UNDILUTED pays tribute to John Maxwell by featuring two previous columns by him from the Hot Calaloo UNDILUTED archives:
Not just a book but an invitation to join the Goodwill
Revolution against an unfair, unjust and deceptive system that
keeps the world poor and without hope. Find out how you can join,
quit the rat race, and achieve a happier more meaningful life for
yourself and others through goodwill to all .
by Donna Hemans ... $16.10
---------------For the Life of Laetitia by Trinidad -born Merle Hodge Price: $10.54
a wonderful book about a young girl in the Carribean, the first of her family to go to secondary school.
Jamaican bananas re-enter British market
JAMAICAN bananas are back! They have re-entered the British market some six years after the cessation of export to that country following the devastating effects of several hurricanes on the sector and losing the banana war to continue the preferential agreement with the United Kingdom.
Minister of Agriculture Roger Clarke said the first shipment of the fruit, weighing 2,000 pounds arrived in the UK recently and it is expected that another shipment will leave the island a week later.
Clarke explained that the shipment of bananas will continue weekly up to the end of August and that the UK buyer would arrive in Jamaica by this month end to negotiate long-term contracts for importing Jamaican bananas into Britain.
He identified the resumption of the banana trade as one of the first results of the recently launched Export Market Platform aimed at linking farmers with buyers in a structured and organised way as part of the ministry's efforts to boost exports and increase production in the agricultural sector.
According to Clarke, the ministry has been primarily targeting the UK market through the forging of linkages with the Fresh Produce Consortium. A team from the ministry along with farmers and exporters attended the London Produce Show as guests of the Fresh Produce Consortium resulting in transactions to supply sweet potato, yam, St Julian mangoes, ginger, Moringa, castor oil, a variety of herbs and spices and a range of fruits to that market.
RATING agency Moody's has downgraded Barbados three notches. A widening fiscal deficit, growing debt levels, expected decline in international reserves, and anticipated increase in pressure on the country's currency peg were cited as reasons for the rating action. Falling from a rating of Ba3 to B3 meant the country cleared an entire scale used to measure bonds considered to be speculative and subject to high credit risk. Its credit risk was previously considered to be moderate.
And even though Barbados is still rated three notches above Jamaica (Caa3), the latest downgrade reflects a downward trend which started in 2009 and which accelerated towards the end of 2012, when the country's sovereign debt lost its investment-grade rating.
Barbados's fiscal deficit exceeded 11 per cent of GDP for its 2013/14 fiscal year due to lower-than-expected revenues and high government expenditure driven by public sector wages, financial support to loss-making public entities and significantly higher interest payments.
The Government announced several fiscal adjustment measures, including widespread public sector layoffs, but we think the authorities will be challenged to meet a deficit target of six to seven per cent of GDP in the running fiscal year, given Moody's projection of a GDP contraction of around one per cent this year. Government debt levels rose to 97 per cent at the end of March, up from 85 per cent at the end of 2012.
"Interest rates now consume nearly 30 per cent of the Government's revenues," said Moody's. "Government's gross financing needs will be in excess of 30 per cent of GDP in 2014 and 2015, when short-term debt is included."
International reserves were relatively stable at US$550 million throughout the first quarter of 2014, but that was because the Barbadian Government received an additional US$75- million bank loan in March.
Water shut-off calamity in Detroit
So you think we have problems in the Caribbean…..
As the Obama administration considers dropping bombs in Syria, Iraq and God knows where else, the bankrupt city of Detroit faces a calamity worse than anything in the poorest Caribbean country. Thousands of its residents have had their water shut-off with thousands more to come.
Can you imagine what it is to be without water in a big city. No water to drink, to clean with, to flush toilets, to cook with, to bathe with and so on. Even in poor countries, residents can go wash their clothes by beating them against the rocks in the river.
In April, the city set a target of cutting service to 3,000 customers a week who were more than $150 behind on their bills. In May, the water department sent out 46,000 warnings and cut off service to 4,531. The city says that cutting off water is the only way to get people to pay their bills as Detroit tries to emerge from bankruptcy — the utility is currently owed $90 million from customers, and nearly half the city's 300,000 or so accounts are past due.
