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 What more can we do? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/What-more-can-we-do-_82763 People with disabilities are an integral part of any society. However, they have not been treated with the level of respect and dignity that they should. After years of advances, many still view these individuals as people who should be confined to their homes or be placed in infirmaries. They are still being viewed as individuals who should be on welfare rather than being involved with gainful employment.<br /> <br /> As a country, we have a number of people with disabilities who have demonstrated that they have the capacity to perform and have excelled in their sphere of professional engagement. I wish to demonstrate that people with disabilities have the ability to be engaged in the productive capacity of the country. We have a number of individuals who have shown this to Jamaica and they will be highlighted in this article.<br /> <br /> One of the most celebrated persons with disabilities in Jamaica is Wilbert Williams. He is a blind person who grew up at the Salvation Army School for the Blind. He was among the first set of blind students to enter into the traditional high schools, and Excelsior High played an indelible role in his educational sojourn. Wilbert first studied physiotherapy at the Royal National Institute for the Blind School of Physiotherapy and he practised his craft at the Mona Rehabilitation Centre, alongside Professor John Golding for years. Wilbert Williams later went to The University of the West Indies (UWI) to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Management Studies. He then became the executive director of Abilities Foundation, where he served until his retirement. Wilbert was the consummate professional who blazed a trail of excellence in all of his professional endeavours. He was a true ambassador for people with disabilities in Jamaica.<br /> <br /> Sarah Newland-Martin is another outstanding person with a disability that has excelled in Jamaica. Sarah was abandoned by her parents because of her disability. She grew up at the Mona Rehabilitation Centre under the guidance of the venerable Sir John Golding. Sarah is one of the most outstanding paralympians, distinguishing herself in the field of swimming. She has won numerous medals for Jamaica. She has earned acclaim for being the first person with a disability to swim the entire Kingston Harbour &mdash; and this she did without any legs.<br /> <br /> Over the past 30 years, Sarah Newland-Martin has dedicated her life to improving the social conditions of young men. She is the executive director for the Young Men&rsquo;s Christian Association (YMCA). She is positively impacting thousands of vulnerable youth in Jamaica. She has been a long-standing and outstanding advocate for people with disabilities in Jamaica.<br /> <br /> Dr Ikswell Douglas is the first person with a disability to receive a PhD at The UWI. He also attended the Salvation Army School for the Blind, then Sam Sharpe Teachers&rsquo; College and The UWI. At The UWI he pursued a Bachelor in Education and a Master of Science in Human Resource Development. He then completed a PhD in education studies.<br /> <br /> Dr Douglas worked in the Ministry of Education for years and rose to the rank of assistant chief education officer. He is a well-sought-after public speaker as his oratorical skills are among the best within the Caribbean.<br /> <br /> Monica Bartley is another outstanding Jamaican who has a disability. Despite Monica&rsquo;s physical disability, it never prevented her from excelling academically and professionally. Monica attended Excelsior High School and then The UWI, at which she pursued a first degree in statistics. Monica joined the staff at the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, where she ultimately became a director of this national institution. Monica Bartley was also chairman for the Combined Disabilities Association, the grass root organisation that has been advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities in Jamaica.<br /> <br /> Gloria Goffe is also an outstanding person with disability who has excelled in her profession and academics. She attended the Salvation Army School for the Blind and then did professional examinations and became a Certified Professional Secretary. She worked as a secretary at Deloitte and Touche. Gloria did further studies at The UWI where she completed a bachelor&rsquo;s degree in psychology and a master&rsquo;s degree in human resource development. She is currently the executive director of the Combined Disabilities Association and is also a very strong and dynamic advocate for persons with disabilities in Jamaica.<br /> <br /> Dena Gaye Weller is a young person with a disability that has done extremely well. She has a physical disability and is a graduate of Hampton High School. Dena completed a Bachelor of Science in Psychology at The UWI. Upon graduating from The UWI, Dena worked as a teacher. She then engaged in self-employment where she does work online for an overseas agent. She was adjudged as one of the best online workers by her company. She recently represented Jamaica at the Paralympics in Brazil.<br /> <br /> As a blind person myself, I have been extremely fortunate to get a very good education and, at the same time, be employed. After attending St Mary High School, where I developed my sight problem, I became totally blind in 1989. At the time, there were deep questions among my family and members of the community as to why this happened to me and what of my future. God has blessed me and this is manifested in how successful I have been at transforming my personal life through investing in education. The sacrifices made at the Jamaica Society for the Blind, Mico Evening College, and The UWI have all paid off. I have accomplished a Bachelor of Arts in Communication; a Master of Philosophy in Government, and I am on the cusp of completing a PhD in government. These educational achievements contributed to me becoming a senator in the Jamaican Parliament; minister of state in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security; and president of the Jamaican Senate. It has also contributed to me owning and operating my own business.<br /> <br /> I have highlighted a few of the most successful people with disabilities in Jamaica as a means of demonstrating that these individuals can perform once given the opportunities. They have performed against tremendous odds and have been contributing exponentially to national development.<br /> <br /> Notwithstanding these outstanding accomplishments and performances by people with disabilities, under trying circumstances, we are not adequately recognised as individuals who have much to contribute to the society. The vast majority of individuals with disabilities are not accessing the Jamaican education system. Over 90 per cent of this population is unemployed. The population of people with disabilities is not able to go about legitimate business because public facilities are inaccessible to them.<br /> <br /> The fundamental question is what more can we do? What more can we who have had the privilege of education and employment do to convince members of the society that people with disabilities do have the capacity to perform and contribute to the progressive agenda of the country?<br /> <br /> The previous Administration enacted legislation to protect persons with disabilities against discrimination in the society and to provide for their development through access to social services. Those of us who have benefited from education and have been exposed to employment must continue to advocate for the transformation of the lives of these individuals. We must continue to be ambassadors for the members of this vulnerable community.<br /> <br /> At the same time, members of the broader society must engage in a radical shift in their attitudes towards these individuals. They must realise that these individuals have the capacity to perform and must be given the opportunity to do so. They must treat these individuals as human beings who might have different biological impairments but are fully able to contribute to the productive capacity of the country. Most importantly, members of the society must understand that disability respects no one, and that you can be able-bodied today and disabled tomorrow. The fundamental issue, therefore is for us to treat people with disabilities with the greatest of respect and the way they would want to be treated if they developed a disability.<br /> <br /> Floyd Morris is an Opposition senator and coordinator/head of The University of the West Indies Centre for Disability Studies. Send comments to the Observer or <br /> <br /> morrisfloyd@gmail.com.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13482932/245419_71861_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Tuesday, December 06, 2016 12:00 AM Teaching to test or testing to teach? &mdash; Part 2 http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Teaching-to-test-or-testing-to-teach----Part-2_81988 We continue this Education Matters conversation from where we left off, with high-stakes testing, with a look at the implication for students and their caregivers:<br /> <br /> Teaching students to think?<br /> <br /> In the last book written by famous children&rsquo;s author Dr Seuss Hooray for Diffendoofer Day, he provides a stark contrast of two schools &mdash; Diffendoofer school and Flobbertown. In Diffendoofer, the teachers teach in unconventional ways and make learning fun. Flobbertown was far more regimented and students were not allowed to play. The day arrived when an important test was to be administered throughout the school district. The principal was quite worried. However, Mrs Bonkers, a favourite teacher reassured him that they might not have seemed as regimented as Flobbertown, but they taught the students many things and, most importantly, &ldquo;We taught them how to think.&rdquo; Needless to say, on the test, the students of Diffendoofer school received the highest possible scores. <br /> <br /> Diffendoofer day reminds me of an era in schooling in Jamaica where people who could swot the content and reproduce it on paper were considered high achievers. There was little attention given to the thought processes of the learner and the relevance of the content knowledge to individual students. Some students will not see the relevance of remembering, as a child, who the minister of national security is (only to have to relearn it if there was a Cabinet reshuffle or change of Government). They might be far more interested in questioning the role, function and importance of the various ministries and how the existence of these ministries relate to them as citizens. Therefore, it is not surprising that some students perform better in classrooms, institutions where I could question, challenge and put their own perspectives on existing knowledge. <br /> <br /> This brings me back to the question: Should the teacher teach to test or test to teach? There is nothing wrong when a teacher prepares students to pass tests. Testing is a reality in our educational existence which has some degree of permanence in our education system. However, it is often the obsession with testing that is worrying. Teachers need to teach students to be lifelong learners. For example,if they are teaching comprehension their role is not to get the student to know a passage inside out, but to be able to transfer the skills used to understand one passage, to other unfamiliar passages. In other words, teach students how to apply their knowledge to acquire new information and respond to unfamiliar tasks. <br /> <br /> Parents and tests<br /> <br /> My concern for obsession over testing is not confined to educators but also to parents who seem even more obsessed with the high-stakes testing. Some parents are so anxious about their children&rsquo;s performance on high-stakes tests that they often rob the children of the developmental benefits of play by registering them in countless extra classes.<br /> <br /> Test prep augmentation may provide parents with the psychological assurance that they are doing everything in their power to make their children achieve the highest possible scores in their tests. However, the competitive environment spawned by high-stakes testing often compromises wholesome social development of our children, since common courtesies and social skills are placed on the back burner in favour of high test scores. Later in life we discover that many of the essential values necessary for optimal functioning in society are compromised in favour for these test scores, and even though our children may have performed well on tests, they often struggle to navigate the social and emotional spheres of their everyday lives.<br /> <br /> Harmonising teaching and testing<br /> <br /> By now you may be forming the conclusion that I am opposed to testing. Are tests necessary? Of course, they are. They provide a compass for educators to estimate students&rsquo; strengths and weaknesses at the individual and collective levels. They also provide comparisons of performance across various schools and regions.<br /> <br /> Should tests be the sole indicators of candidates&rsquo; potential or competencies in the world of work or for further education? Well, testing comes in many forms. If it is the traditional high-stakes standardised test (paper and pencil or computer-based), the answer is a resounding &lsquo;no&rsquo;. Many people have attained high test scores; however, that does not guarantee that they will be the better at putting what they have demonstrated on the test into practice.<br /> <br /> Teaching should focus on lifelong learning, where learners are provided with the foundations and strategies for acquiring further knowledge. At the heart of the teaching learning experiences should be the students. It is prudent to teach the areas of the curriculum, but it has to be taught in a way that allows students to relate to what is taught and not limit them to only memorise, assimilate and produce answers on tests.<br /> <br /> Policymakers also need to place less pressure on teachers about test results and emphasise the holistic development of children. It is important to take teachers beyond the test results by re-engaging in further teacher support activities (coaching, workshops on strategies that can help struggling and gifted learners, and other activities) in order to cater to learning needs of students.<br /> <br /> In addition, they need to build on the initiatives to provide more specialised assessment for students with special needs, allowing educators to interpret assessment data and cater to students based on these results. Alternative forms of assessment should also be encouraged. Standardised tests should be one component in assessing students. An exploration of other viable alternatives of assessment is important to improving the learning experiences of our students.<br /> <br /> I close with the example cited a the beginning. The Penwood experience and other episodes highlight the pervasive role of testing and examinations in our everyday lives. Beyond the surface issues of resolving a crisis by getting exam results it would be helpful to look beyond the results and examine our approach and attitudes toward testing. <br /> <br /> Teachers should constantly aspire for exciting ways to make teaching and learning exciting, while being aware of the curriculum and testing requirements. There has to be a balancing act that makes provision for both. Policymakers also need to create avenues that provide less focus on testing and more on lifelong learning from early in the education cycle. There is an inescapable link between teaching and testing, the way we negotiate the teaching and testing experiences of our students will determine the quality education they receive.<br /> <br /> In the quest for positive educational outcomes, we must also come to terms with the answer for the following question: Are we preparing our students to pass specific tests or are we preparing them to tackle real-life situations they may encounter on the job or in their everyday lives?<br /> <br /> Clement T M Lambert, PhD, is an educational researcher, consultant, and lecturer in language arts education at The University of the West Indies. He leads the Communication and Arts Cluster and coordinates literacy studies at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Send comments to the Observer or<br /> <br /> clementtmlambert@gmail.com.<br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13465309/244039_70516_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Tuesday, December 06, 2016 12:00 AM Low-hanging fruits in public sector transformation http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Low-hanging-fruits-in-public-sector-transformation_82085 The public sector transformation programme is on, again. While this effort is a complex one, with far-reaching implications, there are several areas and approaches of attack that could be considered as relatively easy, or at least to be low-hanging fruits.<br /> <br /> One such approach could include exploiting existing technology and processes to improve efficiency in service delivery. In some instances, the incremental cost to the Government could range from nil to modest amounts.<br /> <br /> A case in point is the delivery of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) old-age pension benefits. This is personal as I experience the process every two weeks in the capacity as an agent for my father. In as much as many pensioners enjoy meeting up with each other to socialise on pension payout day, there are many who would prefer to not have to visit the post office or the designated commercial bank to get their funds in cash &mdash; or at least many would prefer to have the option of having the funds delivered via other channels such as direct deposit to accounts at regulated deposit-taking institutions including banks and credit unions.<br /> <br /> It is admirable that the NIS now allows for the old-age pension benefit to be delivered to bank accounts. However, it is quite odd that the NIS will not allow for deposit to the account of the agent unless the beneficiary is joint on the account. Although the current position of the NIS may seem to meet some unspecified control, it is not so at all. In my case as agent, the NIS did its due diligence to allow me to continue to collect the cash, so how much more risk could there be for the benefit to go to my bank account to which my father is not a signatory? To the extent that there are situations similar to mine, a review by the NIS to allow for direct deposit of benefits to the accounts of established agents would be welcome.<br /> <br /> Speaking of fraud risk and cost, there is good reason for delivery of the benefit via the post office to be phased out with urgency. For one, the post office is not a bank and the staff are not expert at financial controls, understandably so, as that is not their core function. In addition, there is inefficiency in allocating large amounts of cash to the several post offices since the NIS investment portfolio takes the loss resulting from this poor demonstration of cash management. Also, as I have experienced, at times, the post offices have run out of cash on days when there is a heavy demand on cash, resulting in time lost for the pensioner who has to make an additional trip to collect the funds.<br /> <br /> A bold step could be for the financial institutions to step forward, in the national interest and in support of an efficiency effort, to target financial literacy and inclusion workshops to a percentage of the pensioner class. To the extent that more pensioners who do not have accounts qualify for accounts and are interested in opening accounts, this would be positive for the pensioners and would strike a dent in what must be significant operational costs to the NIS investment portfolio, as the demand to push cash for benefit payout would be decreased.