br /> <br /> Last week we began a conversation on the need for a really saleable vision as a fundamental pillar for a nation&rsquo;s progress and prosperity. We pointed out that Vision 2030 Jamaica is an excellent plan and development programme with overall content for all sectors. We noted that the vision statement, &ldquo;Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business&rdquo;, is more the result of a vision &mdash; an outcome, and not a stimulating vision or rallying call that excites and engages citizens.<br /> <br /> We need an igniting vision<br /> <br /> At this stage, our nation needs a &lsquo;call to action&rsquo; type vision, which all can engage, own and contribute towards. One that enables them to see their own dreams and those of their children actualised within the vision.<br /> <br /> A vision must make people dream. It should make them able to imagine their own personal dream&rsquo;s fulfilment within the vision. An inspiring vision, though appearing to some as idealistic, should give a positive view of the future, the hope of a transformed environment in which their values and skills can find expression.<br /> <br /> I posit that the nation does not currently have a cohesive vision. Are our leaders prepared to speedily put in place a team to craft a saleable national vision with the appropriate driving forces around which to mobilise our nation?<br /> <br /> The country needs a &lsquo;now vision&rsquo; that is able to spark the fire of hope in our people. Jamaica today needs a &lsquo;cause vision&rsquo;, something to fight for.<br /> <br /> We need a vision that speaks to us, where we are, with a hope to propel us to where we want to be. Plans and programmes do not rally a people like an articulated vision does. I suggest that a major reason the nation is unable to defeat crime, injustice, poverty, etc, is because there is no shared, embraced vision. A desire for peace and prosperity is not a vision.<br /> <br /> Write a vision<br /> <br /> I encourage you, instead of losing heart or running away, to start a dialogue in your circle about creating a vision that could excite our people. Share it with this paper and with me so it can be shared in turn with our leaders. How is this for starters? &ldquo;Jamaica, ensuring equal rights, justice and opportunities for all; working together for prosperity in peace, love and happiness.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> With a clear national vision, our leaders will be better able to galvanise the nation towards a path to real growth and development. Citizens can better keep leaders accountable and judge their performance against the vision to determine who can best take us to the desired destination.<br /> <br /> The national vision should then be the driver for leadership action, by precept and practice, and the overarching reference for public policies and programmes, to make it believable by citizens and realisable by visible evidence. People committed to a vision that gives a &lsquo;cause to work and fight for&rsquo; are unstoppable.<br /> <br /> Sell the vision<br /> <br /> A really saleable vision should be echoed from the mountaintops and into every valley from Negril to Morant Point. It should be a vision from which everyone can benefit in the short term, while giving hope for the long term. It should be on billboards in schools and all institutions of learning and places of worship. Social workers and our musicians should be asked to be carriers and disseminators of this vision.<br /> <br /> One awesome power of a shared vision is that it gives hope. The youth of this nation need hope from a vision to drive performance in school, service to community, productivity, creativity and innovation.<br /> <br /> Visionless leadership must go<br /> <br /> It broke my heart some years ago when I shared with a vice-president of one of our two major political parties that the youth of our nation are discouraged, have no hope, and most of them only see their future in foreign lands.<br /> <br /> My heart sank at his dismissive answer: &ldquo;Mek dem gwaan, we don&rsquo;t have work here for most of dem anyway.&rdquo; Of course, his own children were overseas, so he had little concern for the majority of our youth who lack that opportunity. Such thinking represents leadership without vision! If the VP&rsquo;s view is characteristic of his party and of our Members of Parliament, we are in deep water without a paddle.<br /> <br /> Personal vision is good<br /> <br /> This principle of vision is not only for nations and organisations. We should seek to apply it to personal life, family and marriage. During premarital counselling, I encourage all couples to write a vision statement for their marriage and family to inform and guide the desired end for the relationship.<br /> <br /> The vision must be allowed to inform the environment to be created and the values required to realise the vision. In whatever sphere a vision is established, there must be a commitment to remain faithful to it. You cannot establish a vision, then make mission decisions that are contrary to it.<br /> <br /> Don&rsquo;t act contrary to the vision<br /> <br /> The decades of the 70s to the 90s give us a perfect example of this contradictory approach. In that era, Jamaica first turned to external lenders like the International Monetary Fund to sustain the economy, then to the international capital markets, where we were the first island nation to successfully float a Eurobond. Our then leaders celebrated our dependence on borrowing as a tool to keep our consumer-driven economy going. We have latched on to this &lsquo;borrowing mode&rsquo; as if it is part of the vision, mortgaging away the future of our children. Our leaders should remember that Proverbs 22: 7 says, &ldquo;The borrower is slave to the lender.&rdquo; Our founding fathers had and delivered a vision of independence, not dependence. A vision rooted in independence should make our leaders and experts concentrate their skills on increasing our ability to produce instead of borrowing.<br /> <br /> How would we now succinctly describe the path our nation is following in relation to our current limited vision? Let&rsquo;s take a look. We seem to be on:<br /> <br /> &bull; a path of dependence on borrowing to survive;<br /> <br /> &bull; a path of moral deca &mdash; mores such as dishonesty, corruption, homosexuality as accepted and celebrated lifestyles;<br /> <br /> &bull; a path of consumerism over productivity;<br /> <br /> &bull; a path of increased wealth for the rich and poverty for the poor;<br /> <br /> &bull; a path of increased crime, violence, injustice and taxation;<br /> <br /> &bull; a path of increased sexual abuse and lewdness.<br /> <br /> Get the picture?<br /> <br /> Remember that biblical adage: &ldquo;Where there is no vision, the people perish&rdquo; (or live carelessly). It will take a new national vision that considers the seriousness of our current negative issues, and inspires us to turn away from these reckless lifestyles that will only lead to further national decay. <br /> <br /> An old Chinese proverb says: &ldquo;Unless you change direction, you are likely to arrive at where you are heading.&rdquo; It is urgent that we craft a vision along the lines discussed in these articles (parts 1 and 2); a vision that touches the core of our problems and heralds a new day &mdash; igniting a passion from the grass roots to Parliament.<br /> <br /> No people can long survive or come out of entrapment or experience transformation without a driving vision of hope. May we all be humble enough, yet bold enough, to come up with a shared national vision, and may we all give our 100 per cent commitment to build it into reality.<br /> <br /> I know there is hope somewhere, that&rsquo;s why I wrote this [article]. Add these thoughts:<br /> <br /> &ldquo;So all who believe in love, come sing this song with me;<br /> <br /> I&rsquo;m dreaming of a new Jamaica; a land of peace and love.&rdquo; <br /> <br /> Al Miller is pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle. Send comments to the Observer or <br /> <br /> pastormilleroffice@gmail.com.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13733329/266467_w300.jpg Local Opinion Sunday, March 26, 2017 2:00 AM The many feelings of ISSA http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-many-feelings-of-ISSA_93589 Much has been said about the decision by the Inter-secondary School Sports Association (ISSA) to allow Aryamanya Rodgers, a native of Uganda, to compete in the 2017 ISSA Boys&rsquo; & Girls&rsquo; Athletics Championships. And it is also being said far and wide that the Calabar family is adamant that Rodgers should not be allowed to compete, and is therefore against Kingston College (KC). Nothing is further from the truth.<br /> <br /> It was stated in Calabar High School&rsquo;s press release of March 15, 2017 that:<br /> <br /> 1. Calabar has no issue with Kingston College. By extension we shall do nothing that would make the student a victim of circumstances not of his own creating.<br /> <br /> 2. Calabar&rsquo;s issue is with ISSA.<br /> <br /> If Calabar had an issue with KC, it would have filed an injunction in the court to prevent Rodgers from competing in the 2017 Boys&rsquo; Champs; and it is notable that legal precedent supports the view that the court would likely have granted such an injunction.<br /> <br /> ISSA has certainly come a long way from the days of stalwarts like Isaac Henry and Freddie Green, who some people credit with the transformation of ISSA as the oversight body for high school sporting events to meet the then &lsquo;present day&rsquo; needs of the 1960s.<br /> <br /> Since the turn of the century, heavy demand by spectators, increased marketing and sponsorship, improved athletic performances by student athletes throughout Jamaica, technological advancements, modernisation and, importantly, Jamaica&rsquo;s athletic prowess on the global stage have resulted in Champs being the premier track and field event of Jamaica. ISSA has responded admirably in various ways to these factors, but has it done enough internally to meet the challenges of today&rsquo;s world?<br /> <br /> Specifically, is it sufficiently sound in its leadership, oversight and governance of high school sports? Do the internal structures and decision-making processes fit with established and accepted corporate governance principles which must function within an appropriate legislative or rules-based framework?<br /> <br /> The Corporate Governance Framework for Public Sector Bodies in Jamaica states, &ldquo;Corporate Governance...encompasses authority, accountability, stewardship, leadership, and direction of an organisation. It therefore involves the totality of the systems and frameworks that ensure that a culture of accountability permeates the organisation, so that individuals know what their responsibilities are, and are equipped with the appropriate tools and skills to exercise them.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> It is noted that, by definition, ISSA is not a public sector body, but as it provides oversight of sports competitions throughout Jamaica, in which participants are public high schools that are funded by the Government of Jamaica, it ought to submit itself to the Corporate Governance Framework for Public Sector Bodies.<br /> <br /> The Rodgers debacle is but one recent example of ISSA&rsquo;s weak governance framework. Other examples are their decision to change the number of events in which participants are allowed to enter, and their decision to limit Class 4 athletes to compete in one individual event. In the latter two situations it is questionable whether sufficient consultation with key stakeholders was undertaken in a timely manner, and whether participating schools were given reasonable notice. And, as for the Rodgers matter, it is questionable whether any due diligence was done.<br /> <br /> ISSA&rsquo;s President Dr Walton Small recently stated in the media that ISSA has a &lsquo;favours committee&rsquo; that meets occasionally to decide whether or not they should break their own rules, and that in making decisions this &lsquo;favours committee&rsquo; is guided solely by the discretion and personal feelings of its members, and not by a set of established criteria or guidelines.<br /> <br /> I submit that decisions made by such a committee would naturally lack transparency, consistency and objectivity, and therefore it is not surprising that the statement issued by ISSA on the decision to allow Rodgers to compete contains no form of reasoning or &ldquo;scholarship&rdquo;, and demonstrates that ISSA considers itself to be accountable only to ISSA itself.<br /> <br /> This therefore gives rise to the following questions: Does the ISSA leadership recognise the purpose of and reasons for applying established governance principles? Are we satisfied that the voices of key stakeholders are being considered in decision-making? If ISSA is accountable only to itself, are the schools that provide the most critical input into Champs &mdash; that is, the athletes &mdash; receiving optimal prize money? Does ISSA possess the capacity, intellectually or otherwise, to take the administration of high school sports to the next level?