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bullet12-year-old girl’s passionate challenge of the UN to act
bulletFinally Haiti ratifies a prime minister – a woman
bulletCaribbean airlines oil woes plunge tourism into crisis
bullet"The Harder they Come" is back as hit musical
bulletT&T too rich for US preferential trade
bulletGeothermal energy to make Nevis energy self-sufficient
bulletBanana war springs back to life
bulletSt Vincent PM blasts CARICOM
bullet CEO of near-bankrupt Jamaica bus company slain
bulletSolving crime problem Brazilian style
bulletGrow potato instead
bulletVenezuela proposes gas pipeline through Guyana and Suriname
bulletNo equal pay for women yet in US
bulletDeveloper forced to remove hotel’s 4th floor
bulletNo insurance for medical malpractice in Jamaica!
bulletGayle quits as WI captain
bulletTrinidad inflation rate highest in 14 years
bulletGuyana  passes tougher driving laws



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July/August 2008

12-year-old girl’s passionate challenge of the UN to act

…and a little child shall lead them…
A 12-year-old girl made such a passionate stirring message for peace to the UN that you have to see it to believe it. I hope those diplomats were moved. See her address here for yourselves: com/watch? v=6Sb6RmRMbBY

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Finally Haiti ratifies a prime minister – a woman

Haitian lawmakers ratified Michele Pierre-Louis to be the impoverished country's prime minister, ending more than three months of political bickering and deadlock in Parliament. Haiti's Senate ratified Michele Pierre-Louis to be the country's No. 2 leader by a 12-0 vote, making her the second woman to become prime minister of Haiti. There were five abstentions.

The decision ends a stalemate that has left the Caribbean country unable to sign foreign aid deals, arrange an international donors' conference or hold overdue elections for a third of the nation's Senate. The deadlock began when senators dismissed former Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis on April 12 after a week of riots over soaring food prices left at least seven people dead and destroyed hundreds of businesses.

Lawmakers rejected President Rene Preval's first two nominees and repeatedly delayed votes on Pierre-Louis as they jockeyed for party position in the next Cabinet.

Pierre-Louis, 61, is an educator who heads a branch of billionaire George Soros' Open Society Institute. She was ratified by the Chamber of Deputies on July 17. She must now return for another vote in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies to win approval for a government program and proposed cabinet. For that she will need 16 of the 18 votes in the current Senate, four more than she received Thursday.

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Caribbean airlines oil woes plunge tourism into crisis

St. Lucia’s Minister of Tourism, Senator Alan Chastanet has sounded the alarm caused by financial problems which plague airlines that serve the Caribbean. These problems have been exacerbated by the meteoric rise in oil prices to $130 per barrel from $80 in January and $40 in 2004. This has resulted in reduced flights to the Caribbean with heralds dire consequences to tourism so vital to Caribbean countries. Some of the impacts on airlines are :

US Airlines
American Airlines has reduced its flights to the Caribbean by 10%. American Airlines alone provided over one-third of the total flights (including Europe) into the Caribbean and within the region. In comparison, the three Caribbean based airlines, Air Jamaica, Caribbean Airlines and LIAT collectively provided 28%. Over 50% of the American flights from the US into its major hub at Puerto Rico has gone.

The American Eagle has dropped over 40% of flights within the region.

United Airlines and Continental, and low cost carrier Spirit, which has major operations throughout the Caribbean, have reduced flights also.

Air Jamaica
Air Jamaica is bankrupt and the Golding government is trying to sell it. By the end of 2006  Air Jamaica ran up over J$36 billion - US$503 million - more in liabilities than its assets were worth, the airline's latest audited accounts have revealed. In fact, auditors concluded that Air Jamaica, with its large and sustained losses, could only continue to operate with government subsidies and other support. In 2006 Air Jamaica reported a loss of US$128 million (J$9.2 billion), on revenues of US$390 million. The loss was slightly less than the $131 million it lost in 2005. The airline's accounts for 2007 have not been released, but it estimated that it ran up another US$171 million in losses last year, bringing its accumulated losses to over US$1.26 billion (J$88 billion).

Caribbean Airlines
The government of Trinidad and Tobago spent US$250 million to close down BWIA, an additional US$100 million to set up Caribbean Airlines (on a scaled down basis with no European service) and a further US$25 million to acquire Tobago Express. The CEO of Caribbean Airlines was quoted in January of this year (when oil was at US$ 80 per barrel) as saying that the airline would break even this year and make a small profit in 2009. At US$130 per barrel for oil, that forecast is also a pipe dream.

