Category: Jamaica

Regional integration could mean moving to Guyana and Suriname

Regional integration could mean moving to Guyana and Suriname

CARICOM, as is, is dead. It is going nowhere fast, what with all the dick-swinging, animosity, regional tension, economic tension and social tensions, CARICOM as is, is dead as it relates to harmonising and developing relationships throughout the region. The sad reality is that in spite of our common history and shared culture the distance is too great to overcome along with the population and economic disparities.

Trinidad & Tobago along with Barbados (despite the latter’s recent malaise) are streets ahead of every other nation in this bloc in terms of economics, and they flex their muscles much to the chagrin of the other nations in the regional bloc. Jamaica and Trinidad dominate in terms of population size (and therefore have a large labour pool) and we see where their nationals make up a large portion of the workforce in the other nations in the grouping, pressuring wages of the locals downwards (in some cases) while alienating/forcing out of work quite a few of the local populace.

The CSME (Caribbean Single Market & Economy) is non-existent, the ‘freedom of movement’ that CARICOM was supposed to have afforded us is nowhere to be found and ideas of political/legal integration seem to have been strangled in its crib if the CCJ is anything to go by. CARICOM it must be said again as is is dead in the water unless something drastic and earth-shaking takes place, and that event may very well have taken place (or is slowly taking place).

Global warming and the tectonic movements in my mind are going to be the driving force behind the region finally integrating, climate change may very well be the thing that saves this bloc. As seen with the recent hurricanes this season along with the precarious fault line that is between Jamaica and Haiti, the nations of this bloc could literally at any moment face a crisis that would bankrupt any one of the individual nations that make up CARICOM. Rivers and streams are drying up and islands that are used to importing water are now paying through the nose for the same commodity as a result, it cant continue, something must change.

The time for doing nothing has ended, that door slammed shut the minute Dominica got battered by the third category 4 hurricane of what has been a hellish nightmare that is this years hurricane season. Frankly, the door started closing during the five minutes of hell that Haiti endured (the 2010 earthquake). Simply put, stagnation at this point in time is akin to willfully signing our death warrants, the only way out of this mess is with true unification and integration.

CARICOM as a bloc has a population of just under eighteen million persons, almost all of them living on islands, except two. Guyana and Belize are on the continent and are (wait for it) actually underpopulated. If we as a regional bloc were serious about not only political integration but most importantly our peoples survival, then we would look into setting up a plan to get off the islands and move to the continent, the mainland which happens to be CARICOM members as well as being underpopulated and underdeveloped (like all of CARICOM in that regard).

Now, as I have pointed out, these nations are actually pretty underpopulated. Guyana with a land mass of 83,000 sq mi (making it number 83 in terms of country size) has a population of 773,303 as of 2016 (making it number 165 for population size) and therefore one of the least dense places on earth (ranked at number 8). Suriname is a bit smaller but still again a massive nation with a land mass of 63,252 sq mi (ranked at number 90) and with a population just above half a million. These are nations roughly the size of Great Britan (in the case of Guyana) and Greece (in the case of Suriname) and with a fraction of their population, in other words, there is ample room for population expansion. As it relates to the environment (which should be at the forefront of our minds if we even begin to plan this out), I believe that we (at least in this region anyway) have learnt our lessons and would look to do as little damage as possible to the magnificent beauties that make up Guyana-Suriname hinterland, forests and waterways, we wont be doing concrete jungles anymore I believe.

I am not pretending that this is either a roadmap or a policy piece on how to achieve this, that is for persons in a much bigger pay bracket than I can imagine. But it is something that we must at the very least be thinking about and hopefully, this will spark some stimulating conversation on the topic along with concrete actions. The way has already been somewhat paved by the  Guna people of Panama, these people live on the Caribbean side of Panama and as such are seeing their land slowly swallowed up by the ocean as the climate becomes more hostile. As a solution, they are all (within a specified timeline) moving to the mainland of Panama, showing that a solution is out there.

This type of regional cooperation and integration I admit is at this moment very much a pipe dream and honestly seems laughably impossible, however, the alternatives are also just as, if not more so, impossible. Option one is, hope, pray and cajole the nations of the world to meet and surpass (because the current targets will mean the regions extinction) the goals set at the Paris climate talks (a tall order especially with the US pulling out). Option two is, we as individual nations try and make the best of it, build dykes as tall as skyscrapers to keep the water out (see King Canute) and then die (not very pleasant what with these hurricanes, heat etc). Option three is, we all vacate the region and go to the former colonial masters, something that just sounds mad when one looks at current events (see Trump and all of Europe). None of these options are likely or realistic, the truth is we in the region have been left to fend for ourselves, to act as the test case in how well/long humans will live in the front lines in the era of global warming, at this point it is really either swim together or die a slow death for the nations of this region because we are not going to get any outside help.