<br /> <br /> If there is doubt in our minds with regard to the answers to any of these questions, then perhaps it is now time for a reform of ISSA&rsquo;s structures, procedures and processes, as continuing to make decisions in the manner in which it presently does is likely to be less than palatable.<br /> <br /> David Miller is president of Calabar Old Boys&rsquo; Association.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13719734/265146_91383_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Sunday, March 26, 2017 2:00 AM Battles lines drawn in the sand http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Battles-lines-drawn-in-the-sand_93491 The People&rsquo;s National Party&rsquo;s (PNP) walkout from Gordon House last week is the prelude to any number of walkabout opportunities likely to come their way. New Opposition Leader Peter Phillips is off on a roll, and if the media coverage pictures are anything to go by, he and his portly parliamentary colleagues all seem to need the exercise. Roll back the taxes was transformed into a roly-poly parade before our very eyes as they made for the door looking like a church choir that had misplaced their robes.<br /> <br /> This was not a good walkout. A parliamentary walkout is supposed to be conducted in righteous indignation with heads held high. This one appeared rather chunky and clumsy, with members scrambling over each other and the door space choked as if some mischievous person had his foot in it.<br /> <br /> Unperturbed, and to his credit, Finance Minister Audley Shaw continued his presentation, vowing to keep the Opposition members on their toes.<br /> <br /> Peter Phillips would have meant for this planned walkout to be a clear signal of encouragement to any other group wanting to share in the exercise. As one of the party spokesmen self-righteously put it, &ldquo;The PNP is not going to lead any demonstration as we have the interests and the stability of the country at heart, but, if any other group or organisation wants to do a walkabout, then by all means, show up your colours and go right ahead.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Expect more of those veiled messages at the crowning of the new Opposition leader ceremony today. Coming immediately after a budget which has taken a big bite out of the cherry, the PNP has been provided with a trumpet opportunity to re-establish its viability, its vitality, its presence, and its political sharpness. If ever a party needed a cause for members to coalesce around, they got it gift-wrapped and presented to them on a plate by the prime minister and his finance minister in the form of the tax package attached to the budget.<br /> <br /> They can now move from the arena and maybe go on a round-the-island tour &mdash; ostensibly to present their new esteemed leader to every nook and cranny, but in reality to pressure the Government to &lsquo;roll it back&rsquo; and to lay siege to the Jamaica Labour Party&rsquo;s (JLP) one-seat majority. It&rsquo;s a kind of a &ldquo;PNP is back&rdquo; after a two-year hiatus of mistakes, posturing, backbiting and infighting. Since their election loss they have been virtually headless and going nowhere. But the PNP is back, whether by good fortune or design, and that can only be good for our democracy.<br /> <br /> The JLP has had an unbelievable first year of popularity, favouritism in the polls, and a breezy, pragmatic style of managing the country with a sense of confidence generated by the leader himself, who looks like a prime minister, speaks like a prime minister, and acts like a prime minister in most regards.<br /> <br /> They will now have to prepare themselves for a new Peter Phillips as he takes on the full-time role and responsibilities of party leader and starts looking for those alligators &lsquo;down a ribber bottom&rsquo;. It&rsquo;s his turn to stir up the water, but he will have to be careful that the alligators don&rsquo;t turn around and bite him.<br /> <br /> Without any Opposition to speak of, the JLP has had it their way for much of the first year. As we picture it, they passed the Jamaica 1st Year Local Exam, but must now move up to 2nd year, and an even stiffer exam awaits them when they move up to 3rd year. And remember, after that there are no free places.<br /> <br /> They have, in my own limited comprehension, put forward a credible budget that suits the time. One critical organisation, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, has come out and said that it has assessed the package and is commending the move towards indirect taxation from direct taxation. From my armchair seat, however, what has been lacking in the Government presentations is that sense of empathy where you can feel that there is an understanding of what it will cost people to adjust to new budget demands.<br /> <br /> We who are outside of the trenches can understand the strong defence of the measures. But it has to be sprinkled with a little bit of the &lsquo;quality of mercy&rsquo;, otherwise the next step, for sure, is complacency and arrogance. This Government, under Andrew Holness, has shown absolutely no form of arrogance to date. But just behind the door there may be a little cocksureness creeping in; and if that happens, be sure it will spoil the party. <br /> <br /> In preparing this budget the Government has listened, and to a great extent they have consulted. They have consulted with representatives of institutions opposed to various aspects of the controversial tax package. That&rsquo;s good. So far as we gather, the PNP had very little plausible argument against the proposals and was not prepared to vote against the appropriations Bill.<br /> <br /> Their actions and statements, however, imply that their objection is on a political basis. Here is the seeming line of argument: Budget, yes, but that blinking tax package is the result of your political promise. It was a promise that cost us the election. You are now trying to fund it, and if you do you will have kept your promise. We cannot allow you to fund it. So roll back the taxes.<br /> <br /> But that, Dr Phillips, is just so-so politics.<br /> <br /> And so the games will continue, as the battle lines are now drawn and the PNP has finally drawn their own lines in the sand.<br /> <br /> Dr Phillips is going to have a lot of walking to do. By the time he is finished we will certainly have a leaner Opposition. <br /> <br /> We now hope that good sense will prevail and the Opposition will allow the consultation designed by the budget format for decent exchange of views across the floor to take place. The people expect the Opposition to fight their battles for them inside the walls of Gordon House; not to take it outside and encourage others to fight the battles for them.<br /> <br /> Gems from way back when<br /> <br /> I have some reminders shared by many friends who have the ability to remember fashionable trends and events that have long disappeared, leaving only pleasant memories. For example, the milkshake at Dairy Farmers and the banana split at Oxford Pharmacy, the pineapple juice at Sunrise Inn between May Pen and Old Harbour, and the curry goat which still plays first fiddle at the top of Spur Tree Hill.<br /> <br /> It&rsquo;s OK, it&rsquo;s Kelly&rsquo;s, O-So Good and Nu Grape were the soft drinks of the day, while Kingstonians still speak with a lump in their throats about the bumper-to-bumper traffic getting into Harbour View Drive-In, and the food service you got at the car door from the window trays.<br /> <br /> You avoided the other exit road, Four Shore, especially at nights, as that was taken over by scores of mule and donkey-drawn drays with lanterns swinging under the cart bed, and their 5 mph maximum speed holding up traffic for miles. Then the city folk came back and asked you if you knew Jolly Joseph, Monty&rsquo;s Drive-In after movies, Epiphany when it was run by Evon Williams, Bruce&rsquo;s Patties, Johnson&rsquo;s Drive-In, Sombrero Club, and Times Store. Ha! Country folk would lick back with Burger House in MoBay, which also had drive-in service and served real hamburgers; Uncle Sam&rsquo;s patties in May Pen; cashew banana drink at Toll Gate; and fried fish and bread at the Old Harbour Railway Station.<br /> <br /> So let&rsquo;s talk about Record Plaza, where you sat in a booth and played your LPs before purchase and enjoyed everything Motown (Diana, Supremes, Smokey, Four Tops, Temptations, and Marvin Gaye). It didn&rsquo;t get better!<br /> <br /> In those days, Teenage Dance party on JBC Radio was swinging all the way from Negril to Portland Point, and Charlie Babcock on Radio Jamaica was deejaying as the &ldquo;Cool Fool&rdquo; with the live jive.<br /> <br /> Then the questions come up: Anybody here remember the chukkie vs the soul boy, the bell-bottoms, the platform boots, and so on? Or Brooks Shoppers Fair on Washington Boulevard, Lannaman&rsquo;s Children Hour with Dotty Dean, Cocomo and Icicle, the black telephones with round dials that moved as you dialled a number, rent-a-tile, when Boys&rsquo; Champs was at Sabina, and the Lou and Ranny Show?<br /> <br /> And then the classic from the girls: Being stuck with the wrong guy for 13 minutes and 42 seconds when they put on Isaac Hayes&rsquo;<br /> <br /> I stand accused or the Beatles&rsquo; Hey Jude.<br /> <br /> Some nice look-backs for a lazy Sunday morning.<br /> <br /> Lance Neita is a public and community relations consultant. Send comments to the Observer or <br /> <br /> lanceneita@hotmail.com.<br /> <br />   http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13733874/266537.jpg Local Opinion Sunday, March 26, 2017 2:00 AM What do we do for Africa? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/What-do-we-do-for-Africa-_93477 Jamaicans say they love Africa but are absent when Africa needs help. With Ebola rampant we wrung hands. When girls were kidnapped, we bawl the living eye water. Now famine stalks Africa, we do nothing.<br /> <br /> Once we were in tune with roots; black Americans had no glossy picture books about fictional empires to balm racial hurt, but we needed no opiates. The West Indies (Anglophone Caribbean), aka Caricom, is the largest body of black nations outside Africa (all islands 90 per cent black). We run things. We are blessed as our poverty is small to Africa&rsquo;s. We led anti-apartheid, black power, Third-World issues. We are large yet oblivious of Africa&rsquo;s famine. Where is our leadership? Have we no compassion?<br /> <br /> The University of the West Indies (UWI) students were keen and we led the islands in vision, passion and action. Back then, churches, unions, entertainers, and pressure groups extended freedom; some now cauterise them. We had conscious politicians who stood firm and defied the cookie cutter mentality and UWI teemed with intellectual energy. Journalist were no echo chamber for politicians mouthing bumper sticker clich&Atilde;&copy;s; they bruited issues of gravitas &mdash; not always right &mdash; but spoke for the small man and paths less travelled as the worn ones got us nowhere. We owned African issues. UWI balanced activism and academic excellence, and we were better for this. So what happened to us?<br /> <br /> Today Ethiopia, East Africa is in the throes of famine and starvation yet we have no fund-raising, volunteers or food banks. British media appeals are in high gear, and as I write a London radio station asks &Acirc;&pound;5 from every listener. Our diaspora is inert as &ldquo;some 800,000 kids in East Africa, aged six months to five years, need life-saving treatment for acute malnutrition&rdquo; (<br /> <br /> ITV News).<br /> <br /> The UK Cabinet is in relief mode despite Brexit, Scotland and the Westminster terrorist attack by ISIS &mdash; four killed, 40 injured. Is our Cabinet, Caricom too busy? UK Disaster Emergency Committee is raising money to help over 16 million people near starvation in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan ( ITV News). Last week&rsquo;s campaign raised &Acirc;&pound;15 million from the public in one day. Nigeria, well-endowed in minerals, oil, farmland, manpower is facing famine in the north-east with 17 million at risk; 75,000 kids face starvation and some 10 people a day die of hunger in camps near State capital Maiduguri (<br /> <br /> The Guardian, UK). Wealthy Nigerians hold back fearing corrupt use of their cash, but in London some &Acirc;&pound;24 million was raised up to Friday. Do we care?<br /> <br /> Rastafari, Africanists, academics glorify Ethiopia to enhance causes and careers, but don&rsquo;t care a damn for Africa &mdash; all PR! In the UK charities work in Africa, white people give millions, and students take a gap year to help out. We see nothing, hear nothing, and have not one &ldquo;live aid&rdquo; concert for Africa. Our entertainers, cultural activists &ldquo;eat a food&rdquo; on the back of Africa, yet are insensitive to its trials. We exploit Brand Africa for enrichment but, &ldquo;Oh, we poor what can we give?&rdquo; Anancy lives!