LIAT received a US$ 16 million bail out in 2006 and a further US$60 million last year to take over Caribbean Star – giving it a monopoly within the Eastern Caribbean. It radically increased fares, dramatically reducing intra regional business and leisure travel to howls of outrage from the Caribbean people and the tourism industry. LIAT’s officials were speaking cautiously of breaking even this year (again when oil was at US$80 per barrel). With a barrel of oil at US$130, LIAT too will be looking at a major loss – to add to the losses in each of the past 25 years or more.

Two exceptions from Canada

Canada's Westjet to begin service to Barbados
Barbados is about to get an additional influx of Canadian visitors through a new WestJet service that will start in November with four flights per week from Toronto, Canada, and cheaper fares than its competitors.

Inaugural Skyservice flight arrives in Guyana from Canada
Skyservice Airlines made its much anticipated inaugural flight to Guyana from Toronto, Canada recently with over 200 tourists and Guyanese passengers aboard. They were treated to Guyanese hospitality as they landed at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri. Skyservice Airlines will serve the Guyana route for two months starting Tuesday and lasting until September 2 conducting 10 flights and transporting an estimated 2150 passengers.

One regional airline deserves a try
The World Bank suggests that if the government-owned Caribbean airlines are not profitable and  should be shut down. One possible solution, so far disregarded by governments, is combining the three existing airlines into one regional airline. Such an airline would have one head office instead of three, one ticket counter at each airport instead of three, greater economies of scale, more bargaining power on terms of purchases, and a larger network to provide better utilization of their aircraft. I hope they wise-up soon.

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"The Harder they Come" is back as hit musical

"The Harder they Come" is back and you have got to see it even if you have to travel to London to do so. This time the hit Jamaican movie of the seventies is back as a musical at the West End in London. The movie had become a cult classic and had propelled Jamaica’s reggae music on the world stage. It made its star, Jimmy Cliff, a household name internationally. Now the new musical is capturing full houses on London’s famous West End.

The late Perry Henzell’s stage adaptation of his classic reggae film, The Harder They Come, became the most successful play in the Theatre Royal, Stratford East’s history when it was first staged in 2005. It features all the songs from the film’s blazing soundtrack, including: You Can Get It If You Really Want; Many Rivers to Cross; Pressure Drop; By the Rivers of Babylon; Sitting in Limbo; and The Harder They Come. Following sell-out seasons at the Theatre Royal Stratford East (where it broke box office records) and The Barbican Theatre. Now it is packing them in at the Playhouse in the famed West End.

It is scheduled to run until November 2008 but it deserves to run for years. If the Mousetrap ran for 55 years, Les Miserables is in its 23rd year, Phantom of the Opera and Cats over 21 years, Why should The Harder They come not be a fixture on the West End stage for years to coe. It deserves to. Just don’t take my word for it, here’s what respected critics say:

"Electrifying - A Joy! It’s impossible to leave this show without a big grin on your face" - The Sunday Times

"Audiences are guaranteed an evening of feel good entertainment unlike anything else in the West End" - Time Out 

"The whole thing is stuffed with raucous life and a cast who seem intent in searing the songs on your soul, not just singing them. Its pleasures are shaggy, shambolic and bleeding around the edges" - The Guardian 

"The cast shake-hip their way through shimmy-shake routines with dancing truly irresistible" The London Evening Standard

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T&T too rich for US preferential trade

Trinidad: Trinidad and Tobago is to be dropped from a US list of trade beneficiary countries by 2010. aA of January 2010, it will no longer be a beneficiary of the US under the United States' Generalized System of Preferences program (GSP).

This has been announced via a statement from the White House by outgoing US President George W. Bush. By Proclamation and by Section 502 (e) of a US 1974 Act, the President has the power to designate or terminate countries as beneficiary developing countries for purposes of Generalized System of Preferences as it relates to duty-free treatment.

The reason for the action against Trinidad and Tobago was that the country was now considered by the US to be a high income earner and so now no longer qualify for attention under the US GSP. This country's name was also deleted from a list of independent countries on the US's Harmonized Tariff Schedule.

