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 We need more &lsquo;Butch&rsquo; Stewarts http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/We-need-more--Butch--Stewarts_93476 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> I am comforted to know that we have people like Gordon &ldquo;Butch&rdquo; Stewart who can put country above self. I wish we had more people like him.<br /> <br /> His suggestion to give half of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) money to assist the Government in taking Jamaica out of the rut we are in is the kind of attitude we need at this time.<br /> <br /> As Stewart said, the tourism product is based on our beautiful island. The industry should recognise that it is making a good living from what belongs to all Jamaicans &mdash; the natural sun, sea, sand, the lush vegetation, the alluring flora and fauna.<br /> <br /> If we were in normal times I would say let the TEF funds remain in tourism, but these are difficult times for the country.<br /> <br /> My advice to the Government is to make sure the money is well spent so that at the end of the day, we can all say it was worth it.<br /> <br /> Joseph Pettigrew<br /> <br /> jospet2014@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13731195/265946_92032_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Friday, March 24, 2017 12:00 AM Toward reducing crime http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Toward-reducing-crime_91068 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Fear follows crime, and is it punishment.&rdquo; &mdash; Voltaire<br /> <br /> According to police statistics, 1,350 Jamaicans were murdered in 2016. Despite the downward trend of other crimes, such as rape, aggravated assault and robbery, the murder rate for the island has been rather troubling to say the least.<br /> <br /> Sadly, successive governments have been unable to address the island&rsquo;s spiralling crime rate. According to police data, the murder rate in 2016 was an 11 per cent increase over 2015.<br /> <br /> Yet, despite the doom and gloom, there was a bright spot for the community of August Town which recorded zero murders in 2016. The environs of August Town at one time had a reputation of crime and violence, so much so that people were afraid to venture into the area. A number of stakeholders at the time thought it appropriate to invest their time and money in order to transform what was once considered a crime-ridden area.<br /> <br /> In 2008, a peace agreement was signed and the fruits of that agreement were realised eight years later, in 2016, which saw zero murders. There are many lessons from this blueprint. This transformation has shown us that there is no community in Jamaica which cannot be saved and changed into a peaceful and law-abiding settlement. The August Town model must be replicated across all those areas which are constantly being plagued by murders in which people live in fear and in which public play areas are empty of the voices of children having fun.<br /> <br /> Clearly, the success in August Town was not achieved by the wave of a magic wand. The collaborative efforts of the citizenry, Government through social intervention programmes, The University of the West Indies, as well as the Peace Management Initiative, all played a part in achieving this accomplishment. We cannot underestimate the power of citizen participation and involvement in the fight against crime. Our security forces need to invest more time and resources in building trust and engaging in collaborative efforts if as a society we are going to win the war against crime and violence. <br /> <br /> In the words of Bobby Scott, &ldquo;We can play politics, or we can reduce crime.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Wayne Campbell<br /> <br /> waykam@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> @WayneCamo<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13731212/266347_92166_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Friday, March 24, 2017 12:00 AM August will still be happy; SLB safe http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/August-will-still-be-happy--SLB-safe_93510 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> It is in response to the letter &lsquo;SLB cut almost brought me to tears&rsquo; scripted by Kimberley Thompson, published on March 22, 2017 that I write.<br /> <br /> Education is not a political football and I do not appreciate such games. It was released on March 21, 2017 that the Government was slashing crucial funding for the most relied on tertiary education fund in Jamaica &mdash; the Students&rsquo; Loan Bureau (SLB). The thought of such an abhorrent act made me squirm, and I was determined to learn more. Why cut the funding? Where is that $100 million reallocated to? Which were the logical reasons to cut funding from the people in the minor caste of society?<br /> <br /> Upon visiting the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service&rsquo;s website, the most recent press release was titled &lsquo;No cut in budget for the Students&rsquo; Loan Bureau&rsquo;. This publication confirmed that the SLB is earmarked approximately $2.9 billion for the fiscal year 2017/18. Also outlined was that for the fiscal year 2016/17, a similar amount was assigned to them along with an additional $100 million in grant funds from the HEART Trust/NTA which accumulates to $3 billion for SLB in 2016/17. This contribution, the release noted, is not recurrent for 2017/18.<br /> <br /> So, I certainly respect the prompt letter to editor to what would have indeed been such a counterproductive act by the Government. It shows your true commitment to youth advocacy. However, next time, unearth facts first. My pitch to the Government is to fill that gap that now stands. Surely $100 million can be positioned for human capital development and training towards achieving Jamaica&rsquo;s economic growth targets. <br /> <br /> The SLB will then maintain its usual capacity to assist both Thompson and my fellow youth who aspire to attain post-secondary qualifications and a happy day in August 2017 it shall be.<br /> <br /> Shinay Ford<br /> <br /> ford.shinay@hotmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12982051/204956_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Friday, March 24, 2017 12:00 AM Respect for the rule of law http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Respect-for-the-rule-of-law_93504 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Lord Anthony Gifford, in his public piece &lsquo;Human rights and the Tambourine Army&rsquo;, shared his views on the prosecution of Latoya Nugent for malicious communication using a computer.<br /> <br /> He argued that: &ldquo;We live under the rule of law, and the justice system should be there to ensure that crimes are reported and investigated, and the perpetrators punished. The presumption of innocence means that we should not label people as guilty until they have been so found after a fair trial. But the system is creaking. Cases take ages to be heard. Most judges do their best to do justice, but the ordeals faced by both victims and accused on the road to justice are often intolerable.