<br /> <br /> We are part of but not the Caribbean, and many brands which say &ldquo;Caribbean&rdquo; are West Indian. Core Caribbean peoples in large islands are excluded from Caricom by closet racists, so we imagine blacks, as in Africa, are their priority. But, no, play the race card to keep power black. To them Africa is image and convenience &mdash; get reparation from white buyers not black sellers of slaves. Africa still sells people yet starve; Europe no longer buys people and prosper &mdash; retribution?<br /> <br /> Some say the white man caused famines in Africa but Ethiopia, the home of Rastafari god, which was never a colony, had famines since pre-history. The images of skin-and-bone kids, as in the 80s, with whites distributing aid are suppressed, but our media must expose them. Black Americans are invisible; Caricom and Rastafari too, yet Trinidad and Guyana Indians were generous when their fatherland had floods. What do we do for Africa? Will we send Red Stripe cassava, Trade Winds oranges, JP bananas? What will Cabinet send? What will Caricom? Sympathy? I am ashamed for Jamaica.<br /> <br /> Derek Walcott is dead<br /> <br /> St Lucian, Nobel laureate 1992, and Caribbean man Derek Walcott is dead. He was a global icon who I studied, acted in his plays, met in my youth, raved about &ldquo;Ti-Jean and his brothers&rdquo;; his love affair with himself was patent. I was gutted when, in 2009, he missed the Oxford chair in poetry. He withdrew after sexual harassment accusations in Boston went public. Curiously, self-confessed sadomasochist Vidia Naipaul (Nobel laureate, 2001, Trinidad) makes &ldquo;Fifty shades of Grey&rdquo; pale &mdash; violence to his mistress for &ldquo;carnal pleasure&rdquo; was his thing. Geniuses in literature are not like us. Walcott&rsquo;s canvas was the West Indies, Britain, its diaspora. His muse was not in our big islands &mdash; icons of miscegenation which make the Caribbean unique. The English were not as Spanish, French and Portuguese men who came to stay and sowed seed. Walcott was not the first Caribbean laureate in literature as many think. Our news is restricted by what Ronald Thwaites calls &ldquo;the arrogance of English&rdquo; and Cabinets post-colonial prejudice, so we know little of the non-English speaking Caribbean. Our media must get with neighbours and give us real Caribbean news; break apartheid and proclaim one Caribbean for the 21st century. We be ignorant!<br /> <br /> Saint-John Perse (Alexis Leger), Guadeloupean born, 1960 Nobel laureate for literature and near polymath was unknown to my students as he was not from the West Indies and near white. Happily, business is bringing us closer to the core Caribbean (French, Spanish) as they export and expand &mdash; these firms are true heroes. We are de facto leaders in Caricom, so as trade engulfs the Dominican Republican, Puerto Rico, Cuba, etc, the racial confection created by that body will fail and market forces, indigenous cultures will open our great sea to each other and we will be truly free. Our space is not black Africa or white Europe but many shades of brown &mdash; our unique Caribbean identity! One day we will praise laureates Alexis Leger, Arthur Lewis (St Lucia) 1979, Derek Walcott, Vidia Naipaul (2001) as Caribbean men in this English, French, Spanish space &mdash; no racism, no political union, no bull! Stay conscious! <br /> <br /> Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager. Send comments to the Observer or<br /> <br /> franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13731232/266358_92179_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Saturday, March 25, 2017 12:00 AM The ups and downs of Race Course history http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-ups-and-downs-of-Race-Course-history_93481 It seems a force is determined to deprive residents of Allman Town and other long-established communities in mid-town Kingston from what could have been put to use, long ago, to create a recreation space which could add to the quality of life of citizens long resident there.<br /> <br /> Heroes&rsquo; Park is an area getting set to be hauled and pulled again. Why couldn&rsquo;t they have a park like others did? Whoever benefits, it won&rsquo;t be the citizens, some believe.<br /> <br /> I am fully aware that Heroes&rsquo; Park is, for some people of power, a big, valuable piece of public land which has been sitting there for years, waiting to be developed, which, being interpreted is, &ldquo;make money&rdquo;, especially for those who have nuff already.<br /> <br /> The big, open land which is called Heroes&rsquo; Park has a longer, stronger history than most of us know. It is a unique, urban area. Before the name Heroes&rsquo; Park emerged, it was called &ldquo;Race Course&rdquo;, a historic landmark. People in the know can tell of a time past when it was not &ldquo;Caymanas&rdquo; or Knutsford Park, which claimed the spotlight for horse racing.<br /> <br /> Today&rsquo;s people were not around for the early days of horses, but there are stories of big tents for visiting circuses. I fall under the visiting circus era with an unforgettable experience of a visit to a circus in Race Course when a lion got loose. He walked quietly around while adults and pickney alike shivered. He was caught and returned to captivity, leaving stories to be told forever. <br /> <br /> Then, there was another headliner when the famous Paul Robeson came to entertain with his amazing voice in a concert at Race Course. The evening came to a painful end when one (or it could be more), of the stands, which were occupied by a large and active audience, broke down, taking several patrons, young and not so young, to injury and a few to their death. The death toll included a young cousin of our extended family. It bears a painful memory still.<br /> <br /> Race Course that night was no place for enjoyment. It was all over the news. Our side of the family, fortunately, was not present. And, for a while, our enthusiasm for Race Course was almost wiped out as a place of recreation. <br /> <br /> History books bear testimony to the varied nature of Race Course events, for instance, when an exposition staged there brought to Jamaica distinguished guests from far-off lands. Some of it was beyond my time, so I could only settle for hearsay, but from what was told to us, big tings did gwaan.<br /> <br /> While our family continued to live in Allman Town, a friendly community, Race Course became the scene of popular sports events, among them, cycle riding and boxing. Contenders put into those games all the skill they possessed and were rewarded with prizes and titles.<br /> <br /> The eldest son in our family, brother Howie, excelled in cycle racing, but didn&rsquo;t waste time talking about it for talking sake. When word spread of a promising young cyclist who led the field on the cycling track at Race Course, it was then our parents and the rest of the family discovered that we had a star with us. From then on, we associated our brother with the saying: &ldquo;A man of few words&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> There was a section of the extensive area called Race Course which was reserved for boxing. A gym was developed on the western side of the property and became very popular, but eventually, for reasons I still do not know, it was dismantled. Travel around the western area of the space and talk with the elders &mdash; as far as some are concerned it is still Race Course. It is likely that you will get an earful of what Race Course used to mean to Kingstonians. It provided space to kick football. There was where many were taught how to ride a bicycle. Young boxers earned their victories from training at the gym. Then, one day, we got awake to find that the great Race Course days were over.<br /> <br /> When lifestyles in the area changed, Race Course became neglected. Imagine how much more could have been done for athletics in an area still surrounded by many schools, even now. If somebody had only had the foresight and the will to care for the needs of a new and creative people the name Race Course might still be revered and respected. If there had been courage to develop Race Course, not only Allman Town, but other areas, today it would be an essential part of mid-Kingston. <br /> <br /> There still remains many schools in and around the heart of the city, from east to west Kingston, where young people could have benefited in their growing-up years. And even now, they could have maintained organised sports facilities and programmes and have them made available to youngsters.<br /> <br /> Unfortunately, Race Course has been neglected and the area allowed to degenerate into a dust bowl and a car park. Even today, there are occasional bouts of criticism of the authorities as to why Race Course has been allowed to degenerate. Response has been rare.<br /> <br /> The title &ldquo;National Heroes Park&rdquo; replaced the old brand, and today, even<br /> <br /> Wikipedia, a foreign source of our own information, can educate us on what was and what is. Meanwhile, research reveals that it goes all the way back to 1783 that the park was originally a race track called &ldquo;Kingston Race Course&rdquo;. Poor King George didn&rsquo;t even know where we were, but they tacked on his name and christened the place for him. <br /> <br /> By 1905, George gave way to Knutsford Park and George VI Memorial Park. Gradually, over the years, many other developments have tried to be a big success, but &ldquo;not to that&rdquo;. It eventually became a place of heroes, a place of monuments, each keeping alive the memory of our heroes, from post-slavery to now.<br /> <br /> Will plunking down the Parliament building there now make a relevant contribution?<br /> <br /> When the current &ldquo;Prince of Parliament&rdquo; decided to declare earlier this week his intention to pack up and move Parliament from the corner of Duke Street and Beeston Street in downtown Kingston to the aforesaid Race Course land it was another round for conversation. Here we go again, redefining Race Course. This is not the first time that a prince of Parliament is flexing power in this field. <br /> <br /> There have been more than one predecessor to the throne before him who was determined &mdash; or so it was said &mdash; to make a move. The belief apparently is that a new location would have made a better Parliament. In time, however, as soon as one would-be Prince begins to show off what the new Parliament would be like, kass-kass begins.<br /> <br /> A popular view has always been: Why spend up big money to make the trek from downtown to midtown, especially when we have other bills to pay? Will the move-up improve the quality of Parliament?<br /> <br /> It is early days yet, but I wouldn&rsquo;t be surprised if we hear the same complaint again soon.<br /> <br /> Question time, Mister Speaker, please to hear my voice: Will prosperity arrive in time to pay for &ldquo;Race Course&rdquo;? From where will funding come? Taxes or taxis?<br /> <br /> Farewell to a genius friend<br /> <br /> Walk good, Derek. The first poetic line I can recall hearing from you (1960s), &ldquo;Trees with white socks&rdquo;. You seem to have seen that phenomenon soon after you arrived on The University of the West Indies campus and saw trees whitewashed halfway. And what about &ldquo;Jamaica is a wearing-out place.&rdquo; Echoes of the seventies. You weren&rsquo;t laughing at us. You were just being introduced to us. Walk good, friend. Glad to have known you.<br /> <br /> Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or <br /> <br /> gloudonb@yahoo.com.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13358612/172624_61941_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Friday, March 24, 2017 12:00 AM It all comes out in the wash http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/It-all-comes-out-in-the-wash_93206 The Welshman William Haydn Middleton, who was headmaster of Jamaica College (JC) from 1965 to 1970, died on February 25. He was approaching his 92nd birthday, which he would have reached yesterday had he lived. Students in his time as JC headmaster who served or still serve in Jamaica&rsquo;s legislature include Bruce Golding, Dr Peter Phillips, Thomas Tavares-Finson, and Lambert Brown.<br /> <br /> I was in second form and a boarder when Middleton took over as headmaster. On his very first morning we heard his new rules. No boy would henceforth be allowed to ride bicycles on the compound. Each day student was to dismount the bicycle at the gate and walk in with the bicycle. No parent or guardian of any day student could drive into JC in the mornings. They were to alight the cars at the gate.<br /> <br /> Bruce Golding was head boy of JC in the academic year 1965-66. At no time was there a contest between Golding and Peter Phillips for head boy. Phillips was not a prefect that year at all and, in fact, is two years younger than Golding. In the academic year 1966-67 Phillips was a prefect, and at the end of the year was a co-editor of the JC magazine. He insisted that I make a contribution, which I did in the form of a poem. It was the first time I ever saw my writing in print.