<br /> <br /> Under the new initiative for public sector transformation, it would be good if the first order of business would be to focus on the easy fixes and those that could yield an immediate positive efficiency impact. The reduction in cash payments in a singular way would reduce fraud risk, reduce personal security risk to transactors who have to receive cash payments, and provide impetus to financial inclusion efforts.<br /> <br /> christopherjmpryce@yahoo.com http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13480174/245166_71711_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Monday, December 05, 2016 12:00 AM Jamaica has to change its brand of politics http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Jamaica-has-to-change-its-brand-of-politics_82213 I am not surprised with how the local government elections turned out. One factor was the limited options from which to choose from and again for the lack of voters.<br /> <br /> Confidence in the parties and their style of politics is waning among Jamaican voters, especially within the youth majority. The apathy, manifesting in their non-participation, is testament of wanting much more from the elected officials, who after the elections feel they&rsquo;ve put themselves in the position.<br /> <br /> Last Monday I witnessed people going about their normal business with not a care in the world and even looking surprised at the polling division present on Molynes Road. I feel the debates must have had a large part in it. Both debates featured poor representation and presentations, which must have made the mere thought of going to vote pointless.<br /> <br /> Jamaicans are no longer fooled by promises, patronage and thinly veiled political threats. Kevin O&rsquo;Brien Chang on<br /> <br /> CVM-TV made a point that connected: Jamaicans have access to things to make them comfortable, thus the need for the politicians is void. It is possible that Jamaicans think the country is fine, when actually the system is widely complained about. Jamaica cannot be alright when the US dollar is suffocating ours, the Government is spending $600 million on de-bushing, and people need access to good-paying jobs. Chang rightly said that Jamaicans prefer to go to the dancehall, despite everything else. <br /> <br /> But what do Jamaicans actually want? Where are we? Kotched up on our verandas, business as usual?<br /> <br /> The politicians do not care whether the franchise is exercised, once they get their positions.<br /> <br /> Jamaica is small compared to the US, Britain and South Korea, who have people demonstrating for accountability from their governments and for heads to roll. We are stuck in the same old, same old.<br /> <br /> I actually want two more party options, because the ones on my ballot greatly disappointed me. There must be other options out there. Why isn&rsquo;t our media exploring possible challengers to the political status quo? Who will take the chance or will be given the chance to make the difference?<br /> <br /> I am not going to blame the voters; their silence &mdash; or rather the lack of inked fingers &mdash; spoke volumes.<br /> <br /> The wider population, led by millennials, will see to real actions that will wrest the country from current crop of predacious, crab-like, self-seeking and serving politicians who still reinforce the garrison &lsquo;strong seat&rsquo; mentality and don&rsquo;t do squat!<br /> <br /> rastarjamaica@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/10238214/ja_w300.jpg Local Opinion Monday, December 05, 2016 12:00 AM The PNP&rsquo;s existential crisis http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-PNP-s-existential-crisis_82113 The People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) is in a crisis of its own making, and when an organisation creates a crisis for itself, leadership is to be blamed. The PNP is suffering from a failure of leadership, not just that of the party president. When an organisation makes a series of bad decisions it is not easy to recover from them with a good speech or the change of a leader. I, nonetheless, submit that the party president, Portia Simpson Miller, is fully responsible for the series of bad decisions which have affected the image and future of the party.<br /> <br /> Gross mishandling of general election campaign<br /> <br /> The PNP began to inflict wounds on itself in the summer of 2015 when it decided that it must go to the polls in 2015. At that time, the country had only begun to see the early positive effects of the stabilisation of the economy courtesy of an International Monetary Fund-guided programme. With elections in the air, contests began to emerge in a number of seats. Despite repeated pleas publicly and privately, the party leadership, generally, and the party president specifically, refused to engage the people in those constituencies that were imploding. The loss of faith that would have resulted from those errors cannot be restored overnight.<br /> <br /> The PNP grossly mishandled the general election campaign. There was the botching of the December date &mdash; though the party appeared to have recovered from that. But then it ran a scatter-shot campaign in 2016, dithered on the debates, miscalculated the impact of social media, and dabbled inelegantly in the Andrew Holness mansion issue.<br /> <br /> During the PNP&rsquo;s inexplicably ugly campaign, there were voices appealing to the leadership to change course. There were those who begged, not just appealed to the leadership to participate in the debates in the lead-up to the election. The party was told to drop the Holness mansion matter. During this time a number of candidate selection issues were festering, but despite this the party misled itself about its preparedness for the election, and in the end received a whipping from the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), turning its 21-seat majority (42:21) to a 31:32 minority. This loss occurred despite the PNP having expressed &mdash; what turned out to be false and empty &mdash; confidence that it would increase its majority. I will never forget how General Secretary Paul Burke repeated the clich&Atilde;&copy; &ldquo;leaving nothing to chances&rdquo; when he had no clue what was happening on the ground &mdash; namely, who were being enumerated and where. He went on to make baseless claims that the PNP had strong JLP candidates like Edmund Bartlett, Horace Chang, Andrew Holness, and Shahine Robinson under &ldquo;presha, presha, presha&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> Despite the political whipping that the party received, and its promise to do a frank review, it produced a report that tiptoed around the issue and refused to look itself in the face and acknowledge that the leadership had failed and that the leader ought to have taken full responsibility. The president refused to take responsibility and literally threatened those who were seeking to replace her, saying that they challenged her at their peril. What dictator-like language is that?<br /> <br /> The result was that the aspirants backed away and Simpson Miller was given a free hand to lead the party from a 14:0 majority in the municipalities to a 5:8 minority, at the time of writing. Simpson Miller claimed she had unfinished business and that resigning after February 25 was not on. If winning the local government elections was the unfinished business, she needs to humbly admit that she was unsuccessful, and do the honourable thing.<br /> <br /> Re-learning crisis management<br /> <br /> Leachim Semaj often reminds us that a crisis is a precious thing to waste. A crisis places individuals or organisations at the doorsteps of a breakthrough, a breakdown, or a break-up! The PNP should seek the first in order to avoid the second and third.<br /> <br /> The PNP can experience a breakthrough and blaze a path to a new and bright future if it is prepared to make tough choices that place party above personalities, and country above party; as well as find a new level of commitment to self-discipline, accountability, and excellence. A diehard Comrade suggests that the PNP has adopted some of the worst qualities of the JLP, with constant infighting and everybody wanting to lead, washing dirty linen in public, and leaving no room for the young. Unless the party breaks this mould they will be in Opposition for a long time to come &mdash; for Holness will not allow them ground to recover and could call a general election soon.<br /> <br /> If the party fails to make, that is to say create, a breakthrough, and cease wending its way to a chronic state of unpreparedness and uncompetitiveness, the natural processes of life will take their toll and it will fall into a state of chronic ineffectiveness and a worse shadow of itself. Once it has reached this chronic state it will be unable to attract new talent and the once great movement could disappear. If the PNP thinks this is an overreaction they had better think again.<br /> <br /> The party has historically taken the approach of managing crises by silencing opposing voices. Simpson Miller echoed this in St Ann a few weeks ago when she said there is no such thing as an &ldquo;independent PNP&rdquo;. Robert &ldquo;Bobby&rdquo; Pickersgill scoffed at the notion of a conscience vote some time ago, asking, &ldquo;What is that?&rdquo; suggesting that there is no such thing as an independent position in the party. The PNP has practised the philosophy of a &ldquo;managed democracy&rdquo;. Thus dissent and alternative ideas have not always been welcome. This, in part, explains the party&rsquo;s inability to navigate in a world of multiple media through which to spout ideas.<br /> <br /> While the PNP&rsquo;s defeat in the local government elections was expected, the party did not put up a professional fight. It basically conceded the contest early, and when it eventually hit the road it was not enthusiastic. Then we had the infamous &ldquo;no bwoy, no gyal&rdquo; comment from the leader. The party could hardly have expected that it would be taken seriously.<br /> <br /> Elements of the PNP&rsquo;s existential crisis<br /> <br /> I submit that the PNP&rsquo;s existential crisis boils down to five key issues, namely:<br /> <br /> (a) Leader above party<br /> <br /> There are those who feel that protecting Simpson Miller&rsquo;s ego and image is more important than pursuing the renewal of the party. The notion that she must set her timetable for departure is, in my view, placing her wishes and desires above what is in the best interest of the party. None of us will be around forever, and if you are 70 years old you must be considering that it is time to make way for your replacement, and that could hardly be 10 years&rsquo; time. If the organisation you lead is in trouble, then you either must show immediately that you are taking it out of trouble or else make way for another.<br /> <br /> Those members of the leadership who insist that Simpson Miller deserves to set her own timetable for leaving are only fostering the festering of wounds and facilitating the party&rsquo;s not-so-slow march towards a chronic state wherein it will be unable to attract new talent.<br /> <br /> (b) Confusing love for self with service to the larger good<br /> <br /> There are those in the PNP who are jealously guarding their chances of a bigger position, and among them are people who are unwilling to lovingly but firmly negotiate with Simpson Miller that she should step aside. They contend that to ask her to go amounts to an act of disrespect and disregard for her years of service, and such a request will do more damage than good to the party.<br /> <br /> I suspect that many who make this argument are more concerned with their own personal place in the future of a stronger party. They feel that it is best to tough it out. Portia must walk sooner rather than later, so do nothing that could be perceived as disrespect in the eyes of her loyalists. Such self-serving reasoning is not a concern for the larger good of the party and, like the first conflicted emotion of leader above party, will hasten the state of chronic unattractiveness.<br /> <br /> (c) Loyalty to party over country<br /> <br /> The country needs a viable Opposition. The PNP&rsquo;s failure to renew itself and the refusal of those in various leadership positions to act with vision amount to a disservice to the country. The party faces a crisis of loyalty. The loyalty of many members appears to be to party first, and by not being sufficiently focused on the needs of the country, the modus operandi is one which seeks to determine party preservation &mdash; but like the two conditions mentioned before, the likely result is self-destruction.<br /> <br /> (d) Alliances over accountability<br /> <br /> The PNP has had a long tradition of not holding its members accountable. When wrong or unwise or ill-advised acts are committed, the party has tended to close ranks and protect its faithful members. The result of this is that the party has lost the respect of many Jamaicans, who feel that it has little regard for ethics and transparency.<br /> <br /> The absence of accountability for the failures in the general election and the likely failure to hold anyone accountable for the performance in the local government elections are par for the course. So the president protected Paul Burke, her chosen &lsquo;alliance over accountability&rsquo;. The party has lost its savour due to this culture of alliance over accountability.<br /> <br /> (e) Mediocrity over excellence<br /> <br /> The PNP was beaten in the recent general election, but to date claims the election was close. It was beaten in the local government elections, but spins and says it expected this. Political parties are expected to win elections or put up a hard fight. The PNP has not given itself a failing grade for its performance. The leadership, in particular the president, does not see the results as warranting someone stepping aside. The party appears to have become comfortable with mediocrity and will likely, as a result, lose many more supporters.<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-fou<br /> <br /> nder of the Caribbean Leadership Re-Imagination Initiative and <br /> <br /> author of three books on leadership. Send comments to the Observer or <br /> <br /> canutethompson1@gmail.com.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12725934/189437__w300.jpg Local Opinion Monday, December 05, 2016 12:00 AM Portia Simpson Miller should protect her legacy http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Portia-Simpson-Miller-should-protect-her-legacy_82575 We have watched Portia Simpson Miller&rsquo;s rise from a humble Kingston and St Andrew Corporation councillor to prime minister of Jamaica. She 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. The times that she has crossed the line into tracing matches have gained a critical mass, now overshadowing her historic rise in Jamaican politics. <br /> <br /> As Hillary Clinton will attest, and nearer to home, Olivia &ldquo;Babsy&rdquo; 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.<br /> <br /> Owning campaign platforms with her strong voice, becoming &ldquo;Mama P&rdquo; 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 People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP), retained the position despite several challenges, and served as prime minister twice.<br /> <br /> Women who choose politics as a career are very brave indeed, and clearly Simpson Miller is one of our bravest. Still, this year marks her 40th anniversary as a Member of Parliament, and her tenth 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 /> Honestly, every time a major newscast is about to start I keep hoping that the announcement of this resignation will be made. The pension for our former prime ministers is on par with the one in office, complete with bodyguard, driver, home security, and other perquisites, so this will make Simpson Miller free to continue her engagement with her Jamaican people, without the pressure that campaigning brings. As she takes this decision may it be guided by prayer and may she know that her place in history as Jamaica&rsquo;s first woman prime minister is a very special and lasting one.<br /> <br /> CHRISTMAS AT THE CONVENT<br /> <br /> I had wished to become a Sister of Mercy right after my graduation, but circumstances did not allow. I remained close to the beloved nuns who had been such fine teachers and mentors, in particular the legendary Convent of Mercy Academy &lsquo;Alpha&rsquo; Principal Sister Mary Bernadette Little, who passed away in 2014. You can imagine my joy, therefore, when my former Latin teacher Sister Theresa Lowe Ching invited me and four other colleagues to become associates of the Sisters of Mercy.<br /> <br /> Thus, Angela Dabdoub, Velia Espeut, Margaret Little (Sister Bernadette&rsquo;s niece), Heather Pinnock, and yours truly made our commitment in September of this year and were participants in the convent&rsquo;s annual Christmas lunch for the Sisters on Saturday. The emcee was St Catherine High School graduate Hugh Douse, educator, dramatist and founder of the Nexus singers. Entertainment was from Velia Espeut and distinguished past students of St Catherine High, who declared their undying gratitude to the visionary Sister of Mercy, Sister Mary Paschal Figueroa, for expanding the school.<br /> <br /> A highlight of this expansion was the transformation of the school from girls only to co-ed. We understand that there were naysayers to Sister Paschal&rsquo;s bold proposal; however, she persevered. Douse shared that the many successful male graduates would not have reached the heights they had achieved were it not for Sister Paschal&rsquo;s insistence. He was joined by another St Catherine graduate, Dr O&rsquo;Neil Mundle, now a lecturer and musicologist.<br /> <br /> Sister Paschal must be mightily proud of two other St Catherine High graduates who are at the highest levels of leadership in Church and State: Roman Catholic Archbishop Kenneth Richards and Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness.<br /> <br /> This Friday, December 9, Sister Paschal will celebrate her 98th birthday. Though physically challenged, her mind is as sharp as ever &mdash; indeed, she led us in our grace before the meal and gave a glowing vote of thanks. It is a fact that nuns have a high level of mental acuity well into their 90s. I read research on this in an issue of Life magazine many years ago, and it seems that meditation and lifelong learning have contributed to this blessed quality.<br /> <br /> IN PURSUIT OF JOY<br /> <br /> &lsquo;In Pursuit of Joy&rsquo; was the witty title of last Thursday&rsquo;s event held by J Wray & Nephew Limited to honour Joy Spence, the first woman master blender in the world. The brilliant, humble Joy Spence was a chemistry whiz, who after graduating from The University of the West Indies (UWI) returned to her alma mater, Holy Childhood High School, to teach the subject. One of her former students, Dr Novelette McKnight, now a lecturer in chemistry at The UWI, said it was Spence who made the subject so exciting, because of her creative methods of teaching. <br /> <br /> After gaining her master&rsquo;s degree with record-breaking marks, Spence crossed over from academia to manufacturing at J Wray & Nephew Limited, rising to the position of director of quality and technical services, from which she retired earlier this year. However, her prized position as the company&rsquo;s master blender continues, and will actually be escalated next year as noted by Wray & Nephew Chairman Clement &ldquo;Jimmy&rdquo; Lawrence, and outlined by Gruppo Campari Global Brand PR Manager (Rums) Catherine McDonald.