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It’s high time we audited Jamaica’s debt

It’s high time we audited Jamaica’s debt

Jamaica has a high level of debt, pardon me for stating the blatantly obvious, but just to hammer home that point let me state that Jamaica’s debt to GDP ratio is at the rate of %115, in other words, each Jamaican citizen owes an individual total of roughly $800,000 (JMD). This level of indebtedness has had a massive toll on the nation, be it the fact that we have to take on stringent IMF regulations in order to get by, the fact that borrowing on the international stage is now rather taxing, but the most damning thing about all of our debt is that we really have nothing to show for it.

The billions in debt that the state (and as such we individuals) have to repay and honour is in need of auditing. The fact of the matter is that (and I’m only speaking of the 80’s onwards) for all of the billions we owe the nation (to use a technical term) looks like a piece of crap. Monies that was borrowed for bridge building in Parish X disappears and the bridge is not there, money borrowed for road repairs vanishes and the roads are left to further cave in. Money that we cant afford to pay back is borrowed to upgrade jail cells to move them out of the mid 19th Century is not accounted for and the jails remain like dungeons.

A majority of the money owed was borrowed because the state wished to ‘improve the lives of its citizens’, and yet here we are, 37 years after the economy was returned to pure capitalism and a willing credit market (the little democratic-socialist initiatives initiated by Manley were almost all killed off by the successive administrations) with nothing to show for it except an ungodly level of debt, nothing relating to infrastructure, and a sick joke when it comes to social services. Along with politicians and certain well-connected individuals getting rich coincidentally of course.

The people have not benefited, we as a society have received no gains from this borrowed money and instead, are left to foot the bill, that is utter madness (to put it politely) and should not be allowed to pass unchallenged. We should demand a forensic audit of this debt (or as much of it that can be audited) so we can find out just where the money went and most importantly, who has/had it. Now I’m not of the opinion that the guilty parties once found out would (or even could) pay back the money, but it would be a massive start, it would show that theft from the state is no longer something to turn a blind eye to and it would also send a strong message to those who wish to dip into the public purse for their own benefits.

Were in over our heads when it comes to this debt, full repayment is simply not an option if we wish to live in a nation resembling anything near half decent, it is a massive handicap. The audit of our borrowed money (who got it, what was it used for and the terms of the loan) would be a most important step in either wiping away our debt (something we should be heavily lobbying for) or at the very least in getting a haircut on the debt, that is only possible with an audit. I say again the people have not benefited from this borrowed money, and unless and until a full forensic audit is done on our debt, quite frankly we shouldn’t (as citizens) pay our taxes (which only go to debt service) and demand that a closer look at our debt is carried out.

P.S. I’d like to thank Mr Lloyd D’Aguilar for providing the seed for this bit of commentary, if it weren’t for his posts on twitter I’m not sure that this process would have crossed my mind.

The JLP’s to lose now

The JLP’s to lose now

Political soldiers are on the move, all over St Mary one will be greeted with bunting, placards, billboards and of course, flags representing the opposing parties and their respective candidates, its by-election time in South East St. Mary. But this was to be expected, with the slim margins of victory coupled with the unfortunate and unexpected passing of Dr Green (and the sticky issue that was the election petition) the campaign never really ended in this part of Jamaica, and I believe that will be to the JLP’s great benefit.

Anywhere one goes in that part of the world, from Castleton all the way to the border of Portland as I said earlier, one will see campaign paraphernalia all over the place. But just a look at them will tell you which party is ‘rolling in it’ and which party ‘cant afford a pot to piss in’. Placards bearing the image of the PNP candidate (Dr Shane Alexis) are there and in numbers too, probably outnumbering those of his opponent (Dr Norman Dunn), however (and I may be reading a lot into this but not too much) they are not of the same quality and make of Dr Dunn’s placards. A small thing, but this is just one indicator of a party flush with cash (and using it strategically) and one that is running on fumes as it relates to finances.

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Dr Alexis, it is true has been trodding earth, going to many communities and reaching out to many persons, and it is true that he has brought a vim back to the PNP cadre in that constituency who have been afflicted by the broader party malaise, but that is no surprise. The simple fact is that he has to go door to door and drum up support and name recognition because he is a totally unknown quantity in the regional party and politics in general, as a result he has to ingratiate himself with the constituents, a long and arduous process as he will also if he has sense be looking for the ‘swing’ voter. The fact again is that Dr Shane Alexis has his work cut out for him if only for that one fact, though I do believe that he does stand a fighters chance and could very well be the MP after the next general election, he faces a likely (not certain but likely) defeat this time around.

Dr Dunn has no such worries as it relates to name recognition and has no nagging questions about what his message is (he is a known quantity). Having run, and only just lost in the last general election (with such a narrow margin that a petition was working its way through the courts) and being born in the region, people know him. Couple those with the facts that both the JLP (with its very good marketing) and most importantly he himself has never left campaign mode (by all accounts he has been operating as if an election could have been called their ever since he lost). They have the ground covered, they have the people canvassed, they know the local issues already, they understand the local mentality as it relates to politics. The JLP is in a nutshell well oiled and prepared for this election and personally, it would be bordering on an upset (I’m sure Belmont Road would be fuming) if the JLP lost.