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> This reasoning has contradictory undertones and may encourage extrajudicial actions.<br /> <br /> Despite the overwhelming challenges, we are expected to utilise the competent authority (the courts) to declare an accused&rsquo;s guilt.<br /> <br /> It is because we live by the rule of law, and that we have a justice system to punish criminals, why victims of abuse should respect due process and let the law take its course.<br /> <br /> The danger is that when people disregard an accused&rsquo;s right to the presumption of innocence, and publicly label them as criminals, then that constitutes prejudice.<br /> <br /> Complaints were reportedly made against Nugent by those whom she alleged to be sex abusers. She was charged under section 9 of the Cybercrimes Act, which states: &ldquo;(1) A person commits an offence if that person uses a computer to send to another person any data (whether in the form of a message or otherwise) &mdash; (a) that is obscene, constitutes a threat or is menacing in nature; and (b) with the intention to harass any person or cause harm, or the apprehension of harm, to any person or property.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Since the system is a disgrace, then we must urgently fix it so that it becomes efficient and effective in supporting us. There can be no justification for crafting our own definition and methods of &lsquo;justice&rsquo; in the context of the rule of law.<br /> <br /> In Chambers v Director of Public Prosecutions [2012] EWHC 2157, Judge, LCJ reasoned: &ldquo; ...it is inconceivable that grossly offensive, indecent, obscene, or menacing messages sent in [this] way would not be potentially unlawful.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> It is the alleged menacing actions of the accused that is being criminalised, not free speech per se. In light of the grave misconceptions, the Cybercrimes Act should be amended to make it specific as to the chargeable offences.<br /> <br /> Menacing messages communicated using a computer, with the intent to cause harm to another, which could potentially incite a breach of the peace and/or public order, warrants criminal sanctions, and is appropriately prosecuted under section 9 of the Act.<br /> <br /> We must show due respect for the rule of law and consideration for others.<br /> <br /> Dujon Russell<br /> <br /> dujon.russell@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12038540/legal_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Friday, March 24, 2017 2:00 AM Can Phillips fix it? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Can-Phillips-fix-it_93502 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> On Sunday, March 26, 2017 Peter Phillips will take over the leadership of the People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) but, like Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Phillips will be nothing new &mdash; same old.<br /> <br /> Dr Peter Phillips was general secretary of the PNP from 1991 to 1994. Many say he was parachuted by then leader Michael Manley. He ran for chairmanship of the party in 1992 and was whipped by &lsquo;Chairman for Life&rsquo; Robert Pickersgill. He was vice-president of the PNP from 1999 to 2008. Phillips also ran for leadership of the party in 2006 and 2008.<br /> <br /> My point is that Phillips has been around. He has been there for over two decades. Portia Simpson Miller is not the only one to be blamed for the PNP losing its way. Phillips is also responsible.<br /> <br /> We should remember that he failed miserably during his term as security minister, as in 2005 Jamaica became known as the murder capital of the world. His tenure as finance minister was helped greatly by low oil prices and the International Monetary Fund.<br /> <br /> Based on his past, can we be assured that Phillips can fix his party that has degenerated so badly? Can Phillips keep prosperity going in Jamaica?<br /> <br /> Teddylee Gray<br /> <br /> teddylee.gray@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13710010/264357_90463_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Friday, March 24, 2017 12:00 AM &lsquo;Nuh mash up Champs&rsquo; http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/-Nuh-mash-up-Champs-_93313 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Mi a beg onnu, nuh mash up Champs,&rdquo; which has been described elsewhere as &ldquo;arguably the highest quality Jamaican product of international standard &mdash; a veritable oasis of excellence&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> I will always consider winning the Class 2 discus event at Champs in 1959 for the victorious Jamaica College (JC) team as the greatest achievement in my life.<br /> <br /> I know Michael Clarke very well from his days at JC when, under his guidance, we won Champs for five years. Clarke knows how much I admire and respect him. I know Neil Harrison less well, but from all accounts, he is a fine man, and quite obviously an excellent coach.<br /> <br /> I do not know the headmasters of Calabar High School and Kingston College, but I am certain they are both fine and respectable men. Nor do I know the presidents of the parent-teachers&rsquo; associations of both schools. However, I implore these six individuals to hold a meeting immediately, moderated by someone agreeable, outside the fraternities of both schools. The meeting should work out a modus vivendi that ensures that Champs 2017 proceeds with the participation of Calabar High School and without any incident that would tarnish the image of this wonderful, unique, culturally and globally significant event that has produced stalwarts like Norman Manley, Arthur Wint, Herb McKenley, Lindy Delapenha, Donald Quarrie, Usain Bolt, Merlene Ottey, Veronica Campbell, Shelly-Ann Fraser, and Elaine Thompson.<br /> <br /> I am looking to you, Clarke, to be very active in promoting a sucessful outcome of this meeting.<br /> <br /> There must be no booing of our young brother, who is from the continent from which the ancestors of 92 per cent of Jamaicans came. The two schools should appoint student wardens to keep in check their overzealous colleagues in the National Stadium at Champs.<br /> <br /> A different but related question is why, with close to 100 schools participating, only three or four schools have a realistic chance of winning Boys&rsquo; Champs &mdash; a situation that has existed for far too long. Personally, I would love to see Spot Valley High School &mdash; a place and school of which I had not heard until two years ago at Champs &mdash; and Petersfield High School win Champs. I declare a bias for the latter, being a proud Westmorelite. Perhaps, the sponsors of Champs might wish to consider this question and put in place corrective measures. <br /> <br /> Patrick Robinson<br /> <br /> The Hague<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13229403/221608__w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Thursday, March 23, 2017 12:00 AM Portia&rsquo;s legacy: She did no harm http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Portia-s-legacy--She-did-no-harm_93312 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> It&rsquo;s been said that comparisons are odious. But before the sun sets on the discourse about Portia Simpson Miller&rsquo;s legacy may I offer a perspective which may be somewhat different from current chatter.