<br /> <br /> The most moving moment of the event was the tribute by Spence&rsquo;s daughter, Tracy-Ann, who spoke about her mother&rsquo;s unending generosity and her ability to serve both family and workplace fully. Congratulations, Joy Spence,well deserved!<br /> <br /> HELPING TO HEAL JAMAICA<br /> <br /> Today marks the 15th anniversary of this column, which demands a good amount of time each week. I continue because I feel like a mother of a feverish child called Jamaica, and I am determined that she must get better.<br /> <br /> Positivity is a great healer, and there is so much to celebrate in our beloved country that I am never short of good people and events to share. We have used many column inches on Usain Bolt, and here we are again congratulating this Jamaican phenomenon on his movie premier and his sixth IAAF Athlete of the Year Award. Elaine Thompson did well to score a nomination this year, and no doubt her time will come.<br /> <br /> We believe our police commissioner, his high command, and our national security team have been working against the odds to keep us safe. The question is, what are parents doing to arrest this blight of indiscipline and dishonesty? The simple act of paying attention to our children can transform our country into a more stable environment for us, and for investors waiting in the wings. Clearly we can do better for this upcoming generation.<br /> <br /> lowriechin@aim.com<br /> <br /> www.Lowrie-Chin.blogspot.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13478260/245037_71599_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Monday, December 05, 2016 12:00 AM Grief and relief at the death of Fidel Castro http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Grief-and-relief-at-the-death-of-Fidel-Castro_82355 When the history of the twentieth century is written, Fidel Castro, the maximum leader of Cuba, will be shown to occupy a prominent place in it.<br /> <br /> Since the 1959 Cuban Revolution that brought him to supreme dominance over his country, he has been a colossus on the world stage; eliciting adoration and revulsion, praise and blame, and grief and relief in enemy and foe alike. <br /> <br /> He survived 10 American presidents, which, on the face of it, is a remarkable accomplishment, given American hostility toward him personally and the movement he led. For over 50 years he held the helm of leadership and power over a communist country just 90 miles from an avowed enemy that has been long recognised as the bastion of freedom and democracy in the world. Not only did Castro hold sway, but he thumbed his nose at the Americans and defied every attempt by the American superpower to dislodge him from power or to eliminate him for good from the world stage.<br /> <br /> That he survived is a matter with which historians will have to wrestle. That he did survive is something bordering on a miracle, a phenomenon in which Castro&rsquo;s communist leanings would have had no interest.<br /> <br /> History will record that the misguided United States embargo against Cuba did more to cement Castro in power than it did to remove him or diminish his standing in the eyes of the Cuban people and the world. Castro was able to skilfully manipulate the &ldquo;wickedness&rdquo; of the American imperialist repression of his country as justification for remaining tough, even to the extent of imprisoning and even executing dissidents regarded as enemies of the revolution. The embargo merely elevated his profile among the Cuban people and elicited worldwide admiration for the courage he showed in standing up to &ldquo;Goliath&rdquo;. It could be argued that he was the Goliath which the American David could not overcome.<br /> <br /> A character as iconic as Fidel will evoke all kinds of emotions in people. They will either love him or hate him; there is hardly any room for indifference. Every Cuban close to 60 years grew up under the shadow of the Cuban Revolution and its indomitable leader. Castro is the only leader they have known, as well as the communist political system that consolidated him in power over many decades.<br /> <br /> Many of the present generations of Cubans love him unreservedly. He has provided for them an educational system that has promoted literacy to world-class standards. Also, he created an admirable health system and opened opportunity to students from Third-World countries to study there. Developing countries, including Jamaica, have benefited from Cuban generosity in the deployment of Cuban health professionals who have proved to be invaluable to their own health systems. Cuba has one of the best infant mortality rates in the world.<br /> <br /> Notwithstanding all these achievements and Fidel&rsquo;s iconic stature, any unblinkered critique of the Castro regime must take cognisance of the fact that the Cuban people have paid a price for the Cuban Revolution. However one may spin it, Cuba has not been a free society. The revolution under Fidel extracted its price, and the greatest price the people have had to pay is the loss of personal freedom, the suppression of their rights to dissent, assembly at will, and the brutal denial of their right to take advantage of the power of self-determination.<br /> <br /> Cuban society under the Castro regime has been built around regimentation, suppression of press freedom and even death to those who even today would speak up against the Government. As I write, there are many political prisoners still held in Cuban jails. Just about five per cent of the population has access to the Internet &mdash; a situation buoyed by the Barack Obama Administration&rsquo;s recent overtures to that country.<br /> <br /> One may reason that Fidel had to maintain brutal repression of those who opposed him to protect and preserve the integrity of the revolution. But this itself is a cop-out. Communism or Marxist-Leninism, as political and economic philosophies, cannot work with dissent. People are expected to toe the line, and where this is not done, brutal suppression of dissent becomes the order of the day. This was the essential character of Russia under Lenin, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) under Stalin and subsequent presidents of the Russian Politburo, and Mao in China.<br /> <br /> It is the height of extreme narcissism bordering almost on blasphemy for any one leader, however exalted, to believe that his views or those of a small group around him have to be listened to by close to 11 million people. They know what is best for people and so they will not entertain any vigorous viewpoint that deviates from their own thinking. The situation is made worse when any deviation makes one a deviant whose freedom has to be taken from him until he can be reoriented to become once again a &ldquo;useful&rdquo; citizen. Such a system is built on fear and can only be sustained at the barrel of a gun. <br /> <br /> Sadly, this has been part and parcel of Castro&rsquo;s rule and must not be swept under the carpet by those who would want to lionise him or have a romantic view of his revolution. One wonders if Cuba would not have been a more progressive society if there were not this suppression of free speech with an open economy to support it. <br /> <br /> There is a lot of grief on the part of those who were his most ardent supporters; who believed in his support of liberation movements throughout the Third World, especially in standing up to South Africa when that country invaded Angola; in the great courage he has shown in standing up to that imperialist behemoth America; and what he means to the history of the world in the twentieth century. But there is also grief on the part of the many families who have lost their loved ones and property to the depredations of the regime. There will be relief among those who fled Cuba that he no longer can endanger their lives. They will shed no tears for him.<br /> <br /> But the fact that so many can express grief and relief at the passing of Fidel speaks volumes to the stature of the man. Cuba, since the revolution, has not been the same while he lived. One can be certain that it will not be the same now that he has died. The glue that held the country together is no longer there. His brother Raul and the other revolutionary remnants that remain will do their best to protect the vestiges of a dying order, but it will be a lost cause. Cuba will change, especially if President-elect Donald Trump continues the openness to the country begun by the Obama Administration. The worst thing that America could do is to further force it into the deep freeze it has been for far too long.<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/13461485/243653_70344_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Sunday, December 04, 2016 12:00 AM What next is in store for Cuba? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/What-next-is-in-store-for-Cuba-_81872 In my travels not so long ago throughout Old Havana, central Havana, and the Vedado district of Havana, I observed that the Habaneros were generally happy. They seemed pretty much like most people in the other Caribbean islands. In fact, the people of Havana seemed more relaxed and agreeable than many of us Jamaicans.<br /> <br /> Likewise, I felt much safer walking the streets of Havana than walking the streets of downtown Kingston or Spanish Town. Masses of young people strolled casually over La Rampa, Vedado, hanging out and buying ice cream at Copellia. These teenagers seemed much more relaxed, happier, better-behaved, and friendlier towards one another than their counterparts, say, in the USA, UK, or Jamaica.<br /> <br /> As I made frequent trips along the tiled pavement of the Prado, which is tree-lined, as I walked the length of the Malecon, or strolled in the Parque Central (Central Park), there were young and middle-aged people sitting very close to each other on marble benches. They were sitting on the sturdy Malecon wall, if, at the time, the furious Atlantic waves weren&rsquo;t washing over it. Some were sitting on park benches in the Central Park in very intimate and affectionate embrace. So then, such socialising seemed to belie the notion that Cubans are &lsquo;oppressed&rsquo;.<br /> <br /> Later, I was to put this question to a citizen of Havana. I started by saying to Jos&Atilde;&copy;, a well-versed black African-Cuban proprietor: &ldquo;Here, this man Mr Castro,&rdquo; I said, &ldquo; has defied gringo for 50 years. He had overthrown the dictator [Fulgencio] Batista and given Cubans liberty, free education, free health care, low-cost housing and subsidised food. He&rsquo;s a man who is admired, rather revered in many parts of the world as a hero, and a model of struggle against imperialism and colonialism. So what&rsquo;s the problem then?&rdquo;<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Look around you,&rdquo; replied Jos&Atilde;&copy;. &ldquo;We live in a police state. There is no freedom. We can&rsquo;t travel. I am now a small businessman and I have to hide and do things so that I can survive. I used to work for the government as an engineer. Then I could travel abroad. Now that I am retired they won&rsquo;t let me travel. They come around and check my premises three times a day. If things are not to their satisfaction they fine me. They want to take away my licence unless I pay them a backhand. They want kickbacks. We are paid in pesos, but the goods that are of any use are in the convertible currency CUCs (pronounced cooks). They pay me a pension of 12 CUCs per month (about US$14 per month). The wages here are so pitiful that many people, including professionals, have to give up their occupations or work on the side in hotels, drive taxis, hustle, sell food, vegetables, whatever to survive. Young women have to prostitute themselves in order to survive. You are paid in local pesos, but anything of value is in CUCs, and wages range between 9-40 CUCs per month [US$10-US$45 per month].&rdquo;<br /> <br /> &ldquo;But you have security here,&rdquo; I say.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;No, the police are everywhere. It&rsquo;s a police state&rdquo;, says Jos&Atilde;&copy;. &ldquo;No dissent is allowed. People are docile. They are afraid. They don&rsquo;t say anything, for if they do, they&rsquo;d go to jail. And if you are caught with US dollars and other foreign exchange, you go to jail. Cuba is one big prison,&rdquo; laments Jos&Atilde;&copy;.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;But I see loads of people looking quite happy. They are well-dressed and well-fed,&rdquo; I remark.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Well, if they look that way, they&rsquo;re just making the best of a very bad situation. Cubans are an outgoing and friendly people; that&rsquo;s their nature. They have no alternative. But deep down they are depressed. They want to escape from this prison, they want to leave Cuba,&rdquo; declares Jos&Atilde;&copy;. &ldquo;Still many people starve. Older people suffer. They cook rice with water and have nothing else with the rice. You go to many people&rsquo;s house and all they have is a coconut fridge. That is, there is only water in the fridge. Nothing else.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> &ldquo;But surely there must be some good things about Cuba?&rdquo; I insist.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Yes.&rdquo; Jos&Atilde;&copy; does admit that the health care is good and that education is free. But he adds that there is often a shortage of some medications like aspirin. &ldquo;But if you really need good medicines you have to pay for it in CUCs; if you don&rsquo;t have CUCs you suffer,&rdquo; asserts Jos&Atilde;&copy;. He continues, &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t own a boat. If you were to have one for fishing, you are limited to what you can catch and where you can fish. You are watched by the coast guards. You have to check the boat in and out so as not to escape. Many people have tried to escape, but they drown,&rdquo; Jos&Atilde;&copy; relates painfully.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Raul, the new leader, says he has begun to change things. Allowing Cubans to buy cellphones, computers, DVDs, and so forth,&rdquo; I say.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Yes,&rdquo; agrees Jos&Atilde;&copy;, &ldquo;but you have to pay in CUCs and these things are very expensive.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> &ldquo;So, is Raul then not better than Fidel?&rdquo;<br /> <br /> &ldquo;No,&rdquo; exclaims Jose, &ldquo;he doesn&rsquo;t have the ability of Fidel.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> &ldquo;What about housing?&rdquo; I ask.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Well, the Government gives nothing for housing. Cement is very expensive, about 6 CUCs a bag. People don&rsquo;t have money to buy food, so where is the money to come from to buy repair material?&rdquo; declares Jos&Atilde;&copy;. He adds, &ldquo;During one of the recent hurricanes, buildings collapsed.<br /> <br /> CNN was there, but they were barred from reporting the incident.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> I asked Jos&Atilde;&copy; many more questions, like Cubans visiting hotels, owning a television, having cable service, purchasing books, having a phone service, owning a car, driving taxis, farming, buying and selling property, etc. And to all these questions he cited a catalogue of government restrictions which demoralised people to such an extent that even farmers have given up farming, and other people have given up trying to run a business because they know that they wouldn&rsquo;t be able to earn anything from it, because the Government takes the lion&rsquo;s share of what they earn.<br /> <br /> Now, with Fidel Castro gone, I wonder what next is in store for Cuba.<br /> <br /> George S Garwood is a Jamaican writer and educator residing in Florida, USA. Send comments to the Observer or<br /> <br /> merleneg@yahoo.com.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13476527/244740_w300.jpg Local Opinion Sunday, December 04, 2016 12:00 AM Republican president, all-Republican Congress? Brace for impact! http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Republican-president--all-Republican-Congress--Brace-for-impact_81667 The election of Donald Trump to be the 45th president of the United States of America is a guttural scream by people who are confronting their destiny and who do not like what they see. People will recall the Brexit vote, but the first sign of discord and discontent was when the 305-year-old British Union of England, Scotland and Wales was narrowly saved with a minuscule &lsquo;no&rsquo; vote in the Scottish referendum. The people of the world are unsettled. Why?<br /> <br /> What is the cause of this global upheaval and discontent? It is the economy, stupid!<br /> <br /> It is the existential threat to the way of life of the mass of the people and the uncertainty of how to deal with the threat.<br /> <br /> What has caused this threat and how can it be fixed? The threat has emerged because of the idiotic thinking of our leaders &mdash; political and economic &mdash; and the philosophies which guide them. A philosophy is the compass which directs mankind and, just as a faulty compass can result in a ship being lost at sea, so too can a misguided philosophy unsettle a nation.<br /> <br /> The current economic philosophy is that man is on Earth to make money and accumulate wealth. Herein lies the seed of our destruction.<br /> <br /> There are 5,416 mammals in the world. Which other mammal has as its guiding principle the desire to make money and accumulate wealth? All the other mammals want is an environment where they can exist and sustain their lives until it is time for them to go. We are hunter-gatherers concerned with how best to sustain our lives.<br /> <br /> Man was not too far removed from the rest of the mammals until money was invented. The thinking man has constantly searched for ways to make his life more convenient. The mistake we are now making is in establishing the convenient as the essential.<br /> <br /> Money was invented by the Phoenicians, not so that they would survive, but as a convenient way to facilitate trade. The Phoenicians invented the big boats, moving from the canoes that were hewed from tree trunks using hatchets and adzes. With the coming of the big boats the Phoenicians could now transport their products to distant countries to trade. They were able to transport their cattle and other products. The pride of place on these big boats and the symbol of wealth was the bull &mdash; to this day they use the bull on Wall Street as part of the fakery to symbolise wealth. <br /> <br /> Doing business in distant countries exposed the limitations of bartering, which was the predominant way of doing business at the time. The Phoenicians devised a medium of exchange for which they could trade their produce. They came up with a bracelet in the shape of the horns of a bull. And they determined what the bracelet would be made of and what could be exchanged for it. Ever since that invention, mankind has lost its mind and its direction in life. They have created the stupid belief that once one has the medium of exchange, one is wealthy.<br /> <br /> To understand the folly of this belief, ask yourself: &ldquo;What is a trillion dollars worth on the moon?&rdquo; Or if you want to come back to Earth, ask yourself how useful would a trillion dollars be if you were marooned in the Sahara Desert?