I don’t feel this is a referendum on the Andrew Holness administration, in spite of what Dr Phillips of the PNP would want us to believe. This is, however, a serious test for the PNP and could be the beginning of an Indian Summer for the JLP. If the PNP lose and give the JLP, even more, breathing space (they already act at times like its a parliament of 53-10rather than one of 32-31) then Andrew Holness would have a green light to either destroy them with policy measures that ‘no well thinking Jamaican could oppose’ such as ZOSO, or if he is wise (and he strikes me as politically adept) call a snap election whenever things bump back up and further weaken a PNP that is only now bearly showing signs of stemming the cannibalization.

The ball is in the court of the JLP, with the councils under their control and with a candidate who has never stopped campaigning the election is the JLP’s to lose. They must avoid blunder, walk on eggshells and stay far from a scandal at this point in time and if they do that then they have a hand on the trophy already. The PNP must be in a frantic mad dash at the moment as they aim to retain the seat and continue to ‘bite at the heels’ of the government, however they shouldn’t be too down if they lose and that shouldn’t herald the resumption of the civil war. They should instead take stock, try to retain Dr Alexis as the caretaker for the seat (as he has built up some rapport and is very young) and aim for the long run, that is the only way that they can hope of having a permanent chance in that seat.

Is Jamaica serious about tackling crime?

Is Jamaica serious about tackling crime?

The JCF has killed Duppy Film! Let us break out in song and dance and let us breathe easy, the JCF has it seemed to found their aim again. Over the past two weeks, the JCF has been on a roll, killing up to a dozen dangerous wanted men and having one turn himself in. Some would see this as Jamaica finally taking crime seriously, taking it hard to the criminals and ensuring that they hurt no one else, and while I am elated that these persons can no longer cause such harm to society as they have been alleged to (yes almost none were tried and found guilty so alleged), I can’t help but wonder if by the recent actions of the JCF and the majority of our reactions are we serious about tackling crime or do we only like the idea?

Now before one gets to thinking that this is some piece crying over the ‘fallen soldier’ that is Duppy Film, let me say again no it is not, persons who commit crimes, and persons who commit violent crimes deserve prison, and in some cases a bit more than that. However, that does not blind me to the fact that something is fundamentally wrong with a crime strategy that entails simply ‘kill anything that moves’, or worse still ‘shoot first and questions be damned’, a strategy that totally ignores key questions and a society that seems willfully blind to them.

Now it is not a secret (or maybe an open one) that Duppy Film was well connected, a hired gun he was in hot demand for a time and used by quite a few influential persons. It is also not a secret (again maybe another open one) that he was paid to take out an influential individual. He was found in a part of the island (his home parish admittedly) where the guns for drugs trade and the import/export of drugs is home, and just like that, after seven years on the run, eluding a dragnet of 180 joint JCF-JDF, was found and gunned down out of the blue… does that not strike anyone else as strange? That this man who had answers so so many pertinent and pressing issues, was gunned down just so, after seven years of eluding everyone? To me, something smells fishy about that whole incident.

That is really the point that I am really trying to make here, this not so much to mourn the life that was wasted because the system was set up in such a way that the young man faced a choice of the gun (with its pros and inevitable cons) or play by the rules and be shafted (as is the everyday reality in this nation), no, it is to simply state that as a nation with crime and criminal elements roosted and having taken deep roots in the society and state apparatus, how can we be pleased with the killing of a person who held such key information?

Yes, in all likelihood he was the bloodthirsty killer that we read about in the papers, and that may have been the case with the countless others, but is it any real surprise that after destroying the criminal element without getting the necessary information (for which man living in West Street working as a day labourer can afford a brand new AK-47?) as to who funded him/her, or who their boss is, has only resulted in us looking to smash the 1300 mark for murders this year? Catch them, hold them, convict them, wring the information out of them and then go after the big fishes, that is one of the fastest ways to put a dent in crime.

Let’s not remain the same society that we have been for so long happy with half measures and actions that in the long run will only lead to the national harm. Let’s demand that instead of killing every suspected SOB on site and in every shootout, the JCF instead shoot to wound, say a gut or knee shot, painful but not necessarily lethal, that way we can get the relevant information, lock up the actual power players and truly start ending this crime scourge.

PNP renewal, and so it begins

PNP renewal, and so it begins

It has been an eventful year and a bit for the PNP, having snatched electoral defeat from the jaws of victory in the general election, the disaster that was the local government election, the internal scandal that was the disappearing ‘donation’ or even the surprising (only because of timing) departure of the party president, it has been a chapter that the PNP must surely wish will be closing soon. The chapter looked to be coming to a close with the rise of ‘Team Renewal’, an ‘underground’ group of young PNP operatives who wished to shake up the party and move it from its current state of inertia, they started off well but by the end of it they looked to have been out of steam (see the race to replace Portia Simpson-Miller), a spent force beaten by the machine that is the PNP old guard,the renewal seemed to have been killed before it was even birthed.