<br /> <br /> Middleton did not force any student to wear short pants. What is true is that there was a rumour to the effect that he would enforce a short pants rule, but Middleton did no such thing. However, his new rules were that boys who wore short pants had to wear long socks and that the short pants were &ldquo;not to be lower than the calf&rdquo;. It was the first time that I ever knew that the word &lsquo;calf&rsquo; could be used in a context other than a baby cow.<br /> <br /> Middleton&rsquo;s first two years as JC headmaster was the last two years of the old boarding department, which ended in July 1967. Forty-nine years later, in 2016, Jamaica College reopened a boarding school. At the time when the boarding department came to an end in 1967, Mayer Matalon was chairman of JC&rsquo;s board of management. However, the new boarding school is named the Mayer Matalon Dormitories.<br /> <br /> I was a boarder at JC for the last three years of existence of the boarding facilities, having gone to JC in 1964 and leaving in 1971. For the latter four years of my tenure at JC I was a day student, seeing there was no boarding.<br /> <br /> I&rsquo;m told were it not for the expense of the laundry the boarding department might never have been closed. Apparently in the early 1960s, before I attended JC, there was a strike for more pay by the ancillary workers. A decision was taken to outsource the laundry and the laundromat was in Ocho Rios. On Monday mornings, a van came from Ocho Rios, picked up the laundry, and it was returned on Thursday afternoons. The minister of education refused to allow the fees to be raised to meet the rising cost of boarding, so the boarding school was closed.<br /> <br /> The boarding school came to a close before my 14th birthday. At the time I thought that the board could simply have got some automatic washing machines &mdash; they were already around and in Jamaica &mdash; and continued the boarding school, even if it was infra dig for elite JC boys to do their own laundry. But the new boarding hostel has washing machines because outsourcing the laundry would make the boarding costs prohibitive.<br /> <br /> It was quite clear that Middleton was brought to JC to bring back a certain sort of discipline that included colonial values, although Jamaica celebrated three years of political independence in August 1965. In JC&rsquo;s history, this also happened in 1916, when Englishman William Cowper was brought to JC after the fairly liberal Archdeacon William Simms, also an Englishman. The same happened in 1941 when Englishman Joseph Hardie became headmaster after the fairly liberal Reginald Murray, the first Jamaican headmaster of JC.<br /> <br /> But Middleton, like Hardie, became headmaster in a changing Jamaican environment. In Hardie&rsquo;s day, Michael Manley would have had an altercation with him while Manley was in upper sixth form. At that time, the ferment for structural changes in the Jamaican society, such as universal adult suffrage and self-government, which began in 1938, was still running its course.<br /> <br /> In Middleton&rsquo;s day at JC, the 1960s, it was a time of &ldquo;black power&rdquo;, and student demonstrations of one sort or another were quite common. In 1969 there was a student boycott of the tuck shop, of which I was the leader. But Middleton, oblivious to the burst of nationalism after political independence, would have us students sit and listen to European classical music. I was used to it, as it was in line with the musical tastes of my mother at home. But many of the students were against it.<br /> <br /> On one occasion, a newspaper columnist in the<br /> <br /> Star wrote a harsh article about JC boys&rsquo; behaviour at bus stops. I responded on behalf of JC, and my letter was published. We have come a very far way from the days of the Jamaica Omnibus Service. Well, do I recall the graffiti on the bus stop &mdash; &ldquo;In memory of 15 JC boys who died while waiting in a number 7 bus,&rdquo;, which plied the Papine to Three Miles route, via Half-Way-Tree, in those days.<br /> <br /> It was Peter Phillips, as minister of transport, in 1998, that organised the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC). In answer to a question while on radio, Phillips said that if we are going to bring our people to a higher civilisation we cannot do that if we imply that a good transportation service is only for First-World countries. We need to know that it is good enough for us also.<br /> <br /> Garfield Higgins should have consulted a lawyer for advice instead of risking a lawsuit before he wrote his little note accusing me of being untruthful at the end of his last article. Untruthful about what, and about whom? I mentioned no name when I wrote that a columnist left out the fact that Phillips established the JUTC. But to his credit, Higgins did include this very important historical fact in his article some weeks ago. He needs to write it again.<br /> <br /> ekrubm765@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13509918/243590_82685_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Thursday, March 23, 2017 12:00 AM Responsible accounting of our history http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Responsible-accounting-of-our-history_93314 There is an African proverb that states, &ldquo;Unless the lion is able to read and to write, the only story of the hunt we will know comes from the mind and the pen of the hunter.&rdquo; I say this against a background of observation of how some people generate and use information, specifically Jamaica Observer columnist Garfield Higgins, and I draw attention to his column published by the Observer in The Agenda this past Sunday entitled, &lsquo;The PNP, Michael Manley and democratic socialism wrecked Jamaica&hellip;Learn that Peter Phillips&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> None of us need be reminded that Jamaica has been struggling socially and economically for the better part of the last four and a half decades, that we have been unable to provide any sustained economic growth rates for the entire period, and that among the many consequences of this has been the rampant criminality and deepening social decadence. By Higgins&rsquo; account, these consequences are the manifestations of the political choices made by Jamaicans when the country elected the Michael Manley-led People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) to power in 1972.<br /> <br /> Higgins, like the rest of us, is entitled to his opinion, but unlike the rest of us Higgins occupies a different plane, as his background as an educator places him in a slightly different category, where his opinion can easily be presented and consumed as fact in an environment where most people&rsquo;s academic deficiencies combined with their mental laziness steer them away from doing any kind of personal research.<br /> <br /> Any attempt at proffering an opinion on the economic and political fortunes of Jamaica between 1962 and 1989 must be conducted against a background of the geo-political influences that were in operation at the time. In fact, no attempt at dissecting Jamaica&rsquo;s political and economic fortunes during this 1972-1980 period can ever be made without providing a full account of the role that the United States of America played in destabilising the country politically and economically as part of its persecution of national political leadership that was unprepared to operate under the dictates of Washington, DC.<br /> <br /> Central to such a discussion is the fact that the success of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 was an embarrassment to Washington which had dedicated countless resources to thwart the global spread of communism after the end of the Second World War. That is a fact of history, that and the fact that, in Jamaica, Washington had significant internal help from Edward Seaga at the time to discourage potential foreign direct investment into the island in his own bid to win political power at any and all costs. The records will show that such investments declined from US$28 million in 1977-78 to less than US$4 million per year. When combined with the leaps in Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries&rsquo; oil prices at the time the consequences for the Jamaican economy were staggering and the ensuing interchange of political ideological rhetoric between Manley and Seaga fuelled an internecine war that ravaged what was left of the country, setting us back for decades.<br /> <br /> Observer columnist Hugh Dunbar, in a kind of response to Higgins&rsquo; piece, wrote: &ldquo;It is easy to say that Michael Manley destroyed Jamaica, but Jamaicans voted for him at that time for very good reason, that of social injustice&hellip;so in referring to a person like Manley, I will credit him with the awakening of the masses in Jamaica who, up to that time, were relegated to hewing wood and carrying water.&rdquo; This point being made by Dunbar is significant, especially for those who have limited knowledge of the economic and political landscape at the time. Jamaica was largely a plantation economy and, although politically independent of Great Britain, the majority of Jamaicans had neither say nor stake in the operations of the country.<br /> <br /> For my part, I have no intention of trying to canonise Michael Manley, as to my way of thinking his work is there to speak for itself. My objective is to hold Jamaicans to taking responsibility for their utterances and to properly account for the steps taken along our developmental journey. Higgins clearly is comfortable in parlaying whatever integrity he may have had for political gains, even at the expense of distorting the history of this great little country of ours and in the process sow seeds of political divisiveness and discord especially sullying any legacy that the PNP has. That is his wont, and it is up to the PNP scribes to provide more robust pushback on the related issues. My old-school background and personal developmental path tells me though that &ldquo;to him who much is given, even more is expected&rdquo;. We have a responsibility as a people to invest in telling our stories, and to tell them truthfully.<br /> <br /> It may be self-serving to attempt to sanitise history, but it does nothing to the receiving generation as far as national consciousness is concerned when we deliberately eschew swaths of our history, regardless of the purpose. It only succeeds in making our people dumber.<br /> <br /> Richard Hugh Blackford is a self-taught artist, writer and social commentator. He shares his time between Coral Springs, Florida, and Kingston, Jamaica. www.yardabraawd.com Send comments to the Observer or<br /> <br /> richardhblackford@gmail.com.<br /> <br />   http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13157504/206601_44943_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Thursday, March 23, 2017 12:00 AM Views from the west: A look at western Jamaica&rsquo;s crime problem http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Views-from-the-west--A-look-at-western-Jamaica-s-crime-problem_93300 There are three basic factors driving the crime wave in western Jamaica &mdash; the economic factor, social factor and the political factor. <br /> <br /> These collectively are the main pillars on which criminal intent, anti-social behaviour, and lawlessness are built. They give the clearest indication that a community is ideal for the planting of the seeds for crime and other aspects of anti-social behaviour.<br /> <br /> When one looks at the crime statistics in western Jamaica&rsquo;s four parishes -&mdash;Trelawny, St James, Hanover and Westmoreland &mdash; one can see a trajectory pointing in the wrong direction. <br /> <br /> The statistics are even more frightening when we observe the crime statistics in the major communities across the western parishes. Communities, which have not registered any serious crime in over 25 years, are now witnessing crime of unprecedented levels. The present crime wave did not just jump at us like a &ldquo;jack in the box&rdquo;, but was festering and ready to mushroom into what it is today. <br /> <br /> So, what are the social, economic and political sub-factors that are driving this crime wave?<br /> <br /> Social factors<br /> <br /> These include poverty, unemployment, rural/urban migration, squatting/unplanned development, social injustice and teenage pregnancy.<br /> <br /> All the above social indices have been germinating in our western communities and have now grown to fuel the levels of serious criminality. Most available data from social anthropologists, media, Statistical Institute of Jamaica and the security forces, show that the age group 18-25 years is seeing a high unemployment rate across the four western parishes. As the rural youth migrate into the urban centres like Montego Bay, Falmouth, Savanna-la-Mar, Lucea and other major town centres, they put pressure on housing accommodation, thus resulting in unplanned developments.