<br /> <br /> Money innovation continued and soon gold and silver became the preferred metal from which the medium of exchange was made. This sparked the era of lunacy called mercantilism. Stronger countries invaded weaker countries in search of gold and silver. And the lunatics thought that whoever had the most gold and silver had the most wealth. It was this thinking that caused Spain to invade countries like Peru and to dig down their money mountain at Potosi and ship the silver back to Seville. How rich did Spain become? <br /> <br /> In 1776 Adam Smith told the world in his book<br /> <br /> The Wealth of Nations that having the medium of exchange was not a measure of wealth. It was the amount of goods and services produced by a country which determines how rich a country is. With this thinking, the more demand that is placed on the economy, the more prosperous will be the economy.<br /> <br /> But in order for people to have demands they have to have money. But the amount of money has to be determined by the amount of goods and services produced. Because of these constraints, a system which allows individuals to rake in as much as they can and keep all they rake in is doomed to fail. While Smith&rsquo;s thinking was able to prevail for a while, the belief that man is here to make money and accumulate wealth has become the dominant thinking, and that is the cause of our miserable lives now. <br /> <br /> This thinking is given comfort and support by politicians and economists who call themselves conservatives. It is because people of this ilk believe that the primary goal is wealth accumulation why they frown on the imposition of progressive income taxation which is the optimum strategy for a balanced economy. It is the belief in the primacy of wealth accumulation why conservatives abhor spending.<br /> <br /> To understand the stupidity of this thinking, let me compare the economic cycle to the water cycle. With the water cycle, water in the rivers, lakes, seas and aquifers is heated by the sun, causing evaporation. As air rises it cools until it condenses. When the condensation gets too heavy, precipitation occurs and we have rainfall, which provides us with the precious liquid called water. If conservatives had power over the water cycle, they would seek to prevent the evaporation in the first place and they would succeed in stopping the rain. <br /> <br /> Conservatives have applied their distorted thinking to the economic cycle. Their twin belief in low taxation, or no taxation, and their reluctance to spend is impacting the economy just as interference with the evaporation process would have impacted the water cycle. This flawed thinking has blown up the global economy twice.<br /> <br /> In 1929, the conservative trio of Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, with an all-Republican conservative congress, blew up America&rsquo;s economy and that of the world. This blow-up was for no other reason than stupid conservative dogmas of cutting taxes and the belief that Government should not spend. All because wealth must be accumulated.<br /> <br /> This colossal mistake was corrected by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Democrats by the use of liberal and progressive policies. And the world was at economic peace until 1980. Then along came Milton Friedman with his half-baked conservative ideas. He was able to influence Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and the blueprint for where the world is today was laid then.<br /> <br /> Conservatism is what is causing the anxiety in the world. It is ironic that the American people have turned to Donald Trump and an all-Republican conservative Congress for salvation. The last time these stars were aligned &mdash; Republican president and all-Republican Congress &mdash; was in 2003. The world&rsquo;s economy was blown by 2007! All I can say to the world is: &ldquo;Brace for impact!&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Dorlan H Francis is a personal financial adviser and author. Among his books is <br /> <br /> The Economic and Financial Crisis of 2007 &mdash; What Caused it, How to Avoid a Repeat<br /> <br /> . Send comments to the Observer or <br /> <br /> dhfken@hotmail.com.<br /> <br />   http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13459986/243521_69978_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Sunday, December 04, 2016 3:00 AM The international crime against humanity masquerading as US immigration policy http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-international-crime-against-humanity-masquerading-as-US-immigration-policy_81643 The overwhelming majority of the poor people of the world live in countries outside of those classified as Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member states. These poorer countries are made up of approximately six billion members of our species, or more than 80 per cent of the human population of the planet. The world economic and political system, as it presently exists, one that is forcefully maintained by the laws of the global system and backed by the most powerful military machine that mankind has ever known, ensures that the disparity of economic and military might among nations remains in its present state of extreme and worsening inequality.<br /> <br /> Maintaining this status quo is in the interest only of the wealthy and powerful individuals and nations of the world. It is carefully guarded and protected by the combined forces of a number of global systems of control: international law, the international economic controlling agencies, the global decision-making bodies, and the global media, and propaganda tools that manufacture consent among the public.<br /> <br /> Most importantly, it is subtly maintained by control of the international and national policies that regulate and determine the movement of people across the national borders of the hegemonic states &mdash; their immigration policy.<br /> <br /> These global systems that have been developed over many decades of manipulation, both covertly and overtly, both by subtle persuasion and by forceful coercion, have worked their magic to give rise to a global system of governance that has become accepted by the world as right and fair. There have always been a number of critics, however, and more recently an emergence of more than a few individuals (ridiculed as deluded conspiracy theorists) who see the system for what it truly is &mdash; one elegantly, deviously, and deceptively construed to maintain a subtle but real hegemonic control by the wealthy and powerful minority over the weak and poor majority. In the times of the Ancient Roman Empire, such inequality in power and control among men was universally acknowledged and forcefully and overtly maintained. In the present age, however, it is far more subtle, but is as real as it ever was.<br /> <br /> In Jamaica, now classified as a middle-income country, there remains the consensus in the general population that the standard aim in life is to raise one&rsquo;s children to strive for the ultimate achievement of obtaining the hallowed &lsquo;green card&rsquo; status of US citizenship. This is the aspiration (whether declared openly or kept in secret) of almost every Jamaican, irrespective of social class. There are few Jamaicans who would refuse a green card if offered one, and more than half the population will actively seek and apply for that hallowed status. Those who do not apply either do not have the wherewithal to do so, or else they feel it is so far beyond their reach that they don&rsquo;t even try.<br /> <br /> The history of the making of the present global hegemony held by the USA over the rest of the world is far from a noble one. After invading then plundering and exploiting the indigenous population of the land that we now know as the United States of America, and ultimately committing genocide on a largely peace-loving native people, the usurpers of that land have established and now enforce a border protected by military might and a criminal immigration policy. An immigration policy which selectively steals the best talent from the rest of the world with the purpose of maintaining superiority and world dominance/hegemony.<br /> <br /> One may argue that the individuals who migrate to the United States are not stolen by the US, but that they choose to migrate there of their own free will. I beg to differ. The one who decides on the granting of a green card is not the applicant, but the US Embassy/US Government. It is self-evident, and a no-brainer, that virtually all the people in a poor deprived State would choose to migrate to the US, but only the few (usually the cream of the crop) are allowed by the US Embassy to do so &mdash; at least legally.<br /> <br /> So I ask again: Who decides or chooses who gets to migrate? The individual, or the US Government? It is not the free choice of the individual. If it were, then the entire population of the country would migrate.<br /> <br /> Now, having taken this most precious segment of the poor country&rsquo;s population, (its best and brightest and most expensively trained and valuable segment, the cream of the crop) by selectively granting it US citizenship, how much does it pay the donor country for this most valuable resource that has been harvested? The answer is zero ($0). Now, when one deliberately takes another&rsquo;s most precious and valuable resource, and pays nothing for it, what is that called? The dictionary calls it &lsquo;theft&rsquo; &lsquo;stealing&rsquo; or &lsquo;robbery&rsquo;.<br /> <br /> Having stolen the land, murdered its inhabitants, built a formidable infrastructure on the backs of immigrants and slaves, it now abuses the rest of the world by selectively stealing the cream of the human capital from virtually all other nations and rejecting or deporting those who are judged not good enough or unwanted. This solitary superpower also determines the policies of international law, and international economics, through the puppet organisations that it has created such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.<br /> <br /> After setting up such an uneven playing field, and stealing the best players from the other side to play on its team, it controls the referees and umpires of the game, and it also sets the rules of the game, making them skewed in its favour by its control over the policies of institutions such as the World Trade Organization.<br /> <br /> Whenever a country, realising that the game is rigged, decides not to play by these unfair rules on this uneven playing field with these loaded dice and biased referees, then it is labelled a &lsquo;rogue state&rsquo;, and the formidable weapons controlled by the UN Security Council are unleashed against it.<br /> <br /> The ongoing, effective theft, of the world&rsquo;s best talent, which has been exacerbated in recent times, is the single most significant ongoing disservice to mankind in the present age, and is the ultimate source of most of the suffering and strife across the globe. From ISIS, North Korea, Iran, terrorism, drug trafficking, and the Mediterranean migration crisis, to economic deprivation, crime and failed states, this unjust policy has led to poverty across many nations of the world, affecting in particular the poor, the deprived, and the underprivileged. It has drained many parts of the world of their talent and has left the weak and unfortunate people remaining in such failed states to suffer behind a border that now imprisons them in misery.<br /> <br /> The behemoth of a State we call the United States of America, ironically considers itself to be exceptional. By exceptional it means exceptionally blessed, and many believe it also means exceptionally good, or exceptionally better than the rest of the inhabitants of the planet. The typical present-day American is afflicted with a hubris of considering him or herself as a more worthy, or privileged, or enlightened, or important member of the human species. This has led to an arrogance that has come to describe the quintessential American personality. It has led to an almost universal dislike of the &lsquo;typical American personage&rsquo; across the globe. Indeed, contrary to the idea expressed by the founding fathers of the United States in the 1776 declaration of independence against a tyrannical British rule, all men are not created equal. The noble idea stated so eloquently in that 1776 document &ldquo;that all men are created equal&rdquo; seems to have outlived its validity &mdash; at least in the minds of the current American lawmakers and leaders.<br /> <br /> When a powerful hegemonic country establishes a system, by design or coercion, and a policy that produces a world order where it effectively steals the best talent from other less wealthy nations, with the only consideration being its own self-interest or the benefits that accrue to itself, but with no concern for those whom it has robbed of their resources;<br /> <br /> When this injustice is perpetrated for many decades to the point of leading to failed states and the consequences of much pain, suffering, and anguish of the poor, innocent people left behind in such states;<br /> <br /> When it is unwilling to see that these consequences arise because of its continued abuse of the helpless;<br /> <br /> Then, I believe that those who are given the clarity of mind to see the grievous nature and scale of this injustice, if they remain silent and do not speak out against this international humanitarian crime, they are as guilty of the injustice as those who perpetrate it.<br /> <br /> Having thus been granted the clarity of mind and vision that has revealed the true nature of this humanitarian injustice of a powerful minority of people against the majority of people for such a sustained period, and having observed the unwillingness of the oppressors to acknowledge their guilt of oppression, I conclude that the continual sin of this abuse has either blinded the abuser or else the abuser has chosen personal prosperity as his highest goal to the exclusion of any consideration of justice to his fellow man.<br /> <br /> It has therefore become my duty to speak out against this most grievous and ongoing crime against humanity. Indeed, if I do not speak out I will cease to be the person I have come to believe that I am. A lover of truth, right action, and justice.<br /> <br /> This, I propose, will be the verdict of any rational observer who examines the evidence and makes an adjudication in the spirit of &lsquo;ex aequo et bono&rsquo; (International Court of Justice Article 38[2]).<br /> <br /> Dr Richard Aitken is a medical professional with an interest in world affairs. Send comments to the Observer or <br /> <br /> raitken@flowja.com.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13476485/244737_71411_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Sunday, December 04, 2016 12:00 AM PHOTO: Grief And Relief http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Grief-And-Relief_82475 On The Agenda all week has been the death of former Cuban President Fidel Castro. Columnist Rev Dr Raulston Nembhard has sought to cover the full spectrum of consequent emotions &mdash; from grief to celebration. He says, when the history of the twentieth century is written, Fidel Castro, the maximum leader of Cuba, will be shown to occupy a prominent place in it. He concludes, however, that the glue that held the country together is no longer there. Fidel&rsquo;s brother Raul and the other revolutionary remnants that remain will do their best to protect the vestiges of a dying order, but it will be a lost cause. Cuba will change. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13461485/243653_70344_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Sunday, December 04, 2016 12:00 AM Fidel Castro, villain or hero? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Fidel-Castro--villain-or-hero_82305 Castro was our friend. He was our closest, &lsquo;bestest&rsquo; neighbour. His philosophy was not ours, but we were of one spirit. America shunned Cuba yet embraced us &mdash; scammers, druggies. We had access, Cuba did not, yet we both landed in poverty. Still, Cuba is ahead in development.<br /> <br /> China, Russia are communist states and use the same dictators playbook. Yet Castro was not always communist and there was a window, so the revolution might have stayed populist, rapprochement with America possible as John F Kennedy saw light; his assassination closed it.<br /> <br /> The cold war got hot; Castro turned to Russia &mdash; as the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Popular revolution died, Cuba became a communist state in 1964 and the rest is history.<br /> <br /> Recall that Fidel, a conscious Jesuit lad, became a dictator and nationalised church property. He was no African military dictator amassing riches and killing willy-nilly, but a lawyer of a rich family on a mission for justice. He tried to get Fulgencio Batista convicted in the courts, failed, so turned to armed revolt. Many felt he betrayed his skin and family as he nationalised the Castro estates &mdash; sorry, Dad!<br /> <br /> Recall the black General Antonio Maceo de Graceles, whose bust is in Heroes&rsquo; Park, and know black, white, mixed race fought for independence &mdash; not like us. They fought with Castro too. Plant him in Heroes Park!<br /> <br /> Recall that communism is rule-based with set paths, and the human factor is the weak link, so it posits firm discipline. So China is good to us, sees our racism, smiles, but the flip side of this bipolarity is a cruel streak; ergo, Tiananmen massacre and they move right along &mdash; no speech, Tivoli inquiry, or USA blockade. The world is not level.<br /> <br /> The USA had good relations with Cuban dictators but eschewed one with Castro; so as USA clientelism waned Cuba turned to the communist Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) for food, medicine, oil &mdash; survival!<br /> <br /> RECALL that dictators were normal in Cuba (America&rsquo;s playground), so Cubans were in no greater danger from Castro than in the apartheid under Batista &mdash; prostitution, gambling, extortion run by the mafia, and American multinationals ran all else. Cuba&rsquo;s revolution (not a military coup) was from the people led by intellectuals; top 5 were social scientist, Raul; lawyer, Bosque, a black man; tailor, Cienfuegos, doctor, Che all in military fatigues. Batista&rsquo;s rule was cruel, depressing; Castro&rsquo;s enlightening, healthy and cruel &mdash; check UN reports. Recall that Nat King Cole, at the height of his fame, had to use the goods access at the Havana Hilton (he could not stay there) to perform for racist American and Cuban glitterati?<br /> <br /> Recall that the embargo was not negotiable yet sanctions on Iran and China are &mdash; strange? A textbook cold war standoff; capitalist vs communist: but when friends fall out the venom is more toxic. Cuba was blockaded but it exported revolt securitised by the USSR.<br /> <br /> Recall that Castro opened the ports so all who wished could leave and later emptied prisons and let loose Mariel rascals on Florida.<br /> <br /> People love or hate Castro. A lover sees no problems; a hater sees only problems and attempts assassination. Castro sent teams to liberate rich African nations too inept to fight their wars; teachers, doctors and aided over 100 nations. Their 25,000 doctors abroad exceed all rich nations combined. Born rich, he died poor, not a typical dictator, but the USA watched. Recall that President Bill Clinton also watched the evil in Rwanda and did nothing, but he extended the Cuba embargo. Aren&rsquo;t the Clintons wonderful?<br /> <br /> Not to be self-referential, but I met Castro as a student activist and later as a business consultant deal-making for IP and products; flew via Tanzania, Europe to avoid the USA, though serving American clients. Castro was not evil, but to sell communism in the sunny Caribbean is not easy: he made hard decisions. When I see our bias to squalor not discipline, mendicancy not work, talk not action; how politicians trick voters, I can see his point. A life is a life, but Castro is not the worst, as the kill rate of black on black in Rwanda &mdash; one million murdered by neighbours and friends in 100 days by machetes in 1994, yet no embargo! He took on the Empire, and it fought back. He outlasted 10 presidents and now 100-odd countries call him blessed. Did you think convicted criminal Marcus Garvey would ever be a hero? History will absolve him!