That, however, seems to have changed in the past few weeks, and it seems that after much chatter and dilly-dallying, the new PNP seems to ready to be rolled off of the manufacturing floor and hit the road. The renewal process that the PNP is actually going through now is unexpected, it has come like a thunderbolt or lightning, and like sudden summer rains, it is most welcome. Dr Prter Phillips got the mantle of PNP president handed to him in something more reminiscent of a coronation of a monarch rather than a man who wished to lead the nation and his initial actions seemed to show that he was going to be more of the same. With the constant bickering, complaints about government policy without providing a credible (most times none at all) alternative and a coupled with a seeming inability to stem the purging in the party of those who wished to see a change, it seemed that Dr Phillips and team renewal was doomed.

Then came the past few weeks, ‘coincidentally’ a few weeks before a party conference which seemed set to be the most sombre conference since the parties founding. We got hit with a sledgehammer, from a party in stasis it has become one that seems to be getting back its agility. From a party that for decades lacked ideas they have suddenly become a party with quite a few good ideas albeit ideas that greatly need expanding on, and from a party that was ideologically bankrupt, a party that stuck its finger in the wind to determine their morals, they seem to have (tentatively ill admit) re-embraced their socialist (Fabian) origins.

No longer do we have a party that buys wholeheartedly into the neo-liberal agenda, who could imagine the PNP circa 2002 insisting that local companies be given preferential treatment for mega-construction projects for example? The party of the people after years of silence on the matter have rediscovered the urgent need for land reform in this nation, something that the man they hold in god-like status once realised was a must if we are to right the ship. The realizing that the crime bill (which they allowed to go through) is far from perfect and nowhere near enough to dent, let alone strangle crime is most welcome as is the zeal for further integration in the region.

Those, however, are words, and as we know all too well in this nation and especially as it relates to our politics, everyone knows what to say at what time to get what you need, hence our lovely phrase ‘action over word’. The PNP’s shuffled shadow cabinet is the first action that shows that something resembling a renewal process and that the small glimmer of socialism (of some sort anyway) is re-emerging in the party.

The shadow cabinet whatever one makes of the positioning of the personnel (and its current makeup does make one wonder what person X is doing in position Y) is a revelation. The influx of persons from ‘Team Renewal’ whom one could assume would have been thrown on the scrap heap have instead been brought firmly back into the fold (see Lisa Hannah and Damian Crawford). The shadow cabinet is an interesting mix of young and old, and putting aside the fact that it contains individuals who are toxic (but who do still hold massive internal sway), but more interesting still, is one that has ideas (whether one likes the ideas or not is a different matter) and a plan to implement them, is vocal on issues that really do affect the people on a daily basis and most importantly it is a group of individuals not blinkered in their thinking and are open to change so long as it reasons well.

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The PNP still has a way to go as it relates to regaining the trust of the people that the took for granted, and though this may very well just be makeup on a pig it is a very solid start. More needs to be done, making the party transparent and accountable to its members and the nation is a must and in that stead, the donation scheme is most welcome but they have more to do. They seem to have the right team in place to steady the ship that is the PNP but they mustn’t expect miracles. Andrew Holness is very adept and savvy and baring any massive kerfuffle may very well have the next election under lock, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If they lose, but lose with grace, with ideas and policies, and with integrity then that would cement them for the following election, the renewal has begun, it will be slow and painful but the fruits will be worth it for both the party and the nation as a whole.

Recycling is easier than you think

Jamaica has much natural beauty, stunning views, amazing beaches and rainforests coupled with rivers that can make one’s heart stop with the breathtaking majesty, however, we have one massive blight accompanying this beauty, garbage. Everywhere one looks one sees garbage, be it the beach littered with plastic bottles, the river choked with plastic bags or even the streets where condom wrappers (and used condoms) bag juice bags and boxes rule the roost, we see where Jamaica has a garbage (or more specifically a recycling) problem.

Many excuses are given for why the waste is both scattered about the place and left to pile up. A lack of skips, a lack of bins, a lack of dustmen, poor education as it relates to personal waste management, all are given as excuses for our garbage problems and all are in fact valid statements, however much more could be done as it relates to making the place less filthy.

One excuse we are always greeted with is that plastic (especially bottles and bags) are almost impossible to recycle here and that they just end up in landfills or the waterways clogging things up. That is inexcusable and quite frankly a cop-out as so many things could be done to mitigate this situation. The plastic that we all ignore could be used for so many things and be used in ingenious ways that could also (wait for it) provide jobs in a niche market while also beautifying the nation. I am of course speaking of making art and furniture out of the disposed of plastic.

