Midweek in Jamaica: May 22, 2013

Four years ago today, fire broke out at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre in St. Ann. Seven girls – wards of the state – died as a result of the fire, and eleven were injured. It was a real pleasure today to meet some of the girls who survived this horror, and who are doing their best to move out beyond that horror. I think their day was an emotional one but also filled with hope. I will write more about this.

Devaluation of dollar welcomed by IMFWell, some of us might have figured this out already. The steady drop in the Jamaican Dollar seemed inexorable and there was really very little comment on it from the Simpson Miller administration at the time. It was just…happening. The rest of us were saying, “What is going on? Help!” as it steadily dropped, day after day. Then suddenly the battered J$ (often depicted in cartoons wrapped in bandages and sticking plaster and hobbling on crutches) pulled itself to a screeching halt at 99 or so to the U.S. Dollar. Well, well. Our friends at the Implacable Masters Fund (IMF) approve of this; and, in fact, say they would like to see our dollar plummet a little bit more, stopping at, let’s say… What do you think? Where should it stop? This, by the way, is the flexible exchange-rate regime” mentioned by the Jamaican Government in its April 17 Letter of Intent to the IMF (the link is below). Flexible is such a nice…flexible word, isn’t it?

I wonder if the Jamaican public can be as flexible as the Jamaican Dollar has turned out to be?

Trinidad start up weekend: Good luck to Ms. Ingrid Riley, our tech entrepreneur and inspirer extraordinaire, who is in Trinidad now at her Silicon Caribe Startup Weekend. 57 pitches! I attended a Jamaica session; it was lively and abuzz with ideas. I love Ingrid’s regional (Caribbean) approach, and wish more of us were doing that…

Duppy story: According to CVM Television news, a certain house in rural St. James is giving some trouble. In case you haven’t been following it, all kinds of drama has been going on in this very ordinary-looking little house. It has created lots of excitement among the local residents, who can be seen hurrying down the path to the house to witness the latest phenomenon. My husband is almost convinced that there’s a real duppy (to my non-Jamaican readers, that is a ghost) – and so am I. A poltergeist, perhaps? A mysterious fire on top of a wardrobe (could be an electrical short circuit, but…) And objects thrown out of the house when it is empty? A local was hit in the head by one such “missile” and bled profusely. Once bandaged up, he felt pretty good, escorted down the road from the clinic like a real celebrity. What’s going to happen next? I hope it’s not all special effects…

Is the JEEP warming up its engine? Remember JEEP – the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme? We haven’t heard much of it lately, but the Government has now found a way to create jobs by employing people to build concrete walls instead of zinc fences in selected Kingston communities. I suppose the concrete will screen off the poverty better – it will be harder to glimpse the earth-bare yards. But, Mr. Housing Minister, you know it won’t make any real difference. It’s just cosmetic. The same poverty is just a stone’s throw away…

African : It was announced today that our Prime Minister had flown off to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, along with the Foreign Affairs Minister, four other government officials, plus her support team (I am not sure how many people that consists of – it is always reported in government press releases as a collective noun). They will be back next Tuesday. One of the radio stations this evening stated that the cost of the trip, in recognition of the African Union’s fiftieth anniversary, will be J$8.6 million. I wonder what the Ineffable Masters Fraternity (IMF) thinks of such expenditure. I can think of a thousand different ways in which that money could have been spent for the benefit of the Jamaican people (the Armadale survivors, for example).

Yay! That money could, perhaps, have been spent on a few more real toilets that flush in Jamaican schools. But sixteen schools in western Jamaica must be groveling with thanks that they do, in fact, have real toilets and not stinking, dangerous holes in the ground, any more. Thank God for Petro-Caribe, anyway. Last time I heard – about a year or two ago – around 200 schools still had pit latrines. Hopefully the number has dropped considerably. It is baffling to me that this can still be an issue in 21st century Jamaica. Perhaps this should come before tablets?

Some things bring out the Great Cynic in me: Recent comments by our Finance Minister Peter Phillips filled me with great weariness. Waxing philosophical and presumably not sticking to his notes, the goodly Minister started to wonder out loud why Jamaica is in its current economic state: “How did it get to this? At least part of the answer, I believe, has to do with the nature of our political processes and the absence, up until recently, of effective paradigm oversight and absence of transparency.”  What does this mean? Can someone translate? OK, let me try. The politicians have done nothing to create an “effective nation” (the Minister’s words) since Independence (until the current administration came into power). That’s how it got to this”. By actually not leading (that’s the oversight part) and by keeping the people ignorant (absence of transparency). Something like that, perhaps?

The young and the generous: In a Twitter exchange just last night, my friend Jean Lowrie-Chin reminded me (the Great Cynic that I am) that the younger generations of those “big” families that have chosen to stay in Jamaica have not only prospered, but are giving back” to their country. She cited young Adam Stewart, who heads the Sandals Foundation. National Bakery  has started its Bold Ones” Project to encourage youth entrepreneurship. And the young Mahfoods have taken up the mantle of the amazing charity that does so much good work, Food for the Poor. Jean is right – I must try to curb my innate suspicion of the privileged and powerful. I wish all of them had such good intentions as these gentlemen, and that they could all give back…more.

