Things have caught up with me this week, and I did not find time to finish off my mid-week bulletin yesterday. So I am dashing to send it out now. My apologies to all for the delay.
Since the weekend, local media has returned to Jamaica’s dire economic situation. The latest study shows that business and consumer confidence is at an all- time low – a precipitous drop in confidence of 17% in one quarter. Read the Gleaner’s not overly optimistic take on it all here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131017/cleisure/cleisure1.html
The Jamaican Dollar continues its inexorable slide. It’s now sidling up (or rather down) to J$105/US$1. For several technical reasons it is hardly benefiting our exporters as much as it should (our non-traditional exports have edged up marginally). And it’s much easier to import than to export. Our balance of payments situation remains very poor.
Upbeat officials: And yet if you listen to government officials, the economic situation seems reasonably rosy, heading in the right direction… The Planning Institute of Jamaica’s Colin Bullock says their estimates show a growth rate of 0.8 per cent in the past quarter (not yet backed up by actual statistics). Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131017/lead/lead5.html
Those megawatts: The saga of the 360MW power project drags on. Recriminations, accusations and hand-wringing continue. Rumors abound that all is not well in the Cabinet, which is divided on the management (or mismanagement) of the matter. The Office of Utilities Regulation has not informed us about the now overdue security bonds from bidders for the renewable energy bids either – an offer that was only partially taken up: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131017/lead/lead7.html You can read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131014/cleisure/cleisure1.html Now, Energy World International (the preferred bidder, as it turned out) says it has its security bond ready: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131017/lead/lead9.html But countless questions remain. #notoveryet
The death of Vanessa: I have written about the suicide of 16-year-old Vanessa Wint while incarcerated in an adult prison before. The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has now sent its report to the Coroner’s Court to see whether anyone should be held responsible for her tragic death. Read more here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/INDECOM-refers-report-on-Vanessa-Wint-s-death-for-Coroner-s-Inquest and http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131015/lead/lead2.html
Snipers everywhere: The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) landscape now resembles the city of Sarajevo during the Balkan wars, when innocent people feared crossing the street in case someone shot at them. I hate to use a warlike metaphor, but missiles are flying around. The petty, barbed comments are becoming ridiculous. Party Chairman Robert Montague now appears to be trying to calm the waters; but for heaven’s sake, guys. Very little discussion on the many pressing issues affecting Jamaica during the JLP leadership debate, which will drag on until their conference in November. Instead, there is nonsense about one candidate being too old, talk of plots to unseat leader Andrew Holness, etc., etc. A party in Opposition needs to start thinking at some point about how it is going to win the next general elections. This is not the way to endear itself to the general public.
I enjoy his humor, but this week’s column by attorney-at-law Gordon Robinson on the logistics hub and the Portland Bight Protected Area is way off the mark. It’s riddled with inaccuracies and misinformation, and pours derision and scorn on qualified, professional people who have dedicated their lives (with very little reward, unlike those in Mr. Robinson’s profession) to environmental conservation. And is Jamaica that desperate, Mr. Robinson, that we have to take anything that’s offered without question? And whoever said that those who are protesting the “development” of a protected area are “anti-development”? That is simply not true. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131015/cleisure/cleisure4.html
By the way, the Ministry of Industry, Investment & Commerce will hold a one-day conference on the logistics hub on November 12. Ironically, this coincides with a two-day meeting of the Iguana Specialty Group at Hope Zoo. Scientists will tour the Portland Bight Protected Area, which includes the Hellshire Hills, habitat for the endangered Jamaican Iguana.
