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Public outcry forces Jamaica PM to change tax plan
There has to be little doubt that the Jamaican economy is in serious trouble. For the third time in 2009, the government has had to raise General Consumption Taxes (GCT) to meet spiraling debts and appease IMF loan requirements. This time when the details of the latest increase were announced, all hell broke loose forcing the Prime Minister Bruce Golding to abandon that plan completely for a new one within a week.
The original plan was announced by Finance Minister Audley Shaw. The package, the third announced by Shaw this fiscal year, was intended to raise $21.8 billion. It brings to $47.6 billion the total tax bundle announced by Shaw since April and was the largest tax package of the calendar year as the Government moved to plug a $17.9-billion hole in the Budget.
Right from the outset, the package drew howls of protests from numerous sectors of the society. The opposition PNP staged protest marches. This type of reaction was inevitable when we consider how ridiculous and unfair they seemed.
According to the plan, effective New Year's Day, the standard rate for general consumption tax (GCT) will be increased from 16.5 per cent to 17.5 per cent, a move which Government says will yield $3.6 billion. But not only will the rate of GCT be increased, but items which formerly were exempt from taxes would be exempt no more and be subject to the 17.5% tax such as:
Earlier in April, Shaw was forced to remove several items, including salt and syrup, from the GCT list after the Opposition People's National Party protested, calling the move ill-advised. This new tax was even worse, a colossal mistake, and thank God Golding was big enough to realize it by instituting an entirely new plan, ironically on Christmas eve. In this new plan:
Jamaica brain drain massive
Jamaica’s brain drain is so bad that it could threaten the very survival of the country. Between 1999 and 2009, of Jamaicans over the age of 25 with university education, 89,000 remained in the island, while 291,000 migrated. Figures from the Planning Institute of Jamaica published in 2006 showed that for every tertiary-educated Jamaican living in the island, there were more than three living abroad. Things could get even worse as several young professionals in the public and private sectors are warning that a spate of mass migration is on the horizon if the Government does not clean up its act and roll back the new tax package. Many of these professionals see a future of stagnant wages and higher living costs and taxes, with migration as the only way out.
Scotiabank volunteers make big impact in Jamaica
Scotiabank Volunteers have spent in excess of 120,000 volunteer hours in 2009 saveing the lives of people rushed to emergency rooms in hospitals in Jamaica, building a basic school for children without a place to learn, or constructing homes for families living in barely standing structures.
Each month, this cadre of 1,000 individuals, from the executive to front-line staff, set aside a minimum of 120 hours to spend with the less fortunate in communities across Jamaica. Scotiabank, as an entity, strongly believes in contributing to its surrounding communities and supports this culture of volunteerism in its staff. They go into schools on Teachers' Day; children's homes or hospitals on Reading Day; and undertake renovation or clean-up work for their Labour Day projects,
In November 2004, the Bank conceptualised and launched the Scotiabank Volunteers, with a vision that this team would become a cadre of committed staff members who would play an instrumental role in community development and nation-building. Five years on, the Scotiabank Volunteers collectively participate in several national projects and spearhead several local community programs to lend a helping hand to neighbors and non-government organisations. Scotiabank seeks to involve its customers, suppliers and other corporate friends in their projects.
"In executing any volunteer project, we invite other partners to join us by giving of their time and any other resource which they can provide," said Debbie Clue, manager of corporate social responsibility. "We are trying to be a catalyst for change, encouraging all Jamaicans to embrace the concept of giving back. The impact of partnerships is tremendous and long lasting."
Expand Scotiabank volunteerism to save Jamaica
"Now is the time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of their country."
Let us be inspired by these Scotiabank volunteers. They help the poor and needy. I think it is this kind of volunteerism that can save Jamaica from the severe economic crisis. Jamaica is poor and needy too. It is facing financial disaster. Expand volunteerism to invite all Jamaica to volunteer to come to its rescue. Let us use our national spirit and patriotism to mobilize thousands all over the island to donate hours of service to save and improve Jamaica. Patriotism cannot be limited to cheering on Usain Bolt or the Reggae Boyz. We do not have the money to contribute, but we can contribute our man-hours of labour.
And this would not be restricted to just a clean-up campaign, but would be a comprehensive coordinated plan to address a wide range of deficits. A program of this magnitude would require substantial planning ahead of time. The first task would be to determine which agencies or organizations, including and especially Government agencies with backlogs, need help, prioritize, identify specific tasks and skills needed to complete those tasks. Scotiabank expertise and experience would be needed to run such an ambitious program.
