Month: June 2016

Getting the most out of tourism

Tourism is big bucks, it is the lifeblood of the Jamaican economy and is the largest fx earner (legally at least) and employs thousands of people both directly and indirectly. Jamaica has seen its arrivals steadily increase over the years but we still are yet to see the double digit growth in the tourism sector and proper linkages with the broader society that we all yearn for.

This in my humble opinion is because Jamaica is aiming to promote one type of tourism as opposed to trying to extract as much from the entire industry. An example to illustrate my point is that we heavily push ads about our sand and sea, but rarely if ever do we promote for example our coffee or coconut walks.

Jamaica should not restrict itself to one type of tourism and embrace all the aspects of tourism and their benefits.

Ecotourism is a multibillion dollar industry and one that Jamaica really should be taking advantage of. With some of the last remaining Caribbean forests and woods, with our exotic rivers and falls and with our breathtaking animal life this is an area that we could easily slip into. This is would have the added spinoff of ensuring that Jamaican flora and fauna is seriously protected while adding jobs to areas that currently struggle to employ people

Then we come historical tourism, this again is a multibillion dollar industry that Jamaica could easily be in. If you throw a stone in Jamaica you hit a historic site, be it the first grid pattern in this part of the world (see Kingston), be it the sunken parts of Port Royal, Nelsons old post, Falmouth and there Georgian houses, St Mary and Golden Eye. Jamaica should be aiming to lead in this department, we have a market (north America) that has shared a similar experience to ours as well as being the ancestral home to persons who made an immense impact in the States (see the Dallas family or the De Córdova family in Texas). We should be looking to exploit our rich history and monetize it as that again is low hanging fruit.

Entertainment tourism is also a sector that we should be looking to exploit. Blessed with so much talent this is one way in which Jamaica can both expose our budding talents while also providing them with a stable job and crucially experience a captive audience.

Finally we come to cultural tourism. This is an are that could be used to aid some of our least developed areas. Parishes such as St Thomas which are home to Kumina, Pocomani and Obeah practitioners are ideal areas where the culture tourist would visit if advertised (they are already somewhat visited even with the little coverage they receive).

The minister of tourism is not naive and many of the points made above have been mentioned recently by the minister. However they have also been mentioned by previous administrations and even made priorities with little to show in terms of results. Hopefully the minister will go all out with it this time as we can’t afford to dawdle, Cuba is opening and in spite of our confidence and big talk they are a threat. We need to get our act together quickly because if all we are offering is sun and sand then we will get left behind.


Young Turks hitch their wagon

As the PNP conference nears one sees the not open but not so subtle leadership question getting both hotter and deeply engaging. On one side we have the ‘elders’ of recent politics trying to shore up there power and legacy after an unexpected and embarrassing loss in the recent election and on the other, the young Turks who are impatient, tired of waiting in the wings and see an opportunity for change at the top.

The camps are clear for all to see, the old guard with Phillips by proxy and Peter Bunting representing the young Turks. This can be seen in both the race for Dr Davis’s seat and in how the PNP presented its findings to the media.

As it relates to the campaign to replace Dr Davis, one can see the proxy war as clear as day. Colin Campbell a former MP, gen sec of the party and by all accounts a ‘good comrade’ is a man who clearly has the backing of influential persons in the constituency (see mr Phang) and other party bigwigs who would like to see the continuation of a certain type of politics. His opponent is senator Golding who has the backing of the incumbent Dr Davis and the quiet (but not hidden support) of friend and business partner Bunting and many in the junior ranks of the PNP.

All that is obvious however and has little to do with the Turks, until you look at who was seated and speaking during the press conference regarding the report. Heading the table was Julian Robinson, a man tipped by many to be at the very least a senior minister in any new PNP led government and one who the everyman views as a possible leader (and who is still yet to repudiate Patrick Roberts call for him to lead the party). No surprise there as he was tapped to lead the investigation, the surprises come with Mark Golding and the comments by both that heads probably should roll and blame be apportioned, though they hastily state that that is not there remit nor that of the report.

But why would the Turks support Bunting, a man who in my opinion while smart, lacks the politicians charm and has a tendency to put his foot in his mouth? The answer could be simple if the above is correct, jockeying for positions.

Why else would Lisa Hannah be content with a VP spot, why would the youngsters be coalescing around Bunting? Bunting they see as, at the very least, a good candidate for the internal election. If he secures the presidency through there delegates then it is likely that they will be repaid during the hypothetical Bunting administration. In the event that Bunting loses the general election then the Turks who would have been repaid with high ranking positions within the party would stick and twist the dagger then ascend to the top post within the party.