<br /> <br /> If one were to judge her solely on the basis of what good she did during her 40-plus years, even her fiercest boosters would have to admit that her contribution &mdash; even such as stabilising the economy &mdash; pales alongside those of Michael Manley&rsquo;s social policy legislation or international economic vision, Edward Seaga&rsquo;s building of major national institutions, and PJ Patterson&rsquo;s major infrastructural initiatives.<br /> <br /> But I prefer to ask this: How much harm, particularly lasting harm, did she do? Judge her on that basis.<br /> <br /> I don&rsquo;t recall any major capital flight on five flights a day to Miami, any ignoring of the &lsquo;territorial imperative&rsquo; and alienation of a trading partner and origin of remittances with overblown &ldquo;mountaintop&rdquo; rhetoric.<br /> <br /> I don&rsquo;t recall any maxing out a US president&rsquo;s no-limit credit card to import luxuries and run up debt &ldquo;so that the people could feel good about themselves again&rdquo;. I don&rsquo;t recall the heating up of partisan political rhetoric leading to 800 deaths in an election year. I don&rsquo;t recall a dozen or so local banks failing on her watch and 40,000 businesses &ldquo;Finsaced&rdquo; &mdash; a catastrophe which, more than any ideological posturing, still leaves its lasting effect on the economy.<br /> <br /> I don&rsquo;t recall any harbouring of a fugitive from the long arm of the law. I don&rsquo;t recall any breach, serial or otherwise, of International Monetary Fund agreements.<br /> <br /> She promised no great overarching vision. She delivered no unforgettable speeches. Her leadership style of delegating responsibility to ministers was sharply at odds with Jamaicans&rsquo; everlasting search for yet another messiah.<br /> <br /> But where was her heart and passion? It is best exemplified by just one example: Her determination to rehabilitate as many of those abominable primary school pit latrines, some dating as far back as the 1930s, which poor people&rsquo;s children have been forced to use.<br /> <br /> Those truly were pockmarks on the face of a nation. It required no grand vision nor lofty rhetoric to see that odious abomination and take action to fix it.<br /> <br /> Thanks, Portia.<br /> <br /> Errol W A Townshend<br /> <br /> Ontario, Canada<br /> <br /> ewat@rogers.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13509995/225907_74531_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Thursday, March 23, 2017 12:00 AM Welcome reduction in SLB interest rate http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Welcome-reduction-in-SLB-interest-rate_93253 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> During the past few weeks the 2017/18 national budget debate has found its way into the conversations of most Jamaicans. Labelling it as a &lsquo;journey to prosperity&rsquo; Finance Minister Audley Shaw, in his presentation, indicated that the development of our human resource must become a priority, with education as the vehicle to reach this destination.<br /> <br /> According to the government website<br /> <br /> www.JamStats.gov.jm, the gross enrolment rate at the tertiary level has been steadily decreasing. The last statistics read 28.9 per cent enrolment at the tertiary level coming from a peak of 33.1 per cent in 2011. Unfortunately, the reduction in the number of students enrolling at the tertiary level may be attributed to the rapidly increasing costs of attending university. Tuition costs, particularly at our national universities, have been on the rise since 2013.<br /> <br /> The Students&rsquo; Loan Bureau has been the main source of funding for many students who find it difficult to fund the cost of tertiary education up front. Thankfully, the Government has not only changed the method of calculating loan repayments to charging interest on the reducing balance, but has also slashed the interest rates to an all-time low of six per cent. These developments are welcomed by many current and prospective borrowers as they will lift a significant burden from their minds.<br /> <br /> These bold changes are nothing less than long-term investments in the human capital of Jamaica, which will undoubtedly result in sustainable growth and development in Jamaica. The greatest return that our university graduates can give the taxpayers of Jamaica on this investment is to contribute to the revolving loan scheme by working steadfastly and wisely in the formal Jamaican workforce so that others can join us on the journey to prosperity.<br /> <br /> Kinson Daniel Case<br /> <br /> Former students&rsquo; union vice-president<br /> <br /> University of Technology, Jamaica<br /> <br /> kinsoncase@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/7740705/SLB_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Thursday, March 23, 2017 12:00 AM Tourism product is all Jamaica http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Tourism-product-is-all-Jamaica_93198 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> In response to Omar Robinson&rsquo;s comments in the Jamaica Observer, words to the effect of &ldquo;keep the TEF separate from Consolidated Fund&rdquo;, I must add a few points.<br /> <br /> Robinson, who is currently president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), opposes the use of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) outside of tourism. On the contrary, I believe the TEF should benefit all Jamaica, we are the reason tourists visit.<br /> <br /> The TEF Act was passed in 2004 and is funded from a tax (or fee) paid by incoming airline passengers as well as cruise ship passengers to fund the development of the tourism sector and improve the overall tourist experience. A large chunk of this fund is also attributed to the many returning Jamaican residents who visit the island regularly and desperately want to see Jamaica improve and prosper.<br /> <br /> I agree with Gordon &ldquo;Butch&rdquo; Stewart&rsquo;s suggestion to allow Government to use from this fund, but only if there is full accountability and funds are used for national development and improving the social well-being of citizens, health, education and social services especially.<br /> <br /> There is widespread poverty in Jamaica, which impacts crime, a deterrent to tourism. Surely the JHTA is aware of that. The country is also heavily indebted and tied to the International Monetary Fund, which strangles national development and any hopes of improving the country&rsquo;s infrastructure and services due to lack of funds. If necessary, the TEF Act should be amended to allow Government to use from this fund for other purposes besides tourism.