<br /> <br /> Revolution is grief and every life is precious, but he leaves a healthy, secure, educated, self-reliant people with no more lives lost than other dictators. Most of the 80 per cent poor under Batista got a break. Geniuses as Seaga, Manley had us on our faces for decades; for what? Some 70 per cent of us left school illiterate, incompetent and poor. I would give up some freedom for decent work, food security, good education, health care, safety, and so my mom can come home to die without fear. Cuba chose order, self-reliance; we chose freedom &mdash; we are free to leave school illiterate, reap where we do not sow; speak bull, be duped by politicians; to lack opportunity, to be poor and weep when they rape and murder our kin. Free?<br /> <br /> The sacrifice of Cubans (including the 1.5 million who left) for us and the world&rsquo;s lost causes is massive. I regret the cruelty and that failed communism endures. Yet Russia, China &mdash; with capitalist success &mdash; use that book, and Tiananmen massacre or Litvinenko&rsquo;s murder is normal for them. Thousands disappeared in Somoza&rsquo;s Nicaragua, Pinochet&rsquo;s Chile, Duvalier&rsquo;s Haiti, Peron&rsquo;s Argentina yet America traded, gave them food, aid but not to Castro. Every Cuban death is regretted, but more per capita are murdered here &mdash; for what?<br /> <br /> May Cuba morph to democracy and economic success with dignity. May it offer truth, reconciliation and reparations to those wronged. Life is shades of grey, and we only see darkly, but the balance sheet proves the Cuban people are heroic. Castro is a global superhero! Viva Cuba!<br /> <br /> Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist <br /> <br /> and project manager. Send comments to the Observer or<br /> <br /> franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com. <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13473425/244258_70787_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Friday, December 02, 2016 3:00 AM Defining local government http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Defining-local-government_82317 WE have been talking and talking, but how enlightened are we now to test the why and the wherefore of the recently concluded local government election? We still need answers. So what if I tempt you with, what does local government mean to we, the people, apart from the politicians who felt impelled to fight another fight, to show who a di boss?<br /> <br /> While some citizens showed no interest and kept clear of the voting booths, other individuals defended their right to vote. It has been said that the spoils from the general election were not enough, so let us roll the dice once more. That was done and it was a good re-match day to settle arguments about who a rule! An outsider looking in might question if there was need to reinforce who rule things<br /> <br /> .<br /> <br /> In the party centres, it might have been so, but out in the streets many treated it like no big thing. That might be so in a certain context, but there was a winner and a loser, as befits an election. What concerns me most is how the people at grass roots took it.<br /> <br /> I cannot recall hearing the issue of local government being fully discussed in the electioneering, and what are the conclusions which were reached? <br /> <br /> Yes, we know by now who crossed the tape first and now has the right to claim victory. The losers have yet to let us in on how they are regarding the &ldquo;also ran&rdquo; designation left to them to answer the question of the meaning and value of local government. I have yet to hear fully how that was articulated. What really is local government? What does it mean to citizens, urban and rural?<br /> <br /> What did they vote for and what assurances have they received about improvements ahead? Something would have been said on the election platform, but how many candid answers were given in response to questions on what can communities look forward to from now on? What about the roads? It appears that everybody should be getting a car for Christmas, thanks to the Santa Claus, financial system, anxious to lend money. The flood of vehicles is everywhere, which means that there has to be some serious thinking on the question of the state of the island&rsquo;s roads. Are we concerned? Will the local government system get truly involved in lifting our nation&rsquo;s roads to a more advanced level? After all, the vehicles shouldn&rsquo;t be destroyed before being paid for. How many aspiring candidates in the local government showdown were able to placate voters who questioned, &ldquo;How it go wid di road?&rdquo; Did some candidates win, some lose, because of their answers? <br /> <br /> Then, there were the issues like water supply. An advertisement by one of the contenders depicted lush vegetation beneath a clear, blue sky and water flowing in abundance from a well-polished pipe. By contrast, another picture gave us a less than efficient pipe, with water dripping. <br /> <br /> Question: Did voters buy the pitch that it was their side who will have the clear, blue sky, the flowing water and the flowers in abundance? Does that mean that water will flow to one side but not the other? <br /> <br /> Coming back to the hope that roads will become highways of efficiency from now on, no more potholes, no more &ldquo;drop inna gully&rdquo;. The time has come. We will be riding on clouds from now on. Really? Did people go for that? Will there be no more potholes? Will flowers bloom across the land? Wait and see, nuh! <br /> <br /> QUESTION: How many of the candidates have had time to notice the level of decay which is overpowering the environment in so many constituencies? <br /> <br /> In the matter of garbage collection, what are the expectations, especially in fashionable apartment blocks, multiplying Uptown these days? Will local government be making provision to deal with the consequences of clogged living spaces and the growing appetites for such residential attractions? <br /> <br /> We turn now to the business of climate change. How many of our current, successful candidates have begun giving thought to what this means to the people, now and even more in time already at our door? How many candidates have assured the faithful that there will be every effort to take care of roadways, to ensure that they are less subject to accidents, not only because drivers are careless but because many roads are inadequate and insufficient?<br /> <br /> These are questions we hope were asked during the electioneering and will continue to be asked. In hillside areas, like the one known to me, what plans are there to protect and nurture the terrain and the rivers and streams which are the gifts of nature, but which, deprived of proper treatment, are gradually disintegrating via pollution? How much do some candidates know of the value of these priceless gifts of nature in the area, which they represent? There&rsquo;s a whole list of other challenges which will have to be faced, win or lose. <br /> <br /> Local government must mean more than simplistic comments about whose side who is on &mdash; and who is not. What are the people&rsquo;s expectations? It would be interesting to hear the feedback at this stage. The call should not only be to the candidates, it has to be to &ldquo;all a we the people&rdquo;. Some won, some lost in the race but can we be satisfied that this is the only song to be sung by way of progress? If local government is to be interpreted as only pleasing the community, depending only on the winners and locking out others from the conversation at election time, then what&rsquo;s the point? Have we forgotten that &ldquo;one hand cyaan clap&rdquo;?<br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> Requiem for Fidel<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones.&rdquo; Yes, Shakespeare is at it again. As usual, his thoughts can facilitate extension of his words if we want. The foregoing closed with: &ldquo;So, let it be with Caesar.&rdquo; Today, the addition calls us: &ldquo;So, let it be with Fidel Castro,&rdquo; not that all of us want to hear that the Cuban leader had done anything in his lifetime which could be called &ldquo;good&rdquo;, such as teaching his people useful skills, lifting the quality of education in many areas. <br /> <br /> To most Cubans, there is no such word as evil when it comes to the Cuban leader now deceased, at age 90. Those who would call him &ldquo;good&rdquo; speak of his contribution to the development of the people of the country which he led. Those who object to the &ldquo;good&rdquo; adjective saw no value in a dictator. That he fought for people of colour in South Africa, that he helped in the battle towards freedom from Apartheid, that he shared the bounty of education and could share learning with other human beings (Jamaican included), earned him respect &mdash; even if others disapproved.<br /> <br /> He opted for cremation following his passing. His people now gather to pay respect as the ashes of his body tours the land of his birth. The Castro story will long be remembered. <br /> <br /> It was a journalist&rsquo;s privilege to have been cordially received by Fidel Castro when media representatives had the opportunity to go on a boat, anchored in the Kingston Harbour, where he received guests in 1977. Twenty years later, in 1997, as a radio commentator, I was assigned to cover the farewell to Michael Manley, deceased prime minister. <br /> <br /> I was stationed at a vantage point outside the Holy Trinity Cathedral at North Street to watch Fidel Castro climb its steps, accompanied by the great Jamaican-born creative artist and revolutionary Harry Belafonte, who did not deny his friendship with Castro at a time when to have such a friend could have had serious implications. Harry never cowered in fear, nor did the Jamaican doctors and other health professionals who studied in Cuba. They still hear the call to bravery: &ldquo;A luta continua!&rdquo;<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/13467599/243972_70695_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Friday, December 02, 2016 3:00 AM This region knows how to prevent HIV: Now will we? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/This-region-knows-how-to-prevent-HIV--Now-will-we-_82189 World AIDS Day 2016 comes a year after the community of nations committed to ending AIDS by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, and six months following a landmark political declaration to end AIDS. HIV prevention is central to achieving this goal. At this exciting moment in history we have at our disposal a combination of new science, evidence-based prevention strategies refined over more than 30 years, and the understanding that, in order to succeed, we must ensure that no one is left behind.<br /> <br /> Some of the weapons in our arsenal are familiar. Condoms still matter. Our governments have committed to ensuring that we have strengthened national condom programmes with sufficient attention to procurement and distribution. We&rsquo;ve learned over the last two decades how to use social marketing to target specific audiences and to drive demand for condom use.<br /> <br /> Our region also knows how to prevent babies from being born with HIV. Through the widespread expansion of antiretroviral treatment for mothers living with HIV, there have been dramatic declines in HIV transmission to children. In 2015, nine of every 10 pregnant women living with HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean received antiretroviral medicines (88 per cent).<br /> <br /> Cuba led the world by becoming the first country to be validated last year by the World Health Organization as having eliminated this form of HIV transmission. The validation process is underway now in 12 Caribbean countries and territories, including: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. The success of these countries reminds us that the elimination of new HIV infections among children is a realistic and urgent goal.<br /> <br /> In 2008 health and education ministers in Latin America and the Caribbean committed to providing young people with comprehensive sexuality education through the Educating to Prevent Declaration. We&rsquo;ve long acknowledged our responsibility to give young people the information they need to keep them safe throughout life. We must now ramp up our efforts to ensure that adolescents have that education along with access to economic empowerment and sexual and reproductive health services.<br /> <br /> Today, happily, we have new tools to bolster HIV prevention. Pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP &mdash; HIV drugs taken by an HIV negative person on a daily basis &mdash; dramatically reduces the chance of contracting the virus. The world has agreed to reach at least three million people at higher risk of HIV infection with these preventative drugs. Many Governments in our region have come on board.<br /> <br /> HIV testing and treatment can be game-changers as well. We now know that the sooner a person living with HIV finds out their status and starts treatment, the sooner the levels of the virus in their blood can be reduced, nearly eliminating the risk of infecting someone else.<br /> <br /> It is on this basis that governments have committed to achieving the 90-90-90 targets &mdash; 90 per cent of people living with HIV aware of their status, 90 per cent of those people on treatment, and 90 per cent of treated people virally suppressed. Overall, an estimated 55 per cent of people living with HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean were on treatment in 2015. Achieving this target will require significant investments and commitment. As governments and health ministries strategise about how to achieve scale-up, it is important to remember that these goals are feasible. Chile has already attained the treatment and viral suppression targets. Barbados is on track to achieve all three goals.<br /> <br /> Perhaps the greatest challenge is our ongoing fight to eliminate stigma and discrimination. Even where we have combination HIV prevention services available, too many people do not feel safe or do not have the means to access them. We have to do more to ensure that poverty, homelessness, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, and migrant status do not continue to be barriers to ending AIDS in Latin America and the Caribbean. That means supporting the organisations that are best positioned to reach these communities. But beyond that, every citizen of this region has a part to play in ensuring that all people are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of difference. <br /> <br /> Dr Cesar Nu&Atilde;&plusmn;ez is the UNAIDS Latin America and Caribbean regional support team director. <br /> <br /> @CesrNunez<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13470552/244422_70897_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Thursday, December 01, 2016 12:00 AM Castro did what he had to do http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Castro-did-what-he-had-to-do_82114 This past week was filled with news. There was the death of Fidel Castro last Friday, and this past Monday was Jamaica&rsquo;s local government elections. Less known or remembered is that today is 42 years since the death of the late Roman Catholic priest, Monsignor Gladstone Wilson, a Jamaican who was considered the seventh most learned man in the world in his time.<br /> <br /> FIDEL CASTRO<br /> <br /> &ldquo;History will absolve me,&rdquo; is a famous statement that was made by Fidel Castro. I do not agree with everything Fidel ever did, but if one knew what was happening in Cuba before the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista, one can understand why Fidel Castro did what he did. Cuba&rsquo;s record in education and health, when compared to what was available before Castro, is very impressive.<br /> <br /> In many respects, Castro simply did what he had to. He removed the US multinational corporations from Cuba, which he thought were milking the country of its economic lifeblood. In a swift reaction, the USA refused to trade and also cut off diplomatic ties with Cuba. Castro then turned to the Soviet Union for trade and economic help and was also obliged to declare himself a communist in line with the Soviets. But was Fidel Castro ever communist, or was he basically a Castro-type socialist?<br /> <br /> Very few recall that one of the first things that Fidel Castro did was to open a &lsquo;palace of matrimonies&rsquo;. He forced everyone in Cuba living in concubinage to be married in at least a civil wedding. The situation on Half-Way-Tree Road and New Kingston, where abandoned children have grown into adults and live in gullies, would not happen in Cuba under Castro.<br /> <br /> But most of all, many Jamaicans were impressed with Fidel Castro because he stood up to the mighty United States of America. There was the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 in which Castro resisted the USA&rsquo;s attempt to overthrow him. There were also several attempts on Fidel Castro&rsquo;s life, but he resisted all of them.<br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS<br /> <br /> So the local government elections took place and the Jamaica Labour Party won at least eight of the councils with the People&rsquo;s National Party taking four, with one council tied. Both parties have been guilty at some time of giving out work such as bushing, cleaning drains or repairing roads when in Government at election time. This practice is wrong, but unfortunately, as we say in Jamaica, &ldquo;Is so di ting set.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> But in any case, the party that wins the general election usually takes the local government elections unless the voters&rsquo; list is substantially different &mdash; as was the case between the 2002 General Election and the 2003 Local Government Elections.<br /> <br /> The only way to lessen the voter apathy in local government elections, as manifested in the very low voter turnout, is to have both the general and the local government elections on the same day. It will also lessen the cost of the elections by rolling everything into one.<br /> <br /> And if ever there is a referendum on any issue it should be done at that time also. Indeed, many years ago, P J Patterson, while prime minister, suggested that this is the way we should go. If the wealthy United States of America does it in that way, why should a poor country like us do it differently when elections cost so much?<br /> <br /> It has always been my view that party politics should not be in local government, and that only independents should be elected. Indeed, it was the subject of a letter from me in 1974 to the editor of the long-defunct<br /> <br /> Jamaica Daily News. Either we need good local government services or we do not, and of course we do.<br /> <br /> So the best people should be chosen, regardless of party affiliation or none. In Cuba, the communities elect delegates to local authorities which in turn elect delegates to the legislature. As far as I am concerned, Cuba has a far more democratic system of governance, although they do not directly elect their maximum leader. But neither does Jamaica, as the governor general appoints the prime minister from Parliament.<br /> <br /> True, one has to live with the fact that, in Jamaica, the parties are heavily involved in local government elections since October 23, 1947 &mdash; the date of the first local government elections under universal adult suffrage. Still, in 1947, there were as many independent winners as there were People&rsquo;s National Party and Jamaica Labour Party winners. But as the political parties became more entrenched in the political landscape, eventually Jamaica saw less and less independents winning seats in local government elections.