All this was done in view of the United States modifying Duty-Free Treatment Under the Generalized System of Preferences, action which it has also taken Under the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

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Geothermal energy to make Nevis energy self-sufficient

Nevis is ahead of Al Gore. It is on track for becoming not only self-sufficient in energy but able to sell it abroad. Drilling for geothermal energy began in January 2008 and the project is on track to date.  Nevis has long been known for its hot springs, and exploration found 5 viable sites clustered around several faults. 

The site farthest along in production is Spring Hill. When completed, it is expected that the Spring Hill site alone will produce 50-100 megawatts of electricity and a geothermal power plant is under construction.  A portable geothermal power plant will be on site by July and will produce 5-6 megawatts in the meantime. 

At current peak levels Nevis consumes 9-10 megawatts of electricity.  When the geothermal power plants come on line, this will allow Nevis to be powered 100% self-sufficiently with renewable geothermal energy.  Nevis plans to sell its excess electricity to close neighbors like St. Kitts.  The geothermal power will be less expensive than other renewable and fossil fuel sources.

The potential of geothermal energy for small, developing nations such as Nevis are encouraging.  The generation of electricity with geothermal energy will be far less expensive than the current diesel imports.  This nonpolluting and affordable source of energy will provide cheaper electricity and lower the cost of living for residents.  In cases such as these, geothermal energy is really a win-win situation as the standard of living will rise, opportunities will increase and the local environment will be cleaner.

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Banana war springs back to life

Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries have warned that they might walk away from any consensus on global trade talks if Latin American banana producers are successful in under-mining the Caribbean's export preferences for the fruit in the European market.

Under a regime that came into effect two and half years ago, the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries - the more than 70-member bloc with which the EU had a long-running preferential trade and aid pact - can export up to 775,000 tons of bananas annual to the EU duty free. Other exporters have to pay a tariff of €176 a ton.

But earlier this year, a WTO dispute panel, on a complaint by Ecuador, ruled that the EU quota tariff was unfair and incompatible with its regime. It was at least the third time the WTO was ruling against the EU banana regime at the behest of Latin American producers. Regional leaders worry that the Latin America producers, who are already the major suppliers of bananas to Europe, would wipe them out completely if the tariff was lowered significantly.

The challenges and the WTO decisions, Caricom has argued, have been devastating to its small economies, driving regional leaders at a summit in Antigua and Barbuda last week to raise the possibility of retaliation at WTO negotiations. Although they did not spell it out, it is believed that the Caricom leaders also had their eyes on protecting their markets for sugar and rice in the EU.

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St Vincent PM blasts CARICOM

"Island chauvinism, a potential overreach by regional bureaucrats and the petty politics of village states are the debilitating interlopers which threaten to undermine the efficacy of the proposed economic union enterprise and its necessary and consequentially altered political superstructure."

Somebody had to say it. So did St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves in his outspoken criticism of CARICOM. He lashed out at its ineffectiveness and failure to move forward with the integration process, and has urged the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), of which he is also part, to ensure it does not go down the same road. He suggested that the 15-member CARICOM had little chance of meaningfully furthering its integration in the near future.

Mr Gonsalves said he was highly doubtful of the member countries coming together to achieve either a common monetary policy or common currency, as aimed by the Single Economy aspect of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

"You have a ramshackle, political administrative apparatus in CARICOM. It doesn't even suit properly the functional arrangements in health, in education and the like, and in foreign policy, much less to use the same arrangements - institutional, administrative, political arrangements; governance arrangements - for a Single Market and a Single Economy," he said.

The St Vincent leader pointed to political and social factors in particular CARICOM states contributing to the body's inability to move beyond being just a group of sovereign states. Obstacles include:


The politics of a limited regional engagement in Jamaica, shackled by the ghosts from the federal referendum;


the politics of ethnicity in Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana;


a mistaken sense of uniqueness, specialness and separation among the large sections of the Barbadian populace;


the peculiar distinctiveness of Haiti and Suriname;


the cultivated aloofness from the regional enterprise by the Bahamas

On the other hand, Mr Gonsalves said, the countries of the OECS - Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands - have forged ahead with strengthening their ties, the latest effort being a proposed OECS Economic Union.

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CEO of near-bankrupt Jamaica bus company slain

"How long shall the kill our prophets patriots, while we stand aside and look? ….."

The brutal murder in broad daylight of the chairman of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company, (JUTC), Douglas Chambers sent shockwaves through the island. He was shot outside of the Spanish Town Depot in St Catherine.