We could begin by making benches and other seating items. Imagine for example, the bus stop instead of having a rundown shed with the few ‘seats’ that would make your skin crawl instead becoming a new waiting area (the shed would be made of reused plastic) and comfortable plentiful seats so that one could wait for a bus in comfort? Imagine a park with children playing on a see-saw or a swing or even jungle gym all made out of the plastic items that would instead have become garbage clogging the drains? If one looks at the types of art that can be or is already being made with this type of waste material, the stunning quality and beauty, the intricacy that can be done with this garbage, then right there one would see a grand opportunity for our Jamaican artists to actually get their teeth further into a modern medium while at the same time assisting in beautifying the nation. and one Imagine, shoes, slippers, rain slicks and even bags made in Jamaica and all coming from the items that as we speak are causing so much havoc on the nation? A niche market could be created and cemented giving jobs to this nation, and it could come from the garbage.

With garbage and plastic, in particular, choking the nation something needs to be done. Education yes, people will only learn the right things if taught it, putting in skips and bins is a must, people can’t dispose of waste properly if there are no receptacles. However, that will not address the issue of the plastic we currently have and the plastic that we will have in the future that we all agree cant be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. We are choking on garbage as we speak, even if we manage to scrape up all the plastic in the island more will always wash ashore from the floating garbage piles that occupy the oceans. Instead of whining, instead of doing half measures and instead of ignoring the problem (something we are excellent at) let us address it head-on. This is an easy, cost-effective and quite frankly fun way to reduce the garbage in the nation and is one that ties in well with the proposals that the talking heads have made, let us see now if anything changes.

If you’re going to sell yourself, at least be expensive

If you’re going to sell yourself, at least be expensive

Jamaica has been selling off bits and pieces for ages, be it bauxite rights, our port (leased out) or even the sugar belt and Goat Island which has been granted to the Chinese, we see where Jamaica has been slowly at first, but rather quickly recently, giving away key areas and industries of the nation. Now, this has naturally brought out the nationalistic tendencies in us human beings that inhabit this island, we have been demanding that the government reverse these policies and staunchly go it alone, or at the very most engage in trade with others while retaining sovereignty of our key industries (electricity, bauxite etc). Now I am staunchly in this camp, I feel that alone (really as a unified Caribbean basin) we can have a real go at making something of ourselves as a nation and region.

That, however, for the time being, is a pipe dream. The powers that be are intent on selling off any area and aspect of the nation that can turn a quick few $US million. Now I don’t agree with this line of thinking, but if our leaders are indeed going down the road of selling off everything lock-stock and barrel then by god let us ensure that they get quite a few $US Billion while also ensuring that the people (that would be us the citizens of the neo-colony) get some benefits.

Take for example the on again off again sale of Goat Island and the aborted deal for the port (both Chinese deals), it is obvious that the Chinese are looking for a firm foothold in the region, more specifically the areas in the region closest to the major shipping lanes (from the Panama Canal to the Port of Miami and further up the eastern US seaboard), that is why they have pumped so much money into the Cuban refitting of the Port of Mariel. Now the Chinese are not silly, they know that absolutely no cargo ships are allowed to dock in the US after directly docking at Cuba, they need a mid-point therefore. This is where Jamaica and us being a potential expensive hoe come into play. If they want the port and the Island and the Government is intent on selling it, then sell it, but go big. Sell them both for XBillion US$ and demand concessions and access to the port, sell them and insist that they fund and train our merchant marine fleet (which they will need for their ships coming in) so that we can have some lasting benefits as it relates to the individual Jamaican.

 

 

 

The mining rights is also a case of the same thing. China is the hub of global industry and manufacturing and is also fast ascending as it relates to R&D, therefore it is natural that they want to (and they are) monopolize the minerals of the world. Again we see where the differing administrations are intent on selling it to the Chinese, in line with the old school sell-offs where we end up carrying the bag. It doesn’t have to be this way, Let us sell it to them, but let us make them pay dearly. Insist that when we sell the bauxite rights (again for a cool X Billion $US), demand in the deal that the roads and rail networks are upgraded. This again is something  that would benefit both parties, the Chinese would need good, reliable transportation networks to transport the minerals (or processed aluminum) to the docks so that they can be loaded into the awaiting ships, we the Jamaican citizen would also benefit greatly as we would then have cash on hand along with a brand new road and rail network we didn’t have to build.

Now I am not saying that the Chinese are looking to or are going to become our new colonial overlords, I have never been in that camp and the facts (though they point to exploitation and no-strings-attached loans/grants) do not point in that direction, they do however wish to gain a permanent foothold in the region as they aim to cement their status as the next global behemoth. If we are going to sell our souls, sell off our natural gifts and key industries, then lets at least have something to show for it, let it not be a case of us selling off everything we have only to realize that we own nothing, have access to nothing and are left scrounging for the ‘what lef’ in ways that would make our current reality look like a fun game.

Can the PNP become relevant again?

Can the PNP become relevant again?