<br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> MONSIGNOR GLADSTONE WILSON<br /> <br /> Monsignor Wilson (who died 42 years ago today) contributed to the growth of nationalism in Jamaica in a very real way. He created pride in Jamaica that a black Jamaican was a lecturer at a Vatican university and spoke more than 14 languages fluently. On his return to Jamaica, in 1941, Wilson was a contributor to the St Anne&rsquo;s Progressive Youth Club in Western Kingston. In his own way he was teaching about black dignity and educating ordinary Jamaicans to appreciate our history.<br /> <br /> Monsignor Wilson was also a participant in the celebrated Drumblair Circle. This was a group of intellectual friends of National Hero Norman Manley who discussed ideas of a new Jamaica which included self-government and political independence.<br /> <br /> At least once when Michael Manley got into trouble at Jamaica College while a student there, Norman Manley called on Monsignor Wilson to intercede for him. This was ironic because Wilson had been refused entry into Jamaica College and Munro College because of racist and class reasons so prevalent a hundred years ago.<br /> <br /> Rudolph Burke, who was &lsquo;shoe-shine&rsquo; black, went to Jamaica College, but his father was a landowner, which made a big difference to then headmaster, William Cowper. Judging from the liberal writings of Archdeacon Simms, the previous headmaster when Rudolph Burke attended the school, he may not have been as prejudiced. Wilson who was not yet Roman Catholic was accepted at St George&rsquo;s College. He converted to Roman Catholicism and later went to Rome to study for the priesthood.<br /> <br /> ekrubm765@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13461475/243667_70229_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Thursday, December 01, 2016 12:00 AM Let&rsquo;s celebrate our achievements http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Let-s-celebrate-our-achievements_82193 Since 1982, when the first case of HIV/AIDS was reported in Jamaica, we have been a part of the global fight to control and eradicate the disease. Currently, approximately 1.6 per cent of Jamaica&rsquo;s adult population lives with HIV/AIDS, representing about 32,000 people. It is estimated that about 50 per cent of people living with HIV do not know that they are HIV positive. This is an alarming figure and is likely linked to the continued spread of the disease. <br /> <br /> The numbers continue to increase, with the parishes of St James, Kingston and St Andrew, being the most seriously affected. AIDS and sexually transmitted infections together have hit hardest the young and productive age groups (15-49 years), and are among the leading causes of death for both male and female 15 to 24 years old. AIDS affects more men than women, but the gap is narrowing. AIDS continues to create orphans, with over 13,000 children made orphans due to the disease. <br /> <br /> The National HIV response has been a well-planned multisectoral response involving the health, labour, tourism, education, finance, national security sectors, as well as civil society, the media, regional and international partners.<br /> <br /> The implementation of the Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission programme in 2004 resulted in the testing of at least 90 per cent of pregnant women presenting for antenatal care. This has been making a difference in the number of children born with HIV. The programme focuses on both primary prevention and secondary prevention. Primary prevention focuses on reducing reproduction in individuals who are known to be HIV positive by utilising contraception and good sexual practices. Secondary prevention focuses on the prevention of transmission of HIV from an infected pregnant woman to her unborn child through the use of anti-retroviral drugs, measures to avoid prolonged labour and avoidance of breastfeeding (if possible). Newborn babies born to HIV positive moms may also be treated with anti-retroviral drugs for up to four weeks as post-exposure prophylaxis. With this programme, mother to child transmission in Jamaica has been reduced to 2.4 per cent.<br /> <br /> Stigma against persons living with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica amongst health care workers has improved. Much of the stigma arose from fear of contraction of the disease and not due to disdain for those individuals afflicted with the disease. The promotion of universal precaution amongst health care workers attending to patients means that we approach all patients in the same way. We are performing more operations on patients who are known to be HIV-positive. We also have greater availability of post-exposure prophylactic treatment and rapid testing facilities. Many workplaces now have a policy on discrimination against persons living with HIV/AIDS. However, more work needs to be done in educating health care workers and members of the general population on how to interact with HIV/AIDS patients. <br /> <br /> Most of the cases here in Jamaica have been acquired by sexual transmission, with disproportionately high levels in young women who engage in transactional sex and in men who have sex with men. The 2012 HIV/AIDS Knowledge and Attitudes and Behaviour Survey in Jamaica revealed an HIV prevalence of 32 per cent in men who have sex with men and nine per cent in commercial sex workers. (The rate in commercial sex workers has since declined to about 4.9 per cent.) International data underscores the greater risk in persons who have multiple sexual partners. multiple sexual partners increase the chances that one will have an encounter with someone who has HIV/AIDS and/or another sexually transmitted disease. And yet the 2012 survey revealed that only 63 per cent of persons with multiple sexual partners reported using a condom in their last sex act. It is also known that anal sex represents an effective means of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases if no lubricants or condoms are utilised as the area, devoid of natural lubrication allows for small tears and passage of infections into the body.<br /> <br /> As we strive to contain the HIV/AIDS epidemic locally, we need to maintain the message of responsible individual sexual behaviour:<br /> <br /> 1. &ldquo;Know your (HIV) status&rdquo; <br /> <br /> 2. Use a condom. We have a long way to go in this area as surveys suggest that approximately 30 per cent of men and 40 per cent of women fail to use a condom with non-regular sexual partners. <br /> <br /> 3. Know the status of your partner and avoid promiscuity.<br /> <br /> 4. Pregnant women should book early and get tested for HIV as soon as they are aware that they are pregnant.<br /> <br /> As we mark World AIDS day 2016, we must celebrate the advances that we have made as a nation, but if we are to win the fight, we must continue to target some critical areas. There should be no reduction in the availability of and access to antiretroviral drugs. We must continue to lend our voices to reduce violence against women as it can engender coercive sexual acts, which often take place without a condom. And we must continue to teach the population that HIV is not like the Flu that is readily contagious through casual contact. Therefore we need not shun those who are afflicted by HIV, which has become a chronic illness and not a death sentence. <br /> <br /> Dr Myrton Smith, MBBS, DM (ORL), FACS, is president of the Medical Association of Jamaica. Send comments to the Observer or <br /> <br /> majsecretariat@gmail.com.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13470553/244416_70900_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Thursday, December 01, 2016 12:00 AM Draining the poison from the local government system http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Draining-the-poison-from-the-local-government-system_82087 As could be expected, the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has won most of the parish council seats in the just-concluded parish council elections. From the very beginning, the odds were stacked against the People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP). Out of funds and still grappling with the disquiet surrounding issues of funding of its last general election campaign, the party was not quite prepared to contest the elections in the small time frame given to them by the more confident JLP. Although they anticipated an election, they were not able to rally the troops in time. And neither did they have the wherewithal to do so.<br /> <br /> The weak voter turnout at the polls ensured that the power of incumbency would favour the JLP. The general national disinterest in the elections meant that most of those who turned out were the diehards of either party. The PNP diehards accepted as a matter of course, and with resignation, that being out of office their party would not be able to offer them anything but platitudes. The JLP supporters hoped that some goodies could trickle down to them since their party is still in charge of the purse strings. This was the essence of the $600-million de-bushing project.<br /> <br /> It does not matter the spin the Government places on the project, or what name is appended to it &mdash; coming at the time it did it was clearly intended to influence the elections in the JLP&rsquo;s favour. This is so even if it was coincidental with the elections, as Dr Horace Chang, the general secretary of the party and Government super minister, claimed. He can give that explanation to the disembodied spirits that roam at night. If the highest moral probity in the execution of the programme was being aimed at, why was it not announced earlier? If the elections were not on would it have been rolled out at the time it was? <br /> <br /> The PNP is crying foul, but there is nothing to convince the thinking Jamaican that if they were in charge they would behave differently. All of a sudden they have become so sanctimonious about the high ethical standards that should be reached in the execution of a government project that they would make Al Capone sound like Mother (St) Teresa. The sad truth is that, in the present characteristic of the putrid politics we have practised, &ldquo;is so the ting set&rdquo;. Nothing will change this mindset until people strongly insist on and agitate for a change in how these kinds of projects are done. Transparency cannot be wished for but must be strenuously pursued.<br /> <br /> There can be no doubt that Portia Simpson Miller&rsquo;s rant and invective against Comrades in Claremont two weeks before the election figured in the PNP&rsquo;s rout. With that kind of behaviour from its leader people do not see the PNP possessing the requisite leadership to take the country forward. They see a moribund party crying out for revitalisation, and yet those who should be at the vanguard for change are themselves impediments to the desired change. Meanwhile, the party lumbers on, expecting to be taken seriously by the people of Jamaica, while not manifesting any trenchant reasons why they should be so taken.<br /> <br /> I would not be surprised that, given the deck that was already stacked against them, many Comrades, even among the diehards, decided to stay home after hearing the party leader&rsquo;s public bellicosity. And well they should have, for at least by their absence from the polls they would have demonstrated a keener sense that there is indeed something rotten in the state of Denmark urgently requiring redress.<br /> <br /> So what will become of the leader now that she has led the party to another major political defeat in under a year? Will the so-called stalwarts in the party merely circle the wagon, hypocritically butter her up, or cravenly wither in the shadows? Will those who purport to have her best interest at heart be brave enough to demonstrate that claim by helping her to come to a decision for the honourable retirement which she has earned from her long battle in the political trenches? Whatever happens, there cannot be business as usual in the PNP. This sentiment was expressed after the general election in February. November&rsquo;s defeat is mere confirmation that the time has come.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, the vote has been cast for the continuance of an anachronistic political pork barrel called parish councils, now sanitised as municipal corporations. It does not matter the label on a bottle if the content is still poisonous. We cannot afford the expense of so many governors climbing over each other to direct the lives of close to three million people.<br /> <br /> Again, I reiterate what I wrote earlier, that what we need are five municipal councils drawn from each of our counties &mdash; Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey &mdash; with the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation and the Portmore municipality continuing as presently constituted.<br /> <br /> This transformation of local governance will only happen if the people want it to happen. Citizen activism is what will bring it about. We cannot depend on those who have been pouring the poison of corruption and inefficiency into the bottle down through the years to bring about the needed change. They are too wedded to the status quo and the benefits of the corruption to be derived from it to do what is necessary. What is clear is that for Jamaica to be prosperous we cannot continue to nurse a system that is bereft of productivity and which is a clear drag on the progress of the country.<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/13467599/243972_70695_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Wednesday, November 30, 2016 12:00 AM Teaching to test or testing to teach? &mdash; Part 1 http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Teaching-to-test-or-testing-to-teach----Part-1_77935 The Penwood High Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate School-based Assessment saga and the regional incident it almost started between the established examinations council and the Jamaican Ministry of Education makes vivid the importance of testing at all levels. While negotiations took place under the watchful public eye, students undoubtedly languished in fear. There was uncertainty whether there would be a favourable outcome for these students. The fact that the plight of these students made the headlines for weeks brought into focus the dominant role of tests and testing in our education system.<br /> <br /> As an educator, this has caused me to reflect on the place of testing in our school system. Therefore, the dominant question is, does testing guide our educational situation or does our educational situation guide our testing practices?<br /> <br /> Testing at another level<br /> <br /> A few years ago a parent approached me with the news that she was advised by the class teacher to keep her child home on the day of the Grade Four Literacy Test because the child was not ready and could be retained in grade four, for a year, to become more mature to take the test. I was livid, to say the least, because only one major reason for this request came to mind: That the teacher wanted the &lsquo;poor performers&rsquo; to &lsquo;voluntarily&rsquo; withdraw from the test so that only the high performers would do the test.<br /> <br /> I went to the school and discussed this with the teacher. I also spoke with a vice-principal and she informed me that there was nothing wrong with the practice and they did it all the time. The story ends where the child sat the test and did not achieve mastery that year. However, on her second attempt, in grade five, she attained mastery.<br /> <br /> Why does that story remain with me until today? For many years, the school was unscrupulous in its practice and gave a false impression of literacy achievement at the grade four level. As a foundation member of the Literacy Improvement Initiative in 1999 when the Grade Four Literacy Test was first administered nationally, I learned that the test was to provide an indication of whether students had achieved the requisite literacy competencies for their grade level.<br /> <br /> These first set of results were well below expectations and several initiatives were instituted to address the literacy challenges faced by Jamaican students. Summer literacy camps, literacy research and development centres established in Moneague and Bethlehem colleges to train literacy specialists, were only a few of these initiatives. The desire to want students to perform well on tests is not new. My visit to some of these summer camps revealed that teachers kept the literacy tests in their possessions and drilled the students in the items on these tests so they could pass. When I inquired about this I received reasons like, &ldquo;This child gives so much trouble I would never want him to stay back in my class for another year,&rdquo; or &ldquo;If these students keep failing it would look bad on the school and our teachers; we would seem like failures.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Labelling schools, <br /> <br /> Jamaican schools and teachers have been historically rated (informally) according to the test scores their students receive. Recently, in more formal circles, the term &ldquo;failing schools&rdquo; have been offered by education officials to typify schools that have performed below par on selected examinations. I have visited schools that have been labelled the &ldquo;dunce schools&rdquo; because their students&rsquo; scores are not on par with national averages. I have also visited classrooms within schools where they are labelled the &ldquo;dunce class&rdquo;, or even further to label the teacher the &ldquo;dunce teacher&rdquo;, because those classes do not receive high scores in examinations. Even more importantly, within classrooms, there have been students placed in one section of the class and are sometimes openly identified as the dull ones.<br /> <br /> However, I have always emphasised that often the high-achieving classes and the teachers of these classes sometimes do not make as much learning gains as the other classes. But the reality of our situation is that examination scores are used to define achievement and provide labels for schools, classes, teachers, and administrators.<br /> <br /> High-stakes testing<br /> <br /> One notable comparative education scholar, Robert F Dore wrote the book<br /> <br /> The Diploma Disease, which underscores the high stakes involved in testing in developing nations. The book also highlights the sad reality that examinations normally serve as the gateway to limited opportunities that exist in these countries. While I do not discount the importance of testing for both educational and career advancement, it is important that we avoid double standards in our education system.<br /> <br /> On one hand, the teacher is encouraged to cater to each student no matter at what level they may fall on the achievement ladder and, on the other hand, student scores on standardised tests is a major criterion in the teacher&rsquo;s performance review, and may even affect that teacher&rsquo;s ability to work. This is not unique to the Jamaican context, as schools in the USA have been so pressured to perform that even superintendents and principals have been cited for illegal activities, including changing responses on students&rsquo; test papers in order to ensure that schools in their district receive high ratings.<br /> <br /> Therefore, the question lingers: Do we teach students to promote critical thinking skills or do we drill them in order to pass the high stakes test?<br /> <br /> Next week, in Part Two, we will look at the business of teaching students to think and the stress on parents and teachers within the high-stakes testing framework.