But cutting off water to people already living in poverty came under criticism last week from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, whose experts said that Detroit was violating international standards by cutting off access to water. "When there is genuine inability to pay, human rights simply forbids disconnections," Catarina de Albuquerque, the office's expert on the human right to water and sanitation, said.
Nearly half of the 323,900 residents who use the utility are delinquent, according to the Detroit Free Press. To make matters worse, Al-Jazeera America reports, Detroit’s average monthly water bill is nearly double the national average of $40. The Detroit City Council approved a 9 percent hikeweeks ago.
In response, a coalition of activist groups in the city have appealed to the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights for relief. Here’s what they’re hoping for via Think Progress:
"We are asking the UN special rapporteur to make clear to the U.S. government that it has violated the human right to water," said Maude Barlow, the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and a key member of the coalition that put the report together. In addition to creating international pressure to stop the Detroit shutoffs, Barlow said, the UN’s intervention could lead to formal consequences for the United States. "If the US government does not respond appropriately this will also impact their Universal Periodic Review," she said, "when they stand before the Human Rights Council to have their [human rights] record evaluated."
Jamaica to relax ganja possession penalties
Jamaica's legislators have approved the amendment of the Dangerous Drugs Act to facilitate the decriminalisation of possession of small amounts of ganja.
Cabinet has approved certain changes to the law relating to ganja. These relate to the possession of small quantities of ganja for personal use, the smoking of ganja in private places and the use of ganja for medical/medicinal purposes.
Cabinet had also approved:
However, the law has not yet been amended and the public is urged to respect the current legislation until the changes come into effect.
Govt. workers in St. Lucia asked to take pay cut
Prime Minister Kenny Anthony of St Lucia has told public sector unions in that country that their members should take a 5% wage cut and a wage freeze after, among a series of measures, to aid the debt-wracked economy. Otherwise, he's warned, retrenchment will follow.
Mr. Anthony told his countrymen that despite the significant cuts proposed in this year’s budget, the government was still facing a financing gap of 205 million EC dollars. He said the Ministry of Finance had supplied three options to close the gap, combining cuts in wages and retrenchment of 495 to 990 public servants. He asserted that his government was against retrenchment and therefore had made the proposal to public sector unions.
Rare Guyanese stamp sold for US$9.5 million
A stamp described as the world's rarest has sold for a record US$9.5 million at an auction in New York city. The New York-based auction house, Sotheby's, said the 'British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta' went to a phone bidder who chose not to be publicly identified. The Washington Post said the previous auction record for a single stamp was US$2.2 million, set by a stamp called the 'Treskilling Yellow' in 1996.
The stamp was printed in 1856 by a newspaper publisher in Guyana after the local post office ran out of stamps shipped from London.
"You're not going to find anything rarer than this," Allen Kane, director of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum told the AP. "It's a stamp the world of collectors has been dying to see for a long time."
David Beech, longtime curator of stamps at the British Library who retired last year, has compared the rare Guyana stamp to buying the 'Mona Lisa' of the world's most prized stamps.
Haitian sugar cane slaves in the Dominican Republic
Sugar cane cutters in the Dominican Republic are overwhelmingly Haitians, who abducted or lured by armed guards onto sugar plantations, handed a machete, and forced to cut cane for below subsistence wages. The US buys over 15% of its sugar from the Dominican Republic. This is two-thirds of the Dominican Republic's yearly export.
Months before the sugar harvest begins in the
Dominican Republic, government-contracted recruiters, known as buscones,
round up Haitian workers on both sides of the border. Sometimes the
Haitians are gathered by force, other times under false pretense of
available work. Once across the border, Haitians are stripped of their
clothes and identification and forced into crowded, filthy barracks at
military posts. From there, they are driven in open trucks to the bateyes
- work camps on the edge of sugar plantations. Cane cutters have no legal
rights and no money. If they leave their batey, they will be picked up by
the police and sent back to their batey or to jail.
World Bank praises Jamaica deficit reduction
THE World Bank has lauded Jamaica for slashing the fiscal deficit at the fastest rate in the region last year. It came within the context of increased fiscal deficits within much of the region.