The PNP is in turmoil, with the internal elections now looking like a matter of a royal hand over (as seen with Dr Davies and Mr Golding and now Mrs Simpson-Miller and Mrs Brown-Burke) and the elevation and retention of persons who have proved to be ideologically bankrupt and inept as it relates to policy formation and implementation some serious questions need to be asked about whether this party can become more than the joke that it currently is. The party is on shaky ground and as things stand right now, even though the JLP is on the ropes in peoples minds, they do not see any other alternative as the PNP continues to cannibalise itself and stagnate.

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Right now the PNP, in theory, should be in the ascendancy especially since they lost the last election by only two seats and we have a JLP government that seems to be lumbering incompetently along until the next election and instead of putting up an actual challenge we see them as a party fighting over the parochial spoils and positioning for the future.

We see this everywhere, for example during the recent internal (farce) election to fill the void left by the resignation of Portia Simpson-Miller, we saw all of the party bigwigs such as Paulwell all coalesce around Angela Brown-Burke, this was made all the more surprising since Angela didn’t even register and was nowhere in the polls. The farce continued when Simpson-Miller openly endorses Brown-Burke by claiming, and I kid you not that, she would ‘continue the legacy I have built in South West St. Andrew‘. This is a party that at every real or perceived misstep by the government is there baiting it on while offering little to nothing as it relates to an alternative, they are a party lost ideologically and seemingly failing at the one thing they were good at for twenty years, getting the votes.

The PNP has become so toxic and reviled, that even when it raises sound questions (such as the issues with the current ZOSO), they are shot down as either being purely opportunistic (playing politics with crime) or (and this is the cruncher) as being two-faced, as they now race to find fault with a law that they willingly let slide through with the farcical debate on its contents.

The party is bereft of anything relating to a core ideology and are now throwing anything at the wall in the hope that it will stick, as seen with PNP operatives writing letters lambasting the PM for sending aid (conveniently forgetting that Caribbean integration is supposedly a core PNP philosophy).

The PNP is in freefall mode, its senior ranks know that the days of Peter Phillips are limited, and rather than focusing on fixing the severely broken party, rather than coming up with concrete solutions (the five point plan on crime is utter drivel), they instead wage an open war of succession while denying it in the media (as if we are all fools). The PNP had better shape up and do it fast, it needs to admit its failings and come with some fresh ideas (a fresh outlook on socialism is much needed for example), it must champion the causes of the Jamaican people without doing it solely for power (see the many calls for Republican status), if not, then they will have to get used to constant internal conflicts and perpetual opposition status, because as bad as the JLP is, they at least have a plan, and that’s all the people want right now.

Beating a dead horse (Why the crime bill won’t solve much)

Beating a dead horse (Why the crime bill won’t solve much)

Finally, after over a year of dilly-dallying the government has passed a bill aimed at ridding the nation of violence (mainly caused by gangs and inflicted by the gun). The bill sailed through the lower house with bi-partisan approval, and though the debate in the Senate went on for quite some time, it got passed again with bi-partisan support. The law as it is now and has been passed allows for the security forces (through the PM and his security council) can declare anywhere a zone of special operations. Some people look at the new law as a breath of fresh air which will see us being both ‘tough on crime while fixing the causes’, but though this bill may make some who reside in the affluent neighborhoods feel like something positive is being done the reality is that no lasting positive changes will be made by this bill while it opens the way for Jamaica to become a police state.

This bill, much like its failed predecessor the Suppression of Crime Act, will come to nothing more than poor people being taken advantage of while failing to actually address the root causes of crime. It is very backwards and in many ways puts the cart before the horse. The prime example being the ‘clear, hold, build’ model that they have been touting. Now it sounds good and that it is a straightforward fix, but ask yourself, where are these members of the social service who are to ‘build’ coming from? When last did you see an advert in the papers recruiting for this key job, this job that is at the heart of this plan? Are we to send in the already stretched CDA or some other underfunded, undermanned and overstretched agency?

While much talk and hot air has been wasted on the areas of crime, no one during this entire debate has looked at what is possibly the biggest thing stopping us from fighting crime, uptown and monied Jamaicans. It is no secret that certain persons who live in the rarefied areas like Cherry Gardens are the ones who finance the guns coming into the wharf to arm men in the ghetto who can’t even buy chicken back. We have seen where this model will lead us, we saw it in the 70’s=90’s, and for those of us too young to remember what that looked like, look no further than Brazil and Rio where even after a decade of ‘clear, hold and build’ for the Olympics and World Cup the favelas are still just as violent as before, only with more police brutality.

The law as written and passed is actually mind-boggling in parts, it strips us of our freedoms and liberties while putting far too much power in the hands of a notoriously corrupt constabulary, the army (which isn’t viewed in a much better light) and a small group of overreaching politicians. It gives the security forces such arbitrary powers under very vague circumstances that are open to abuse, take for example Objects of Act 3 (d): Empowers members of the Joint Force to search a person, vehicle or place without a warrant, within a zone, if they reasonably suspect that an offence has been, is being or is about to be committed.  That bit of legislation is so wide and expansive that it, in reality, will enable the Force to search anywhere in that zone because they have a hunch, no actual proof. A piece of legislation that opens the public up to arbitrary and unjustified stops and searches because a crime is being committed nearby, it is the lazy man’s police work.

