It’s been miserably hot and dry in central Kingston this week so far. 32 degrees but feels hotter, and absolutely no sign of any rain. Sadly, since the fuss about the Meteorological Service of Jamaica’s Twitter account, they have not been tweeting very regularly. Perhaps you manage more than once a day, Met Office? Just saying – it being the hurricane season, and all…
Sports fever, but… World Cup fever has suddenly gripped Jamaica, and vendors in Kingston have been doing a brisk trade selling the flags of competing teams. I have spotted several Brazilian flags and a few from Argentina, Germany and the like fluttering from car windows as Jamaicans support their favorites. On the home front though, things have been a little dismal. Our Reggae Boyz football team was soundly walloped by France (8-0) last week. And today, New Zealand emphatically beat the West Indies cricket team by 186 runs in a first-ever win at Kingston’s Sabina Park. The next two test matches will take place in Trinidad (June 16-20) and Barbados (June 26-30). Well, at least Jamaica’s female athletes aren’t letting us down (see below).
Bending the rules? The Opposition Jamaica Labour Party went on the offensive this week, after its leader’s quite unusual assertiveness in the Lower House last week while questioning the Prime Minister. Andrew Holness claims that the current People’s National Party administration is cleverly creating its own alternative system of governance, bypassing the rules and regulations. Is he right? Mr. Holness stated at a press briefing yesterday: “I have reached the point now where I cannot support the Electricity Sector Enterprise Team.” More to follow?
“Strengthening the OCG”? In the December 20, 2011 televised Leadership Debate, Portia Simpson Miller pledged: “In terms of fighting corruption, I will not tolerate any form of corruption in a People’s National Party government and that’s why when I’m returned to power, as Prime Minister, I will ensure the strengthening of these institutions, like the Office of the Contractor General (OCG).” Something has gone awry, hasn’t it? Why, this administration has already taken the OCG to court!
Bauxite woes continue: Now the Managing Director of Bauxite Mining Limited Coy Roache, in remarks at a press briefing today, seemed to blame the OCG for somehow blocking the sale of the Jamaican Government’s seven per cent share in the WINDALCO mining interest to UC Rusal, resulting in an increased debt to Rusal -which now stands at US$21.5 million (the latter was quite a revelation, wasn’t it?) Well, Minister Paulwell has announced the sale of the Government’s share to the parent company for US$11 million, which will go towards the debt. In the same breath the Minister is reportedly “threatening” to revoke UC Rusal’s license if the company does not indicate to him when it will reopen the Alpart and Kirkvine plants. The Minister claims the bauxite sector is looking healthy and that other companies are interested, but is this so? UC Rusal itself, a couple of months back, declared losses of US$3.2 billion. Jamaica is only a small part of its operations. Are they really likely to reopen? Is the Minister in any position to threaten UC Rusal? Meanwhile, the closed plants will soon begin to fall into disrepair. But is this the cue for our knights in shining armor, the Chinese, to roll into town on their steeds? Now Jamalco (majority owner is Alcoa) is forging ahead and acquiring new lands for mining in Manchester, but says it is not increasing capacity. Its output has improved marginally but is still way below 2009 figures. Hmm.
Energy anxiety: Once again, the chair of the private sector Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) Richard Byles has appeared on television with a strained look on his face as he stares down a long, shiny conference room table. Mr. Byles’ concern is – yes, you’ve guessed it – energy. Noting that “It’s seven years, about, that we have been bungling this in one way or another,” Mr. Byles points out these kind of shenanigans are not exactly going to inspire potential investors with confidence. As if we didn’t know that. Meanwhile, a manufacturer said on radio this morning that if electricity rates were considerably reduced in Jamaica there would be a flood of investment, with new factories opening. If. Well, Minister Paulwell says this is what he is focused on – reducing rates “for the Jamaican people.” If that’s his priority, why is he making such a hash of it?
Who is Mr. Cameron? A rather muddled report by Gary Spaulding (who is usually so good) about the Goat Islands issue certainly did “raise questions.” Minister Omar Davies’ chief mouthpiece on the issue, Fritz Pinnock, who heads the Caribbean Maritime Institute, took a group of reporters to Little Goat Island, to “prove” to them that the area is degraded, the Americans flattened it for a base in World War II, etc. Notably, Dr. Pinnock avoided the much larger, pristine Great Goat Island, which has been proposed as a special conservation area for critically endangered species and has been prepared for this use in recent years by national and international scientists – and with substantial national and international funding. Oh, the good Dr. Pinnock didn’t mention that? Nor did Mr. Spaulding, who did speak to a “veteran fisherman of Old Harbour Bay,“ Errol Cameron. Mr. Cameron claimed he had “worked with” the dreaded “environmentalists” for years; and proceeded to denigrate them. (He is a bit of a mystery. Said environmentalists don’t seem to know him!) But Mr. Cameron did admit that there were fish in the area. According to Dr. Pinnock, there are none. A more detailed report in the Jamaica Observer included Dr. Pinnock’s casual comment that Great Goat Island was just “a further amplification of the bush.” The report (including some silly comments from reporters) would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.
IMF head to visit Jamaica: The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde and a delegation will visit Jamaica on June 27-28. The IMF has so far been cautiously positive (if you know what I mean) about Jamaica’s performance to date under its stringent four-year régime. Will this visit simply be a nice pat on the back for Finance Minister Peter Phillips? God knows, we do need some good PR so some encouraging words from Mme. Lagarde would not go amiss, would they.
Special “big ups” to…
- The GraceKennedy Household Helper of the Year, 42-year-old Elaine Duncan, who staggered under a huge trophy presented by the company. For those who don’t know, the “helper” is the stalwart supporter of Jamaica’s upper and middle classes, without which they would likely collapse: “unsung heroes” indeed, as GraceKennedy CEO Don Wehby observed. The award is named after Heather Little-White, a wonderful woman who passed away recently and was known for her support for domestic helpers.
- Ms. Kaliese Spencer, a terrific Jamaican hurdler who is in impressive form at the moment. She just won the women’s 400 metres hurdles at the Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway.
An unidentified man was found with gunshot wounds in St. John’s Road, St. Catherine.
The police shot and killed an alleged car thief, Wayne Graham, in Eltham View also in St. Catherine.
A resident of Palmetto, James Brown, 26, was reportedly chopped to death by a mob in rural Woodside, St. Mary; he was accused of rape and several robberies in the area.
46-year-old contractor Owen Bunny (“Frenchie”) was shot and killed in Spanish Town by men on a motorcycle.
A teacher of Business Studies at Excelsior High School, 40-year-old Nigel Riley, was found dead with his throat slashed on a football field near Old Harbour, St. Catherine.
My deepest sympathies to the families of all those who died violently in the past three days, listed above.
On our roads, the madness continues: A motorist reportedly overtook several cars before crashing at high speed on the Portmore leg of Highway 2000 this morning. His car actually broke up into several parts. The driver is in stable condition in hospital, very lucky to be alive. A motorcyclist on a rural road in Hanover died after overtaking a bus and crashing into an oncoming vehicle. His pillion passenger is seriously injured.