<br /> <br /> According to Robinson, &ldquo;50 per cent is used to market the destination, while the other 50 per cent is used to maintain and develop the tourism product&rdquo;. I should point out, the tourism product is not simply hotels and attractions, it is all of Jamaica &mdash; its culture, people, way of life, music, and so much more. If some of these funds is invested outside of tourism to improve Jamaica, we all benefit, visitors and citizens alike. Look at what is happening with Cornwall Regional Hospital, neglected and in dire need of repairs for years, to the point where it is now functioning under capacity. Many hospitals don&rsquo;t have adequate equipment, supplies, etc. Some schools are rundown; we need more classrooms.<br /> <br /> While I believe in consultation, JHTA must not be selfish. We must realise that a large percentage of profits from tourism doesn&rsquo;t stay in Jamaica, as many of these properties are owned by foreign entities. This is why, despite the surge in tourism, we hardly see any change in the economy. It is time to change that. We all should benefit from tourism.<br /> <br /> P Chin<br /> <br /> chin_p@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13543565/174613_77262_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Thursday, March 23, 2017 12:00 AM Garfield Higgins is right! http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Garfield-Higgins-is-right-_93254 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> If Michael Manley&rsquo;s devotees expected him to return to the socialist path in 1989 he immediately disabused them of that notion by stating emphatically, &ldquo;The agenda of the 70s is dead.&rdquo; He had been a great dream merchant but he had come awake unlike Hugh Dunbar, who criticises Garfield Higgins, and unlike the other Manley devotees, like Lance Neita and Michael Burke.<br /> <br /> The socialist approach to political economy is fundamentally unsound because government&rsquo;s command cannot match the magic of the market, and what Jamaica got from Manley was roughly 20 per cent economic decline, 25 per cent reduction in the people&rsquo;s standard of living, and a ruined bauxite industry that should make Michael Manley&rsquo;s name live in infamy. Instead of negotiating increased taxes and royalties, as would have been normal, he imposed a levy, and we were left with a shell. For the US$4 billion extracted in levy payments there is precious little to show. And all he had to offer was excuses for his failures. I remember that bit of graffiti: IMF= Is Manley Fault.<br /> <br /> I am at a loss to find good reason to lionise Manley. His devotees argue that he brought &ldquo;consciousness&rdquo;. We didn&rsquo;t need him to do that. That was Marcus Garvey&rsquo;s gift.<br /> <br /> Orville Brown<br /> <br /> Bronx, New York, USA<br /> <br /> thewriter.brown@gmail.com http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12926877/filename_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Thursday, March 23, 2017 12:00 AM Tax break or burden? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Tax-break-or-burden-_93225 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> It is that time of the year again when Jamaicans brace for the worst. It is a time at which Jamaicans have got accustomed to being sad. A time when the trust is betrayed.<br /> <br /> The budget debate is not over in the country&rsquo;s Parliament and already the mountain of taxes is hard to climb. The Government has employed an underhanded tactic of indirect taxes that is turning out to be worse than direct taxes. They made sure that the taxes were strategic, as there is no escaping them. This makes you wonder if there is a difference between direct and indirect taxes.<br /> <br /> There has been an increase in the special consumption tax on fuel, imposition of general consumption tax on group health insurance, an increase on motor vehicle-licensing fees, and the reduction of the threshold on the taxable usage on electricity. Minister of Finance Audley Shaw tabled the increase of over $13 billion in new taxes before the House of Representative on March 9, 2017, and this all comes at a time when workers are anticipating the second portion of their election PAYE tax break promise.<br /> <br /> Light is now being shone on the expressions, &ldquo;A promise is a comfort to a voter,&rdquo; and there are &ldquo;tricks in politics&ldquo;. The round of tax increases imposed will have a domino effect on prices, further eroding the already meagre stipend with which to budget.<br /> <br /> The burden of taxes is breaking taxpayers&rsquo; bank books and they fear increases in bus and taxi fares, ground produce, and the many affiliated goods and services. This is not looking good, even as the unions get ready to approach the bargaining table for wage negotiations for their members. Don&rsquo;t be surprised if the Government waves the white flag of wage freeze. This is really a burden for a promised break.<br /> <br /> Hezekan Bolton<br /> <br /> h_e_z_e@hotmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12866821/197288__w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Wednesday, March 22, 2017 12:00 AM Pay the BPO tax http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Pay-the-BPO-tax_93209 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> I totally support the Government&rsquo;s 12.5 per cent tax on the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.<br /> <br /> There are labour, overhead and other synergistic savings for these entities&rsquo; corporate structure when they locate here. In theory, if they are from the US, where the corporate tax rate is about 39 per cent, they would receive a tax credit from the US revenue authorities for the tax paid in Jamaica at 12.5 per cent (39 per cent less the 12.5 per cent) and pay the difference as US taxes.<br /> <br /> Now, more in theory, if they pay no Jamaican tax at all, unless their is a tax sparing provision in the treaty, then they pay US tax at the full rate, as they have no Jamaican taxes to credit against their US liability. I only know of one such negotiated special provision and it was by Edward Seaga &mdash; a UK/Jamaica treaty, I believe.<br /> <br /> However, this is the theory. In practice, the savings earned by having back office operations here is not often routed back to the US immediately for exposure to US taxes. And if the structure is legally correct, that profit can float in a tax haven tax-free for years. That is the cold, hard truth.<br /> <br /> I have no sympathy for the BPO sector. It costs our Government money to educate our English speakers, to maintain roads, prosecute those who would steal lead sheets from your operations. Be a corporate citizen and pay your taxes without griping.