There are days when I feel that Jamaica is hanging on by its fingernails. This is one of them. I don’t have a good head for heights and those movie scenes where someone is desperately clinging to a ledge, legs dangling, kicking, trying to find a foothold on a high building with traffic moving far below…Those scenes terrify me; especially if the leering villain of the piece is getting ready to step on those fingers and let the desperate man drop. By this point, the man is almost resigned to his fate; wouldn’t it be kinder to put him out of his misery and kick those bloodied fingers away? When the crowd below is shouting at you, “Jump! Jump!” isn’t it easier to just let go? And yet we cannot. Jamaica cannot drop into oblivion.
Some fires are burning, but it seems no longer among the coffee farms of Mavis Bank. I hear Stony Hill (a more populated area) has had an outbreak of fires, as well as St. Thomas, further east. A friend who lives in Gordon Town, just above Kingston, says the fires jump from one hillside to the next, sparks blowing in the strong winds. Firefighters have been heroic, struggling with inadequate resources and inhospitable terrain. The mountain sides are steep. They are creating fire breaks but in some areas they had to let the fires burn themselves out. Water is inevitably a major challenge, and the drought has not broken.
Meanwhile: Stop lighting fires, for whatever reason – whether to clear land or burn garbage. It is wrong and so dangerous in these conditions!
It’s still the economy, stupid: There were robust discussions in the media and elsewhere this week on the economy, as Jamaica scraped through its 8th International Monetary Fund (IMF) test. I use that term because Jamaica missed out slightly on the primary surplus target and will request a waiver. However, the IMF notes, in its usual cheery “we want Jamaica to succeed” tone: “Over the past two years, Jamaica has adopted ambitious policy changes that have laid the foundation for a gradual recovery of economic growth and employment. Although painful in the short run, these policies are now starting to bear fruit.” Painful is an understatement. Many are on that ledge and about to let go.
Meanwhile, the pale, bespectacled Dutchman who headed the IMF mission to Jamaica, Dr Jan Kees Martijn, has made way for a new chief, Uma Ramakrishnan, who considers the missed target a “minor deviation.” Okey dokey then…
The mystery of growth: Meanwhile (yes, we know) we must have growth! But how? No one seems to know. It seems to me (and I know, I am not an economist!) that it is hard for an economy that is under the yoke of one of the toughest IMF programs in the world to grow. Now, the word “tax” keeps cropping up, and lo and behold – a new three per cent withholding tax appears. So let me ask another stupid question: If an economy is under the yoke of austerity and not growing, how will piling on more taxes help? It seems the IMF is leaving the “growth agenda” up to the Government but is expecting it to happen – eventually.
Moving towards the CCJ: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller stood up and emphatically thumped her desk after the House of Representatives passed three bills enabling Jamaica to join the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its final court of appeal. One of the bills required a two-thirds vote, which was obtained; the Lower House voted strictly along party lines. But there is still the Senate, and head of Government Business Phillip Paulwell has been rather cagey about next steps. It appears, however, that some wheeling and dealing is going on behind the scenes. The Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) has apparently rejected the PNP’s overtures to date. In my view, the Opposition has not been at all convincing in their opposition to the CCJ over the years. On his Facebook page, JLP leader Andrew Holness calls himself a “nationalist” and considers the CCJ is not a priority right now. The JLP failed to enlighten us all, on this one. Let’s go with the CCJ.
Jamaican human rights under the microscope: On Wednesday the United Nations Human Rights Council reviewed Jamaica’s human rights record through its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva. As you would expect, Justice Minister Mark Golding stated that the Government has made progress. I am hoping to find a transcript of the whole hearing, which would be interesting. The last one was in 2010 with then Justice Minister Marlene Malahoo Forte.
Two marches for children will take place, very close to each other – apparently organized by two (new?) lobby groups. “We must protect our children! That is the other refrain, alongside “We must have growth!” Do people think if we say it often enough, it will actually happen?
The first march, organized by Voice For Jamaica, is tomorrow, Friday May 15, starting at 1:00 p.m. at Emancipation Park and ending with a rally at Mandela Park. The second one, organized by Protect Our Children Jamaica, is on Sunday, May 17, from 4:00 pm from Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre to Half Way Tree and back. Please try to support these efforts…
Is 119 still the police emergency number? I have heard several people say that when they call 119 they get no answer. How can this be? If it is out of order we need to know, don’t we?
Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte is taking her portfolio as Opposition Spokeswoman on Health seriously. Following recent revelations about the poor state of our health service, she is urging an audit of the supply chain for goods and equipment in the public health sector. I am wondering whether the problems are rooted in inefficiency, corruption and poor governance as much as they are in finances and resources.
The woman named “Nadine” (I don’t know why they did not give her full name) was a taxi driver in St. James. I do hope they find the perpetrators of all these terrible crimes. My sympathies are with the families
Shane, Orange Street, Kingston
Davian Atkinson (JDF Coast Guard) shot dead allegedly by off duty policeman, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Lambert Colpas, 55, Darling Street, Westmoreland
Ershel Dawkins, 27,Darling Street, Westmoreland
Michael Manning, 24, Bethel Town, St. James
Kashmar Chisholm, 23, Granville, St. James
Nadine, Tucker, St. James