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 Congrats to our Special Olympics contingent http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Congrats-to-our-Special-Olympics-contingent_93419 We were still celebrating the silver medal won by Mr Dave Oddman in division 23 of the 222-metre speed skating race at the 2017 World Winter Games in Austria on Wednesday when the most delightful news came yesterday morning that his teammate, Mr Romaine Austin, captured a historic gold medal for Jamaica in division 15 of the 500m speed skating race.<br /> <br /> As if those were not enough, a few minutes later we learnt that the island&rsquo;s floor hockey team came from a goal down to defeat Costa Rica 2-1 in a bronze medal match, giving the country its third medal at the Games.<br /> <br /> Jamaicans just never cease to amaze the world. Given our geographic location, the average Jamaican is not accustomed to temperatures ranging between 10 and 16 degrees Celsius which, our reporter covering the Games, Mr Sanjay Myers, has told us is what obtains in Graz, Austria, now.<br /> <br /> In fact, one of the stories filed by Mr Myers and published in yesterday&rsquo;s edition told us that some members of the Jamaican contingent were fighting cold symptoms. However, overall, the team is faring well, and for that we are happy.<br /> <br /> There is, of course, the possibility of more medals for the team as Messrs Oddman and Austin are scheduled to compete in separate divisions today, the final day of competition, in the 333-metre event.<br /> <br /> We hope that by the time this column is being absorbed by our readers we will again be celebrating their success. But even if Messrs Oddman and Austin do not medal, they, as well as our floor hockey team, have already proven themselves to be among the world&rsquo;s best in their chosen disciplines.<br /> <br /> Indeed, the entire Jamaica delegation deserves high commendation for the grit and determination they have displayed by competing at these Games.<br /> <br /> The spunk that they have shown in going to Austria and competing is reminiscent of the Jamaican bobsled team that, against the odds, went to the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics and gave a good account of themselves.<br /> <br /> The fact the bobsled team did not medal was inconsequential. What was of great importance was that they swam against the current and proved to the world that people&rsquo;s desire to excel is not determined by geographic boundaries.<br /> <br /> Most notably, the bobsled team&rsquo;s trek to Calgary resulted in the production of the movie Cool Runnings, which has helped to promote Jamaica and kept interest in winter sports alive in the island, albeit not at a level that could be described as satisfactory.<br /> <br /> That, though, is understandable, given that we are more attuned to football, track and field, cricket and netball, which has gained more popularity because the national team, the Sunshine Girls, is consistently ranked among the world&rsquo;s top five.<br /> <br /> Our heartiest congratulations to the Special Olympics team and, indeed, to the administrators and support staff that have accompanied and guided them at these Games.<br /> <br />  <br /> <br /> The country should do all in its power to build on their success. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13731059/266289_92067_repro_w300.jpg Editorial Friday, March 24, 2017 12:00 AM Clear, Hold and Build can work if&hellip; http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Clear--Hold-and-Build-can-work-if-_93351 There are at least three things we can agree on about crime without much controversy, even in this politically polarised society:<br /> <br /> &bull; We have failed miserably as a nation to tame the crime beast;<br /> <br /> &bull; We have created a plethora of anti-crime programmes or special crime prevention forces over many years with little more than their fancy names to show for it; and<br /> <br /> &bull; We have never been able to come together across political administrations for anything more than a fleeting moment to present a united front against criminals.<br /> <br /> Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Monday tabled three Bills representing the latest legislative offensive against crime. We concern ourselves today with the centrepiece of the proposed laws &mdash; the Zones of Special Operations, Special Security and Community Development Measures Act, 2017.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;This legislation is designed to give effect to a well-established and practised security and community building strategy termed Clear, Hold and Build,&rdquo; the prime minister announced in Parliament. <br /> <br /> If for nothing other than our desperate hope that we can at last begin to put a serious dent into the crime situation, we in this space want to see this programme work and succeed. But beyond our hope, we believe &lsquo;Clear, Hold and Build&rsquo; can work if given a chance.<br /> <br /> As outlined, the plan calls for law enforcement to go into a selected community, saturate it with their presence, displace the criminal element, and remove their space to operate, while reassuring law-abiding citizens; law enforcement will then maintain a sustainable level of presence and control over the area, creating the space and support for a multi-sectoral intervention into the community to address outstanding and critical human needs and basic infrastructure.<br /> <br /> The third leg is the introduction of psycho-cultural, social capital, and leadership and organisation building and support, presumably to bring about a state of normality in these areas which the prime minister would have declared zones of special operations.<br /> <br /> We believe it can work if we can achieve a bipartisan or non-partisan approach. This is going to be critical, especially when a crime-ridden political stronghold of one or the other party is declared a zone of special operations. <br /> <br /> For example, if under a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government the People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) believes that Arnett Gardens is being targeted because of its affiliation to the PNP, then it&rsquo;s all over, bar the shouting. It would be a similar result if Western Kingston were so declared by a PNP Administration.<br /> <br /> &lsquo;Clear, Hold and Build&rsquo; can also work if we learn the lessons from the Western Kingston operation that ousted Christopher &ldquo;Dudus&rdquo; Coke from Tivoli Gardens in 2010. The multi-sectoral approach that was promised fizzled out to nothing a few months after the criminal element had been removed. In the vacuum, crime steadily returned and the area is hardly better off.<br /> <br /> The Government might wish to consider giving the power to the commissioner of police to declare zones of special operations to remove the innate suspicions that each political party has of each other and give a bipartisan approach a chance to work. <br /> <br /> Additionally, there will be the urgent necessity to mobilise the nation around the programme through town hall meetings right across the country to educate a sceptical populace on the sincerity of the plan. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13725477/Tivoli_w300.jpg Editorial Thursday, March 23, 2017 12:00 AM Don&rsquo;t expect anyone to bail us out http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Don-t-expect-anyone-to-bail-us-out_93149 There has been some anxiety locally over the budget blueprint unveiled by United States President Donald Trump last week as he is proposing US$54 billion in cuts to large swathes of the Federal Government, including popular programmes that have some bearing on foreign aid.<br /> <br /> We are told that, under President Trump&rsquo;s proposal, funding for several agencies, including development groups, public broadcasting and the arts would be cut off entirely. At the same time, the US State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency are earmarked for deep cuts.<br /> <br /> News reports have stated that almost every agency will see some sort of cut, with only the Department of Defence, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Veterans Affairs getting a boost.<br /> <br /> The US Congress, of course, will have the final say, and legislators, we are told, have already expressed opposition to many of President Trump&rsquo;s proposals.<br /> <br /> However, here in Jamaica, some commentators are already expressing concern as they forecast that a number of programmes and projects are likely to be affected.<br /> <br /> The United States has, over many decades, proven a great friend to Jamaica. The US Agency for International Development (USAID), in particular, has been very active here, implementing myriad programmes valued at millions of dollars that have improved many lives.<br /> <br /> We recall that former US President Barack Obama directed USAID to increase its contact with developing countries, including Jamaica, as his Administration pushed the concept of development as a core pillar of American foreign policy.<br /> <br /> Humanitarian aid, poverty alleviation, educational and health programmes, as well as energy are among the areas that received great attention, so have national security and community development.<br /> <br /> The instruction from President Obama was that America should engage developing countries &ldquo;not as the recipients of charity, but as true partners&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> There&rsquo;s no country that receives aid that is not grateful, and Jamaica, especially, on many occasions, has expressed gratitude to foreign governments, particularly the United States, Britain, Canada, the European Union, Japan and China for their generosity over many years.<br /> <br /> Yet, we know that President Trump, whether we like it or not, will pursue polices he thinks are in the best interest of his country. Obviously, we hope that we would not be too severely affected at this critical juncture.<br /> <br /> But, while we accept that foreign aid represents a genuine commitment by other nations to improve the lives of citizens in recipient nations, we must ask whether we, as Jamaicans, intend to remain comfortable with relying so heavily on such assistance.<br /> <br /> Although we are still a relatively young nation, certainly, in this our 55th year of Independence, Jamaica should be well past the stage where we are accepting donations of bowls of rice, instead of growing our own rice.<br /> <br /> The Government, we believe, will do this country a great service and inscribe its name in history if it gets us to the point where Jamaica is self-sufficient and regarded as a donor country, rather than a continuous recipient of other nations&rsquo; generosity.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13714924/donald-trump_w504-5_w300.jpg Editorial Wednesday, March 22, 2017 12:00 AM Thank you for your assurance, Prime Minister http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Thank-you-for-your-assurance--Prime-Minister_93131 After our editorial of March 12, 2017 asking &ldquo;Is there sufficient Jamaican involvement in Chinese constructions projects?