It’s that period between Christmas and New Year when some of us get very reflective and philosophical. We look back over the past year, and look forward to the next; so there are endless “reviews” and “previews” in the media and elsewhere. As for me, I prefer to look forward, so no reviews for me. And I am really trying hard to live in the present. Like Arsenal Football Club manager Arsène Wenger, who likes to say that he takes it one game at a time.
More taxes looming? I noted in my last post that the government has hinted at the possibility of imposing General Consumption Tax on gasoline. The mere mention of it made us shudder. Now the government has told the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that tax revenues have fallen short, so they think they must tax us some more (see the Letter of Intent dated December 3, 2013 on the IMF website). Well, of course tax revenues have fallen; the economy has been contracting over an extended period; imports have decreased; people are not spending. And how is adding more taxes going to help?
Now, there’s a very good article by financial analyst Dennis Chung on caribjournal.com (a website worth subscribing to) headlined “Jamaica in 2014.” Dennis is quite right. We can’t under-estimate the importance of confidence in almost any economic scenario (something I learned while working in the eurobond sector in London). The government must grasp this concept. Dennis also warns: “The government cannot take the path of previous administrations and seek to tax our way out of the problem, as this will only lead to short-term fiscal gain and long-term loss. This has been the path chosen in the past and it has not worked.” But based on the Appendix to the Jamaican Government’s Letter of Intent to the IMF, this is pretty much what it plans to do.
Dennis talks about the two major hindrances to our economic growth: bureaucracy and crime. On the latter issue, former Contractor General Greg Christie has pointed out that the World Economic Forum identified government inefficiency, crime and corruption as major impediments to Jamaica’s economic growth. So let’s keep that in the equation, too.
No to debt swap: Minister of Finance Peter Phillips has ruled out the idea of a third debt swap. Well, of course that is a no-no, Minister Phillips. The private sector, led by Scotiabank Jamaica, made it abundantly clear after the last one that they would not countenance such a thing.
Eastern Caribbean floods: Our Prime Minister has sent her sympathies to the islands of St. Lucia, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines that suffered terribly from a Christmas storm and subsequent flooding. That’s nice, but could we perhaps have sent some assistance? Some Jamaica Defence Force soldiers or other manpower at least?
In my last post, I omitted to include a very disturbing story highlighted by Annie Paul on her blog, Active Voice. “NOT dead on arrival! No Sir! I will not rest in peace!” tells the tale of a man whom the police thought they had killed in a “shootout.” On arriving at the hospital he sat up and declared himself not dead, meanwhile pointing out the policeman who had tried to kill him. He was then put under police guard in hospital. What has happened to him? Has INDECOM investigated? Read the story at anniepaul.net.
Deaths on the road: Despite the best efforts of the National Road Safety Council, fatalities on the road will end up higher than in 2012, which was 267 dead. What a terrible waste of lives – mainly through stupidity: overtaking, distracted driving, driving much too fast. Are we still considering legislation on cell phones and driving? I’ve noticed this is so common in Kingston – drivers cut corners, hardly even notice you on the road when they have a phone glued to their ear.
Sting women: I believe Culture Minister Lisa Hanna told local press that the Boxing Day dancehall event called Sting (now celebrating thirty years) would be family-friendly. How terribly wrong she was. If people want to go to these shows, then it is their choice. But I think it is wrong for government to support any of these shows - whether the so-called Jazz Festival, Sting or whatever. The Jamaica Tourist Board sponsored this one for the first (and hopefully last) time. It’s a private sector thing. Moreover, I don’t want my hard-earned taxes to be spent on two women hurling obscenities at each other in the name of entertainment. I would rather it was spent on school furniture, or perhaps hospital equipment. (Did Minister Hanna attend this event, and if so what did she think about it? At the press conference, putting on her best Jamaican patois, she said: “mi haffi deh deh” – meaning: I have to be there)!