Get well soon: I have no doubt that heading the Police Federation, a union that represents the rank-and-file police force, is a highly stressful occupation. The current chair, Raymond Wilson, has actually been a number of years in the post, off and on. Mr. Wilson has been in hospital for the past few days, after suffering a heart attack at a relatively young age. I wish him a speedy recovery.

By the way, I hope the Reggae Boyz thrash that English football team from north London, Tottenham Hotspur, when they play them tomorrow. Oh, how I would love to see that happen! As a dedicated Arsenal fan (in case you didn’t know) I was delighted that the Gunners denied Spurs a Champions League place again when the English Premier League season ended. And I’m quite satisfied with our team’s strong performance this year, after a lousy start to the season…

It is encouraging to learn that “major crimes,” including murders, have fallen. I hope that this trend will continue. But I am keeping in my thoughts the families of the following Jamaicans whose lives have been taken in the past three days. 

Dwayne Brown, Ocho Rios, St. Ann

Selvin Hincklewood, Kingston

Killed by the police:

Noel Williams, 42, Rose Town, Kingston

Jerome Spence, George’s Plain, Westmoreland

Related links and articles:

http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2013/pr13186.htm IMF concludes staff visit to Jamaica: imf.org

http://www.imf.org/External/NP/LOI/2013/JAM/041713.pdf Letter of Intent to IMF from Jamaican Government, April 17, 2013: imf.org

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/IMF-gives-us-reality-check_14298943 IMF gives us reality check: Jean Lowrie-Chin column/Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/lead/lead7.html J$ depreciation an important correction, says Fund: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/business/business2.html Phillips, IMF defend “strenuous” fiscal target for Jamaica: Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/CHASE-Fund–sports-continue-to-reap-big-benefits-from-SVL_14302742 CHASE Fund, sports continue to reap big benefits from SVL: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/lead/lead1.html Child extortionists: Judge, JPs step in as students make thousands of dollars a day: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/cleisure/cleisure3.html Tablets in schools, yes, but please…! Oniel Mantack/Op-ed: Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/An-assault-against-human-dignity_14308320 An assault on human dignity: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/letters/letters4.html Normal school not for teen babymothers: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/cleisure/cleisure2.html Erase the stupid idea of giving students condoms: George Davis column/Gleaner

http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/fourth-anniversary-of-armadale-fire Fourth anniversary of Armadale fire: RJR News

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130520/cleisure/cleisure1.html Sounder logic from the other Mr. Thwaites: Gleaner editorial

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130520/cleisure/cleisure4.html Deal with bullies before… Robert Lalah column/Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/news/news8.html INDECOM concerned about police records: Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Crime-now-at-uptown-doorsteps_14298922 Crime now at uptown doorsteps: Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/lead/lead2.html More cops to be hauled before courts: Gleaner

http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/top-level-probe-into-reports-of-contract-on-lives-of-prosecutor-investigator Top-level probe into reports of contract on lives of prosecutor, investigator: RJR News

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/What-violence-torn-St-James–nay-all-Jamaica–can-learn-from-Flanker_14299652 What violence-torn St. James – nay all Jamaica – can learn from Flanker: Jamaica Observer editorial

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/news/news2.html U.S. to give special training to MoBay firefighters: Gleaner

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Political-parties-alone-can-t-do-it—Phillips_14299845 Political parties alone can’t do it – Phillips: Jamaica Observer

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Is-migrating-Senate-President-a-coward_14296192 Is migrating Senate President a coward? Jamaica Observer

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130520/news/news1.html G2K wants answers from Contractor General: Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/lead/lead1.html Shady dealings: Public sector workers under scrutiny… Gleaner

http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33972 Prime Minister to attend African Union 50th Anniversary: Jamaica Information Service

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130522/letters/letters3.html Stop magnifying wasteful high-rollers: Letter to the Editor/Gleaner

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130521/cleisure/cleisure2.html#.UZuRJBboiag.facebook Freudian slip or Gordian knot? Gordon Robinson column/Gleaner

The inside of the dormitory at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre after the fire in May, 2009, which caused the deaths of seven girls and injured 11 others. (Photo: Gleaner)
The inside of the dormitory at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre after the fire in May, 2009, which caused the deaths of seven girls and injured 11 others. (Photo: Gleaner)
Pitchers line up on the first day of the Trinidad Startup Weekend. (Photo: Silicon Caribe)
Pitchers line up on the first day of the Trinidad Startup Weekend. (Photo: Silicon Caribe)
The very youthful-looking CEO of Sandals Resorts International, Adam Stewart.
The very youthful-looking CEO of Sandals Resorts International, Adam Stewart.


Chairman of the Police Federation Raymond Wilson.
Chairman of the Police Federation Raymond Wilson.
From left: Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips, Jan Kees Martijn, head of the IMF delegation, and Bank of Jamaica Governor Brian Wynter at the press conference held at the Ministry of Finance yesterday afternoon. (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)
From left: Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips, Jan Kees Martijn, head of the IMF delegation, and Bank of Jamaica Governor Brian Wynter at the press conference held at the Ministry of Finance yesterday afternoon. (Photo: Gladstone Taylor/Gleaner)


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