&rdquo;, we are very reassured by Prime Minister Andrew Holness&rsquo;s subsequent statement on the issue.<br /> <br /> Mr Holness on Friday said definitively that the plans for a new parliamentary complex at National Heroes&rsquo; Circle would draw on &ldquo;the expertise of all relevant local skill sets&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> The size and scope of the parliamentary complex will make it undoubtedly one of the biggest construction projects in recent times and, we believe, will help to define the leadership of Mr Holness and his Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration.<br /> <br /> In his statement from Jamaica House, Mr Holness gave the unequivocal commitment that &mdash; to quote his exact words &mdash; &ldquo;purposeful efforts will be made to include Jamaicans in the design and execution of the project&rdquo;. <br /> <br /> He also insisted that this was always the intention of the Government.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are at a preliminary stage currently, and I wish to reiterate, as I said at the MOU signing (with China Construction of America - South America Division), that local expertise will be essential to the design and execution of the project,&rdquo; the press statement said.<br /> <br /> For those who might have missed it, the planned design and construction of the parliamentary complex is to play a major part in the rejuvenation of downtown Kingston, which has been yearning for development in order to realise its long-delayed potential as the largest shopping and business district in the English-speaking Caribbean.<br /> <br /> Under the plan outlined by Mr Holness, the complex will feature a new Parliament building on 50 acres of land, as well as the use of 240 acres to construct several buildings for Government ministries, agencies and departments. It will also house commercial and residential areas, leading &mdash; critically &mdash; to the revitalisation of existing residential areas.<br /> <br /> We are happy for the reassurance, because it has not always been clear that Jamaican expertise has been maximised in the major construction projects undertaken by the Chinese &mdash; which is not to downplay our gratitude to the Chinese who have shown themselves to be a happy example in international and economic co-operation.<br /> <br /> Yet, if we are to benefit as a developing country, we need to make the most of such major infrastructural projects which offer great opportunities for technology transfer and job creation.<br /> <br /> A new Parliament has been on the cards for a long time but has always faced political resistance, including from past JLP Opposition.<br /> <br /> If Mr Holness can make this project a reality, it will stand as his legacy, in much the same way as Emancipation Park and Highway 2000 immortalise Mr P J Patterson.<br /> <br /> Mr Holness&rsquo;s vision is of a project that will bring great pride to Jamaicans by reflecting &ldquo;our history, struggles, triumphs, and overall journey&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> Like the south-east coastal highway, we can&rsquo;t wait to see the completion of the proposed parliamentary complex.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13719217/Andrew-Holness1_w300.jpg Editorial Tuesday, March 21, 2017 12:00 AM Saluting Racers Track Club and Dr Bolt http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Saluting-Racers-Track-Club-and-Dr-Bolt_92961 The<br /> <br /> announcement on Friday of the second staging of the Racers Grand Prix is another golden feather in the cap of not only Racers Track Club, led by the indomitable and world renowned track coach, Dr the Honourable Glen Mills, it is also recognition of the international prestige and prowess of Jamaica&rsquo;s athletics.<br /> <br /> In June, the track at the National Stadium will be graced with the presence of Kenyan Mr David Rudisha, the only man to have gone below 1:42.0 seconds in the 800 metres; the recently knighted Sir Mo Farah, the most decorated British track athlete; and Mr Wayde van Niekerk, world record holder for the 4oom.<br /> <br /> These greats, as stated by Dr Mills, will be here in Jamaica to pay tribute to Dr the Honourable Usain Bolt, who will be running his last competitive race on the terra firma of Jamaica.<br /> <br /> The exploits on the track of Dr Bolt in Olympic Games and World Championships have been well documented to the point where he has become one of the most recognisable figures on Earth.<br /> <br /> Prior to Dr Bolt&rsquo;s major breakthrough at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Jamaica already held a special place, especially in the sprints, in world athletics. We have basked in the glory of Messrs Arthur Wint, George Rhoden, Herb McKenley, Don Quarrie, Bert Cameron, Winthrop Graham, Lennox Miller, Ms Merlene Ottey, Ms Grace Jackson, Mrs Deon Hemmings-McCatty, Mrs Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, Mrs Veronica Campbell Brown, among others who laid the platform on which Dr Bolt, Mr Asafa Powell, and Mrs Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce excelled to proclaim the dominance of the Jamaican athlete.<br /> <br /> In all the glory reaped by Jamaica&rsquo;s athletes over the last 10 years, there was one element still missing from the equation &mdash; a proper internationally recognised and endorsed track meet in Jamaica, where Jamaicans could see their star athletes perform against some of the best in the world, live and in living colour. <br /> <br /> The bold initiative had already been taken by people like coach Mr Stephen Francis, Dr Mills and others to halt the migration of the country&rsquo;s top athletes to institutions mainly in North America. With this drain effectively plugged, Jamaicans were, however, still yearning to cheer their own on home soil.<br /> <br /> Several attempts at organising such a meet have been tried before with, at best, moderate success. Racers Track Club then initiated its Grand Prix last year and, for the first time at last, we were able to witness a well-organised, well-advertised, well-supported, and punctually run track meet featuring the likes of Mr Van Niekerk, who went on to break the 400m world record at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and Ms Shaunae Miller of The Bahamas who won gold in the 400m at the same Olympics. <br /> <br /> That the second Racers Track Club Grand Prix is saluting the career of Dr Bolt is timely, relevant and appropriate. He has been the main cog in the wheels of the club, and they, in tandem, propelled Jamaica across our planet.<br /> <br /> We give strong support to the second edition of the Racers Grand Prix and it is our sincerest hope that Jamaicans from all walks of live come out and give our &lsquo;Legend&rsquo; a truly grand farewell.<br /> <br /> Indeed, we salute Dr Bolt and the Racers Track Club on the grand occasion of his final race in Jamaica. <br /> <br /> Let us therefore fill the National Stadium in June to show our appreciation to the man who produced some of the finest moments for Jamaica. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13717723/264992_in_w300.jpg Editorial Monday, March 20, 2017 12:00 AM Farewell Sir Derek Walcott, Caribbean poet to the world http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Farewell-Sir-Derek-Walcott--Caribbean-poet-to-the-world_92887 The death on Friday morning of Sir Derek Walcott, poet, playwright and painter, at his home in St Lucia, has left a yawning gap that will be hard to fill.<br /> <br /> Born in Castries, the St Lucia capital, in January 1930, his first poems &mdash; which were self-published &mdash; emerged in 1948. He studied at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Jamaica, and after graduation in 1953 moved to Trinidad where he worked as a teacher and journalist. He lived in several places, but always kept a home in St Lucia. <br /> <br /> Sir Derek achieved worldwide acclaim without forsaking his &ldquo;Caribbeaness&rdquo;. Indeed, he revelled in his oeuvre and celebrated his Caribbean culture, flavoured by an encyclopedic knowledge and insight into the interconnectedness of world history, global cultures, and the universality of foibles, frailties and triumphs of humanity.<br /> <br /> He first achieved notability/renown in literary circles in 1962 with In a Green Night: Poems 1948&ndash;1960 published in 1960. His play Dream on Monkey Mountain (1970) was hailed. <br /> <br /> But even a successful writer of poems and plays in the Caribbean needs a secure financial base and hence he taught literature and writing at Boston University for more than 20 years. His other academic posts included scholar-in-residence at the University of Alberta and Professor of Poetry at the University of Essex.<br /> <br /> In 1990 Sir Derek published the epic book-length poem Omeros that brought him worldwide acclaim, and two years later he was awarded the coveted Nobel Prize in Literature. Subsequently he moved into a prolific period, producing several books of poetry: The Bounty in 1997, Tiepolo&rsquo;s Hound in 2000, The Prodigal in 2004, and White Egrets in 2010, which all achieved worldwide readership. There was notably a resurgence in popularity of some of his early works such as The Castaway (1965), Sea Grape (1976) and The Star-Apple Kingdom (1979).<br /> <br /> Sir Derek&rsquo;s literary success was accompanied by some disappointments. His personal life may have been a casualty of his constant international travels. Three marriages ended in divorce, but there were three children: a son, Peter; two daughters, Anna and Elizabeth &mdash; and grandchildren. His appointment as professor of poetry at Oxford University was ended by a smear campaign of character assassination by a rival candidate.<br /> <br /> Sir Derek Walcott was a Caribbean poet for the world and he will forever be in the pantheon of the world&rsquo;s great poets. His contribution to literature in English was monumental. His poetry was not just a masterly and majestic command of language, but deeply insightful revelations of the complexity of the historical and constantly evolving multiculturalism that is the contemporary world. <br /> <br /> Coming from the Caribbean, a region which exhibits all this diversity, Sir Derek described his art in his acceptance speech at the Nobel award ceremony as the &ldquo;restoration of our shattered histories, our shards of vocabulary, our archipelago becoming a synonym for pieces broken off from the original continent&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> Our region will miss this complex giant of man. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13719403/264961_91146_repro_w300.jpg Editorial Sunday, March 19, 2017 12:00 AM ISSA could have avoided this row http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/ISSA-could-have-avoided-this-row_92815 We accept Dr Walton Small&rsquo;s explanation that the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) has never before published the discussion and result of any meeting dealing with requests from schools seeking reviews of the entry requirements for athletes for the annual ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys&rsquo; and Girls&rsquo; Athletics Championships.