<br /> <br /> These rural youth later become prime target for gang recruitment and other criminal activities. Social injustice and indifferent policing agitate the poor and unemployed youth to shift into a social mode of &ldquo;them against us&rdquo; and are rebellious to law and often feel that for them to improve their quality of life they must live a life of crime. The gun thus becomes their &ldquo;equipment of trade&rdquo;. <br /> <br /> Economic factors<br /> <br /> This includes economic growth without equity, paradox of development, inadequate infrastructure and the proceeds from drug trade and other criminal activities.<br /> <br /> Research has shown that there is a direct link between the rise in crime and all of the above factors. A country cannot curb crime with anemic economic growth, even if that growth is consistent with world averages. If that growth comes without equity, western Jamaica will still be seeing a rise in crime. Successive Governments have focused on development around urban centres, thus drawing unemployed from rural areas, putting stress on urban infrastructure and negating the gains of those developments in what economists term &ldquo;the paradox of development.&rdquo; <br /> <br /> The availability of weapons, especially for use in the drug trade, the lottery scam all play an integral part in the crime wave. <br /> <br /> Political factors<br /> <br /> These can be looked at under the heading the urbanisation of politics; political contracts; politicisation of community-based organisation; politicisation of State intervention in community projects; disbursement of government projects and funding based on political allegiance. <br /> <br /> Of the above sub-factors, urbanisation of politics tops the list as a major driving force in the crime wave. <br /> <br /> Urban politics involve intimidation with the use of arms, vote buying, &ldquo;goonmanship&rdquo; and other violent acts on the electoral processes. These individuals often resort to criminal activities once the election is over. This appears to be quite evident in the parishes of St James and Westmoreland. The political factor, although in most cases remain camouflaged, has a direct correlation between itself and criminality. Proceeds from political contracts oftentimes have gone into the purchases of weapons and the strengthening of community dons. Successive governments have failed to stem their intervention into community activities on a political basis.<br /> <br /> We are yet to see the level of political maturity that will engender a concerted effort to curb crime through the elimination of the social, economic and political factors that drive crime in our western parishes.<br /> <br /> Until these factors are adequately addressed, it is unlikely that there will be a significant reduction in criminal activity in western Jamaica.<br /> <br /> Fenandez &lsquo;Bingy&rsquo; Smith is a former Jamaica Labour Party councillor for the Sherwood Content Division in Trelawny.<br /> <br /> e-mail: fgeesmith@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13728472/265890_91948_repro_w300.jpg Observer West Thursday, March 23, 2017 12:00 AM Not with whips, but with scorpions http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Not-with-whips--but-with-scorpions_93210 One of the important goals of Government this fiscal year is the rationalisation of public bodies to see how best they could serve in promoting national development. This exercise is long overdue. There are 61 self-financed public bodies in the country varying in size and regulatory functions as far as the physical and economic infrastructure of the country is concerned. In the 2016-17 fiscal year they would have transferred $52.2 billion to the Government&rsquo;s coffers while retaining a surplus of over $16 billion.<br /> <br /> All of this is good and speaks to the firm management of at least some of these bodies. Their continued rationalisation to see how they fit into the Government&rsquo;s economic growth strategy is a correct direction to take. To execute projects rationally and optimally Government has to look at all its revenue sources to ensure a strong and vibrant Consolidated Fund, at the same time ensuring as little pain and burden as possible to the already overburdened taxpayers.<br /> <br /> But, in doing this, Government has to realise that one suit does not fit all. In other words, it is not prudent for the revenue of certain entities to be wholly diverted to the Consolidated Fund.<br /> <br /> The Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) comes immediately to mind as one of these entities to suffer this fate. Since its inception, the TEF has done commendable work in funding projects that have enhanced the tourism product in particular communities. Even in areas such as heritage tourism, where central government might be reluctant to allocate already scarce resources, the TEF has been instrumental in giving a lift to buildings and other sites that carry historical significance. I can think of a historical church in the west that has benefited from this kind of initiative.<br /> <br /> The Government, with the apparent urging of the International Monetary Fund, has managed to convince itself that central government is better placed to manage these funds; that once money flows to the Consolidated Fund interested parties only have to apply for funding to do their projects.<br /> <br /> In the case of the TEF, the more interested parties would be largely operators in the tourist industry. Understandably, interests in the tourist industry, especially the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), are not in agreement with this move. They know instinctively that once money hits the Consolidated Fund it disappears down its gullet never to be seen again. There is ample precedence to justify their fear and suspicion. One only has to look at the travesty that has been carried out with the bauxite levy. This stands as a constant reminder of money that is swallowed up and never used for the purposes intended.<br /> <br /> In fact, successive governments seem to enjoy the notoriety of using money for purposes other than those for which they were intended. The National Housing Trust is again in the crosshairs for this corrupt or, at the very least, unethical practice. The gargantuan appetite of government for funds &mdash; much of which is wasted or corruptly used (here readers may want to refer to the yearly reports of the auditor general) &mdash; is a perpetual concern. Thus the constant need to borrow more and tax people into oblivion.<br /> <br /> Apart from the money being non-existent when required, tourism interests know that to apply to government for funding for projects is a tedious and time-wasting exercise. Moving money to the Consolidated Fund would remove from the TEF the flexibility to assess and approve projects in a timely and expeditious manner. What will now obtain, despite all the protestations of the junior finance minister, Fayval Williams, to the contrary, is that the slow, grinding decision-making process of government will grind many projects into the ground. By the time approval is given governmental bureaucracy would have rendered many of them inoperable. In any event, interest would have waned and some would have become economically unfeasible with the passage of time.<br /> <br /> So it is not a matter of the TEF giving a portion of the money they receive to government. The principle is whether government, with its bureaucratic traps, is best placed to speedily respond to the purposes for which the TEF exists. Can it handle expeditiously applications that come before it? Will there be the wail and cry we hear so often that there is no money? We have an education fund and yet much of our educational infrastructure is in a state of disrepair.<br /> <br /> It is not difficult for this column to find common cause with the JHTA and other bodies within the tourism industry on this matter. There is nothing to convince anyone that projects will not meet the same bureaucratic fate as others have.<br /> <br /> So in carrying out its rationalisation project, Government must be careful not to squeeze bodies that have shown a level of independence and credibility in the execution of their tasks, of which the TEF comes readily to mind. One knows that each political party lauds the efficacy and saintliness of the Consolidated Fund when in power, but berates it as a companion of the devil when in Opposition. Great care must be taken, with the participation of stakeholders, that we do not put the revenue of properly-functioning public bodies in a straitjacket.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, aspects of the Government&rsquo;s tax package have begun to bite the public. From the tax offices to pay the increased licence fee to the gas stations to experience the increased cost of fuel there is great lamentation in the land. Andrew Holness and his Government will have to hold full responsibility for this tax package. For sure, the increase on licences and other related fees is unwarrantable and regrettable. It is inconceivable that if the Government really cared it would have sought to raise a measly $464 million and so infuriate such a wide constituency which would be affected. Not only are the political optics poor, but this measure is an unnecessary burden on the already burdened poor who have to take taxis and other public transportation. Finance Minister Audley Shaw should note that most do not have the luxury to drive around in Pajeros, Prados or the latest luxury vehicle. This tax measure should be revisited and rescinded.<br /> <br /> In closing the debate on March 22, the minister of finance owes it to the country to say what concrete steps will be taken, or are being taken, by his Administration to address the waste and corruption that takes place in government. It is immoral to visit taxation on people within the context of the rampant corrupt use of the people&rsquo;s funds. In fact, a moratorium should be imposed on all future taxation until the people can be assured that the Government is taking the necessary steps to cauterise corruption and ensuring the best use of the people&rsquo;s money. Until then, all taxation is an attempt to chastise people, not with whips, but with scorpions.<br /> <br /> Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest and social commentator. Send comments to the Observer or<br /> <br /> stead6655@aol.com.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13709885/264293_90424_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Wednesday, March 22, 2017 12:00 AM Walk good, Mama P, the people&rsquo;s heroine http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Walk-good--Mama-P--the-people-s-heroine_92941 The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. &mdash;<br /> <br /> Merchant of Venice<br /> <br /> On April 2, 2017, Portia Simpson Miller, a woman known for her compassion and love for her people, especially the poor, will demit office as leader of the Opposition and president of the People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP). She will hand over leadership of the PNP to the &lsquo;thinker&rsquo;, Dr Peter Phillips, who is widely expected to reinvigorate and rejuvenate a hapless and rudderless party.<br /> <br /> There are those who blame &ldquo;Sista P&rdquo; for the condition the party now finds itself in; however, it is my view that the decline of the PNP started when it became solely an election machinery, whose main purpose was to win State power and reward the &lsquo;lumpens&rsquo; that depend on the party for their survival.<br /> <br /> The idea that &ldquo;Mama P&rdquo; will be demitting office without leaving a legacy is dishonest and shows our failure as a country to assess issues dispassionately, putting aside class and our partisan hangovers and seriously dissecting what Portia Simpson Miller represents and means to the people who she served for 40-plus years.<br /> <br /> What a symbolic legacy!<br /> <br /> The poor girl from Wood Hall in St Catherine who became prime minister is a strong message to girls and boys alike that your origin does not determine your destiny. It might be that you did not attend a &ldquo;good school&rdquo; or failed to acquire a university degree; or if you did, you attended one that does not boast prestigious past students, but success remains possible.