This could be why Julian is quiet as it relates to a leadership run, why Lisa is content with a VP slot and why Damion and Raymond are as quiet as church mouses. If all that is said is true then it would be a bold move by the Turks but one fraught with danger and would explain the ‘subtleness’ of there campaign, the old guard after all can be an unforgiving lot.

Hopefully they make a move with Bunting sooner rather than later. Not just because the party is in desperate need for fresh blood at the top, not just because the ‘yute need a buss’ and not just because the parties relevance is at stake. No, hopefully they make the bold move because Jamaica needs a change. We have seen what Bobby, Portia and Peter have to offer and it is now time to say goodbye. Jamaica needs fresh blood to lead it, new heads with new ideas, the JLP has started this process, let’s hope for the nations sake that the PNP follows.

Release the PNP report

Finally the long awaited PNP report on why they lost the election is ready, it has even been passed around senior members of the PNP hierarchy. The little that has made its way to the public and comments from those who have seen it is damning to say the least, it speaks of political intrigue, factions, competing campaigns and plots usually the domain of the JLP.

Old habits die hard however, and it seems that the old guard refuse to budge. With many influential party members begging to either withhold the report or release a heavily edited version the party is at a moral crossroads.

The party put plainly is viewed as a bastion of corruption and epitomizes in people’s eyes the power of links. They are also viewed as dictatorial and deaf not only to outside calls for reform but also calls for reform from within the party. The people have not forgotten the advances made by Michael Manley, they have not forgotten the desperate past that we have come from, they are just despondent because the near past and immediate future look bleak and to be the polar opposite of the PNP of that time.

To not release the document, in full, to the public would be another nail in the coffin for the PNP as it relates to electability because it would confirm in people’s minds that the party elders are not open to scrutiny and more importantly its findings could be whitewashed and or implemented in a ham fisted fashion that would see the party continue to operate as is.

The release of the report coupled with the PNP reasonings could be a blessing in disguise for the PNP. The report will show that the party apparatuses need serious shaking up and the reasonings have shown the need for the party to find it’s ideological bearings, both agree (one more subtly than the other) that a change is needed in the party hierarchy (how far up still remains up for debate).

This can only be a positive if they use it. Using it means actually listening to people in the reasonings and publicly showing and debating the findings of the report. That will show to Joe public that you as a party take us the voter seriously and that will begin the process of slowly winning voters back.

The process will be slow, it will be painful and may result in a few electoral loses so it is therefore understandable for the old guard to want to both hide the report from the public and shore up their power bases. But if they have any love for the nation as they claim they will allow for public discussion on the matter, if they have respect for the party as they always state then they will allow for change, if not the party may be facing more than electoral defeat, they could very well face extinction.

Its all about optics

As Andrew Holness again finds himself facing interesting questions about his financial life (hatchet job or not the questions are relevant for a man so insistent on a new politics) one is forced to ask who exactly is providing the PM with his political advice?

Politics is mainly about optics. Winning people over, keeping them on your side and selling them hopes and dreams all hinges on how people view you and right now Andrew after leading for some time in the battle of optics seems to have slipped.

When the issues of the house and its financing were brought up in this mode on the campaign trail Andrew won the optics war. He released the data listing the financing of the house, raised the specter of Finsac and crucially stated that he would release his full financial data and medical history (the events didn’t take place in the order listed).

It was that las bit that has come back and bitten Andrew in the war of optics. Had he released his financial records when stated (or earlier for that matter) he not only would have killed the house (and now tax) question, but would also have been viewed as a shining example of a new breed of politician who is open to public scrutiny and remained ahead in the war of optics.

Instead he didn’t release them and is now firmly on the back foot. Hatchet job it may be, but the programme has raised some interesting questions. By taking the matter to court he also loses a bit of his sheen in the battle of public opinion, with the injunction taken out (which does not affect YouTube) it looks like there is something to hide or he is trying to shut up the press (because all statements seemed to be fact-checked).

Mr Holness needs to have a long conversation with his advisors and try to come to grips with this dilemma. The answer is simple, a full declaration of assets (as promised) would make all these questions disappear and leave his detractors with egg on there face. With the answer so simple that everyone can see it the question then becomes why not do it, could it be political hubris after proving everyone wrong thus far, or is he hiding something? Hopefully it’s the former as then he can use it as a learning experience, if it is the latter then I fear the nation (not diehards of green and orange) may not be quick to forgive.