Let us bring out legions of volunteers with the assistance of our institutions like our churches, schools, political parties, private industry --- all working together to avert financial Armageddon for Jamaica.
EU ends banana war - we lost
The war is over and we lost. The European Union has reached agreement to put an end to a
decades-long trade dispute with Latin American and other smaller producers
over tariffs on banana imports.
We are the losers. We were fighting for our livelihood and they were fighting for profits. We have lost our puny EU market and without tariffs these overseas bananas could invade even our local markets and take that away from our growers. The war is over but I am a bitter loser. I will continue my boycott and never buy Chiquita bananas again.
Guyanese complying with new Barbados immigration policy
Undocumented Guyanese living in Barbados, and who have not reached the
criteria to regularise their stay under a new immigration policy announced
earlier this year by the Barbadian government, are preparing to pack up
and return home, according to Guyana’s honorary consul to Barbados
The Barbados government in June announced that all undocumented Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nationals living on the island for five years or more can regularise their stay there, while those who were not qualified should leave the island by November 30 of this year.
This announcement by the Barbadian Prime Minister David Thompson earlier this year had created widespread outcry by several Caribbean countries, including Guyana and Jamaica, as some had claimed that the attack was a direct one on some member states. This led to major debate across the region and even ended up as one of the headline agenda items when CARICOM leaders met in Georgetown in July.
From the Editor
A Modest Airport Security Proposal
Since the Nigerian student attempted to blow up a plane over Detroit with explosives hidden in his underpants, new security measures are being considered to foil such attempts in the future. The leading new security measure is full body scan, but this has been opposed by the ACLU. This is because not only will it reveal such hidden explosives but also those body parts, which as described by Jonathan Swift “ nature has taught us to hide”. This full body scan is the latest technology, but is expensive and would be a massive undertaking to station them in hundreds of airports all over the world.
But I have a modest proposal of a much better airport security plan. It is simple, foolproof, can be made immediately available and completely free. I call it the “Drop-Your-Pants” Security plan. As the name implies passengers would simply drop their pants for inspection. There would be nothing to see through so nothing could be hidden. It would require no special equipment to be bought. There would be no problem of equipment malfunction. There is no need for special training to operate new machines. Why bother with full body scan when drop-your-pants will do it better and cheaper?
I fully realize most people might be uncomfortable about displaying their genitalia. This is fully understandable but it is a small price to pay for the security of America and has the potential of saving hundreds of innocent lives. Now is the time for Americans to proudly step up and drop their pants for their country. Besides people have no reservations displaying, as Monthy Python describes, “the naughty bits” to doctors and nurses. In a short time it could become routine here too.
There is another bonus to this plan. Up ‘til now
security personnel are engaged in the boring, monotonous mind-numbing
task of inspecting hundreds of item for hours on end. It must be a Herculean
task to remain alert and sharp. I think with the range and
variety of passengers to inspect, boredom is a lot less likely and these
employees might even begin to enjoy their jobs.
Public servants in Guyana get pay hike for 2009
Despite the hostile global economic situation, the Guyana government announced a 6% salary increase for public servants following a promise by President Bharrat Jagdeo earlier in the year. The 6% increase across the board on wages and salaries for 2009 for all eligible public officers, will be retroactive from January 1, 2009.
Child slaves abound in Haiti
They are called ‘restavek’, but its just a fancy-sounding name for child slave. A new report claims that there are nearly a quarter million restaveks or child slaves in Haiti. The Pan American Development Foundation recently announced that at least 225,000 children, mostly girls, in Haiti`s cities, have been forced in to slavery as unpaid household servants or restaveks.
Young servants are known as `restavek` - Haitian Creole for `stays with` - and their plight is both widely known and a source of great shame in the Caribbean nation that was founded by a slave revolt more than 200 years ago. Researchers said the practice is so common that almost half of 257 children interviewed in the sprawling Port-au-Prince shantytown of Cite Soleil were household slaves. Most are sent by desperate parents who cannot afford to care for them to families just slightly better off. Researchers found 11 percent of families that have a restavek have sent their own children into domestic servitude elsewhere.
The Pan American Development Foundation`s report also said some of those children suffer sexual, psychological and physical abuse while toiling in extreme hardship.
The report recommends Haiti`s government and international donors focus efforts on educating the poor and expanding social services such as shelters for girls, who make up an estimated two-thirds of the child servant population.