<br /> <br /> A look at the life of the outgoing leader of the Opposition will remind you that anything is possible, miracles do happen. Simpson Miller&rsquo;s rise is also a strong message and legacy to our women and girls as they seek to overcome the social ills, such as abuse, that affect them. She did it! So I can! <br /> <br /> The people of Jamaica, for a time, believed she had what it takes to lead us; the same cannot be said of the &lsquo;great&rsquo; country to the north, where women rejected one of their own in droves. The Government that the outgoing Opposition leader led was able to steer this country towards tackling our unsustainable economic conditions when she became prime minister the second time around. Portia was the right doctor to prescribe and administer the&ldquo;bitter medicine&rdquo;. The people sensed that she cared, and so understood that we must do this if we are going to make this country prosperous. History will be kind to her as the leader who laid the foundation for economic recovery, growth and development, if the current economic trajectory should continue. She was the minister who laid the foundation so that tourism and sports can be the beacons that these sectors are now. <br /> <br /> Mama P&rsquo;s failures are there for us to see. She failed to use her massive political capital to address some of the issues that our women, children and the poor face, such as making it the law of the land that all fathers&rsquo; names must be on their children&rsquo;s birth certificate. Once she was elected she went into hiding and seemed out of her league at times. She erred greatly in her choice of close advisers and handlers, who latched on to her &lsquo;skirt tail&rsquo; to promote themselves and for their own aggrandisement. They failed to grasp what the rise of a Mama P meant to the masses and, hence, guide her in not only giving lip service to them, but pushing a legislative agenda that would continue the progressive agenda of her mentor Michael Manley.<br /> <br /> I guess once she lost the sheen we realised that Mama P is only human and is prone to err and blunder like we all do. But she was a genuine leader, whose heart we could see, hear and feel as it pulsed with love and concern for her people. I will remember the Portia who went against her party in Parliament, while serving as minister of local government. With a smile, I will also remember the Portia who, beating her chest, reminded us that, &ldquo;I no &rsquo;fraid a no gal, no boy, nowhere.&rdquo; That&rsquo;s my Mama P. She is no Barack Obama, and, yes, for some she was not a game changer, but I hope, for the sake of us all, that the man who will ascend to the throne and the one that currently leads this country will be the game changers that we speak and write about.<br /> <br /> Walk good, Mama P.<br /> <br /> Shane Reid is a teacher and member of Junior Chamber International from Hopewell, Hanover. Send comments to the Observer or <br /> <br /> shanereid74@yahoo.com.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13725747/264854_91775_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Wednesday, March 22, 2017 12:00 AM Careful how we reach back in history to castigate, Higgins http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Careful-how-we-reach-back-in-history-to-castigate--Higgins_92939 I believe that for a nation to progress it must have a clear understanding of its past, not with a view of placing blame, but to note those things that were successful, and failures. The past provides invaluable lessons in causes and effect, and the circumstances that lead to both, which if understood will provide a road map to make our decisions today.<br /> <br /> This brings me to the much-revered tendency of reaching back into history to castigate or lionise individuals whose actions have had lasting impacts on the Jamaican society. The recent opinion piece in The Agenda of the<br /> <br /> Sunday Observer by Garfield Higgins &lsquo;The PNP, Michael Manley and democratic socialism wrecked Jamaica&rsquo; blaming Michael Manley for the &ldquo;wrecking&rdquo; of the Jamaican economy, and the PNP for being misguided to think it can &ldquo;fix&rdquo; the Jamaican economy appears to be such a reach.<br /> <br /> I have great respect for, and read a lot of what Higgins writes, and also agree with a lot of what he has to say. However, I find that riding the horse of history alone will not provide a way forward, especially in Jamaica where reading is not as widely accepted as one might like. What we need in Jamaica is a light to shine on the world of understanding.<br /> <br /> It is easy to say that Michael Manley destroyed Jamaica, but Jamaicans voted for him at that time for very good reason, that of social injustice. Manley was a great advocate for social change to lift the weight of injustice imposed by colonialism and slavery. He was not a great or even good economist. Perhaps worst of all, Manley had little understanding of how governance worked and, in hindsight, he put an F-16 fighter jet in the hands of farmers, who had no use for a device like that, to do what they knew, which was raising chickens and growing yams.<br /> <br /> So in referring to a person like Manley, I will credit him with the awakening of the masses in Jamaica who, up to that time, were relegated to hewing wood and carrying water, and now recognised that there was such a thing as an F-16 that could fly faster than sound, but could&rsquo;t raise chickens or grow yams.<br /> <br /> The much-vaunted Edward Seaga is said to to be such a great financial wizard, and was able to translate his connections to parlay international loans, but that was a small part of what he was good at. Seaga, was one of the class of migrants whose parents came to Jamaica as economic migrants from the Middle East. He was not born in Jamaica, as most people know, but claimed his Jamaican heritage by way of his parents. Seaga, to his credit, recognised the genius of Jamaican culture and he wanted to extend his support for this by building up his constituency in Tivoli Gardens. Tivoli is a great idea, but the way it was created and maintained has created eternal enemies in politics and among those he dispossessed to make way for his idealism. Unfortunately, the concept of Tivoli would have been a catalyst for development in Jamaica &mdash; had it not been made into a safe seat where the creator saw himself as the only one capable of continuing the idea.<br /> <br /> Here we come back to the idea of reaching back to history. Both Manley and Seaga had great nation-building ideas and were able to change the spaces in which they existed, but in the world of growth, both failed to plant the seed of sustainability and subsequently prosperity for their conviction. Jamaican politicians today lack the big idea and vision, and seem as confounded by the issues of governance as the people are ignorant of their history. Jamaica does not need a &ldquo;fix&rdquo; any more than America needs to be &ldquo;great again&rdquo;. A vision for Jamaica can only come from its people.<br /> <br /> At the time of Manley, Jamaica needed social justice, and many got it. At the time of Seaga, Jamaica needed economic focus, and got it. At the time of P J Patterson, Jamaica needed big infrastructure, and got it. At the time of Bruce Golding, Jamaica needed introspection, and got it. In the time of Portia Simpson Miller, Jamaica needed self-esteem, and got it. Now it&rsquo;s Andrew Holness&rsquo;s time, and history will be the vessel to hold his memory. In the meantime, the rest of us need to pick the things we want to make our history.<br /> <br /> Every Jamaican wants Jamaica to be the greatest place on Earth, at least that is what I want. Reaching back to castigate memories and insult the past does nothing to inspire confidence in the country or its painstaking steps to self-recognition and definition. For those who pin on past leaders their current disposition, whether it be good or bad, must take stock of the fact that those in history have made their mark.<br /> <br /> Do we want to be only remembered for talking about the things they did without adding to the future for our children? Do we have a vision whose seed will grow to be the plant of growth and prosperity that we can only talk about? Can we make a leader who will be able to coalesce the vision of all Jamaicans for our Jamaican children?<br /> <br /> hmdenergy@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13696219/262996_89432_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Tuesday, March 21, 2017 12:00 AM Derek Walcott: Caribbean colossus http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Derek-Walcott--Caribbean-colossus_92977 Derek Walcott, by his work, achieved three colossal feats.<br /> <br /> First, he wrote about the Caribbean landscape in such as way as to magnify it. Not only did he give our landscape a certain epic status, he conferred on it deific significance as perhaps only the fallen Taino, Arahuacan ancestors, deified before.<br /> <br /> Here is Walcott writing in Omeros:<br /> <br /> &hellip; he same sunrise stirred the feathered lances of cane <br /> <br /> down the archipelago&rsquo;s highways.<br /> <br /> This is not just cane. Cane you pass by when coming down the highway. He bequeaths stature, majesty, to ordinary cane. He confers on us our landscape &mdash; that which we have been taught, like Caliban, the Shakespearean slave, to despise &mdash; a majesty. The cane field is filled with feathered lances stirred by the sunrise!<br /> <br /> Here he is writing about the Caroni Plains in The Spoiler&rsquo;s Return (1981):<br /> <br /> &hellip;the torn brown patches of the Central Plain,<br /> <br /> Slowly restitched by needles of rain,<br /> <br /> And the frayed earth, crisscrossed like old bagasse,<br /> <br /> Spring to a cushiony quilt of emerald grass,<br /> <br /> And who does sew and sow the patch of land?<br /> <br /> The Indian. And whose villages turn to sand?<br /> <br /> Here he uses an extended metaphor; all the words, images, relate to sewing. Just as a person sews, stitches a quilt, just so do the needles of rain sew the frayed clothes of earth into a cushiony emerald quilt of grass. The industrious rains are transforming the brown, old garb of the dry season into the wet season, a munificent quilt of green grass. &ldquo;Crisscrossed like old bagasse&rdquo; depicts the patchwork of the Caroni cane lands lying in fallow. This is what Spoiler sees as he watches out over the Caroni Plains from the Laventille hills.<br /> <br /> Second, Walcott savagely attacks the post-colonial kingdoms of the Caribbean. The last two lines of the last excerpt, for example, critiques the way we have transformed our villages, agricultural lands, into &ldquo;sand&rdquo;, a metaphor of sterility. In The Spoiler&rsquo;s Return, using a barrage of rhyming couplets, Walcott unleashes his best irony, sarcasm, puns, banter, vituperation to critique Trinidad in 1981.<br /> <br /> In<br /> <br /> The Spoiler&rsquo;s Return, Walcott assumes the mask of Spoiler, the dead kaisonian known for his humour and irony. He uses the persona of Spoiler, his identity, voice. Spoiler is in hell with the other great satirists, spoilers of the age: &ldquo;Lord Rochester, Quevedo, Juvenal, /Maestro, Martial, Pope, Dryden, Swift, Lord Byron, /The lords of irony, the Duke of Iron&rdquo;; things have become so corrupt in Trinidad, he has no choice but to come back from hell to sing about it. He sits high on a bridge in Laventille, and witnesses the local scene.<br /> <br /> What does he see?<br /> <br /> People excuse their failure to act: &ldquo;Is the same voices, that in the slave ship,/ Smile at their brothers, &lsquo;Boy. Is just the whip!&rdquo;<br /> <br /> All the ethnic groups seem compromised &mdash; by greed. All the pillars of society &mdash; the artist, journalist, justices of the high bench, politicians, the ordinary folk &mdash; have become mercenary, anti-revolutionary. And, &ldquo;Corbeaux like cardinals line the La Basse.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Graft, curry favour and corruption reigns. All is bobohl, pappy show, mimic:<br /> <br /> Is carnival, straight Carnival that&rsquo;s all<br /> <br /> The beat is base, the melody bohbohl,<br /> <br /> All Port of Spain is a twelve-thirty show,<br /> <br /> Some playing Kojak, some Fidel Castro,<br /> <br /> Some Rastamen, but, with or without locks,<br /> <br /> To Spoiler is the same old khaki socks,<br /> <br /> We dance to a base beat, to the music of bohbohl. We are all actors in a Carnival drama. There are no revolutionaries, just men mimicking the American television detective, Kojak; or imitating the real revolutionary, Castro; or are Rastas with locks, not philosophy. To Spoiler, &ldquo;is the same old khaki socks&rdquo;. Khaki was the wear of the colonial master, commando, field foreman.<br /> <br /> Walcott develops this theme of colonial re-entrapment in the following lines:<br /> <br /> Is crab climbing crab-back, in a crab-quarrel,<br /> <br /> And going round and round in the same barrel,<br /> <br /> Is sharks with shirt-jacs, sharks with well-pressed fins,<br /> <br /> Ripping we small-fry off with razor grins;<br /> <br /> Nothing ain&rsquo;t change but colour and attire.<br /> <br /> Around and around we go in the same barrel. No one has a solution of how to get out of the barrel. Instead of finding a solution, we are climbing on each other&rsquo;s backs. The new elite, in his official wear, his shirt jac, his lapels pressed fine and neat, like the fins of sharks pressed to its sides, now attacks the small fries, the sardines in the social ecology, with razor grins. Walcott concludes that nothing has changed but colour and attire: from jackets, ties and khakis, to sharks in shirt jacs.