"In particular, Jamaica saw the largest fiscal improvement in the region going from a deficit of more than four per cent in 2012 to a surplus of 0.1 per cent of GDP in 2013," stated the World Bank in its flagship Global Economic Prospects (GEP) published recently. "Spending restraint, higher tax revenue, and lower interest and amortisation payments on restructured domestic debt, together with assistance from multilaterals supported this remarkable fiscal improvement."
Other countries which reduced deficits included Argentina, Venezuela and Dominica, Dominican Republic and St Lucia.
The fiscal constraints in Jamaica are part of conditionalities under the ensuing International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement. The island entered the IMF agreement with a fiscal deficit of about six per cent of GDP before slashing it. Comparatively, the regional fiscal deficit widened from 3.6 per cent in 2012 to around four per cent of GDP in 2013.
Jamaica is now projected to grow at 1.1 per cent in 2014, 1.3 per cent in 2015 and 1.7 per cent in 2016, according to the Global Economic Prospects report. In January, the World Bank projected the island to grow by one per cent, 1.2 per cent and 1.3 per cent, respectively. The Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) on a whole received a one per cent downward revision to 1.9 per cent based on reduced growth prospects in larger economies.
4 Jamaicans get scholarships to study medicine in Cuba
Four Jamaican students will have the opportunity to pursue medical degrees in Cuba this September, under the Jamaica/Cuba Bilateral Scholarship Programme. Over 107 Jamaican youths are currently studying in Cuban universities under the Jamaica/Cuba Bilateral Scholarship Programme. Meanwhile, 186 Cubans are presently providing their services locally, under several bilateral cooperation programmes, mainly in the health and education sectors.
Cuban Ambassador to Jamaica, Bernardo Guanche Hernandez, remarked, "The Jamaican scholarship awardees will be able to master a new language - Spanish. They will also be able to get to know the Cuban people and see our achievements and challenges for themselves".
CAL pilots stage sick-out
Travellers on Trinidad and Tobago national airline Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) were left stranded across the hemisphere as pilots who were rostered to operate flights called in sick. The tensions culminated in most of CAL’s flights to and from New York (USA), Toronto (Canada), Guyana, Suriname, several Caribbean islands and the Tobago air bridge being either delayed or cancelled.
Pilots felt they were overworked as a result of the airline’s refusal to hire new pilots. As such, the present staff have been overworked for far too long and their remuneration packages were not up to par. The pilots are also disgruntled over outstanding payments from 2011,
THE Trinidad and Tobago Airline Pilots Association (TTALPA) Thursday said it understood the frustration of its members after several pilots staged a sick-out severely disrupting the domestic and international flights of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Airlines (CAL).
In a statement, TTALPA said it wanted to provide an explanation to the travelling public concerning the events on July 1, where according to CAL approximately 47 pilots called in sick. But TTALPA said while as the recognised majority union, it cannot sanction industrial action, "we understand fully the frustration of our individual members.
"This we have pointed out to CAL numerous times over the years and to all levels of the organisation. TTALPA has never demanded anything of CAL and has utilised a non-confrontational approach through dialogue, which over the years has been rewarded with broken promises and worst of all, procrastination."
Jamaica threatened by plastic trash
The prospective damage to Jamaica's beaches and marine life by plastic is becoming a major concern. State minister in the tourism ministry, Damion Crawford, in his recent contribution to the 2014-2015 Sectoral Debate, pointed to the detrimental impact by plastic on marine life and the integrity of the land.
"In 1960, plastic was estimated to have contributed one per cent to total solid waste; currently, it contributes over 13 per cent, with the majority being single-use plastic," said Crawford.
The plastic bags, dubbed 'scandal bags' by most Jamaicans continue to hurt the environment many years after they are disposed of. Plastics degrade very slowly; some are estimated to last in the environment for thousands of years. Because of the low density, they also tend to float in water. Hence, plastic discarded in watershed areas, such as East Rural St Andrew, get collected in the rainwater sewers and, due to prolonged intervals between retrieval, they choke these rainwater outlets, contributing to land saturation, landslides and floods.
NEPA (National Environment and Planning Agency) is looking at other biodegradable bags that will not affect the country the way these 'scandal' bag’s impact, and is working with solid waste to come up with something suitable. Many other countries, including regional neighbour Haiti, have put a ban on these bags and other plastic products.
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