Jamaicans now buying locally produced sugar
At last! At last! For the first time in the past 10 years, Jamaicans are now buying locally produced sugar, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. The ministry said the island's sugar needs were previously met largely by wide-scale importation.
Data from the Sugar Industry Authority revealed that sugar imports were up to a high of 70,000 tons of the refined sweetener annually and approximately 60,000 tons of raw product within the 2005-2009 period. In addition, reserves were boosted with Frome commencing operation on December 4. As a result, some 3,810 tons of the commodity were produced. Consequently, 2,200 tons or 43,280 bags of sugar were packaged for the trade. As such, the island saved US$32 million in foreign exchange which, in previous years, was spent on importation of the item. There are other benefits such as:
Editor’s Comments: What took Jamaica so long? Unbelievable!
Companies make positive impact in Haiti
Trilogy International Partners was chosen for its positive impact on
the Haitian economy through exemplary employment practices and its
promotion of education through youth rehabilitation programs,
scholarships, internships, computer labs, sports, and arts programs.
Another positive company is ComCel. For over 10 years, ComCEL has
offered affordable, high-quality wireless cellular service in Haiti. But
ComCEL does more than provide access to communications. It helps provide
access to opportunity. In Haiti, as in every country, education is a key
to helping families break the cycle of poverty. So ComCEL has funded over
7,000 primary school scholarships in Haiti, making it the largest
corporate scholarship sponsor in the country. They also provide college
scholarships for students interested in engineering, law and accounting,
giving hope to many young people that a university degree is within reach.
An American Airlines plane overshot the runway in a
St Lucia's reptiles on the verge of extinction
A recent nationwide scientific study of St Lucia’s reptiles and
amphibians has uncovered that the island’s endemic reptile populations
are approaching critically low levels. The study, under the National
Forest Demarcation and Bio-Physical Resource Inventory Project, also
reports that these species face extinction if measures are not taken to
conserve St Lucia’s unique forest biodiversity.
Downtown Christmas Kingston shopping booms
The Kingston and St Andrew Corporation joined with a number of private-sector entities, including Scotiabank, in an ambitious program to bring back special Christmas shopping to downtown Kingston like the good ol’ days.
The program, dubbed 'Christmas in the City ... Downtown Comes Alive', was designed to get more people to shop in the area over the holiday season. The plan worked as shoppers mobbed the designated area around around Kingston Parish Church and along King Street. Merchants and small vendors offered huge discounts. It was difficult to move freely on the streets, as thousands of shoppers moved from store to store in an unusual Wednesday crowd. Stores in the town usually close for the day at noon on a Wednesday. Due to the rush, some stores had to regulate the number of shoppers they admitted at any one time. Additional security for persons shopping downtown was provided, although shoppers have traveled safely in the area for years.
The Christmas program is part of an initiative for the redevelopment of downtown Kingston that is going to come on stream next year with the start of construction of the Digicel headquarters and the relocation of some government ministries.
Cuba-CARICOM Day marked in Havana
Cuba-CARICOM Day was commemorated recently at the ‘Casa de las Americas’ cultural center in Havana thus marking another anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations between Cuba and the Caribbean Community 37 years ago. Meanwhile, Cuban Acting Foreign Minister Marcelino Medina praised the Caribbean states’ courage to resume relations with Cuba in spite of significant US pressures. He pointed out that:
Jamaican ‘higglers’ fly all the way to China
Jamaican ‘higglers’ are not taking the hard times lying down. They are responding with innovation, resourcefulness, and determination. These small vendors, mainly women, who travel overseas seeking inexpensive goods to resell in Jamaica have expanded their horizons. Instead of traveling to the usual nearby places like Curacao, Los Angeles and Miami, they have been seeking out markets 9,000 miles away in China. That’s where the bargains are. They will even team up with each other to buy a container for shipping goods back home. They are cutting out the middleman and going straight to the source themselves.
The women said the trip was often tiring and time consuming as they often had to make a number of stops through several countries to get to their destination. So often their buying trips take over two days each way. Then it takes about 21-30 days for the goods to get back home to Jamaica. Many make four trips per year.
As one haggler described it, "Shopping in China is a big thing for most of us these days. Even recently, about 150 of us meet up there," she said. "It is not just the shopping for me. When I am there, my mind is at peace. It's quiet and nice and there is hardly any crime, and people are appreciative of the money you spend with them," she added.
And language isn't necessarily a hindrance, as, according to the women, close to 75 per cent of Chinese residents speak English. There is also a large number of interpreters always willing to translate on behalf of the buyers and sellers.