<br /> <br /> Walcott&rsquo;s third monumental feat has been to win acclaim. He produced a plethora of plays, paintings, films, books of poems. He won the Nobel Prize in 1992. He was the man who cut his studies short at The University of the West Indies (UWI) in the 1960s and stood in a market square in St Lucia peddling his poems. He believed in his craft. He persisted in a workmanlike way. His craft, fidelity to his work, brought the Caribbean into the light of metropolitan review and scholarship.<br /> <br /> Two of his keenest admirers have also passed on: Dr Patricia Ismond, a St Lucian, a UWI lecturer, who fought to finish her book on Walcott during her illness; and Irma Rambaran, who devoted ages trying to elucidate his filmic vision. They are now, all three, gathered as one. <br /> <br /> wbkubla@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13719403/264961_91146_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Monday, March 20, 2017 12:00 AM Those economic growth rate predictions... http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Those-economic-growth-rateThose-economic-growth-rate-predictions---_92980 Having examined the debt to gross domestic product (GDP) predictions and outcomes in a previous comment on this year&rsquo;s fiscal policy paper (FPP) which accompanies the budget (although it was much-delayed this year), I turn now to the figures given on economic growth.<br /> <br /> Their seems to be some improvement for 2016, but the data show clearly that the fluctuations in the quarterly economic growth rate over the last three years have been driven very much by agriculture (except manufacturing doing well in the second half of 2015), and therefore mostly by the vagaries of the weather. The underlying rate, omitting agriculture is about 0.7 per cent, which is not enough to grow us out of debt.<br /> <br /> As for the debt to GDP ratios, the economic growth predictions are always over-optimistic, suggesting again either a failing of method or a deliberate overselling to persuade us that austerity is the best medicine.<br /> <br /> The attached is based on information extracted from successive FPPs.<br /> <br /> The shaded figures are the outcomes, the unshaded are the predictions. Reading downwards for each fiscal year shows the extent of the overestimation. In 2011/12 growth of 2.3 per cent was predicted with an outcome of minus 0.7 per cent.<br /> <br /> In 2014/15 the prediction was originally 1.9 per cent, but with an outcome of just 0.2 per cent.<br /> <br /> For 2016/17 the prediction was 2.2 per cent, and the current estimated outcome is 1.6 per cent.<br /> <br /> The 2017 FPP predicts growth rates reaching up to 2.7 per cent by 2021. Not only is this still insufficient to grow us out of debt, but will those predictions actually be met? Or does the Government and International Monetary Fund programme need to take more seriously the growth agenda, making it more than lip service and an Economic Growth Council target.<br /> <br /> Paul Ward represents the Campaign for Social & Economic Justice. Send comments to the Observer or<br /> <br /> pgward72@gmail.com.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13721404/265332_91484_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Monday, March 20, 2017 12:00 AM Portia Simpson Miller&rsquo;s historic journey http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Portia-Simpson-Miller-s-historic-journey_92969 Portia Simpson Miller&rsquo;s budget presentation last week was in fact a fond farewell. What a journey she has had serving, for over 40 years, as Member of Parliament of St Andrew South Western, a constituency of serious challenges &mdash; the type that women politicians tend to inherit. It took courage for young Councillor Portia Simpson to step up and campaign to become a parliamentarian, and even more to seek the presidency of the People&rsquo;s National Party. This column has commented on her exciting career and so today shares excerpts.<br /> <br /> FROM &lsquo;THE PEOPLE SAID PORTIA&rsquo; &mdash; JANUARY 2012<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Hearty congratulations to that seasoned campaigner Portia Simpson Miller, president of the People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP)&hellip;When G2K copied media an urgent letter protesting a delay by a television station in carrying an anti-Portia ad, I wrote back, &lsquo;Enough is enough&rsquo;&hellip; Malcolm Gladwell, that gifted writer with Jamaican roots, said that to excel at anything you need to do it 10,000 times. That is why our most memorable mentors are the seniors in our lives. That is why one should never underestimate the political clout of that grass roots veteran Portia Simpson Miller.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;&hellip; And so, as Portia Simpson Miller ascended the stage at PNP headquarters last Thursday night, flashing her famous smile, and hugging her candidates one after the other, we saw a woman practised in the way of politics, hitting all the right notes and ensuring that there was &lsquo;no piece of paper&rsquo; in her hand.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;She started with a well-known Bible verse. Then the DJ played Tony Rebel&rsquo;s song, [some of the lyrics being] &lsquo;Mind what yuh say to yuh sister, she could be the next prime minister.&rsquo; &hellip; She thanked, among many, Comrade P J Patterson, her helper Marva, and Andrew Holness, who had called to congratulate her, saying that &lsquo;he was very gracious&rsquo;. She referred to the welcome sight we saw more of in this than any other previous election, &lsquo;PNP supporters in orange and JLP supporters in their green hugging in friendly rivalry&rsquo;.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> FROM &lsquo;DREAM REALISED&rsquo; &mdash; SEPTEMBER 5, 2016<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Portia Simpson Miller is not simply the leader of the Opposition or the president of the People&rsquo;s National Party. She is the fulfilled dream of thousands of Jamaican women, who saw this humble girl from Woodhall, St Catherine, rise through the political ranks to become the first female prime minister of Jamaica. She is the young girl who grew up to have a fairy-tale wedding, her wedding dress floating royally on the lawns of the University Chapel as she married one of Jamaica&rsquo;s most respected business executives, Errald Miller.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Now that she has entered this challenging phase of her political career, let us tread softly as we tread not only on her extraordinary career, but also on the dreams of thousands of humble Jamaican women. Their utterances of support over the past week are not simply blind political &lsquo;followership&rsquo;, they are a call for respect for a woman who rose through the patriarchal ranks of politics.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;As we have heard women leaders here and abroad reflect on their challenges, we realise how difficult it is for those of us who &lsquo;hold up half the sky&rsquo; to ascend to these high seats of office. I am not excusing any of the shortcomings of our leaders; however, it is interesting the level of scrutiny to which women leaders are subject compared to their male counterparts. Think on these things.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> FROM &lsquo;WHAT IS MRS SIMPSON MILLER&rsquo;S NEXT MOVE?&rsquo; &mdash; DECEMBER 5, 2016<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We have watched her rise from humble KSAC [Kingston and St Andrew Corporation] councillor to prime minister of Jamaica. Portia Simpson Miller has cut an impressive figure in line-ups of regional and global leaders, and has scored a double page in Time magazine as one of their personalities of the year. Her visceral political campaigning has made her a hero to her followers and the fear of her opponents.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;...As Hillary Clinton will attest, and nearer to home, Olivia &lsquo;Babsy&rsquo; Grange, the road for women in politics is that much narrower and rougher. In this male-dominated field of endeavour, women must not only match up to those qualities expected of men in power, but they must also become the pious mother as well as the fashion plate imposed by the glamour media on women. Owning campaign platforms with her strong voice, becoming &lsquo;Mama P&rsquo; to her constituents and striding out in impeccable suits, Portia Simpson Miller was able to accomplish more than any other Jamaican woman politician. She ascended to the presidency of the PNP, retaining the position despite several challenges, and served as prime minister twice.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Women who choose politics as a career are very brave indeed, and clearly Portia Simpson Miller is one of our bravest. Still, this year marks her 40th anniversary as a Member of Parliament, and her 10th as PNP president. Before the applause stops and the harsh criticisms escalate, we believe that it would be a good time for Simpson Miller to resign from the PNP presidency and representational politics. She will quickly be forgiven for those lapses of temper, and her many other accomplishments will position her as a stateswoman and an icon of feminist determination.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;&hellip;May she take this decision to prayer, and know that her place in history as Jamaica&rsquo;s first woman prime minister is a very special and lasting one.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> AND TODAY&hellip; SALUTE!<br /> <br /> We salute Portia Simpson Miller. Her 2017 budget presentation was indeed presidential, and the standing ovation from both sides of the House affirmed her undisputed stature. May she have a long and happy retirement in the knowledge that she has made her mark, not only on the political landscape of Jamaica, but on our national consciousness. Her life&rsquo;s work is a message to all Jamaican women and girls: &ldquo;Yes, you can!&rdquo;<br /> <br /> PLEASE, NO TAX ON HEALTH INSURANCE<br /> <br /> Finance Minister Audley Shaw, as is the tradition of ministers of finance, had to bear the expected bad news in his budget presentation. Of course, we expected increases in taxes on non-essential items and low-hanging fruit like gasoline; however, we are shocked at the proposed tax on health insurance. Clearly this will only create further pressure on our already beleaguered health system. We understand that representatives of the insurance industry have met with Minister Shaw and we dearly hope that he will reconsider this move.<br /> <br /> SAD FAREWELL<br /> <br /> A sad farewell to the gracious Delroy Gordon, executive director of Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, who passed away after a brief illness. Regrettably, we now have to give thanks when we lose loved ones and colleagues by natural causes, as we are in shock at the tragic death of Dr Garth Officer. We understand that Dr Officer was attacked at the gate of his St Andrew residence on Friday. Dr Officer served as a member of the Medical Council of Jamaica and was beloved by his colleagues, staff and patients.<br /> <br /> Our condolence to the families of these excellent gentlemen. May their good souls rest in peace.<br /> <br /> lowriechin@aim.com<br /> <br /> www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13717760/264855_91123_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Monday, March 20, 2017 12:00 AM The PNP, Michael Manley and democratic socialism wrecked Jamaica http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-PNP--Michael-Manley-and-democratic-socialism-wrecked-Jamaica_92761 A tree is known by its fruits. &mdash; Zulu Proverb<br /> <br /> Some weeks ago I predicted in this space that one of the primary strategies of the People&rsquo;s National Party in Opposition (PNP) would be the propagation of fake news. The PNP is entirely predictable these days.<br /> <br /> This excerpt from last Monday&rsquo;s Jamaica Observer is the most recent evidence that I am right. &ldquo;Opposition Spokesman on Finance, and the man who will take up leadership of the People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) later this year, Dr Peter Phillips, last night told party faithful at the Manning&rsquo;s High School in Westmoreland, &lsquo;...only the PNP can save the country, and I am ready to fix it yet again&rsquo;.&rdquo; ( Jamaica Observer, March 13, 2017)<br /> <br /> This fanciful utterance by Dr Phillips, and here I am being euphemistic, gives rise to the questions: Who &ldquo;broke&rdquo; Jamaica? And when? And more specifically, did the PNP ever &ldquo;fix Jamaica&rdquo;?<br /> <br /> To answer those questions does not require special tutelage in rocket science. One needs only to recollect how many years the PNP occupied Jamaica House and when Jamaica&rsquo;s economic collapse started.<br /> <br /> The genesis of our downward economic spiral started in 1972 when Michael Manley came to power under the slogan &lsquo;Better mus&rsquo; come&rsquo;. Prior to the charismatic Manley, Jamaica&rsquo;s economy was the envy of the Caribbean. Multinational companies were flocking our shores to invest, and folks from other Caribbean territories were coming here to seek opportunities. We were seen as the Pearl of the Caribbean.