Are we tuned in to climate change? A Washington Post article recently reported a new study that singled out the city of Kingston as reaching its hottest point in just ten years’ time. This hardly registered on the local media’s radar. It seems that Jamaican journalists are not really tuned in to the complexities of climate science and are not able to explain it (and its effects) to the media and public. They need to do their research and help us all understand. Here is a local blog: http://hill60bump.com/2013/10/15/kingston-jamaica-soon-the-hottest-place-on-earth/
More recriminations, too, on the WADA/JADA story: I am no expert on athletics or doping, but our Prime Minister (also Minister of Sport) invited the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to visit Jamaica to do an audit of the Jamaica Anti-Doping Agency (JADA). The UK Guardian printed a scathing article (http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2013/oct/16/jamaica-world-anti-doping-agency-drugs?CMP=twt_gu) on the JADA’s negative response to WADA’s suggested date for a visit. The Jamaica Information Service has clarified the situation thus: http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/35320. Another athlete (Jamaica’s tae kwon do Olympian Kenneth Edwards) has now tested positive, but strongly denies doping. Oh dear…
Pretty bouquets all round to:
- God knows we need strong, inspiring role models, and our sprint champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is doing astonishingly well in that department. I think she is discovering she has a gift for motivating young people. Read about her visit to girls at the Homestead Place of Safety here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131013/lead/lead3.html
- The amazing surgeons from the UK who partnered with Jamaican surgeons through the Transplant Link Community project to perform the first kidney transplant operations at Montego Bay’s Cornwall Regional Hospital. A great achievement. Read more: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131014/lead/lead1.html No kidney transplants have been done in Jamaica for the past seven years; I wonder why they have stopped? There’s a great need.
- Have you seen the September/October issue of the new ECCO (Environmentally Conscious Consumer Operations) online magazine? It’s beautiful. Among the interesting articles is a hard-hitting piece by Tameka Coley entitled: “The Jamaican Environment: 50 Years of Mismanagement and Devastation.” Read ECCO magazine here: http://issuu.com/eccomagazine/docs/ecco_magazine_sept_2013/6
- Tamika Pommells Williams and her husband run the Ras Natango Gallery and Garden near Montego Bay. They have great art and beautiful flowers. Tamika presented at a National Integrity Action seminar this week on sustainable tourism. Good work by a very principled person who loves Jamaica and loves life!
- Karyl Walker of the Jamaica Observer for his investigative reporting on Vanessa Wint’s death. The details are of course heart-breaking and it is not easy to read. But you should read: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Shocking-account-of-a-suicide
Of interest from overseas: I visited the beautiful island of Grenada for the first time this year and I look out for stories. I was struck by a heartfelt letter this week regarding women’s rights in Grenada and throughout the world. ” For too long, the history of women has been a history of silence. Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words,” the writer observes. Read more at: http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/topstory-Letter%253A-Human-rights-violation-in-Grenada-and-other-countries-18182.html
Being an avid book-lover, I really enjoyed English writer Neil Gaiman’s lecture (an edited version is on the Guardian UK website, here: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming?CMP=twt_gu) He had some very important things to say about literacy, reading and imagination – and on getting children engaged. A must-read!
There has been a significant increase in murders in Clarendon this year. I remember spending time in May Pen several years ago, when businesspeople and local officials were congratulating the police chief Dayton Henry on a steady decline in the violent crime rate. The 46-year-old Mr. Henry died, suddenly and mysteriously, last year; tests concluded that he was poisoned, and an investigation was reportedly under way. Since his death, the murder rate has climbed again. My deepest condolences to the bereaved…
Unidentified man, Fairlane/Savoy Avenue, Kingston 10
Tevin Farquharson, 19, Spring Mount, St. James
Canute Dennis, 50, Spring Mount, St. James
Oraine Dunkley, 26, Spring Mount, St. James
Unidentified man, Fontabelle, St. Mary
Unidentified, Portmore, St. Catherine
Here are some additional articles and links of interest:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48701 IMF team to visit next month for review: Gleaner
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/10/14/oas-urges-caribbean-nations-to-explore-green-energy/ OAS urges Caribbean to explore green energy: Carib Journal
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131014/news/news1.html Farm Up Jamaica to grow organic foods, save money: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/JAMAICA-OBSERVER-ONLINE-EDITORIAL2013-10-15T03-09-05 Jamaica Observer online editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/EU-provides–52-million-for-justice–human-rights-projects_15244756 EU provides $52 million for justice, human rights projects: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131014/news/news3.html DPP launches its disclosure protocol: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131014/lead/lead8.html Bird-shooting ban might become a must: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Church-rebuffs-gay-marriage_15253447 Church rebuffs gay marriage: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131014/cleisure/cleisure3.html Pregnant female vs foetus rights: Garth Rattray column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Raw-sewage-anger_15241640 Raw sewage anger: Jamaica Observer
http://franderby.com/2013/10/sexual-harassment-on-the-streets-of-kingston/ Sexual harassment on the streets of Kingston: franderby.com