<br /> <br /> Susan Allen<br /> <br /> susanallen112@gmail.com<br /> <br /> Letters to the Editor Wednesday, March 22, 2017 12:00 AM Portia&rsquo;s parting shot http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Portia-s-parting-shot_93236 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> It was a hard-hitting, yet respectful final budget debate presentation befitting the exit of a former prime minister whose unyielding concern and advocacy for the welfare of the less fortunate in our society is etched in her lengthy political career.<br /> <br /> Of course, &ldquo;Sista P&rdquo; is entitled to speak on behalf of those among us from whom she sprang. She is also entitled to join forces with an artiste such as Bounty Killer in speaking up on behalf of the poor. So much so her shout out that, &ldquo;Ah no mi seh so, ah Bounty seh so,&rdquo; fully sums up her parliamentary message to the Government of the day, delivered in Gordon House on Thursday, March 16, 2017.<br /> <br /> It was a lasting parting shot coming from someone who has experienced, and would surely appreciate, the drama and the power that are wrapped up in the expression &ldquo;ah no mi seh soh...&rdquo;<br /> <br /> The long-required economic platform that was erected by the Government that she led from 2012 to 2016 also entitles us to say that Portia Simpson Miller, by no means perfect, has clearly delivered.<br /> <br /> And history will undoubtedly record and provide ample corroboration that &ldquo;ah no wi alone seh soh&rdquo;.<br /> <br /> A J Nicholson<br /> <br /> nicholsonaj1@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13713891/Portia-Simpson-Miller--2---1-_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Wednesday, March 22, 2017 12:00 AM Please, fix Spanish Town Road! http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Please--fix-Spanish-Town-Road-_93204 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> I wish to register my disgust at the poor condition of Spanish Town Road.<br /> <br /> The road is riddled with potholes and many who traverse the roadway now realise that, after going through the stoplight at the Weymouth Drive turn-off, your safest and best bet is to keep well right on the three-lane roadway as much as possible. Unfortunately, for me, I learnt this the hard way recently, after bursting both tyres on the left side of my car, having connected with a fearsome crater in the vicinity of the Riverton City community which, by the way, is poorly lit.<br /> <br /> You can imagine my despair at being immobile with my two small children and a female friend in the car and faced with the prospect of having to change not one, but two tyres, especially when, like most people, I only had one spare. Thanks be to God this story has a good ending. I dialled 119 and spoke apologetically &mdash; was this a real emergency? &mdash; and sought assistance from the police, who came within 15 minutes and took me to a tyre shop on Molynes Road to get one tyre repaired, while I urged my female colleague to remain in the locked car with the children. To cut the story short, one tyre was vulcanised while the other is useless. I will now have to buy a new tyre.<br /> <br /> I wish to say a big thank you to the lady and two men who were first on the scene to offer assistance. Also, gratitude to my colleague, her friend and her parents, who ensured the children remained safe while I was getting the tyre repaired. And to constables Thomas and Daley of the St Andrew South police division, as well as the 119 operator who sent help. Thanks also to an elderly resident of the community who, my colleague tells me, kept checking to make sure they were doing OK.<br /> <br /> Finally, as a motor vehicle owner, consumer of electricity, petrol, and everything else that attracts General Consumption Tax (refer to 2017/18 tax package) I believe the least the Government can do is repair the roadways within a reasonable time frame, especially one as frequently traversed as Spanish Town Road. In short, just &ldquo;give wi good road fi drive pon, please&rdquo;. <br /> <br /> Kiana Walker<br /> <br /> Spanish Town, St Catherine<br /> <br /> zednem.aka@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/11620049/Riverton-Fire_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Wednesday, March 22, 2017 12:00 AM A great piece http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/A-great-piece_93231 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Desmond Allen&rsquo; s article in the Friday, March 10, 2017 issue of the Jamaica Observer, &lsquo;Command performance; finance minister puts concern for youth at centre of budget presentation&rsquo; was a great piece. Glad that he drove home Audley Shaw&rsquo;s point.<br /> <br /> A lot more has to be done for our young people, many of whom are going in the wrong direction. The underdevelopment of our young people is a crisis that needs serious attention. Our young people are some of our greatest resources, and much more must be done to prevent them from heading in the directions of the cemetery and the penitentiary.<br /> <br /> I listened to his budget presentation in its entirety and I must hasten to say that that aspect of his presentation I found most touching. As he highlighted his journey to academic height I reflected on my own, similar journey from Jamaica to the USA. And now that Allen has driven home the point, at some time in the near future I will be penning and submitting an article commenting on my experience in the hope that it will assist in motivating fellow Jamaicans here and there.<br /> <br /> George Lawson,<br /> <br /> Bronx, New York, USA<br /> <br /> mrgeelaws@yahoo.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13707654/Audley-Shaw--3-_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Wednesday, March 22, 2017 12:00 AM Caught between the law and dreams http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Caught-between-the-law-and-dreams_92976 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> During the past weeks I have been following up on the discussion concerning Kingston College&rsquo;s newly acquired Ugandan athlete Aryamanya Rodgers who, according to Jamaica Observer reports, found it difficult to travel to Jamaica, not because of funding, but rather due to travel issues which caused him to be delayed for the new academic year for both school and sports.<br /> <br /> Sadly, I know well of these situations, especially when working with missionaries from as far as Poland, Philippines, Uganda, and Kenya, who have left family and homeland to serve our people here in Jamaica and had to encounter travel ordeals while seeking a flight through Germany to Montego Bay.<br /> <br /> However, the argument against allowing Rodgers to participate in the upcoming boys&rsquo; championships is that, according to the law/rule of Inter-secondary Schools&rsquo; Sports Association: &ldquo;An athlete must be registered before September 30 in order to participate in the championships.