<br /> <br /> However, we believe that the case of Ugandan student Mr Arymanya Rodgers, who was approved to compete for Kingston College (KC) in this year&rsquo;s staging of the championships, warranted an explanation before Thursday.<br /> <br /> Readers will recall that the youngster&rsquo;s arrival at KC last year was met with a lot of chatter in athletics circles, given that he is adept at distance running. The feeling among the school&rsquo;s detractors was that Mr Rodgers&rsquo; inclusion in the team will boost KC&rsquo;s chances of winning the Mortimer Geddes Trophy, which is now held by arch-rivals, Calabar High.<br /> <br /> Whether that holds true is yet to be seen. However, there has been a lot of focus on the young Ugandan at development meets leading up to Boys&rsquo; Champs, which starts next week.<br /> <br /> Earlier this week, Calabar High administrators issued a news release questioning ISSA&rsquo;s decision which, the school suggested, ran counter to the association&rsquo;s eligibility rules.<br /> <br /> Calabar&rsquo;s complaint came a week after ISSA met and took its decision which, Dr Small explained on Thursday, was arrived at after the association&rsquo;s executive examined extenuating circumstances relating to young Mr Rodgers.<br /> <br /> Dr Small, the ISSA president, explained that the student had encountered difficulties getting a flight from Uganda, through Germany to Jamaica, ,in time for the start of the school year, despite being duly registered at KC.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The young man was originally slated to arrive in Jamaica on August 24 and an itinerary was provided. If all things went well, he would have been in Jamaica on the morning of August 24th,&rdquo; Dr Small explained. &ldquo;However, when the young man went to the airport on the morning of August 23rd for his flight, he was refused boarding because Germany expected him to have a visa.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Eventually, after experiencing further visa and ticket difficulties, Mr Rodgers arrived in Jamaica on October 16.<br /> <br /> Dr Small pointed out that reviews due to extenuating circumstances were not uncommon and, in fact, stated that Calabar had, in the past, benefited from such a review.<br /> <br /> If that is true, we really can&rsquo;t see what the big fuss is about. However, we believe that ISSA, having heard all that was being said about the case of Mr Rodgers, especially after its meeting last week, could have avoided the brouhaha by speaking earlier. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13416250/239679_66238_repro_w300.jpg Editorial Saturday, March 18, 2017 2:00 AM National DNA register a boon in the crime fight http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/National-DNA-register-a-boon-in-the-crime-fight_92612 Word this week that the Government is acquiring equipment for the establishment of a national DNA register is most welcome.<br /> <br /> Jamaica has been on a slow march towards the use of DNA in the fight against crime. Therefore, any measure to quicken that pace is indeed worthy of commendation.<br /> <br /> According to National Security Minister Robert Montague, the Government is about to sign off on a US$146,000 purchase order for the equipment, which is expected to arrive in the island in approximately six weeks.<br /> <br /> The Administration is also organising training to aid in the establishment of the DNA register.<br /> <br /> Minister Montague was also reported as saying that by the time the equipment arrives in the island, the Parliament should have passed the accompanying regulations for the DNA Evidence Act &ldquo;so that we can begin populating the DNA register&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> There is broad acceptance that this measure will enhance the ability of law enforcers to investigate crime, gather evidence, and successfully prosecute people who commit crimes.<br /> <br /> We remain unapologetic in our view that it should be mandatory for suspects and convicted individuals to provide samples from which DNA can be extracted, especially given the low closure rate of criminal cases in Jamaica.<br /> <br /> People who had opposed the DNA Evidence Act should by now be satisfied that the law outlines the protocol for collecting, retaining and preserving samples. It also stipulates the rules relating to the destruction of DNA profiles and outlines penalties for breaches of the Act, such as falsifying profiles, swapping samples or profiles with intent to deceive, and tampering with containers or packages bearing profile samples.<br /> <br /> As we have argued in this space before, it is important that the State makes it clear that anyone harbouring intentions of corrupting the use of this technology should think very long and extremely hard about doing so. Therefore, legislators should not baulk at setting heavy fines, as high as $10 million, we suggest, and prison sentences for no fewer than 10 years for breaches.<br /> <br /> Just as important is that scientists working at the Government forensics laboratory, as well as police forensic experts, should continue to ensure that the process by which they analyse and store samples can stand up to scrutiny. For that, we maintain, will contribute greatly to public trust in the system in much the same way as professional adherence to the provisions in the Act for the retention or destruction of samples.<br /> <br /> But even as the Government acquires this equipment, the legislation is put in force, and scientists get to work on creating the DNA register while using the technology to solve cases, we hold that there needs to be a sustained public education campaign on the value of DNA evidence, especially for the fact that it can lead to wrongful convictions being overturned. Evidence of that benefit of the science is available in the United States and other jurisdictions.<br /> <br /> Again, we state that it is not our view that DNA legislation will result in an immediate reduction in crime. What we strongly believe, though, is that the evidence &mdash; properly gathered and analysed &mdash; will assist our law enforcement agents to secure more successful prosecutions.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/10967379/DNA-Test_w300.jpg Editorial Friday, March 17, 2017 2:00 AM What should Her Majesty&rsquo;s loyal Opposition do? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/What-should-Her-Majesty-s-loyal-Opposition-do-_92602 Theoretically, at least for now, the country is heading into a political crisis with the potential that the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) might not have its full slate of 32 Members of Parliament MPs in the House of Representatives should there be a need to vote to approve this year&rsquo;s budget.<br /> <br /> The JLP member for St Andrew North Western, Mr Derrick Smith, is ill and away from the island in Miami, Florida, and so could be absent if such a vote is called for by the Opposition People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP). This would effectively give the PNP&rsquo;s 31 MPs the edge, since we know that the Speaker of the House can only vote in a tie-breaker.<br /> <br /> Debate on the Appropriations Bill, better known as the budget, is set to end on March 22, 2017, and fiscal rules dictate that the budget must be approved by the House by April 1, the start of the new fiscal year. Now, why would the PNP not want to see the budget passed?<br /> <br /> Before we get to that unlikely pass, however, we believe that Mr Smith would do his all to be present for such a vote, even if he has to be taken to Gordon House in a wheelchair. Moreover, the PNP would have to be able to ensure that all its 31 MPs are present, so none can be seriously ill, be travelling overseas, or absent for any of the other several justifiable reasons, such as sudden death or family crisis.<br /> <br /> The bigger question, of course, is what should be expected of Her Majesty&rsquo;s loyal Opposition if, the PNP in this case, finds itself in this situation of having an edge over the JLP in the numbers? What would Mrs Portia Simpson Miller instruct her party to do, as her potentially final act as Opposition leader?<br /> <br /> We have seen in the United States, for example, budget quarrels between Republican and Democratic congressmen leading to a shutdown of the Government and the resultant pain and suffering it can cause to the country and the economy.<br /> <br /> We don&rsquo;t see a Jamaican Opposition shutting down the budgetary process in a situation where the fiscal and monetary policies and programmes bear so little difference between the two parties, especially since the agreements with the International Monetary Fund became operational in the previous Administration.<br /> <br /> Furthermore, we also know that the Opposition leader-designate, Dr Peter Phillips, while describing the proposed $13.5-billion tax package as unconscionable and a betrayal of the trust of voters, is having what is merely a difference of opinion on where to put the tax burden. <br /> <br /> There is nothing new or fundamental in that. Every Opposition disagrees with every Government on the revenue package, even though they would do the same were the shoe is on the other foot.<br /> <br /> What we expect to happen between now and then is more posturing and negotiations towards achieving the most equitable tax package possible in the face of so little wiggle room. A sensible Government would do all to achieve that.<br /> <br /> But, in the end, we expect the good sense of Her Majesty&rsquo;s loyal Opposition will prevail. <br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13321166/Derrick-Smith1_w300.jpg Editorial Thursday, March 16, 2017 12:00 AM Time for action, not a bag o&rsquo; mouth http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Time-for-action--not-a-bag-o--mouth_92395 The staff at the Auditor General&rsquo;s Department (AGD) must feel that they&rsquo;re on a treadmill. <br /> <br /> One would think that after years of making recommendations to prevent breaches of government procedures and weak management practices, public sector employees, at all levels, would, by now, be aware of what not to do and avoid being reckless with the country&rsquo;s resources.<br /> <br /> What is particularly disturbing about the latest report tabled by the AGD in Parliament last week is the agency&rsquo;s estimation that poor governance decisions uncovered in five State entities have cost taxpayers $1.33 billion, while breaches of the Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act and Government Procurement Guidelines have left the public with financial exposure amounting to $313 million.<br /> <br /> Among the entities audited for the 2016 calendar year were the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), Ministry of Finance, and the Institute of Sports (INSPORTS).<br /> <br /> In relation to the UDC, the Auditor General&rsquo;s Department said it found breaches of the divestment procedures in its sale of the Oceana Hotel complex in downtown Kingston.