This question was asked on Facebook recently: “After decades and decades of violent crime in Jamaica, what do you do to protect yourself? I’m not talking about the grills and the burglar alarms and the gated communities and the not walking on the road at night. What do you do to protect your spirit and soul from the news every day of murders and rapes and assaults of men, women and children? When you or those you know have been personally affected, or when it is news reports about people you do not know?” I believe that I wrestle with this question week in, week out.
Revenge? Residents of August Town say that the police killed Dennis Levy on December 20 as an act of revenge for the murder of a District Constable and the injuring of a policewoman a short time earlier that day. August Town is a small community tucked into the high green hills of St. Andrew near the University of the West Indies campus. It has suffered from gang warfare and political strife in the past; however the crime rate there has decreased this year. “They decided that someone had to die for the police,” said one resident, according to a report in today’s Sunday Gleaner.
Tiefs continue to flourish: Here’s an interesting photo (from our Prime Minister’s constituency) showing a light post festooned with “throw-ups” – that is, illegal electricity connections. I will not comment except to say that the Jamaica Public Service Company has its work cut out…
Yohan Blake, our lovely sprinter, whose YB Afraid Foundation has partnered with the private sector and individuals to help young people. In particular, the Foundation supports the Mt. Olivet Children’s Home in Manchester. It held some special events and a motivating workshop over Christmas. Big ups to the young man and wishing you great success in 2014!
A young principal, Anthony Murray, who has guided his school (Lethe Primary and Infant School in St. James) to some great results. He recently received an award for his efforts from the government and UNESCO. We do know that there are many dedicated teachers out there! And yes, Minister Thwaites, the Effective Principals’ Training Programme is a worthwhile effort. It is a pity that 49 principals have refused to participate. In fact, it is very unimpressive.
Journalist and producer of the excellent “Live at Seven” show on CVM Television Yolande Gyles Levy, who produced an excellent feature on the fight to save the Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands earlier this year. She gave an update from her perspective on the program on Friday night, as follows: Nothing much has changed. The government, she said is still waiting on a written proposal from China Harbour Engineering Company. Based on that, the government will conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment, which will be paid for by the Chinese firm. Transport and Works Minister Omar Davies spoke on “Live at Seven” about a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the logistics hub. When host Simon Crosskill asked if he could see a copy he said he could – but “Live at Seven” has not seen it yet.
The St. Mary Chapter of G2K (the young professionals arm of the Jamaica Labour Party), who held a Christmas treat for over 100 children from the Annotto Bay community over the holidays. And “big ups” to all those many organizations, both domestic and overseas-based, that brought joy to under-privileged Jamaicans during the period. I hope we will remember all our vulnerable and marginalized groups throughout the year, not just at Christmas.
The murders of two cousins in Clarendon over Christmas has caused much concern and anger, and has been reported widely abroad, since one of the young women, Franciena Johnson was a Brooklyn resident. The police are now suggesting that a jealous boyfriend may have been the cause. Just this weekend in St. James, a young woman and her infant son were murdered; the father of the child is being questioned. There have been so many tragedies involving young women, their infant children and jealous, vengeful partners. I have also noticed that women OF ALL AGES are murder victims, week in, week out – including, this week, a woman farmer in her sixties, in Sherwood Content, Trelawny (Usain Bolt’s home). So much pain. My condolences to all the families…
Renaldo Walton, 25, Parade Gardens (Tel Aviv), Kingston
Marva Henry, 56, Ebony Vale/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Ebony Vale/Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Ramon Perkins, 20, Santa Cruz, St. Elizabeth
Eulalee McIntosh, 64, Shaw Park/Ocho Rios, St. Ann
Norman Comrie, 30, Runaway Bay, St. Ann
Melessha Evans, 20, Irwin, St. James
Jeliana Evans, four months, Irwin, St. James
Unidentified man, Springfield, Westmoreland
Fernando Woolery, 26, Red Ground/Negril, Westmoreland
Geraldine Powell, 65, Sherwood Content, Trelawny
Killed by the police:
Dennis “Evian” Levy, 35, August Town, St. Andrew (previously reported as “Heavy Hand”)