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> While rules are there to govern us so as to ensure everything goes well, we must also practise prudence and charity, especially in the field of sports, and knowing well of the situation young Rodgers went through so as to seek after his dreams in the land of great athletes.<br /> <br /> I am not saying that we should relax the rule or throw it out but rather, in a situation like Rodgers&rsquo;, we should extend the hand of mercy where it is indeed needed. We must also be aware that participating in Champs is something that happens once in our youthful years to bring glory to our respective schools, and indeed ourselves. In the spirit of Champs, in the spirit of charity and youthfulness, I therefore ask those who oppose Rodgers&rsquo; participation to allow him to foster such dreams so that they can become reality in the land of possibilities.<br /> <br /> Roger R Goodwill<br /> <br /> Roman Catholic seminarian<br /> <br /> Archdiocese of Kingston<br /> <br /> roger_goodwill14@hotmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13719734/265146_91383_repro_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Tuesday, March 21, 2017 12:00 AM They always raid NHT... at least this time I&rsquo;m getting &lsquo;1.5&rsquo; http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/They-always-raid-NHT----at-least-this-time-I-m-getting--1-5-_93092 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> The first raid on the National Housing Trust (NHT) by the People&rsquo;s National Party (PNP) Government was in 2002 for the Emancipation Park development.<br /> <br /> Then $5 billion was taken from the NHT to finance the education sector transformation programme.<br /> <br /> Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, in 2006, then took $15 billion for the Inner-city Housing Project.<br /> <br /> In 2008, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) attempted to take $45 million for a drought relief programme.<br /> <br /> In 2009, the JLP attempted a raid of $500 million to consolidate the budget before the International Monetary Fund agreement, but was advised by the solicitor general that it was illegal.<br /> <br /> From 2013-2016 a total of $45.6 billion was taken for budgetary support.<br /> <br /> Now, in 2017, the JLP continues to take $11.4 billion annually. This time under a new IMF programme and towards the &lsquo;$1.5-million tax break&rsquo;.<br /> <br /> The PNP spends NHT money for us, while the JLP lets us spend the money for ourselves.<br /> <br /> The NHT rakes in billions annually in profit, then sits on it. While I don&rsquo;t support any government raiding it, if no money was there to be taken the governments would&rsquo;ve found somewhere else to raid.<br /> <br /> According to a population and housing census (2011) by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, 21 per cent of our population squat, and some 20 per cent of our population pay rent. There are over 450,000 NHT contributors and some 300,000 do not qualify for real benefits. Finance Minister Audley Shaw said in his budget presentation that 397,083 people won&rsquo;t contribute to PAYE anymore, that&rsquo;s more the 129,000 people who didn&rsquo;t contribute to PAYE back in 2015 when Dr Peter Phillips increased the threshold from $557,232 to $592,800.<br /> <br /> Under the JLP&rsquo;s $1.5-million tax break over 250,000 people stand to benefit in total, the JLP Administration wants $11.4 billion to help fund the &lsquo;1.5&rsquo;. As an NHT contributor I&rsquo;d rather that, because I&rsquo;m gonna benefit from the tax break. So this time I&rsquo;m actually getting something, since it&rsquo;s hard to negotiate the NHT red tape for a guy like me to qualify. So that extra money in my pocket can be used or saved for the future.<br /> <br /> Under the PNP the money was spent on things like the education transformation, but also sweetheart deals and wastage. This time I know the full story.<br /> <br /> Teddylee Gray<br /> <br /> teddylee.gray@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13079130/210492_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Tuesday, March 21, 2017 12:00 AM We must further Walcott&rsquo;s quiet genius http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/We-must-further-Walcott-s-quiet-genius_92975 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> In his epic work Omeros, Derek Walcott wrote of &ldquo;a quiet culture that&hellip;slowly but sure&hellip; will change us with the fluent sculpture of time... strong as self-healing coral...&rdquo;<br /> <br /> He was the quintessence of that Caribbean culture, and his life&rsquo;s work has surely changed our region for all time. He came to belong to the wider world, but we shall miss him most.<br /> <br /> St Lucia, which made us proud in moulding him will, of course, miss him most of all.<br /> <br /> We must rely now on that quiet culture his genius left us &mdash; and further it.<br /> <br /> Sir Shridath Ramphal<br /> <br /> Former Commonwealth Secretary General<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13719403/264961_91146_repro_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Tuesday, March 21, 2017 12:00 AM We will forget the election promise, not the tax http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/We-will-forget-the-election-promise--not-the-tax_93097 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> During the elections Andrew Holness and the Jamaica Labour Party made election promises to the electorate. One promise was that we would sleep with our doors wide open &mdash; no crime. He could not have thought we believed that one.<br /> <br /> Now to satisfy another election promise, the nation&rsquo;s poor, especially, will shoulder a heavy tax burden. Which is more important, taxing the poor in order to keep an election promise to a few, or telling that segment of our society that the election promise made to them cannot be kept?<br /> <br /> One thing is sure, our people have short memories. We suffer from the proverbial &ldquo;nine-day wonder&rdquo;. After nine days all the election promises made and not kept are forgotten. We will go back to business as usual, as if nothing happened.<br /> <br /> With this new tax burden, especially the gas tax, I am not so sure that the voters will forget.<br /> <br /> Apart from what the Opposition People&rsquo;s National Party will be saying, the hardship citizens will endure will be a constant reminder of a Government that imposed taxes that will be a burden on the poor to satisfy an election promise of tax relief for a few.<br /> <br /> Authnel Reid<br /> <br /> authnelreid@aol.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13697651/Andrew-Holness--1-_w300.jpg Letters to the Editor Tuesday, March 21, 2017 12:00 AM Moral devaluation wreaking havoc http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Moral-devaluation-wreaking-havoc_92737 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> It&rsquo;s clear that we, as a society, have cheapened our moral standards. Would it be accurate to say we are a society which upbears moral standards?