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;UDC breached the terms of divestment as outlined in the Requests for Proposals by considering bids that did not provide all the mandatory information; this cast doubt on the objectivity of the decision-making process,&rdquo; the AGD said, noting that the UDC also breached its own Estate Management Policy and Guidelines in relation to valuation reports on the hotel.<br /> <br /> As if that were not bad enough, the AGD found that the Finance Ministry&rsquo;s decision to lease sections of the Oceana Hotel&rsquo;s ground floor at a price higher than advised by the Commissioner of Lands will now cost the public &ldquo;an additional $591 million over the lease term&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> That lease, we are told, was for space to accommodate the Accountant General&rsquo;s Department which, to this date, has not moved in despite the ministry admitting to the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee of Parliament that the country would lose $7.5 billion in international funding if the Accountant General&rsquo;s Department did not relocate from its current premises by the end of 2016 to facilitate the Justice Square project.<br /> <br /> Then comes the kicker in this sordid mess &mdash; &ldquo;the leased premises remain unoccupied and $75.77 million have been accumulated in rent up to February 2017&rdquo;, the AGD informs us.<br /> <br /> When you add to that a report in this newspaper this week that the finance ministry is spending $478 million to renovate the rented space and, as far as we are aware, will not recover that money, you have to wonder about the ability of the people who are responsible for managing these entities.<br /> <br /> Added to all that is the madness that prevails at INSPORTS, an entity that the AGD tells us has never submitted annual reports, and which took the decision to re-engage the services of nine retired officers without approval from the Ministry of Finance between June 2013 and February 2015.<br /> <br /> As we have stated in this space before, these breaches have been taking place for decades and very little, if anything, is done about them. That includes a failure to sanction the people guilty of these despicable acts.<br /> <br /> Last year, Information Minister Senator Ruel Reid sought to assure the country that the Government will go after people who break the rules. It is past time for action, not a bag o&rsquo; mouth. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13696174/GSAT1_w300.jpg Editorial Wednesday, March 15, 2017 2:00 AM The mission of Mr Audley Shaw http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/The-mission-of-Mr-Audley-Shaw_92380 We have had our share of disappointments with prominent people paying lip service to important causes and principles, yet we sense in Mr Audley Shaw, the finance minister, a renewed and sincere zest for improving the lot of Jamaican youth.<br /> <br /> In many of his key speeches since his appointment for a second time to the finance portfolio a year ago, and again in his budget presentation last week, he has shown unusual passion for the well-being of the youth, seeing it as integral to the growth and development of the country.<br /> <br /> If we are right, Senator Ruel Reid, the minister of education and youth, must have received a warm and supportive hearing from the finance minister for his plans when he attended the annual budget call in September, where ministers fight to justify the figures attached to their programmes and policies for eventual inclusion in the national budget.<br /> <br /> Finance ministers usually can&rsquo;t show their sympathy for one ministry over another, in the face of the plethora of needs and the paucity of resources to meet them.<br /> <br /> But Minister Shaw is right about the youth. The Jamaican nation will always be taking one step forward, two steps backward, as long as our youth, the future of our country, remain decimated by lack of opportunities and social malaise.<br /> <br /> We have always known this, but while the diagnoses are plenty, solutions defy us. The various researches on Jamaican youth generally agree that:<br /> <br /> &bull; almost one-third of young people seeking jobs are unemployed;<br /> <br /> &bull; just over a quarter of all major crimes &mdash; including murders, shooting, robbery, larceny, carnal abuse and rape &mdash; are committed by young adults, mostly males;<br /> <br /> &bull; children and young adults account for a quarter of all intentional injuries and 27.4 per cent of all stab wound cases;<br /> <br /> &bull; in one year alone, 4,500 cases of abuse were reported to the Office of the Children&rsquo;s Registry, with almost two-thirds of the victims being girls, and neglect being almost two-thirds of the types of abuses; and<br /> <br /> &bull; children and adolescents (0-19 years) account for almost a third of attempted suicide cases.<br /> <br /> Mr Shaw, in naming the constituent groups with whom the journey of prosperity starts, was quite correct in highlighting the youth first. The following excerpts from his budget presentation are worth recalling:<br /> <br /> &ldquo;To our students, the journey to prosperity starts with doing your best at all times in the classroom, on the sports field, and in community service &mdash; an educated population is an essential requisite for national prosperity.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;To our young adults not pursuing educational opportunities or not gainfully employed, the journey starts with making personal plans and goals and engaging in good life practices consistent with strong, positive thoughts.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Your journey can also start with developing your natural talents, acquiring new knowledge, or checking into the unattached youth programme we have just announced. Have faith in yourself and never devalue your capabilities, your skills, or potential. Remember that failure is not in falling down but in not getting back up and getting on with life.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> If indeed the finance minister is not just a flash in the pan, or not mere sound and fury signifying nothing &mdash; and we do not believe he is &mdash; then there truly is hope for a brighter future for our youth and our country. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13707211/Audley-Shaw--3-_w300.jpg Editorial Tuesday, March 14, 2017 12:00 AM Don&rsquo;t give scammers a free pass http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Don-t-give-scammers-a-free-pass_92244 The decision of the court last week to approve an extradition request from the United States for eight Jamaicans accused of involvement in lottery scamming should hopefully open the eyes of people engaged in this illegal activity.<br /> <br /> That a serving member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force was among the eight accused was most disappointing, because the Jamaican people have a right to believe that they can repose trust in those among us who have taken an oath to uphold the law.<br /> <br /> We have no proof that this constable and his co-accused are guilty of the crime, but we do know that governments do not file extradition requests without having evidence that can withstand judicial scrutiny and which give them confidence that they can secure convictions.<br /> <br /> Of course, we will see how all that plays out when these eight accused people go on trial in the United States.<br /> <br /> The broader picture, though, is that the Jamaican law enforcement agencies are acting on the provisions of the law passed two years ago to deal with lottery scamming, a scourge that has so tarnished this country&rsquo;s name abroad.<br /> <br /> Just as harmful is the fact that this evil criminal activity is responsible for numerous murders and is ruining the lives of many people, particularly elderly individuals.<br /> <br /> The eight people ordered extradited last week are alleged to be part of a criminal organisation that manifested in 2009 in Jamaica and elsewhere, and is accused of having robbed more than 80 people in the United States and elsewhere of US$5.6 million.<br /> <br /> We recall that the police previously reported that in 2010, lottery scammers bilked a whopping US$30 million from hapless targets in the state of Minnesota alone.<br /> <br /> Readers will also remember that between 2007, when the scam started, and 2009, local police confiscated US$283,000 in cash; and since then, well over $7 million in cash has been taken out of criminal hands connected to the scheme. The police have also seized high-end luxury vehicles and detained well over 100 people, most of them below the age of 30.<br /> <br /> We wonder what goes through the minds of parents when they see their teenaged sons and daughters, for instance, in possession of expensive assets for which they are unable to account. Any responsible adult would immediately alert the authorities to this fact, as they would not want to be associated with any activity that provided those assets.<br /> <br /> Some years ago this newspaper reported that the police, in one of their anti-lottery scam operations in Montego Bay, arrested a 15-year-old boy who owned at least three houses and three motor cars, yet he was unable to read or write.<br /> <br /> What we are seeing here is a culture spawned by a get-rich-quick mentality which has its roots in the sense of entitlement that is still evident in too many of our people.<br /> <br /> We reiterate that the few Jamaicans who give support and shelter to lottery scammers should bear in mind that their actions are contributing to murder, the destruction of lives, damaging the country&rsquo;s reputation abroad, and posing a danger to the jobs of many Jamaicans.<br /> <br /> We also repeat our call for every law-abiding Jamaican to consider it their duty to give information to the police about the activities of these criminals, because they are enriching themselves at the expense of the entire country.<br /> <br /> Don&rsquo;t give these scammers any free pass. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/11540751/Lotto-Scammers-held_w300.jpg Editorial Monday, March 13, 2017 12:00 AM Is there sufficient Jamaican involvement in Chinese construction projects? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Is-there-sufficient-Jamaican-involvement-in-Chinese-construction-projects-_92205 The Michael Manley-led Government of Jamaica in the 1970s initiated close Sino-Jamaica relationship on the basis of the &ldquo;One China&rdquo; policy which has been adhered to since then by successive governments. <br /> <br /> China has never forgotten this valuable support, and when it was asserting its new status as a global superpower, it chose Jamaica as its diplomatic platform in the Caribbean, by increasing development aid to the island and the region. <br /> <br /> Aid started as grants and donations of buildings and this was the prelude to providing loans to finance construction projects carried out by Chinese companies, notably China Harbour, which have successfully completed several infrastructure projects and buildings.