Jamaica develops its own GPS
Exploring Jamaica just got easier with the creation of the Caribbean’s first GPS Navigation map data known as JAMNAV. The Mona GeoInformatics Institute of the University of the West Indies in Jamaica has developed and released JAMNAV, offering turn by turn, voice assisted navigation across Jamaica. The technology includes over 9,300 miles of roads and 15,000 points of interest including petrol stations, hotels, restaurants, shopping places and attractions.
"JAMNAV has been created by Jamaicans that have an intimate knowledge of its terrain, and is the first of its kind in the Caribbean. Jamaica is a wonderful island and JAMNAV will help both locals and tourists discover it in a safe and efficient way," said Jamaica’s Director of Tourism John Lynch. "Jamaica continues to be a leader in the Caribbean tourism industry, and JAMNAV is another example of how the island seeks innovate ways to meet the needs and interests of its visitors."
JAMNAV is currently available from Avis Car Rental at both of Jamaica’s international airports in Kingston and Montego Bay, and is available with or without a rental car. The technology has been available since summer 2009.
Pele's visit brings Guyana, Brazil closer together
A reception was held for the world renowned Brazilian footballer, Edson
Arantes do Nacimento, better known as Pele, recently in Guyana. Both Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and Minister of Culture, Youth and
Sports, Dr Frank Anthony, hailed the footballer’s visit as bringing
Guyana and Brazil closer together. Anthony noted that "King" Pele’s visit to Guyana was a
collaborative effort, led by Government and its counterpart in Brazil,
ably assisted by the Television Globo group in Brazil and the Kashif and
Shanghai organization in Guyana.
Buju Banton arrested for dealing cocaine
Jamaican international reggae superstar Buju Banton is facing the fight of his life with the revelation that United States drug enforcement agents have recordings of his participation in a cocaine deal. Buju has been arrested on charges of dealing in illegal drugs and could spend more than 20 years in a federal prison in the US if he is found guilty.
Jimmy Cliff for Hall of Fame
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation announced ABBA, Genesis, Jimmy Cliff, The Hollies and The Stooges as its 2010 artist inductees. Very few single albums can be said to have changed music forever. Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come is one. The album – and the movie that spawned it – introduced reggae to a worldwide audience and changed the image of the genre from cruise ship soundtrack to music of rebellion and inspiration. "Sitting in Limbo," "The Harder They Come," "You Can Get It If You Really Want," and "Many Rivers to Cross" made Jimmy Cliff the first international reggae superstar and created the model that Bob Marley would soon follow. A beautifully gifted singer and a uniquely influential songwriter, Jimmy Cliff has made a profound impact on rock and pop music all over the world for 40 years.
Jamaica to host "Jewish Diaspora Of The Caribbean" conference
Jamaica will be the host destination for the inaugural Jewish Diaspora of the Caribbean International Conference to be held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, in Kingston, from January 12-14, 2010. The event will feature renowned experts from the United States, Jamaica, France and Israel, who will be addressing a wide range of topics from cultural history including architecture, music, and religion to exploring Caribbean Jewish identity and heritage. Following the event, from January 15 -16, participants can engage in a post-conference program that includes tours of prominent sites in Kingston that are of significant and historic value to the Kingston Jewish Community.
Boxer 'Axe Man' refuses to cut Jamaica ties
Jamaica's ace featherweight boxer, Nicholas 'Axe Man' Walters, recently returned to the island with the World Boxing Association (WBA) FedeLatin belt, which he secured after scoring a unanimous decision over the Dominican Republic's Carlos Manuel Reyes at the Karibe Convention Centre in Haiti.
Premium Boxing Promotions of Panama, the organisers of the fight, wanted Walters to wear a Panamanian outfit during his bout and for the Panama anthem to be played before the fight. The 'Axe Man', however, objected to both and was eventually allowed to wear his Jamaican outfit. With Walters residing in Panama and training there for over a year, his camp wanted the Panamanian anthem to be played. Walters, nonetheless, stood firm and maintained that his homeland's anthem should be played.
Walters, whose ring record currently stands at 13 wins and no losses with 10 knockouts, was very pleased with his performance in his latest title-winning fight.
Walters hails from Roehampton, Montego Bay, where he was the deputy head boy at Anchovy High,n champion boy for three consecutive years, captain of the cricket team and a member of the Science Quiz team, which won at both the junior and senior levels. He is looking forward to fighting in Jamaica.
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