<br /> <br /> Clement T M Lambert, PhD, is an educational researcher, consultant, and lecturer in language arts education at The University of the West Indies. He leads the Communication and Arts Cluster and coordinates literacy studies at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Send comments to the Observer or<br /> <br /> clementtmlambert@gmail.com.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13465311/212945_70518_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Tuesday, November 29, 2016 12:00 AM Fidel championed self-reliance and self-respect http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Fidel-championed-self-reliance-and-self-respect_81863 Another of the bright lights of the 20th century Caribbean enlightenment has returned to source. Returning of souls to ancestral origins for renewal in order to rise and return is a central part of the ontology of our Caribbean world. We have an indomitable spirit born in opposition to oppression and bred in the trenches of the search for the just society.<br /> <br /> Our Caribbean, home to the cosmology of sustainable social justice and the passion for living free, gave birth to this man with a mission. Fidel Castro did not fall short. He excelled. A warm and wise brother, a kind and courageous comrade was he.<br /> <br /> The demand for self-reliance and self-respect was core to his Caribbeanness, and like Toussaint L&rsquo;Ouverture before, he did not flinch in the face of ill winds that blew in to our world slavery, selfishness, and savagery. His heart was emboldened by Sam Sharpe, Bussa, the two Nannys of Barbados and Jamaica, and found fulfilment in the missions of Simon Bolivar and Marcus Garvey.<br /> <br /> The Caribbean sent him forth to free the oppressed of Latin America and Southern Africa. He sent men and women to battle to end apartheid and to abolish bigotry. As far as Vietnam, this Caribbean man sent left his spirit of freedom to reign supreme.<br /> <br /> From the mountaintops of the Caribbean, we say to the world: Let freedom and justice prevail. Let all men and women of good nature celebrate this soul of our soil. Let our Caribbean world be forever a source of enlightenment for the world in its darkest times.<br /> <br /> Forever Fidel!<br /> <br /> Professor Sir Hilary Beckles is an economic historian and vice-chancellor of The University of the West Indies.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13461485/243653_70344_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Monday, November 28, 2016 12:00 AM Jamaica votes&hellip; http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Jamaica-votes-_81884 Today Jamaicans go to the polls to choose our parish council representatives. These are the individuals on whom we will depend to repair our parochial roads, keep our streets well lit, maintain our markets, and collaborate to ensure proper waste management. Billions of dollars of property taxes, building, outdoor advertising, and entertainment fees go directly to these councils to discharge their duties.<br /> <br /> To think that the Local Governance Act of 2016 no longer includes the stipulation from the Parish Council Act of 1901 that councillors should be literate is objectionable. According to a report from Nationwide radio, this clause was seen as &ldquo;as a product of Jamaica&rsquo;s colonial history, implemented by colonisers who sought to make political representation exclusive to whites&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> Clearly, although our motive may differ from those colonisers, we should insist on literate representatives. Implicit in the very name of this 2016 Act is the reason we should. How can one expect effective governance if the candidate cannot read the minutes of a meeting, track a budget, or simply respond to a text from a citizen in distress? We will be stepping out to cast our vote today, but be assured that we will be checking ahead of time on the level of the candidate&rsquo;s education.<br /> <br /> Voter apathy is a very dangerous thing, so please cast your vote. The St Ann drama and the controversy surrounding the islandwide bushing project have left some of us disillusioned. However, let us remember that if we do not exercise our franchise, our future complaints about local governance issues would ring hollow.<br /> <br /> FAREWELL, FIDEL CASTRO<br /> <br /> I came to a new understanding of charisma as we sat in the press box at Holy Trinity Cathedral in 1997 for the funeral of Michael Manley. There was a roar from the crowds outside and Jamaica Observer Executive Editor Desmond Allen declared, &ldquo;Yes, Fidel has arrived!&rdquo; Sure enough, the Cuban president strode into the cathedral; his presence so strong that it seemed his head touched the high ceiling.<br /> <br /> The vast majority of Jamaicans were never interested in adopting communist Cuba&rsquo;s type of government. However, we can never forget the many kindnesses extended to us by Fidel Castro and his people. The Jose Marti High School was donated by his Government, and scores of Cuban doctors and nurses have given invaluable support to Jamaica&rsquo;s health system. Many Jamaicans have benefited from their generous scholarship programmes, creating a close kinship between us.<br /> <br /> Our family visited Cuba about 20 years ago and were able to walk the streets of Havana at midnight without fear of harassment. Our tour guide was a humble but brilliant professor who refused to take the money we offered as what we considered fair payment. He and his wonderful family have never let a special occasion pass since then without sending us a warm greeting.<br /> <br /> Still, we know families who fled Cuba during the revolution and can also sympathise with their feelings of anger and displacement.<br /> <br /> We in Jamaica who enjoy freedom of the press do not agree with Cuba&rsquo;s curtailment of free speech. But when all is said and done, we must acknowledge that Fidel Castro&rsquo;s passion for education has made his country the most literate of the Americas, and his compassion for developing countries like Jamaica, Angola and others have moved him to send his brave people to diverse places, bringing comfort, education, and protection. The Cuban people have maintained their dignity despite the hardships they faced with the US embargo, and it is to the credit of President Barack Obama that this is finally ending.<br /> <br /> Fidel Castro has made an enduring mark on the history of the modern world. May his soul rest in peace.<br /> <br /> 16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM<br /> <br /> Last Friday, November 25, was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and was declared by UN Women as the launch of 16 days of activism to protect our women, ending on December 10, International Human Rights Day.<br /> <br /> Here are excerpts from the statement from the United Nations: &ldquo;One in three women around the world experience violence in their lifetime, often in the hands of someone they know, love and trust. Of all women who were victims of homicide globally in 2012, almost half were killed by intimate partners or family members.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Violence against women and girls, a gross human rights violation, devastates lives, causes untold pain, suffering and illness. It also incurs high economic costs. A recent study estimated that the cost of intimate partner violence accounted for 5.2 per cent of the global economy.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Beyond the direct medical and judicial costs, violence against women takes a toll on household and national budgets through lost income and productivity&hellip; With laws to protect women and punish perpetrators, services to rebuild women&rsquo;s lives and comprehensive prevention that starts early, ending violence against women and girls can become a reality.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Here in Jamaica, Jamaica AIDS Support for Life coordinated silent protests in the Half-Way-Tree area on Friday. As emergency workers in our hospitals will tell you, the daily cases of battered and seriously wounded women are alarming. Let these first two weeks of Advent open our hearts to the suffering of our sisters.<br /> <br /> THE VALUE OF THANKSGIVING<br /> <br /> We visited with our family in the US to celebrate Thanksgiving. As we joined hands to thank God for our many blessings and caught up with relatives we had not seen for a while, we saw the value of this holiday when families can share affirmations and strengthen ties. The mood of gratitude lifts those clouds of concern as we focus on all the good things that the past year has brought.<br /> <br /> The US media was full of advice on maintaining harmony despite political differences. The contrasting manner in which President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump celebrated the day was referred to &mdash; the former serving veterans, while the latter was served from a sumptuous menu featuring two dishes named after himself. But hey, as the Jamaica folk song says, it&rsquo;s &ldquo;Nobody&rsquo;s business, but their own&rdquo;. Let us pause to wish Happy Thanksgiving to members of the Jamaican Diaspora.<br /> <br /> BUY JAMAICAN THIS CHRISTMAS<br /> <br /> National Baking Foundation has repeated their Jamaican-Made Christmas Fair at the Jamaica Pegasus, and today is the final day, so please support them. I am particularly proud of the social enterprises which will have items on sale, such Alpha Institute and Mustard Seed Communities. These organisations have emphasised excellence so you will not be short-changed on quality.<br /> <br /> lowriechin@aim.com<br /> <br /> www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13438591/241417_67958_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Monday, November 28, 2016 12:00 AM Viva Fidel! A true friend of Caricom http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Viva-Fidel--A-true-friend-of-Caricom_81885 The Caribbean Community (Caricom) is deeply saddened by the death of Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, the former president of Cuba.<br /> <br /> During his more than 40 years at the helm of the Cuban Revolution, President Castro transformed his country through impressive achievements in health, education, sports, culture, science, and other areas of human and social development. His commitment to social justice and dignity for all people earned him global recognition and stature as one of the influential world leaders of his time.<br /> <br /> He generously shared his country&rsquo;s expertise with other developing countries, and Caricom member states have benefited significantly and continue to do so from Cuba&rsquo;s contribution to their development. In recognition of his role in that regard, the Caricom heads of government bestowed an honorary Order of the Caribbean Community on President Castro, the only such honour granted to a non-Caricom citizen.<br /> <br /> Caricom joins in solidarity with the Government and people of Cuba, and mourns with them the passing of this truly great and iconic figure whose name symbolised a revolution. Viva Fidel! A true friend of the Caribbean Community.<br /> <br /> Roosevelt Skerrit is chairman of the Caribbean Community and prime minister of Dominica.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12956714/202957_w300.jpg Local Opinion Monday, November 28, 2016 12:00 AM Fidel Castro was an inspiration http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Fidel-Castro-was-an-inspiration_81867 I reflect on Fidel Castro&rsquo;s passing, not as executive director of National Integrity Action, but in my professional and personal capacity as a political scientist and as a Jamaican.<br /> <br /> In that capacity I have to say that Fidel Castro was one of the great historic figures of the 20th century, a truly transformational leader of the Cuban people and a genuine friend of Jamaica as well as of the wider Caribbean. Beyond the Caribbean, history shall forever record that Cuba, under Fidel, played a critical role in the advancement of the African liberation struggle, and particularly in the decisive defeat of apartheid in South Africa.<br /> <br /> Yet here can be little question that his extraordinary achievements and exceptional legacy is a mix between the positive and the negative.<br /> <br /> On the positive side, Fidel led Cuba from a tyrannical dictatorship and abject underdevelopment to a situation in which the health and education of the Cuban people today is among the best in the developing world, ranking in some respects with advanced economies, despite over 50 years of an embargo on economic relations with Cuba imposed by the United States.<br /> <br /> In fact, the latest United Nations Development Programme 2015 Human Development Report ranks Cuba at 67 of 188 countries, ahead of states like Costa Rica, Mexico, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic on criteria relating to health, education, income, and overall human development.<br /> <br /> Similarly, Cuba is rated among the least corrupt countries in Transparency International&rsquo;s 2015 Corruption Perception Index, regarded as less corrupt than developed countries such as Italy and Greece, as well as developing states such as India and South Africa.<br /> <br /> On the negative side, there can be little doubt that political rights and civil liberties of the Cuban people have been severely limited, particularly the right to freedom of association, to form trade unions and political parties, as well freedom of speech.<br /> <br /> Only the Cuban people themselves, as well as time and history, can make the ultimate judgement as to whether the good outweighs the downside of the outstanding achievements of this exceptional transformational leader.<br /> <br /> For us, as Jamaicans, the fruits of Cuba&rsquo;s friendship shall always endure in the selfless assistance to our to our health and educational systems, as well as to our sports achievements through the G C Foster College of Sport Education. And for me personally, Fidel&rsquo;s courage and fearlessness in standing up for the vulnerable and disadvantaged shall always be an inspiration.<br /> <br /> Professor Trevor Munroe, CD, PhD (Oxford) is a political scientist.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13398029/237756_64852_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Monday, November 28, 2016 12:00 AM The dignity of the Obamas http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/The-dignity-of-the-Obamas_81646 As Barack Obama&rsquo;s presidency of the United States of America enters its final weeks, there are tens of millions of people in America and across the world who already feel a great sense of loss. That sense will be heightened even more on January 20 when he walks out the doors of the White House for the last time as president.<br /> <br /> For this man brought an extraordinary dignity to the office; a dignity that never sagged, not even when a Republican Congressman, Joe Wilson, shouted out, &ldquo;You lie,&rdquo; in the midst of his State of the Union speech in 2009. It was an unprecedented and rude outburst, never directed at any president before.<br /> <br /> The world saw that Obama dignity again and again, most recently when he hosted President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office to fulfil his duty of ensuring that the transition of power is smooth. It could not have been easy. After all, Trump launched his political ambition on the allegation that Obama was not born American and, therefore, occupied the office of president illegally. Trump maintained that position, even though he knew it to be false, until mere days before the November 8 elections, and even then without a word of apology. Yet, Obama received him with all the courtesy, respect and importance that was necessary for a president to engage his successor.<br /> <br /> At the joint televised media event after their meeting, and in every statement Obama has made within the United States and in other countries, he has given every supportive chance to a Trump presidency. He calmed the stock markets, he soothed worried leaders in Europe and in Latin America, and he tried to reassure millions of Americans who fear that their country may have made a backward step into authoritarianism at home and unilateralism abroad.<br /> <br /> Beyond the dignity with which he conducted the office of the presidency, he put a caring and concerned human face on it. Witness his readiness to engage in town hall meetings in the United States and in foreign countries, his willingness to open himself to questioning about his policies, and his tolerance of every person as his equal with a right to question and to be given answers.<br /> <br /> The latter quality was displayed many times, but at none more effectively than in the heat of the Trump-Clinton campaign trail when an older man, holding up a Trump sign, sought to interrupt Obama&rsquo;s speech as he stumped for Clinton. The crowd jeered the man. Obama stopped them in a fashion that is typical of him. He pointed out that Americans lived in a country of free speech, that the man looked like he served in the military (he was wearing a uniform with medals), and his service should be respected, that he was elderly, and respect for elders is paramount. That encounter was later related by Trump (probably on the basis of false information that was not checked) as &ldquo;a disgrace&rdquo;, because Obama &ldquo;screamed at the protester&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> Obama also hands to the Trump presidency a country in much better shape than he found it. An economy that was in the doldrums when he took office in 2008 is much improved. Unemployment is down. The violent crime rate is the lowest since the 1970s. America was kept safe from foreign attacks throughout his presidency and, abroad, initiatives were taken, such as signing to the agreements on climate change and establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba that gave the US a more benevolent face than it had for decades.<br /> <br /> Despite his intelligence, his charisma and eloquence, the deck was always stacked against him getting through a sweeping legislative programme that would deliver the transformation he promised. He was elected twice as president of the United States because he was able to reach over the vitriol of his opponents into the hearts and minds of ordinary people who trusted him and who believed he would be the change they wanted to see in America. Those people were not only blacks and Hispanics; they crossed the wide spectrum to American white voters &mdash; women, students, professionals and, significantly, the same people in Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin who voted for Trump in the recent election.<br /> <br /> Obama failed to do many things, including with respect to the Caribbean; for example, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba is still occupied by America as a military detention centre even though he pledged to end it. His foreign policy judgements require separate consideration and will not all be regarded sympathetically. But he gave America a face of decency around the world, and he gave people everywhere reason to be proud and reason to believe that dignity, equality and opportunity can be achieved. That, in itself, is a marvellous legacy.<br /> <br /> Obama is probably no saint, and he has never claimed to be. Politicians live in a rough-and-tumble world where tough decisions have to be made. But he is unquestionably a man with a great sense of decency and a desire to do the right thing.