<br /> <br /> The figures in the table testify to the economic glory days of the 1960s and the nosedive in the 70s.<br /> <br /> Admittedly, the economic benefits of the 60s were not reflected fast enough in the pockets and on the dinner tables of the majority of ordinary Jamaicans. The country was never, however, buried in a chronic state of what former Prime Minister Edward Seaga termed &ldquo;shortages, stoppages and outages&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> What were some of the consequences of Michael Manley and democratic socialism?<br /> <br /> &bull; The Bank of Jamaica had to print money for the country to survive after the treasury was drained.<br /> <br /> &bull; Michael Manley used most of the increased bauxite levy to finance free education, which was not free at all because the schools and parents had to cover the gap.<br /> <br /> &bull; This left little to finance several other social make-work projects that were announced by Government under the &lsquo;socialism is love&rsquo; explanation given to the people. Most of the schemes collapsed from lack of funds and people who wanted money, not work.<br /> <br /> &bull; Unemployment increased to a record 27 per cent, aided by the fallout of the make-work projects.<br /> <br /> &bull; When Jamaicans saw what was happening, they converted their money to US dollars through banks and the black market and moved their savings and other funds to US banks.<br /> <br /> &bull; Soon, the Bank of Jamaica ran out of reserves in foreign exchange, for the first time, and had to use funds set aside for paying debt.<br /> <br /> &bull; The Bank of Jamaica could not supply the amount of foreign exchange to the banks, which were under pressure by business clients and others to pay bills for goods ordered by companies and to meet other demands for foreign exchange. In addition, there was a growing flight of capital.<br /> <br /> &bull; This resulted in a severe reduction of imports of raw materials and spare parts, closing down of factories and increasing unemployment.<br /> <br /> &bull; Oil supplies were short, resulting in frequent blackouts and loss of factory time.<br /> <br /> &bull; Imported food items were so short that riots erupted at supermarkets when goods arrived.<br /> <br /> &bull; Small shops &mdash; 14,000 of them &mdash; either closed or kept one window open mostly to sell aerated water, Foska oats and toilet tissue.<br /> <br /> The dismal performance of the macroeconomy was the result of deterioration over the previous eight years, 1972-1980, as revealed by the database published:<br /> <br /> &bull; The value of the total production of the economy (gross domestic product [GDP]) in 1980 was 17.5 per cent less than in 1972, after decreasing every year but one.<br /> <br /> &bull; Inflation increased by 250 per cent, peaking at 49.4 per cent in 1978.<br /> <br /> &bull; While revenue remained almost constant over the period, expenditure increased by 66 per cent.<br /> <br /> &bull; The budget deficit, as a consequence, increased from 3.9 per cent to 17.5 per cent, one of, if not the highest, of any country not at war.<br /> <br /> &bull; The total public debt, as a percentage of GDP, increased nearly 500 per cent, creating a crushing burden in debt service.<br /> <br /> &bull; The level of investment collapsed by 40 per cent of GDP, and savings by 53 per cent.<br /> <br /> &bull; Foreign exchange reserves were wiped out, plunging from positive US$239 million to negative US$549 million.<br /> <br /> &bull; Economic growth was negative in seven of the eight years and less than one per cent in the eighth year. (<br /> <br /> The Gleaner, October 23, 2016)<br /> <br /> Who broke Jamaica and when? The answer is straightforward: Michael Manley and democratic socialism. While Manley went to the mountaintop with Fidel Castro, Jamaica was plunged almost to the bottom of the Caribbean Sea.<br /> <br /> Was Dr Phillips referring to the turbulent 70s when he said &ldquo;Only the PNP can save the county&rdquo;? That answer is implausible, except of course to those who are suffering with severe brain freeze.<br /> <br /> Could Phillips have been referring to the 1990s, when the PNP turned Jamaica into an economic and social dust bowl, after Edward Seaga &mdash; our best prime since political independence &mdash; had brought back economic and social respectability to Jamaica between 1980 and 1989?<br /> <br /> Hurricane Gilbert, in 1988, interrupted Jamaica&rsquo;s growth momentum. Its consequences created a political aperture for the return of a repentant Manley, who declared socialism &ldquo;dead&rdquo; in the early 1990s. We are still reaping the whirlwind for the PNP&rsquo;s return to power in 1989.<br /> <br /> These facts tell the sad story:<br /> <br /> Recall that these companies &mdash; and this is an abbreviated list &mdash; capsized while the PNP held office: Mutual Life, a company that operated locally for over 100 years; Goodyear Tyre Company; West Indies Glass; Homelectrix; Workers&rsquo; Bank; Raymar&rsquo;s Furniture; Charley&rsquo;s Windsor House; Thermo Plastics; Berec Batteries; Century National Bank; Crown Eagle Insurance; Crown Eagle Insurance Commercial Bank; Island Life Insurance Company; American Life Insurance Company; Eagle Merchant Bank; Ecotrends; Times Store; Things Jamaican, which had its location turned into a prison by the PNP. Add to those another 45,000 small and medium-sized businesses that went under during the 1990s.<br /> <br /> Recall a front-page story in The Gleaner on Tuesday, February 9, 2002, which listed major money scandals that had occurred under the watch of PNP administrations. The root of these scandals is an amalgam of ineptitude and a cruel waste of public resources. The consequences have helped to chronically impoverish Jamaica and damage our credibility abroad. The scandals include, but are not limited to:<br /> <br /> 1. Shell waiver (1991) - $29.5 million; approximately $560 million in today&rsquo;s terms<br /> <br /> 2. Zinc (1989) - $500 million; approx $22 billion today<br /> <br /> 3. Furniture (1991) - $10.6 million; approx $200 million today<br /> <br /> 4. Public sector salaries (1998) - $60 million; approx $287 million today<br /> <br /> 5. NetServ (2001) - $220 million; approx $856 million today<br /> <br /> 6. Operation Pride/NHDC (1997-present) - $5.5 billion projected; approx $20 billion today<br /> <br /> TOTAL: $6.320 billion; approx $44 billion today<br /> <br /> Jamaicans must never forget these facts.<br /> <br /> By common-sense deduction, Phillips could not have been referring to the years of economic and social blight during the time of P J Patterson at bat. But, of course, common sense is not so common to some, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.<br /> <br /> Was Dr Phillips, therefore, referring to the economic and social doldrums periods when Portia Simpson Miller was prime minister?<br /> <br /> Dr Phillips was the finance minister and de facto prime minister during the Simpson Miller years. His record shows no evidence that he saved and served anything &mdash; other than his bloated ego and all-too-obvious vaunted ambition.<br /> <br /> These statistics paint a tragic picture of the PNP&rsquo;s dwarfed imagination and stunted thinking. <br /> <br /> The growth figures for 2011 to 2015 tell the woeful tale of how Phillips choked the economy almost to death: 2012 (-0.5 per cent); 2013 (0.2 per cent); 2014 (1.1 per cent); and 2015 (1.4 per cent). These serve as mirrors of PNP misgovernment. The JLP left the economy growing at 1.6 in 2011. (Statistical Institute of Jamaica)<br /> <br /> Phillips also imposed $58 billion in new taxes during his time as finance minister. Did Phillips and the PNP &ldquo;fix Jamaica&rdquo; during those years?<br /> <br /> Below are glimpses of the pulverising effect of the PNP during its most recent sojourn at Jamaica House:<br /> <br /> We must never forget the dire consequences of the preventable Riverton City dump fire which burned for over a week.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The air quality report on the Riverton dump fire, commissioned by the Health Ministry, shows that the samples of air pollutants taken from the site contained high levels of hazardous substances, including benzene.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;According to a release from the ministry, the samples were taken during the period of March 13-14.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The release said that the prolonged or long-term exposure to benzene has been blamed for causing cancers such as leukemia.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;According to the Centers for Disease Control, USA, long-term exposure to benzene is exposure for over one year, it added. Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Marion Bullock DuCasse said the sampling for volatile organic compounds shows that benzene was at the highest level ever recorded by the ministry.<br /> <br /> &ldquo; &lsquo;The high level of benzene is directly attributed to the burning at the Riverton disposal site. We consider this a significant public health issue,&rsquo; she said.&rdquo; (Jamaica Observer, March 23, 2015)<br /> <br /> We must never forget the Outameni scandal which is costing the taxpayers $900,000 per month in maintenance and related costs. <br /> <br /> Outameni is now the local white elephant of white elephants, surpassing the former Goodyear plant in St Thomas that once held that unenviable status. The property was bought, notwithstanding that a technical committee of the National Housing Trust advised the then board not to make the purchase.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The Auditor General&rsquo;s Department says that the National Housing Trust&rsquo;s (NHT) purchase of the Orange Grove/Outameni property in Trelawny in 2013 was a buyout of a bad debt owed by the owners of the property to a local merchant bank.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The purchase was consummated, although a site assessment of the property conducted by the Trust&rsquo;s Construction and Development Unit had indicated &ldquo;that the property does not appear to facilitate the NHT&rsquo;s mandate for affordable housing solutions and is more suited for recreational/heritage type facility&rdquo;. (Jamaica Observer, April 22, 2015)<br /> <br /> Why did the de facto prime minister, Peter Phillips, keep a stony silence during the &lsquo;dead babies scandal&rsquo;? Why did he remain deadly quiet after a scathing report on the state of our major hospitals was published? Why did he not speak out on the behalf of the Jamaican people when chikungunya ravaged the land? A study of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica showed that the outbreak cost Jamaica&rsquo;s economy $7 billion in lost production. The then Government did little to prepare the country for the arrival of the disease.<br /> <br /> Why did Phillips adopt a posture of &lsquo;hear no evil, see no evil&rsquo; when ex-Investment Minister Anthony Hylton pulled one of the biggest hoaxes since 1962 on the people of Jamaica?<br /> <br /> We must never forget this travesty.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The minister said the engineering company, Krauck Systems, will bring &ldquo;considerable technical skills to the logistics hub projects&rdquo;, while Anchor Financial Group &mdash; a major financing agency with &ldquo;deep funding capabilities&rdquo; &mdash; would be the lead financier for the projects.&rdquo; (Jamaica Observer, April 16, 2015)<br /> <br /> To date we have seen no evidence of the promised $US 5-billion logistic hub investment. We must never forget that in June 2012, Phillips imposed GCT of 16.5 per cent on &ldquo;patties, flavoured milk, some processed fish products, buns, crackers, biscuits, corned beef, rolled oats, and syrups&rdquo;. (The Gleaner, June 1, 2012)<br /> <br /> Phillips now pours scorn on the Administration for its tax package of $13.5 billion.<br /> <br /> He says he and the PNP will &ldquo;fix Jamaica again&rdquo;. Did he use &ldquo;fix&rdquo; as in local parlance, as in the sense of when an angry parent says to a child, &lsquo;I am going to &lsquo;fix your business&rsquo;? Dr Phillips needs to tell us.<br /> <br /> PS: Several of my readers directed my attention to a recent article by Michael Burke in which he untruthfully misrepresented the fact that I gave Dr Peter Phillips credit for ushering a decent bus system in the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region. I must confess that this was my second time reading Burke. I left with a similar impression as the first: &ldquo;I found your essay to be good and original. However, the part that was original was not good and the part that was good was not original.&rdquo; &mdash; Samuel Johnson <br /> <br /> The axe forgets; the tree remembers. &mdash; Kenyan Proverb<br /> <br /> Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or higgins160@yahoo.com.<br /> <br />   http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12853967/196681_w300.jpg Local Opinion Sunday, March 19, 2017 12:00 AM