<br /> <br /> Chinese loans are made on condition that the construction be done by Chinese firms. This type of arrangement is called &ldquo;tied aid&rdquo; and was pioneered by the British, Americans and Europeans. Nothing wrong, because both the donor and the beneficiary gain and it makes it easy for electorates in developed countries to accept helping the poor outside their country when the resources are needed by the poor within their own country.<br /> <br /> The question arises as to what extent are Jamaican workers, engineers and architects involved in the construction projects? This has emerged as a contentious issue wherever China has financed and constructed projects, including in the Caribbean and Africa. There are several considerations. <br /> <br /> China is entitled to tie its loans to the employment of Chinese companies and they naturally have engineers, architects and even some skilled workers whom they have used on projects across the world. <br /> <br /> If a country frowns on such arrangements it does not have to do business with the Chinese. However, the Chinese come with financing that is among the most inexpensive and they do have a record of completing projects on budget, even where other foreign or local companies have failed.<br /> <br /> This still leaves the issue of whether the Chinese are using Chinese to do jobs that can be done by Jamaicans.<br /> <br /> Jamaica has all the skills necessary for any type of construction, and it is clear that using Jamaicans would be advantageous as they have knowledge of and experience of the local conditions. Employment of locals obviates the cost of bringing Chinese to Jamaica and gets around the language problems. Perhaps the best of all situations is to find an appropriate blend of Chinese and Jamaicans.<br /> <br /> The guidelines must be to use Chinese only where necessary, and it is the duty of the Government of Jamaica to ensure that this is written into the construction contracts with Chinese companies and monitored by only issuing work permits when a case has been justified. We must also insist on outsourcing to local contractors and suppliers.<br /> <br /> In regard to the issue of Jamaican involvement in construction projects financed and executed by Chinese companies, we do not usually have enough details to make a useful comment. However, while we are happy with the Chinese largesse, there is need for our Government to be astute in drafting of contracts on construction projects, to ensure that we get as many benefits as possible for Jamaicans. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/10006708/Chinese-flag_w300.jpg Editorial Sunday, March 12, 2017 12:00 AM JADCO needs to say why http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/JADCO-needs-to-say-why_92137 This newspaper&rsquo;s position on the anti-doping rules in sport is well known to our readers.<br /> <br /> The rules, we believe, are to be observed, and athletes, as we have repeatedly stated, have a responsibility to abide by the rules.<br /> <br /> Early last month we had reason to discuss this issue after Jamaica and West Indies cricketer Mr Andre Russell received a one-year ban for breaching anti-doping whereabouts rules. Mr Russell received the sanction because he did not file his whereabouts on three occasions during a 12-month span in 2015. That was in breach of WADA regulations which state that three filing failures during a one-year period amount to a failed test, which may attract a ban of up to 24 months.<br /> <br /> Note should be made of the fact that Mr Russell was not punished for ingesting any banned or prohibited substance. In fact, the anti-doping disciplinary panel &mdash; comprising Chairman Mr Hugh Faulkner, Dr Marjorie Vassell, and former national cricketer Mr Dixeth Palmer &mdash; that heard Mr Russell&rsquo;s case stated that his conduct did not &ldquo;raise a serious suspicion&rdquo; that he was &ldquo;trying to avoid&rdquo; being tested.<br /> <br /> That fact, they said, helped influence their decision to slap Mr Russell with the one-year ban.<br /> <br /> As disappointed as Mr Russell, his family, friends and supporters may have been, we suspect that they had eventually accepted the judgement and had moved on, even though he would have been worried about his ability to earn a living and take care of his family for the next 12 months.<br /> <br /> Surprisingly, we are now hearing from the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) that it is appealing the disciplinary committee&rsquo;s decision and wants the maximum penalty to be imposed on the cricketer.<br /> <br /> The question uppermost in our mind is why?<br /> <br /> The Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission needs to tell the country, and indeed Mr Russell, what is behind this decision. Without any evidence we are unable to give an informed comment on the JADCO action. However, we are certainly not restricted in arguing that JADCO runs the risk of being seen by the public as an organisation trying to prove to the world that it is tough.<br /> <br /> Also, the commission should not be surprised if people suspect that the decision has been influenced by something beyond the boundaries of the case.<br /> <br /> Certainly, we believe that JADCO would want to erase any suspicion the public may have about its appeal of the one-year ban.<br /> <br /> Any information in that regard will, we expect, be made public during the appeal hearing. We, like many other Jamaicans, await this score.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13611160/255660_82450_repro_w300.jpg Editorial Saturday, March 11, 2017 3:00 AM Don&rsquo;t yield to the disorder, Mayor Williams http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Don-t-yield-to-the-disorder--Mayor-Williams_91975 In his assessment of the chaos that exists in downtown Kingston, Mayor Delroy Williams certainly has got one thing right &mdash; simply that what obtains is not sustainable.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We can&rsquo;t continue like this,&rdquo; Senator Williams told this newspaper last week. &ldquo;Vendors are all over the streets. There is the municipal police, but when they take any action, as soon as they leave the vicinity the vendors just go right back and take up the spaces again. That is not conducive to order.&rdquo; <br /> <br /> The mayor, though, appears set to yield to the disorder, saying that he plans to prevent vehicular traffic from traversing some streets downtown.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We want to pedestrianise Beckford Street, as well as some sections of other streets in the area, including Temple Lane [and] Peters Lane,&rdquo; he said, adding that such a measure would bring some amount of order to the city.<br /> <br /> The plan, though, is not being supported by store owners and, surprisingly, some vendors. The main concern aired by them is the effect the measure would have on the delivery of goods.<br /> <br /> That, in itself, is a serious matter, as businesses will not stay open for long if they are unable to receive merchandise to sell.<br /> <br /> But even more serious is the matter of public safety raised by businessman Mr Gassan Azan. <br /> <br /> Noting that what Mayor Williams is creating are vending zones, Mr Azan asked some very pertinent questions: &ldquo;When you create a vending zone in the middle of the road, how do your emergency services function, how do the police get in and out of there? Has all of that been determined before you make that announcement?&rdquo; asked Mr Azan, who owns the successful Bashco and MegaMart chains and is a director of this newspaper.<br /> <br /> Those are indeed questions that Mayor Williams and his team at the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Council need to answer.<br /> <br /> Street vending has been a sore issue for decades, and successive governments have been unable to change what is really a culture of disorder that mushroomed with the downward spiral of the economy over the past 20 years.<br /> <br /> Changing that culture will be difficult, especially for the fact that one of the contributory factors, as identified by the mayor, is that there is not enough market space to accommodate all vendors.<br /> <br /> However, if Mayor Williams intends to transform Kingston into &ldquo;the capital city of the Caribbean&rdquo; &mdash; a tourist destination alive with cultural, historical and gastronomical offerings, as well as shopping &mdash; he and his city managers will need to ensure that there is order in public spaces.<br /> <br /> Simply pedestrianising some streets to accommodate vending will not solve the problem. Probably the mayor and the municipal council could examine the feasibility of transforming some of the many abandoned buildings downtown into shopping arcades, where vendors could rent space at affordable rates. That would protect the vendors and their goods from the elements and set the tone for the type of order that, if breached, would attract sanctions.<br /> <br /> Take a look at the broken windows theory, Mayor Williams, and determine what from it could be successfully adapted to suit local conditions. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13687466/262219_88793_repro_w300.jpg Editorial Friday, March 10, 2017 3:00 AM Is sending manslaughter convicts to prison the best remedy? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Is-sending-manslaughter-victims-to-prison-the-best-remedy-_91873 The case of Shortwood Teachers&rsquo; College Principal Dr Christopher Clarke, who was on Tuesday this week ordered to pay $2 million or serve 12 months behind bars, should invite our most serious contemplation.<br /> <br /> Justice Vinnette Allen-Graham, presiding in the St Catherine Circuit Court, also ordered the suspension of Dr Clarke&rsquo;s driver&rsquo;s licence for 12 months, after finding him guilty on February 20, 2017 of causing the death of pillion rider Yvonne Brown by dangerous driving.<br /> <br /> The unfortunate incident took place along the Old Harbour main road in St Catherine on March 16, 2014. News reports of the crash did not give details about the fate of the rider of the motorcycle or biographical information on the deceased.<br /> <br /> The Clarke case brings to mind the unofficial story in which a minister of government, now deceased, is said to have found himself in a similar situation but offered to take care of the two young children of the man he had accidentally killed, in place of going to prison.<br /> <br /> The negotiations allegedly took place quietly with the family of the deceased who agreed that without the breadwinner, the children would have no one to care for them financially and would most likely drop out of school. The matter, therefore, did not go to trial.<br /> <br /> We know of nowhere in law that such negotiations are allowable but we stand to be corrected.<br /> <br /> No doubt, there are those who would argue strenuously that the law should take its course at all times. Indeed, some of those commenting on the case of the Shortwood College principal are suggesting that his punishment should have been harsher because a life has been taken.<br /> <br /> Some have gone even further to say that had the convicted person been of lesser standing in society, the judge would not have been as lenient or so ready to accept the testimony of the character witnesses who spoke of the great value of Dr Clarke to the society.