<br /> <br /> When he and his wife, Michelle, depart the White House, they will leave with their heads high and with grace and dignity. They would have served their nation well, striving to heal its ethnic and racial divisions; working for tolerance of those seen as &lsquo;others&rsquo; - the gay and lesbian community; and trying to establish that &lsquo;immigrant&rsquo; is not a word to define the unworthy and the unwholesome, but a word to describe people who have always gone to America because they truly believe that it is a land of freedom and possibilities; where hard work pays dividends and where it is possible to make something of themselves that is better than what they left behind.<br /> <br /> The Obamas did not succeed fully; but success cannot be measured in perfection. They have given America a glimpse of all that it can be. And in doing so, much good has been established and will be difficult to destroy.<br /> <br /> Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda&rsquo;s ambassador to the US and Organisation of American States; an international affairs consultant; as well as senior fellow at Massey College, University of Toronto, and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London. He previously served as ambassador to the European Union and the World Trade Organization and as high commissioner to the UK. The views expressed are his own. For responses and to view previous commentaries: www.sirronaldsanders.com.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13460031/243413_70148_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Sunday, November 27, 2016 12:00 AM When independents ruled! http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/When-independents-ruled-_81790 THURSDAY, October 23, 1947 will go down as not only the day when the first parish council election was held under Adult Suffrage, but also the day on which independent candidates upstaged both those of the People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).<br /> <br /> Officially called the KSAC and Parochial Boards&rsquo; General Election, what also followed is that in its 69-year history, only two of the others were ever held so late in the year and in fact, the election which will be held tomorrow will be definitely the latest in any given year. <br /> <br /> After the second (in 1951) which was also held on a Thursday and the third (in 1956) held on a Wednesday, the next eight parish council elections from 1960 to 1990 were all held on Tuesdays, then returned to Thursday in both 1998 and 2003, back to Wednesday in 2007 and on a Monday in 2012, as it will be this year. <br /> <br /> The most popular month for the holding of parish council elections is March by far with seven of the elections (in 1956, 1960, 1969, 1977, 1981, 1990 & 2012) followed by June with three (in 1951, 1966 and 2003), and one each in October (1947), February (1974), July (1986), September (1998) and December (2007).<br /> <br /> However, what truly underscored the major significance of the 1947 parochial election is that it is the only election in our history when both the PNP and the JLP were comprehensively thrashed at the polls by independents, thus producing the most interesting result of all the 15 PC elections held so far.<br /> <br /> Gradually the political parties attained the advantage and although in the second election independents came second by outperforming the JLP by four divisions and a vote difference of three per cent, over time the elections have been eventually dominated by the PNP winning nine (60.0 per cent) of the 15 held, which have yielded an average voter- turnout of only 48.3 per cent. <br /> <br /> Prior to 1947, parochial board elections were conducted under the old electoral system which existed before Adult Suffrage and many of those who participated in the 1947 contest had actually crossed over from the old system,with mixed results. In preparation for the election, the Executive Council, a year earlier in July 1946, had decided on eight major factors for its terms of reference, namely:<br /> <br /> *The constituencies for the elections were to be single-member constituencies made up by grouping polling divisions previously established for the House of Representatives elections.<br /> <br /> *Candidates should be required to be resident in the parish in which the electoral division was located, and they should be required to make a &Acirc;&pound;5 deposit, to be forfeited if they failed to obtain one-eighth of the total votes cast.<br /> <br /> *The election should be by Adult Suffrage.<br /> <br /> *There should be no change, for the present, in existing parochial parish boundaries.<br /> <br /> *The present members on parochial boards should be retained subject to any minor changes recommended by the existing boards.<br /> <br /> *The custodes and members of the House of Representations should remain ex-officio members on the boards.<br /> <br /> *Port Royal should be included in the KSAC.<br /> <br /> *Polling areas should be based on an average of 500 voters.<br /> <br /> The estimated cost of the election was put at &Acirc;&pound;37,000 and was approved by the legislature. The breakdown in divisions per parish showed that St Ann, St Catherine and St Elizabeth were each allotted the most divisions &mdash; 17, with the KSAC and Hanover the least &mdash; 13 each.<br /> <br /> With close to 200 independents islandwide, it could be reasonably deduced that the presence of such an abundance of independent candidates was largely due to the state of the three major political parties by late 1947 and, by extension, the political standings in the House of Representatives at that moment The Jamaica Democratic Party (JDP) had virtually ceased to exist, having been wiped out in the JLP landslide of 1944 without so much as a seat to show for its pains.<br /> <br /> The PNP despite winning only five seats, losing one in a recount and getting a fifth when &lsquo;Slave-Boy Evans&rsquo; joined the party, had already embarked on an ambitious restructuring of its machinery and operations which were starting to bear fruit. This was particularly evident in the Corporate Area and in areas of western Jamaica, although the PNP had not run a single candidate in the entire county of Cornwall in 1944.<br /> <br /> The JLP, in the meantime, was in the midst of its first-term jitters and had already started to experience some amount of fragmentation that would hurt it not just in the 1947 PC election, but also in the 1949 general elections when the party would return to power with a greatly reduced majority of seats and a minority of votes.<br /> <br /> In two by-elections in 1946 to fill House vacancies caused by the death of the JLP&rsquo;s Felix Veitch in West Hanover and Matthew Thelwell in South Trelawny, the party retained the former handsomely, but lost the latter to an independent, Cecil A Neita, who was also known to be aligned to the PNP. <br /> <br /> Then, between March and April 1947 the first &lsquo;Gang of Five&rsquo; rebellion in the party erupted against Bustamante when MHRs ERD Evans (West St Andrew), IT Simmonds (West St Mary), GW Gallimore (West St Ann), Hugh Cork (South Clarendon) and BB Coke (South St Elizabeth) left the JLP to become, firstly, members of Evans&rsquo; ill- fated Agricultural & Industrial Party (AIP) then later independent members in the House.<br /> <br /> In addition, Lawton Bloomfield had also left the party from mid-1945 after he was finally awarded the South Manchester seat following a dramatic series of magisterial recounts and in North Trelawny. Speaker Clement Aitcheson was just about poised on the eve of resigning from the party, to complete his solo term as an independent member.<br /> <br /> So, put all of that in the mix and then add three other constituencies &mdash; East Portland, East St Mary and North-East Clarendon &mdash; where original Independents Harold Allan, Roy Lindo and Rev Reginald Philips were holding firm, and it could be seen that the stage was definitely set for the preponderance of independent candidates who participated in the PC election in October 1947.<br /> <br /> Indeed, at this point in time in the politics, the two major parties were not only some distance away from being entrenched in the system, but they were not yet as organised as they would become much later; the status of an independent candidate was respectable, positive and popular, some unarmoured with their socio-economic standing in the society, the towns and villages, others stood on issues and stood clear of the parties until the time came when independents found themselves in the same boat with third party candidates.<br /> <br /> There were 614,209 voters listed for the election, a shortfall of some 48,860. Only 234,335 voted or 38.2 per cent, a whopping 20.5 per cent fewer than the turnout in the 1944 election. But 12,155 (5.2 per cent) of the votes were rejected and no contest took place in 23 divisions islandwide, where the breakdown showed that 10 independents, 10 PNP and three JLP candidates stood unopposed of this number, St Mary topped the list with eight &mdash; more than a half of its 15 councillors, followed by St Ann with seven of its slate of 17, with the remaining two in Hanover and one each in St Elizabeth and St Thomas.<br /> <br /> Prominent among those who would not be facing the electorate was Jamaica Agricultural Society first vice-president Rudolph Burke of the Llandewey division in St Thomas, who called himself &ldquo;other independent&rdquo; and though a councillor since 1921 and the St Thomas parochial board chairman 1933-39. He had failed in 1944 as the PNP candidate to lift the West St Thomas seat against the JLP&rsquo;s Jehoida McPherson.<br /> <br /> Others included pharmacist, Leslie EA Francis (PNP) of Highgate, St Mary, who in later years would switch to the JLP; Independent Cranston H Reid of Southfield St Elizabeth; the JLP&rsquo;s Harry Witter of Troy in Trelawny and those whose names would later become more associated with national representation, such as Andrew Ross and Charles LA Stuart in St Mary, Livingston Wedderburn in St Ann and Felix Toyloy in Trelawny.<br /> <br /> When the dust had cleared on election day, October 23, Independents had grabbed 93 or 47 per cent of the 199 divisions islandwide and polled 88,111 votes (37.6 per cent). They won seven parochial boards, tied in one and ended up controlling seven of the island&rsquo;s 13 boards.<br /> <br /> Independents won divisions in all parishes except the Corporate Area, which finished up as a tussle between the PNP and JLP. They totally dominated the parish of St Elizabeth, capturing 16 of its 17 divisions (91 per cent) with only the JLP&rsquo;s Allan Beswick of Lacovia standing between them and total control. <br /> <br /> They also took 11 of Trelawny&rsquo;s 16 divisions; 10 of St James&rsquo; 15; more than half of those in St Thomas, St Mary and Westmoreland; half-a-dozen of Clarendon&rsquo;s 14; and tied 6-6 with the JLP in Hanover, but were denied control of that board, owing to the presence of the two JLP MHRs (Dickson and Malcolm) as ex-officio members.<br /> <br /> To be continued tomorrow.<br /> <br /> &mdash; Troy Caine is a political historian and commentator. trodencorp@gmail.com<br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13461606/243635_70212_repro_w300.jpg Local Opinion Sunday, November 27, 2016 12:00 AM Who will be the gatekeepers? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Who-will-be-the-gatekeepers-_81669 I was a part of a meeting recently in which the issue of leadership in Jamaica was being discussed. The meeting was reminded of the nature of our education from kindergarten to tertiary levels in which we were prepared to be followers and not leaders. We were rewarded for repeating what others who were deemed authorities had to say, but never nurturing critical thinking and the notion that we can have a thought that has any validity.<br /> <br /> My own experience of this reality came by way of an eye-opening experience when I was in graduate school, being a part of a doctoral seminar in which the professor had recently published a text which was to become a trailblazer for the discipline, and it was my task to critique his work. To say that I was intimidated by the experience is to put it mildly. Seeing my apparent apprehension, the professor graciously commented, &ldquo;We are big boys together, let&rsquo;s talk.&rdquo; With that he pulled out his notepad, and it was my turn to speak, and his to listen.<br /> <br /> Unfortunately, the culture of followership and non-critical thinking is still very pervasive in our society and is fostered by our political culture, which nurtures the idea that any critical expression of governance and policies enunciated by either side of the political divide must be partisan in intent. Compliance with such a cultural stance leaves us prisoners to a system of dependence, manipulation and control, relegating our lives to the purview of those of perceived superior minds and thoughts.<br /> <br /> A recent news item carried in this newspaper has brought some of the issues to the fore in a way that invites engagement and reflection. The article was entitled &lsquo;Fly the gate&rsquo;. It is a report from the Economic Growth Council (EGC), headed by my very successful and committed classmate from Excelsior High School, Michael Lee-Chin, and which is proposing a &lsquo;growth-oriented, open-door immigration policy&rsquo;.<br /> <br /> Among the reasons and processes offered for this policy are the following:<br /> <br /> * Jamaica does not currently possess enough qualified people to meet, in the short term, its growth agenda objectives.<br /> <br /> * Develop a target open-door, growth-oriented immigration policy which will facilitate entry into Jamaica for people who have the skills, education, work experience, and financial resources to make an immediate economic contribution.<br /> <br /> * Expand the existing visa programme to facilitate the entry of experienced, talented and entrepreneurial foreigners to work and live in Jamaica for extended periods.<br /> <br /> * A growth-oriented immigration policy would allow a greater number of immigrants with advanced education and skills to legally enter, work and stay in Jamaica.<br /> <br /> There is no denying the importance of the growth agenda which the EGC has projected for the nation, given the limitations which the strategy pursued by the previous Government in improving the nation&rsquo;s economic indicators and which did not result in a discernible growth agenda. The proposals now being advanced by the EGC are being advocated as temporary measures for injecting some needed human and material capital into the economy while the capacity of the educational system to deliver the qualified labour force required for the desired level of growth is pursued. Given the current challenges faced by the educational system, the credibility of this short-term proposal must rest on accompanying demonstrable evidence of a commensurate positioning and move within the educational system to achieve the desired end.<br /> <br /> At the same time, while the movement of money poses no challenge in today&rsquo;s world of technology, to assume the migration of people as is being promoted, suggests that we are not simply dealing with temporary residence, but the granting of permanent residence and/or citizenship to those who take up the offer.<br /> <br /> There are, however, some issues which arise and which cannot be simply glossed over at this time and which come out of the experience of governance in the life of the nation under different administrations. One of the issues which arise immediately is that of the handling of work permits by the Ministry of Labour for certain entities that are making investments in the country and are currently being allowed to bring in their labour force. We have seen the disaster resulting in the tragic loss of lives in the hospitality industry, in which new investors are being allowed to bring in their professionals who do not conform to the professional standards required of Jamaicans, or the building codes, and who are being allowed to sideline the qualified Jamaican professionals and standards with impunity. Additionally, it is said that workers are being brought into the country to fill jobs which can be filled by qualified Jamaicans.<br /> <br /> Likewise, there are serious allegations of the violation of the Jamaican labour laws in relation to the terms and conditions of employment by some investors. These include threats of dismissal and reprisal for those who make reports to the Ministry of Labour. Likewise, some current investors are reportedly dealing in cash-only transactions, thereby depriving the government&rsquo;s coffers of taxes.<br /> <br /> The climate of disaffection which these current practices generate within the public and among trade unions must be addressed if there is to be a buy-in by the nation as a whole to these proposals and the creation of the necessary hospitable environment for these investors.<br /> <br /> Those of us who have children who have pursued graduate studies abroad know that they do not all want to live and work in North America, but they encounter all kinds of inhospitable conditions and red tape when they start looking for a job in their homeland. In just about any qualified professional field or entrepreneurial field in North America, you can find competent Jamaicans there. The question is, why can&rsquo;t we attract them back home?<br /> <br /> The United Kingdom used the skills of our artisans and other citizens to promote its post-World War development from the 1950s. Panama sings the praises of Jamaicans who contributed to the building of the canal and the railway. The United States and Canada continue to build their economies on the strength of the education and skills which foreign students bring to the various areas of its life after being enticed to stay in their countries. Is there a diaspora resource to tap in the same way in which Michael Lee-Chin has been able to make his significant investment in Jamaica?<br /> <br /> The offer of residence to those who have the money to invest in the country is certainly not a novel idea, but an idea which also needs exploration and clarification. We have seen situations within the Caribbean in which nations have received negative international attention because of pay-for-citizenship policies and the reputation of some of those who have sought such entry to Caribbean lands. We may look also to see what is happening in some territories of the Caribbean in which individuals of the North, who have the required financial resources, have become residents, assume a measure of control of their new homeland as modern colonisers, and have contributed to the escalation of real estate values, pushing the real estate out of the reach of native citizens.<br /> <br /> There is, however, a deeper issue of trust which must be addressed. Within the last decade we have seen examples of how governments have dealt with issues of concern within the nation when it conflicts with those of foreign investors and those which are announced as strategies for job creation and the generation of wealth. The residents of the Cockpit Country, as well as the entire nation, are still waiting to hear whether bauxite mining will take place in this sensitive national environment. The nation waits to hear if a coal-burning plant will be established in Nain, St Elizabeth. These are extant cases in which the interest of foreign investors and those of citizens are not in sync with each other, and those responsible for governance in succeeding administrations seem uncertain as to their loyalty and obligation to the long-term interests of citizens of the nation in such situations rather than the outcome at the next general election.<br /> <br /> So, whether it is an invitation or a declaration to &ldquo;fly the gate&rdquo;, the question needs to be asked: Who will be the gatekeepers in the interest of all Jamaicans?<br /> <br /> Right Reverend Howard Gregory is the Anglican Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12620975/182916__w300.jpg Local Opinion Sunday, November 27, 2016 12:00 AM