<br /> <br /> As a young 22-year-old I sometimes wonder where our self-respect and integrity have all disintegrated to. Growing up we were taught the moral values of selflessness, honesty, integrity and, most importantly, love. Where has that love disappeared to?<br /> <br /> We would have already known the issues just by tuning into our nightly news programmes. Whether it be violence against our women, violence against our children, to go even further to sexual immorality, we know the problems. What is the solution?<br /> <br /> The answer to that question isn&rsquo;t as easy as we would think. Look at our country&rsquo;s sexual dilemma. It is constitutional for our young girls at age 16 to be having sex. As parents, are you comfortable with that? Do we really understand the implications of such laws? Look into it!<br /> <br /> I propose these simple ideas for consideration:<br /> <br /> &bull; There ought to be a constitutional change in our society. The Government must set up a constitutional reform committee which will look into Bills for Parliament to make amendments.<br /> <br /> &bull; Penalties must be made tougher. Some penalties should result in strict prison time, no fines.<br /> <br /> &bull; Mortification is a must, we must make public the acts of criminals in an effort to drive fear in potential perpetrators.<br /> <br /> &bull; Parental workshops should be available for those who see the need to polish parental skills.<br /> <br /> &bull; We must invest in programmes which will resocialise our young people. I call on the National Youth Service to be more active in the work which they are mandated to do. Of course, an increased budget allocation is needed.<br /> <br /> &bull; Cluster groups must be created in our communities to serve as engines of ideas and to serve as mentorship bodies to our young men and women, which can heighten our moral standards.<br /> <br /> &bull; We must include our church in the programmes of the State. I continue to believe that the progress of our nation rests with the church and we ought to include our churches. Let it not be only when things get out of hand or become unbearable that we call on the church. <br /> <br /> It is not too late. If Donald Trump can become president of the United States imagine what Jamaica can accomplish. We can be the place to live, work and raise families.<br /> <br /> Zukie Jarrett<br /> <br /> zukie.jarrett@gmail.com<br /> <br /> Letters to the Editor Tuesday, March 21, 2017 12:00 AM What would you have done differently, Phillips? http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/What-would-you-have-done-differently--Phillips-_92952 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> I paid keen attention to Peter Phillips&rsquo;s presentation on the 2017/2018 national budget in his role as Opposition spokesperson on finance. Unfortunately, Phillips did a great job at reigniting disinterest in Jamaican politics with his predictable delivery that was filled with criticism and negativity. It is simply disappointing that the person who is expected to step into the driver&rsquo;s seat of the People&rsquo;s National Party&rsquo;s (PNP) jeep failed to offer an alternative course for the country.<br /> <br /> The Opposition&rsquo;s show had the same plot as many before, where Phillips, as the main character, merely followed the ancient practices of finger-pointing and preaching doom and gloom upon the land. With the bar set so low &mdash; where the Opposition&rsquo;s delivery isn&rsquo;t required to have much intellectual rigour &mdash; it is not surprising that there is disinterest in Jamaican politics, and by extension widespread voter apathy. Quite frankly, if Peter Phillips&rsquo;s presentation were a movie I would have requested a refund, since I have seen and heard it all before.<br /> <br /> In the past, a small group of PAYE workers carried a tremendously heavy and unfair tax burden, essentially filling the financial gap that exists as a result of the country having a large informal economy that isn&rsquo;t included in the tax net. The general consensus among leaders of the country is that the best way to create an equitable tax system is to capture the informal economy by shifting from direct taxation through income tax to a new structure of indirect taxation, which spreads the burden out. In layman&rsquo;s terms, &ldquo;many hands make the work light.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> It would have been prudent of Phillips to inform the country about which items his party would have imposed taxes on, instead of merely criticising the plans presented by the Government. Would the PNP impose more taxes that burden the poor directly, as they did by taxing patties and ATM transactions? Would they attempt to increase tax compliance by arresting hard-working Jamaicans who are forced to have &lsquo;side jobs&rsquo; in order to make ends meet?<br /> <br /> Peter Phillips missed an opportunity to tell the people of Jamaica what his party would have done differently to shift towards indirect taxation.<br /> <br /> In the future we should challenge Opposition parties to present detailed alternative national budgets. Not only will this empower the citizens of Jamaica, but it will also foster a shift in culture away from divisive criticisms towards constructive debates.<br /> <br /> Stephen Edwards<br /> <br /> Kingston 6<br /> <br /> patriot.ja@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13710004/264358_90464_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Monday, March 20, 2017 12:00 AM An objective look at the new tax package http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/An-objective-look-at-the-new-tax-package_92949 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> The Government has announced a new slew of taxes to fulfil its election promise of the $1.5-million tax break. While there has been some backtracking of the initial promise of no new taxes, the level of backlash being spewed is quite unnecessary.<br /> <br /> The bulk of the new taxes will come from an increase in the special consumption tax on petroleum products which was the case in the financial year 2016-2017. Looking objectively at the increase placed on fuel is a far cry from the peak oil price we experienced based on data from Petrojam during the week of June 26, 2014. Oil being an international commodity is priced in United States dollars, which means it is susceptible to the depreciation of the Jamaican dollar. The price of E-10 87 during that week hovered at close to $128.10 before retailers add their margins, which when taken at the exchange rate of the day at $112.77 to US$1 equals US$1.14 per litre. If that price is now translated to today&rsquo;s exchange rate of $128.52 to US$1 a litre of E10 87, it would be $146 &mdash; a far cry from the $104.20 being sold by Petrojam at last week&rsquo;s prices.