<br /> <br /> So the big question is, which is a better remedy: sending the guilty driver to prison or giving him or her financial responsibility for children left behind by their breadwinner?<br /> <br /> We in this space have always maintained that we are a nation of men and not laws. Yet we see the absolute good sense in the option of ordering the individual guilty of manslaughter to maintain the children of the deceased, as against sending him/her to waste away in prison at a cost to the country; with the added potential that the children could become a charge on society. <br /> <br /> Obviously there are several factors to be considered, including the ability of the driver to carry out such fiduciary responsibility, especially if there are multiple children left behind; the proven value of the individual to society; and how the requisite legislation would impact on our traffic laws.<br /> <br /> Perhaps this is something that our legal luminaries might wish to weigh in on.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13692042/chris-c_w300.jpg Editorial Thursday, March 09, 2017 12:00 AM As we observe International Women&rsquo;s Day http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/As-we-observe-International-Women-s-Day_91654 United Nations Secretary General Ant&oacute;nio Guterres makes a very telling observation in his message marking today&rsquo;s observation of International Women&rsquo;s Day.<br /> <br /> According to Mr Guterres, &ldquo;closing the gender gap in employment could add US$12 trillion to global GDP by 2025&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> That projection is particularly relevant in the face of the theme for this year&rsquo;s International Women&rsquo;s Day &ndash; &lsquo;Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030&rsquo;.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The idea of this theme,&rdquo; the UN tells us, &ldquo;is to consider how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially goal number five [which is to] achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls&rdquo; and goal number four, which is to &ldquo;ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> The fact that the world&rsquo;s leaders have all agreed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development should, we expect, make it easier for the goals to be achieved.<br /> <br /> This newspaper would be particularly pleased if, by 2030, the world could state with conviction that some of the key targets of the agenda have been achieved, namely that all girls and boys were able to complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education; that they all have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education; that all forms of discrimination against women and girls no longer existed; that all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation were eliminated; and that all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation were no more.<br /> <br /> That, we believe, would be a fitting tribute to the many strong advocates of human rights and the women who have no doubt played extraordinary roles in the development of their communities and, indeed, their countries.<br /> <br /> Locally, we can be proud to acknowledge that Jamaica has achieved significant progress in fostering gender equality and the empowerment of women. Indeed, an increasing number of women are heads of businesses and are among the country&rsquo;s top decision-makers.<br /> <br /> But even as we acknowledge those achievements, we have not lost sight of the fact that there is still more work to be done to ensure that we overcome entrenched prejudice.<br /> <br /> For, as Secretary General Guterres so correctly stated in his message: &ldquo;Gender equality has a transformative effect that is essential to fully functioning communities, societies and economies.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> It is therefore vital that as the Government increases its push for economic growth it develops and institutes programmes and policies that work to the greater benefit of the female population. <br /> <br /> That reality is borne out well in the following argument advanced by the United Nations: &ldquo;The world of work is changing, and with significant implications for women. On one hand, we have globalisation, technological and digital revolution and the opportunities they bring, and on the other hand, the growing informality of labour, unstable livelihoods and incomes, new fiscal and trade policies and environmental impacts &mdash; all of which must be addressed in the context of women&rsquo;s economic empowerment.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13441299/241622_w300.jpg Editorial Wednesday, March 08, 2017 12:00 AM If Mr Horace Dalley is not playing political games&hellip; http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/If-Mr-Horace-Dalley-is-not-playing-political-games-_91631 Mr Horace Dalley, the Opposition spokesman on health, very rarely catches our attention, let alone our admiration, largely because of his lacklustre style. But he has done so this time by at least appearing to depart from the usual approach to opposing.<br /> <br /> Last week he offered Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton his assistance with solving the problem which has all but rendered Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) inoperative, mainly because of fumes that have threatened the health of the staff there.<br /> <br /> Of course, we are giving Mr Dalley the benefit of the doubt that he is not playing games and that he is very serious in making his offer. After all, he was the minister of health up to only a year ago and may have important critical information about the problems at that western regional hospital.<br /> <br /> In making his offer, Mr Dalley declared in a press statement that: &ldquo;The People&rsquo;s National Party reaffirms its commitment to do its part in creating a healthy Jamaica, whether we are in Government or Opposition. As such we are prepared to work with the Government to find a workable solution to the crisis facing the Cornwall Regional Hospital.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> He also announced that he and his team would this morning meet with Dr Tufton, following a tour of the hospital which was scheduled for yesterday, &ldquo;to discuss solutions to this national issue and to ensure that in the end, Western Jamaica has quality health care&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> This is a template that we have consistently advocated in this space and which we believe makes an Opposition more credible and more effective. Health, along with crime and education, are areas which we think would benefit from a bipartisan approach and the meeting of minds by both Government and Opposition.<br /> <br /> In this, one is not being na&iuml;ve or suggesting that an Opposition is not to criticise and expose weaknesses in Government. Indeed, we are acutely aware that Opposition parties see their role as the winning of elections and therefore doing whatever is necessary to achieve that end.<br /> <br /> Yet, thinking persons will admit that it is a shortcoming of our democracy that the Opposition can see no good, hear no good or speak no good of the governing side. There are areas of national life which are absolutely critical to our growth and development that should be excluded from the national political football game, such as those mentioned earlier.<br /> <br /> Mr Dalley says the Opposition empathises with and supports the professional staff and patients of the hospital, whose health has been compromised and who have consequently become anxious because there seems to be no end in sight.<br /> <br /> He has our support in saying: &ldquo;&hellip;We feel that it is important that we join the Government in this cause to find an appropriate and speedy solution so that normality will return to Cornwall Regional Hospital. We will also be appealing to the Government to put measures in place to ensure that this situation does not happen again, in any medical facility in Jamaica.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> If Mr Dalley is being genuine, he would have done his party and the country a good turn.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13684908/horace-dalley--1-_w300.jpg Editorial Tuesday, March 07, 2017 12:00 AM Crime the enemy of tourism http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Crime-the-enemy-of-tourism_91542 Sadly, most Jamaicans have never been able to properly explore their own space.<br /> <br /> Many, perhaps most, have never even heard of the Bull Head Mountain in Clarendon, central Jamaica, where residents host a festival every Ash Wednesday.<br /> <br /> Apart from being at the geographic centre of Jamaica and boasting the highest peak in Clarendon, the Bull Head Mountain is a precious watershed &mdash; source to the Rio Minho which provides fresh water for much of Clarendon. <br /> <br /> If Mayor of May Pen and Chairman of the Clarendon Municipal Council Mr Winston Maragh has his way, the Bull Head Mountain will also become part of a community &ldquo;tourism package&rdquo; for Clarendon, and presumably the wider south coast.<br /> <br /> Attractive to hikers and sightseers, the Bull Head Mountain would fit into a package including Milk River and Alligator Hole in southern Clarendon, as visualised by Mr Maragh. <br /> <br /> Such plans for the south coast are not new. Local leaders including Mr Tony Freckleton, head of the South Coast Resort Board, have long pushed for more Government support to develop community and heritage tourism projects along the length of Jamaica&rsquo;s south coast. <br /> <br /> As is well known, the exotic north and west coasts are the mainstay of tourism &mdash; a cornerstone of the national economy, grossing well in excess of US$2 billion annually and employing thousands of people directly and indirectly.<br /> <br /> Personalities such as Mr Freckleton and successive tourism ministers have argued for the south coast to share more of the tourism pie by developing its own brand of community, heritage and sightseeing relationships with visitors.<br /> <br /> Though still in their infancy, such projects have reaped rewards largely through the initiative of government agencies &mdash; not least the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) &mdash; private entrepreneurs and community groups.<br /> <br /> Entrepreneurs in Black River have demonstrated the value of sightseeing boat tours through the wetlands fed by the Black River. The Appleton Rum Tour and YS Falls in northern St Elizabeth are highly successful ventures. In central Manchester, a museum project at the birthplace of National Hero, Rt Excellent Norman Manley, which attracts student visitors, bears testimony that tourists need not be from overseas.<br /> <br /> In Alligator Pond &mdash; where beach erosion is a serious worry &mdash; entrepreneurs have built their own culinary niche in the tourism market. Also in Manchester, Countrystyle Community Tourism Network has established a reputation for customised tour and vacation packages.