According to police reports, some time after 5 p.m. Chambers took a break from a meeting with representatives from the University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU) and the JUTC. The police said he went to the entrance of the depot to buy cigarettes when he was approached by a group of men who fired shots at him. He received multiple gunshot wounds all over his body and died on the spot.

As news of the murder spread, several Government ministers headed by Prime Minister Bruce Golding rushed to the scene. By then, a large crowd had gathered there. The police have not yet established a motive for the murder. 

Chambers was appointed chairman of the JUTC by the Jamaica Labour Party Administration in October last year to help to cut the huge losses at the government-owned bus company. Chambers, who was a chartered accountant, took leave from his accounting firm Chambers, Henry and Partners to turn the JUTC into an efficient company. It was a daunting task for which he took no pay. Expressions of horror at this vicious dastardly act reverberated from both parties and a wide array of sectors from all over the island.

The publicly-owned JUTC, like Air Jamaica too, is drowning in red ink. It has lost J$905 million in two years. It was incorporated in 1998 as a wholly-owned company of the Government of Jamaica and granted exclusive license to operate the public transport service within the Kingston Metropolitan Transport Region for an initial period of 10 years. The license should expire in September of this year.

The JUTC has only released to the public accounts up to March 2005, some three years ago. In the two years ending in 2005, the company lost $905 million and was at that date insolvent as its total current liabilities exceeded its current assets. It had a negative net worth of $2.8 billion and liabilities in excess of $3.6b, after being given $4b of buses, equipment, land and buildings by Cabinet decisions in September 2004.

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Solving crime problem Brazilian style

Crime-plagued Jamaica is taking a look at crime-fighting program used in Brazil. This program uses a multidimensional strategy including a strong emphasis on improved police-community relations and has been credited for Brazil's success in curbing crime in its second largest city.

The anti-crime push - which is also hinged on rehabilitating troubled youths and seizing guns from the streets - has been critical to Cesar Rubem battling lawlessness in his native Rio de Janeiro. Rubem, founder and executive secretary of the non-governmental group Viva Rio, has seen some of the worst forms of gun crimes and juvenile deviancy. However, he has been able to effect change in Brazil and Jamaica's neighbor Haiti.

Rio and Jamaica's cities share similar experiences on the subject of crime and violence. In 2006, Jamaica, with a population of 2.6 million, tolled 1,340 murders. Rio, with more than six million persons, in the same year tallied 2,273 deaths.

Rubem, who was in Jamaica as a guest of the United Nations Development Program and the Violence Prevention Alliance, shared some of the strategies his organisation has pursued in taming the crime monster in Brazil's former capital.

Since his organisation's inception in 1993, it has been able to help more than 100,000 marginalised youths through its programs. He also said the state had adopted the idea of helping dropouts and juvenile delinquents reintegrate into society. Rubem is also a firm believer in negotiating with gangsters and providing incentives in order to reduce crime. This approach, he said, was used in Haiti to great effect.

His organisation approached gang leaders and offered them 30 scholarships a month for children in the five warring sections through a lottery system.

Viva Rio also offered an extra training incentive for gang leaders if they held to an agreement to ensure that no violence was committed over a two-month period. They have held to that commitment since May 2007.

In terms of gun control, Rubem has pointed to the Disarmament Statute and the gun amnesty in his country between July 2004 and October 2005 which yielded more than 500,000 guns.

A person who is under 25 years old cannot own a gun, and civilians are prohibited from purchasing semi-automatic and automatic guns for personal use. Rubem also said that gun convictions carried a minimum sentence of four years.

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Grow potato instead

Jamaica’s Agriculture Minister has advocated increased growing of cassava, but Dr. Stefan Hemmings has produced some powerful arguments in favor of the potato. He pointed out that: 


It's more nutritious than rice and more nutritious than cassava.


You can eat potatoes alone with a glass of milk a day.


It contains half the daily requirements of vitamin C, and 22 different amino acids.

The UN had recognized the outstanding merits of the potato by observing 2008 as the ‘International Year of the Potato’. The UN promotion of the virtues of the potato as an important vehicle in alleviating global poverty, improving international food security and sustaining economic development.

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Venezuela proposes gas pipeline through Guyana and Suriname

Venezuela’s Ambassador to Guyana, Dario Morandy, has announced that Venezuela is proposing the construction of a gas pipeline to run though Guyana to Suriname as a contribution towards ending existing differences and to guarantee the supply of gas to the two countries.