Then we get into the fact that it opens the nation up to the rule of an executive PM as opposed to one who acts with the consent of and after consultation and agreement with his Cabinet. This can be seen in Zone of special operation, Declaration of Zone 4(1) The Prime Minister in Council, may, by order, declare any geographically defined area within a single continuous boundary in Jamaica, as a zone of special operations for a period not exceeding sixty days if the circumstances set out in subsection (2) exist.

Now, regardless of how stringent the regulations of subsection (2) are (and they are actually pretty black and white), we have seen on a daily basis where persons from both parties both while in government and opposition frequently play fast and loose (or just being plain corrupt) with the law and freely associate with known criminals. We see where laws are implemented on certain persons or groups based on partisan loyalty and who can pay the most and that up to today has not changed, therefore asking us to accept the Prime Minister will have almost unchecked power as it relates to both when, where, how long and who leads these zones is utter insanity as we have seen where they can be (and are) so destructive with the limited amount of power that they have.

haggartfunerald20010508rb(Peter Phillips, Omar Davies and Karl Blythe at Willie Haggarts funeral)

With scamming now almost half of what tourism brings into the coffers of this nation (almost one billion dollars according to a VICE article) how do we expect to get these young men (and women) who have been inculcated with this get rich quick mentality? With the drug scene still prevalent (and really at its same monstrous heights since the deportation of Coke and Ramcharan) where are the plans that we should be putting in place to break the deadly underground and illegal triangular trade we have with the Colombians and the Mexicans (the Mexicans who now control some of our largest and most profitable illegal ganja fields)? Where is the plan to strengthen the border to stop criminals from foreign lands coming to our shores to assist in doing us so much harm, a simple walk to any bar on Water Lane in the vicinity of West Street downtown will have you hearing French creole (in the Haitian dialect) and Spanish (in the dialect of persons from the Dom Rep, Colombia and Mexico), without a safe border how will the crime and the importation of guns be stemmed?

drugRamcharan

With corruption permeating throughout all layers of the Jamaican government institutions just how exactly will this crime bill help stem crime long term? When a man can bribe the customs agent and security to turn a blind eye to guns coming into and narcotics exiting the nation how exactly will the crime end? Going back to ports of entry and exit, the airport is so lax that one has to wonder if we really do have a crime problem and all that it carries, especially when one realizes that a lot of the drugs are going through because there is a network of gang members working as security officers and the persons who check the bags that go into the cargo hold of the plane. This is common knowledge and has been for years yet we can’t (or don’t want to) even manage to crack that illegal ring of drug smugglers, yet we are to rest assured that the same men and women who can’t do the simplest of tasks relating to anti-corruption and crime prevention and fighting will solve the crime problem with a bill that strips us all (but really the poor) of all our legal rights and free to be treated like chattel.

With little to naught being done to tackle the root of crime (such as chronic poverty, a lack of education and little hope of finding a decent job and housing etc) coupled with the total lack of any agenda of tackling those who both finance and profit from the crime that has taken root in the nation then we can safely assume that this Zone of Special Operation will be a dud. It is nothing but a sick repetition of the Suppression Of Crime Act and the results will be the same, an abject failure coupled with the eventual spike in violent crime. Instead of aiming for the ‘silver bullet’ to forever eliminate crime (which doesn’t exist) let us instead roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of actually tackling crime. Let’s improve our education system, employ our people and ensure that poverty becomes a thing of the past, let’s aim to rid ourselves of the rats uptown so that they can stop offering spurious claims of get-rich quick schemes to the kids in the ghetto who only want to eat and see no way out, if not then lets give the keys of state to the army and police as this bill already leaves the door ajar for them to take it.

 

P.S. Read the Act here for further spine tingling revelations of just what is in store for us

Why Jamaica in historical terms is actually not doing badly.

Why Jamaica in historical terms is actually not doing badly.

This may come as a surprise to those (few) persons who read what I post, but Jamaica actually isn’t doing badly. Now before you start thinking that I have been smoking too many spliffs and am somewhere in Lala land you have to understand just what I mean when I say that Jamaica is really not in that bad a position. When I say that I mean from a historical perspective, in terms of the life of a nation, from the birth of it to the fall of it, Jamaica is looking not too shabby for a nation of fifty-five years.