<br /> <br /> In Treasure Beach, south St Elizabeth, people supporting each other and very protective of their visitors have built an enviable product.<br /> <br /> Even with all of that, much needs to be done to make viable such priceless attractions as Lovers&rsquo; Leap at Yardley Chase in south St Elizabeth. <br /> <br /> Of course, south coast communities, intent on profiting from tourism can&rsquo;t just sit back and wait. Like the people of Treasure Beach, they have to act to make it happen.<br /> <br /> Crucially, there must be a vision and the will to ensure visitors feel safe and secure. Unfortunately, there are far too many places where that is not the case. As Mr Maragh and fellow leaders in Clarendon look towards tourism as a sustainable part of the economic solution, they must recognise that crime in that south-central parish has to be brought under control. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13687157/262121_88689_repro_w300.jpg Editorial Monday, March 06, 2017 12:00 AM Mr Herbie Miller&rsquo;s thankless but invaluable work http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Mr-Herbie-Miller-s-thankless-but-invaluable-work_91453 Amidst the constant news of crime and politics, Mr Herbie Miller, musicologist, social analyst, song- writer, music producer and cultural historian, continues his thankless work of documenting the history of Jamaican music, with little fanfare and mostly out of his own pocket.<br /> <br /> The former manager of the late Mr Peter Tosh is one of the few Jamaicans who study the country&rsquo;s rich musical heritage which has given reggae to the world and its best known exponent, Mr Robert &ldquo;Bob&rdquo; Marley, the Third World&rsquo;s first megastar whose immortal song, One Love was acclaimed by the British Broadcasting Corporation as the Song of the Century. <br /> <br /> Few Jamaicans, especially the youth and those absorbed with dancehall music, know or care to know of the evolution of reggae. We remain ignorant of where our music came from, how it has influenced us and the world, and its role in giving voice to the issues and thinking of the majority of poor Jamaicans.<br /> <br /> Our contemporary music is not something to be censured but needs to be understood as a vent for views of the majority of Jamaicans. Censorship and ridicule have been the tradition of a nervous ruling class, starting from the slave plantation and continuing through mento, Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, to Bob Marley. You do not have to like it, but you cannot ignore it. <br /> <br /> There are those few among us who recognise the importance of studying, documenting and disseminating the history of our music. That is why, ironically, most of the books and video documentaries made about the exponents and producers of reggae are by foreigners. <br /> <br /> The few Jamaicans who dedicate themselves to understanding and recording the history of Jamaican popular music and meaning, and the social and cultural importance of its current forms, are to be thanked. In this regard we salute Professor Carolyn Cooper for her penetrating analyses and for being the pioneer in establishing the intellectual legitimacy of reggae studies.<br /> <br /> Mr Herbie Miller&rsquo;s dogged work in this regard is worthy of commendation. He was Mr Tosh&rsquo;s manager during his halcyon days of Legalise It, Equal Rights, Bush Doctor, Mystic Man and Wanted Dread and Alive. In a more sedentary role he has laboured tirelessly with inadequate resources as the first director/curator of the Jamaica Music Museum, Institute of Jamaica.<br /> <br /> Jamaica is indebted to Mr Miller for his work, which is expressed in many ways, but most visually in the series called lsquo;Groundation&rsquo;. The most recent event was last Saturday when there was a celebration of Mr Carlos Malcolm and his pioneering work with his &ldquo;Afro-Caribbeans&rdquo; band.<br /> <br /> It is an enigma and sad commentary that Mr Miller&rsquo;s efforts are not well supported financially by Jamaican artistes and producers in an industry that earns billions of dollars. He has had to make considerable personal sacrifice to continue doing his work, which is partially the reason for the delay in completing his long-awaited book on Mr Don Drummond.<br /> <br /> Mr Miller&rsquo;s is a labour of love, and an important act of patriotism for which he has not been given enough recognition. We salute him and express our appreciation for his work and call on those in the music industry to support the work of the Jamaica Music Museum. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/10373484/Herbie-Miller_w300.jpg Editorial Sunday, March 05, 2017 12:00 AM How to meet infrastructure needs in sport? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/How-to-meet-infrastructure-needs-in-sport_91422 In central Jamaica, long-serving sports administrator and former president of the Jamaica Administrative Athletics Association (JAAAs) Mr Pat Anderson recently called for an all-weather track at the Kirkvine Sports Club in central Manchester.<br /> <br /> Then earlier this week came talk from the west of the urgent need to replace the worn 15-year-old all-weather Mondo track at Montego Bay Sports Club.<br /> <br /> We are told that Member of Parliament for St James West Central Mrs Marlene Malahoo Forte has pledged to lobby the Government to that end.<br /> <br /> The MP is reported to have said that the track &ldquo;has done its lifespan&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> We can expect an acceleration of such calls from across the country, not just for all-weather tracks but indeed for sports facilities generally.<br /> <br /> Many thousands of young people who should be playing organised sport are not doing so because of a scarcity of facilities of every description.<br /> <br /> Given the circumstances it&rsquo;s a wonder that Jamaican sportsmen and women have done as well as they have.<br /> <br /> At the youth level, schools have been exceptional in helping their student athletes to excel, despite having very little in the way of basic infrastructure. Superstar Mr Usain Bolt &ndash; himself the product of a resource-scarce school, William Knibb High &ndash; marvelled at the situation recently.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I would never think that these big schools, which have done so well in track down the years, never had a gym facility,&rdquo; Mr Bolt told journalists while witnessing the handover of gym equipment to St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) by telecoms company Digicel.<br /> <br /> We recognise that in Kingston there has been some improvement over recent years in the provision of modern track facilities through public and private sector support. But the country-wide need continues to grow.<br /> <br /> To complicate matters, the National Stadium in Kingston is more than 50 years old and serious thought must be given to replacing it. That&rsquo;s no easy task. Back in 2010, the cost of such a project was placed at US$300 million. Back then, Ms Olivia Grange, also serving as sports minister at that time, suggested public-private partnership could be the answer.<br /> <br /> It seems obvious that not just in terms of the National Stadium but for all those badly needed sports facilities throughout the country, the public-private formula will have to be the way out.<br /> <br /> We know for sure that the Jamaican Government will not have the money for now or for many years to come to get anywhere close to meeting demand. And while wealthy international bodies such as the IAAF and FIFA can help, ways must be found to attract the local business sector to play lead roles.<br /> <br /> Could attractive branding arrangements with corporate companies be part of the solution? It seems to this newspaper that all possible avenues should be explored to build out sporting facilities and maximise Jamaica&rsquo;s sports potential. Where there is a will, there is a way.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13646626/258631_85222_repro_w300.jpg Editorial Saturday, March 04, 2017 3:00 AM A good step towards attracting investment http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/A-good-step-towards-attracting-investment_91153 One of the more heartening bits of news that this newspaper published this week was that of the interest in Jamaica voiced by potential investors from Philadelphia in the United States.<br /> <br /> According to Ms Linda Mysliwy-Conlin, president of the World Trade Centre of Greater Philadelphia, she is impressed with the stability and growth of the Jamaican economy. Ms Mysliwy-Conlin also said that now is an excellent time to invest in Jamaica and encouraged her colleagues to do just that.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;I want to appeal to the business sector in Philadelphia to think about investing and doing trade between Jamaica and us,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;There is a significant opportunity to increase trade between Philadelphia and Jamaica and I can assure you that all efforts will be made to seize this golden opportunity. This is a win-win opportunity for both Jamaica and Philadelphia.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> The<br /> <br /> Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) report informed us that Ms Mysliwy-Conlin was speaking at a forum on investment opportunities in Jamaica hosted by the United States Department of Commerce and the Greater Philadelphia World Trade Centre in conjunction with the Jamaican Embassy in the US.<br /> <br /> According to the report, Ms Mysliwy-Conlin stated that her organisation would be sensitising the business community in Philadelphia about the vast amount of opportunities available for investment in Jamaica as well as the potential to increase trade between that city and Jamaica.<br /> <br /> That message seemed to have resonated with Mr Jonathan Savage, the vice-president of Pennoni, a top engineering company, as he was reported to have said he was eager to do business with Jamaica.<br /> <br /> Mr Savage, we are told, said that this was the first time he was attending an event like this that gave information about specific projects. He also commended Jamaica for staging the forum which, he said,was impressive and critical to his business development.<br /> <br /> Our pleasure with this forum has its foundation in a position we have advanced in this space for a long time &mdash; that Jamaica&rsquo;s foreign missions should engage more in economic diplomacy.<br /> <br /> The current Government, we note, made this an election campaign promise, and since taking office it has reiterated its commitment to this strategy which is a good first step towards attracting much-needed foreign investment. Now, the country is seeing the possibilities of this approach to attracting overseas investment.<br /> <br /> As we have stated before, in a world economy undergoing rapid and comprehensive globalisation, all countries &mdash; but in particular developing countries &mdash; are competing for foreign direct investment. This is a strategy that the British Government implemented in 2010.<br /> <br /> While Jampro is already mandated to attract foreign investors, Jamaica can only benefit if its missions abroad give greater support to that effort.