According to Morandy, the installation of the pipeline is part of the discussions on issues of bilateral cooperation, and it is expected that in the medium term the project would become a reality and, with it, stronger ties of integration and economic sovereignty between Guyana, Venezuela and Suriname.

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No equal pay for women yet in US 

According to the women's organisation, Moms Rising,  in the US, while it's true that both men and women are suffering in this economic downturn, women still bear the lion's share of the burden. Women in the U.S. are still paid only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men -- mothers only 73 cents, and single mothers about 60 cents.

For black women, the numbers are even worse -- African-American women earn 63 cents and Latina women earn 52 cents for every dollar paid to white men.[2] With numbers like these, it's easy to see why protection from wage and other job discrimination is a critical component of economic security for women and families, especially in times of economic downturn.

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Developer forced to remove hotel’s 4th floor

Workers at the Riu Montego Bay cite in St James, Jamaica,  have begun demolition of the controversial fourth floor of the hotel under construction. The St James Parish Council had issued an order to the resort developers to dismantle the fourth floor, which the council said was in breach of its building code. They balked.

It took  the intervention of Prime Minister Bruce Golding to close the site. He said the resort breached the law by constructing a fourth floor for which it had no permit from the St James Parish Council. The Riu Group has, however, denied the claims, arguing it had submitted its revised plan, containing the four-storey building, in April of the previous year.

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No insurance for medical malpractice in Jamaica!

Local insurance companies are shying away from providing indemnity for negligence by medical professionals in Jamaica because of the high probability of errors in delivering health care, and the potentially large payout. Local insurers claim that approximately one in 25, or four in every 100, patients seen in hospital will be the victim of a medical error.

Jamaica is by no means unique as the Journal of American Medical Association reports that one in 10,000 admitted to hospital in the Unites States would have lived for three months or more had optimal care been provided. A subsequent Harvard study concluded that at least 44,000 people died each year as a result of medical errors, and over one million injured.

The last insurance company - AIG - to offer coverage in Jamaica for professional negligence in the health sector ceased doing so in 2001 when it was met with a high volume of claims that caused it to pay out $29.2 million between 1997 and the year 2000.

Resulting from the absence of insurance coverage locally, some doctors have established their own fund to indemnify themselves, or seek coverage in the overseas market. The Medical Association of Jamaica offers insurance coverage for its members through a pool of funds it established some time ago. Dr Albert Lockhart, who is in charge of the fund, has been reluctant to disclose how many claims have been made since it (the fund) was established. He, however, discloses that nine claims have been made between 2002 and 2007, including those made to the Medical Protective Society - a local body that also offers coverage - as well as the attorney general.

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Gayle quits as WI captain

Chris Gayle has quit as captain of the West Indies cricket team. Gayle has been captain since the tour of Zimbabwe and South Africa last October. Like so many West Indian cricketers, he has been plagued by injury. Recently he lashed out at selectors over team selection during the 5-nil whitewash by Australia in the One Day International (ODI) series. He has had moderate success as captain winning 2 out of 5 tests - including the historic first test triumph against host South Africa last year - and winning 7 of 17 ODIs. The search for a new captain will not be an easy one. Gayle did not bring back the WI winning ways but at least he made them competitive.

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Trinidad inflation rate highest in 14 years

Trinidad and Tobago's inflation rate jumped to a 14-year high of 11.3 percent in June, led by rising food prices, the Caribbean country's central bank said. The June inflation rate compared to 7.3 percent in the same month a year earlier, and was up 1.3 percent from the 10 percent rate recorded in May according to data from the government's Central Statistical Office.

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Guyana parliament passes tougher driving laws

The Guyanese Parliament has unanimously approved a two-beer limit or face the courts for those driving under the influence of alcohol.
The use of a breathalyzer or blood test will determine the alcohol levels in a person suspected to be under the influence, with both sides of the House agreeing that the prescribed limit be equivalent to two beers. The Bill won the unanimous support of the opposition parties. It goes in-depth to Driving under the Influence (DUI) of alcohol and seeks to address the age-old problem, noting that DUI was one of the major causes of the high carnage on the roadways.

Meanwhile, using a cellular phone while driving can now land drivers in jail, as the National Assembly on Friday evening passed legislation that makes that illegal too.


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