Let us look at it piece by piece and with analogies and comparisons. Jamaica in its seventy-seven years of self-rule and fifty-five years of self-governance has had always had a (relatively speaking) peaceful transfer of power, even the much talked about, highly contested and bloody election of 1980 ended with Michael Manley handing power over to Edward Seaga without calling out the tanks. Note that even the less talked about (but no less hard fought) election of 1976, with the state of emergency, ended with Edward Seaga sitting as an MP and leader of the opposition till his aforementioned victory in ’80. Now compare that to other newly independent nations, but just to ‘handicap’ myself, compare that to other newly independent former British colonies. Guyana (which was deprived of independence because of British and American fears of Soviet influence with the Premier Cheddi Jagan and his wife) remained under the brutal one-party rule of Forbes Burnham (which incidentally murdered the great Dr Walter Rodney) for some twenty years. Grenada was run by the madman Eric Gairy after independence in 1974 to the point that a revolution took place to oust him a mere five years later and installed the New JEWEL Movement led by the left-wing Maurice Bishop, who was in turn murdered (and whose murder led to a joint US Caribbean invasion). Leaving CARICOM one sees the same thing, Zimbabwe in Africa has brutal crackdowns and a virtual one party-state, while in Asia we have Pakistan which lurches from military dictator to military dictator and even Fiji in the South Pacific has tasted the bitter fruit of election results being literally fought over and the military installing itself in executive power.Millitary Coup

Looking at it from an economic stance Jamaica, while not performing in a stellar fashion, in historical terms and for the age of the nation we are not in a bad position. Yes, the Jamaican economy isn’t much to look at, but take a look right next door to Haiti and you will see what economic ruin truly looks like, the picture below shows statistics up to 2007.

haiti_economic_stats_2007

Now, these stats are initially sourced from the UN, note the glaring absence of any statistics for anything relating to employment rates and economic activity. That is not saying that no economic activity takes place or that they are all unemployed, far from it, in fact, many Haitians hold jobs (many more than one) and run businesses, the problem is that most of the jobs are low paying (to put it politely) and most businesses are in the informal sector and therefore either struggling to get by or just not giving anything meaningful to the economy (see the black market). Again I go back to poor Zimbabwe, their economy has fallen off a cliff since 2000 and a nation that once was the ‘breadbasket’ of the region coupled with a robust labour force has an economy so in tatters that they not only had the highest inflation rates at one point in time, they abandoned their currency altogether and now use FX to grease the wheels of the broken-down economy. Yes Jamaica got FINSAC’ed, yes we haven’t had any meaningful growth for some twenty odd years and yes we have a worrying rate of unemployment, but as mentioned above things could be so much worse.

We have in our nation an issue of safe seats, or to give them their correct name, garrison seats where we know during each election cycle that if an old, shabby broom was put up as the candidate of the ‘influential’ party that it would win by a landslide and then some. But even here, when it comes to incumbents holding onto seats we are not doing all that badly. Take everyone’s favourite (until Trump at least) country America, in 2010 during the midterm elections Congress (both houses) had a 15% approval rating, and yet still the House saw a rate of incumbency return of 90% while the Senate saw an incumbency return of 91%. Now say what you will about the (few) persons who do vote in our local elections but we have a rate of return nowhere near that (partially because we tend to chop and change back benchers) but also because we have a tendency to throw out (the non-influential) those who they feel don’t represent them, as the PNP found out as Mr Arlando lost to Mr Arlando (confusing I know).

US incumbents percent

Another serious issue with Jamaica is political corruption, pork belly politics and corruption in general in all ways shapes and forms. I mince no words when I say that corruption (along with crime and poverty) is a serious millstone around our neck and that if we hope to better our nation then we have to rid ourselves of corruption.  However, for a nation that again has only been policing itself for 55 years, we have some good (albeit currently toothless) anti-corruption agencies and civic groups (which aren’t toothless) which look to stem the tide of corruption in politics. Again using a historical example (again the US), we have what is probably the most blatant example of political patronage (read corruption) in Tammany Hall founded in 1789 and only dissolved a mere fifty years ago (which was historically corrupt from its inception) and its infamous (and notoriously corrupt) head William M. Tweed. Tammany Hall was The Democratic Party political machine in New York, and it ensured that the Democratic Party had both Ney York City and New York State under lock and key through both bribery along with voter intimidation and patronage. Things got so bad that in a nation that was littered with political machines operating in this nature, Tammany Hall came to epitomise and eclipse all of them in the scale and openness of its corruption.

Political corruption was (and still remains actually) such a problem in the US that even the ‘great’ JFK wasn’t immune from scandal. During his election against Nixon his camp was accused (and the evidence does deserve some looking at) of vote buying and rigging that the US$20 was jokingly nicknamed after JFK. Now Jamaica does have a big corruption problem, however, it is my view that it not as entrenched as we make it out to be, it is that we simply watch it and say nothing so the little that is grafted and gifted (a case of Guinness ain’t all that expensive)  adds up.

All in all what I’m trying to say is that Jamaica, while it has its serious issues (mainly the murder rate which is mind-boggling), has potential and isn’t in the bad place that we like to believe we are as we are still a young nation with time on our side (unless the sea levels begin to rise), and as pointed out above things could be a lot worse. Put another way there is two types of shit in the world, horseshit and dogshit, both are waste materials but one simply can’t be used while the other can be used to fertilize a garden (it has potential). In a frank and crass manner, yes we are shit, a bad economy and a society that is scared, but we are horseshit, it is up to us now as to whether we use or potential or we allow it to remain wasted.