<br /> <br /> Jamaica&rsquo;s ambassador to the United States, Ms Audrey Marks, and her team deserve commendation for this effort in Philadelphia. Our hope is that it will bear fruit and spur other missions abroad to direct more investors here. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13679973/Jamaica-i_w300.jpg Editorial Friday, March 03, 2017 12:00 AM Implementation of &lsquo;Dead lef&rsquo; law something to shout about http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Implementation-of--Dead-lef--law-something-to-shout-about_91175 The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice <br /> <br /> We are led in our thinking to the above quote by Theodore Parker, the American transcendentalist, as we join the Government, the Opposition People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) and Jamaicans all over in celebrating the implementation of amendments to the Administrator General&rsquo;s Act by the Administrator General&rsquo;s Department.<br /> <br /> It is always a happy moment to see a project started by one Administration carried forward by a succeeding Administration &mdash; as we are now seeing with the Administrator General&rsquo;s Act, which we loosely call the &lsquo;Dead lef&rsquo; law, precisely because that will resonate with the thousands of Jamaicans impacted by it.<br /> <br /> The Act was passed under the PNP in 2015, piloted by Justice Minister Mark Golding who, understandably, is preening somewhat to see the implementation of something that will bring greater balance to the management of properties of persons who have died intestate.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;This bold and unprecedented move will make the administration of money and property held in the estates of deceased persons easier,&rdquo; Mr Golding says in a press statement. And we agree.<br /> <br /> Indeed, it might have come too late for thousands who have gone to an early grave in disputes, over long generations, about property with conflicting claims, hence the term &lsquo;dead lef&rsquo;. But it is hoped that for those who are alive and are faced with the emotional stress and trauma of families torn asunder, the improved law will bring great relief. <br /> <br /> Some of these estates, described as multi-generational, have seen warring family members stuck in legal battles for decades, as generation after generation fail to untangle ownership rights issues and navigate court procedures over property left behind. Among those are properties which are never claimed and no one benefits. <br /> <br /> Mr Golding emphasises, and rightly so, that the innovative procedures and provisions of the 2015 legislation would empower the Administrator General to distribute the assets of these multi-generational estates to the current generation of these families, positively impacting the lives of tens of thousands of Jamaicans.<br /> <br /> In commending the Office of the Administrator General, Mr Golding noted: &ldquo;This initiative will, at long last, free up the &lsquo;dead lef&rsquo; properties of thousands of Jamaican families, whose prior generations died without having valid wills. This significant emancipatory step takes Jamaica closer to becoming an &lsquo;ownership society&rsquo; rooted in social justice, for which the PNP has always advocated.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Importantly, he adds, that bit of social legislation will further Jamaica&rsquo;s growth agenda by facilitating the productive use of more of the country&rsquo;s assets and the creation of direct and indirect employment.<br /> <br /> On a note of caution, we suggest that Jamaicans make the writing of wills an everyday practice. Even with all its improvements, the law cannot foresee all the problems which will arise from people dying intestate. After all, prevention is always better than cure.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/10279939/WILL_w300.jpg Editorial Thursday, March 02, 2017 12:00 AM Harry Belafonte at 90&hellip; honour to whom honour is due http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Harry-Belafonte-at-90--honour-to-whom-honour-is-due_91046 Mr Harry Belafonte, born Harold George Bellanfanti Jr on March 1, 1927, achieves his four score years and ten today, and for all the good he has done for his fellow men, the world celebrates with this extraordinary American of Jamaican descent.<br /> <br /> Wherever on this globe that an oppressed person has been liberated or where there are persons yearning for a life free of poverty and tyranny, the name Harry Belafonte will be whispered for the hope that it represents for a better humanity.<br /> <br /> As a nation, Jamaica is proud to own Mr Belafonte and his success as an international superstar singer, songwriter, actor, and social activist. Although born in Harlem, New York and spending only eight years of his childhood in Jamaica, he has never forgotten his mother&rsquo;s homeland and people.<br /> <br /> And, as our own chairman, Mr Gordon &ldquo;Butch&rdquo; Stewart reminds us in his letter to the editor paying tribute to the great man on his 90th birthday, Mr Belafonte led many delegations of entrepreneurs to Jamaica and assisted greatly with the development of Air Jamaica during the time that Mr Stewart operated the iconic airline.<br /> <br /> We owe much to him for the heights to which the Jamaica brand has soared with the assistance of his talented voice through songs like Jamaica Farewell and the Banana Boat Song (Day-O), which he told The New York Times is about &ldquo;my father, my mother, my uncles, the men and women who toil in the banana and cane fields&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> When the history of the American civil rights movement is written, the name Belafonte will be extolled. As an early supporter, he became a close confidant of the leader, Dr Martin Luther King Jr.<br /> <br /> As an internationalist, he devoted his life to political and humanitarian causes, notably the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and the USA for Africa Project. Since 1987 he has been a UNICEF goodwill ambassador and now acts as the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador for juvenile justice issues.<br /> <br /> His is truly a rags-to-riches story. But he is never shy to speak of his struggle through poverty which has inspired his compassion for the voiceless and poverty-stricken of the world. His Jamaican mother Melvine Love was a housekeeper who had a hard life trying to make ends meet.<br /> <br /> The young Harry Belafonte was often cared for by others while his mother worked and about which he is quoted by People magazine as saying: &ldquo;The most difficult time in my life was when I was a kid. My mother gave me affection, but, because I was left on my own, also a lot of anguish.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Despite his overwhelming success later in winning Grammy awards, Emmy awards, Tony awards, to name a few, this multi-talented philantrophist finds his true purpose and lifelong satisfaction in helping all those he can.<br /> <br /> At 90 years old, he is worthy of all the accolades he is getting for a life well lived. It is good that he should hear them while he can still appreciate it. Happy birthday, Mr Harry Belafonte.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/7120276/harryb_w300.jpg Editorial Wednesday, March 01, 2017 12:00 AM Government doing well on the economy, lot of work left on crime http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Government-doing-well-on-the-economy--lot-of-work-left-on-crime_90858 It&rsquo;s not too early to assess the first-year performance of the Andrew Holness Administration, despite the fact that it didn&rsquo;t actually begin functioning fully as a Government until March 7, 2016 when all the Cabinet ministers were sworn and set to work immediately.<br /> <br /> There are, of course, myriad areas to analyse, but easily the most critical, we believe, are the economy and crime. Indeed, most of us believe that the two are intrinsically linked.<br /> <br /> On the former, the Government has done well, maintaining and indeed improving on the economic programme that it inherited. The upshot has been the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) earlier this month reporting real value-added growth of 1.4 per cent for the calendar year 2016, compared to 0.9 per cent growth in 2015.<br /> <br /> According to PIOJ Director General Wayne Henry, &ldquo;The industries estimated to have recorded the largest growth during the year were agriculture, forestry and fishing, up 12.8; electricity and water, up 3.8 per cent; hotels and restaurants, up 2.1 per cent; and transport, storage and communication, up 0.6 per cent.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Add to that the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce business and consumer confidence indices released in January showing that confidence among Jamaican firms was more favourable in every quarter during 2016 than at any time during the prior 15 years and you get the picture of an economy set on a firm foundation for greater levels of growth.<br /> <br /> We are particularly heartened by Prime Minister Holness&rsquo;s assurance to investors that the political environment will not affect their investments and that good fiscal behaviour is now a hallmark of the Jamaican Government, regardless of which political party forms the Government.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We&rsquo;re building a long-term political trajectory so that when investors come they understand that policies will transcend governments, that they will be long-lasting, and that you will be able to recoup your investments within the horizons that we&rsquo;ve planned,&rdquo; Mr Holness told guests at the ground breaking for a US$50-million investment on Lady Musgrave Road in St Andrew spearheaded by Sandals Resorts, Marriott International, ATL Automotive and BMW/MINI.<br /> <br /> That, we believe, is an extremely important signal to entrepreneurs that the country is serious about protecting their investments. Our hope is that the Government will continue on this path, as that can only redound to the benefit of the country and the many Jamaicans who are still in need of employment.<br /> <br /> On the area of crime, the Government obviously has a lot of work left to do. However, we acknowledge that the Administration is putting in place improved mechanisms to deal with the problem and has acquired vital equipment, including a fleet of Damen County Class vessels and a maritime patrol aircraft to strengthen border security.<br /> <br /> Other initiatives have been announced by National Security Minister Robert Montague, all of which, we accept, will take some time for the country to reap full benefits. However, we urge the Administration to maintain a strong focus on this problem, just as we encourage all law-abiding Jamaicans to accept that fighting crime is a responsibility for us all, not just for the Government and the security forces.<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13657957/Holness_w300.jpg Editorial Tuesday, February 28, 2017 12:00 AM