<br /> <br /> A lot of the reprieve in low gas prices has to do with the international markets being oversupplied and with depressing prices. Instead of both forex and people&rsquo;s purchasing power being spent to purchase oil to keep the country going, it is being kept in the country. This is apparent in the country&rsquo;s improved balance of payments position and low inflation rate. The money kept in the country by reduced oil prices and the income tax giveback should have a multiplier effect on the economy and, in theory, accelerate economic growth, which last year was almost two per cent.<br /> <br /> No person wants to pay taxes, but they are essential to make a country function properly. Everyone should be paying their fair share because everyone uses government services, and the shift from direct to indirect taxes is needed to capture everyone in the tax net. So the Government imposing more taxes on fuel to fund the giveback to the people is necessary, instead of just implementing new taxes to meet International Monetary Fund conditions.<br /> <br /> The near two per cent growth the country experienced last year was not much, but it&rsquo;s a start, and should be accelerated by the next phase of the giveback. It&rsquo;s my firm belief that the different sectors that use petroleum as a main input should be able to absorb the added cost without passing it on to consumers.<br /> <br /> David Williams<br /> <br /> Tampa, USA<br /> <br /> williams1794@hotmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12690181/187783_21993_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Monday, March 20, 2017 12:00 AM Don&rsquo;t kick a man when he&rsquo;s down, JADCo http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Don-t-kick-a-man-when-he-s-down--JADCo_92954 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> From time to time our sportsmen and women have had to defend their reputation before local and international tribunals.<br /> <br /> These experiences must be harrowing, painful and expensive for them. However, when adverse test results and failure to present themselves occur, action must be taken. This is paramount in the preservation of our national sporting programmes.<br /> <br /> Notwithstanding, the appearance of balance and fairness must be the hallmark of all decision-making. In the case of Andre Russell vs the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCo), I personally believe this latest position of JADCo is excessive.<br /> <br /> Do not kick an individual when he or she is already down. Andre is now down, and seeing the latest report on him I am disturbed.<br /> <br /> We need to save our national treasures. These sportspeople have expended time, money and unspeakable effort in preparing themselves for competition. Jamaica has been the recipient of their glory in terms of the national pride and economic returns they generate for us.<br /> <br /> Please, commissioners, rethink your position, a year is enough punishment.<br /> <br /> To Andre, I say, stay strong, never give up, and fellow Jamaicans, show your support.<br /> <br /> In an unrelated matter, let us also keep a good thought for Nesta Carter.<br /> <br /> Andrea Dunk<br /> <br /> andrea.d7774@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/13610143/andre-russell-black-bat1_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Monday, March 20, 2017 12:00 AM Withhold your funds from the TEF, Stewart http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Withhold-your-funds-from-the-TEF--Stewart_92947 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> I listened in horror and disbelief as the chairman of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) went on the attack over Government&rsquo;s decision to use part of of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) to support the country. The arrogance of the JHTA is beyond belief, and I wonder in whose interest it is advocating. Certainly not the country.<br /> <br /> For one, the TEF is awash with money that is not being used at all, but sitting there earning minuscule rates of interest. It would seem to me that if the nation treasury needs help then everyone should lend a hand.<br /> <br /> Not only that, but successive administrations have pandered to every whim and fancy of the JHTA to the detriment of sectors like manufacturing. It is full time they start giving something back to this nation. The gluttony has cost us much in other areas, so it&rsquo;s time to rebalance the scale.<br /> <br /> Tourism is no longer the only sector creating impressive growth; agriculture is beating it right now. Yet still agriculture doesn&rsquo;t have the money it needs. Some of that money from the TEF could be pumped into agriculture. If we are serious about economic growth, it is full time Jamaica moves away from its over-reliance on just tourism.<br /> <br /> I was extremely moved to see Gordon &ldquo;Butch&rdquo; Stewart coming out in support of the Government&rsquo;s move. His reasoning makes perfect sense. He understands the need for tourism to give back to a nation that has given to it at a disproportionate level of support over many, many years.<br /> <br /> I would further encourage Stewart to withhold his portion of funds going into the TEF and turn that over to the Government if those losers at the JHTA don&rsquo;t fall in line and stop sabotaging the Government. He is by the far the biggest contributor through his hotel chain to the TEF. If he withholds funding or redirects his funds then the TEF will surely collapse. That&rsquo;s not in anybody&rsquo;s interest really, so good sense must prevail.<br /> <br /> Tyrone Lewis<br /> <br /> tyronelewis272@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/12734676/189817_19467_repro_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Monday, March 20, 2017 12:00 AM Retarded in self-defence http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Retarded-in-self-defence_92582 Dear Editor,<br /> <br /> Jamaicans are constrained where self-defence is concerned. Basic examples will suffice.<br /> <br /> Why in the name of sweet Jesus did Parliament make illegal the possession of knives for all people, no matter how small the knife. The criminals have guns, the police have guns, the wealthy and elite have guns. Why on Earth can&rsquo;t the poor and humble have a small knife?<br /> <br /> In the United States it is legal to carry on your person a knife with a blade bigger than the distance across the palm of your hand just below your fingers, approximately 3 cm. Why not that approach?<br /> <br /> Pepper spray is also outlawed in Jamaica yet legal in the US. Very few men carry it, but many women do &mdash; as a first line of defence.<br /> <br /> Jamaica have retarded in a way that is especially harmful to the small man or woman, poor or relatively powerless. But then, isn&rsquo;t that the Jamaica we know at so many levels . Shame on our representatives!<br /> <br /> Robert Trivers<br /> <br /> Southfield, St Elizabeth<br /> <br /> triversr@gmail.com<br /> <br /> http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/assets/11866804/knife_w300.jpg Local Letters to the Editor Friday, March 17, 2017 2:00 AM