In Russia, this once mighty Soviet Union, government workers go three months without pay. Even in the recently privatised industry there, workers not only go without pay, but sometimes are paid off in goods produced. For example, they receive some manufactured clothing and have to hawk it on the streets to earn a buck. The former Asian tigers, symbols of prosperity, like South Korea, Malaysia, and Indonesia, have seen their economy tumble and now face hard times and disillusionment. With the exception of the US and some of the European Union (EU), countries are mired deep in this economic crisis. Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean are no exceptions.
Enough is Enough
In Jamaica like most of the world, the economic "salvation" was imported. Privatisation, globalisation, IMF imposed structural adjustment, currency liberalization, free trade, etc. have failed. How much longer shall we pursue these policies before our leaders realize this? Unfortunately, our leaders may be powerless to change course. Even in their own countries, they have no say. The fact is these policies have undermined the economic sovereignty of our countries to international organisations like the IMF, the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank, etc. These organisations are dominated by big rich countries and multinational corporations. Right now the WTO has imperiled our banana trade with EU.
In Jamaica the failure of these policies are so evident. Banks have been dropping like flies. The privatised sugar industry collapsed under millions of dollars in debt and fell back into Government hands. But, worst of all, cheap imports have spelt doom for local producers. The question is how many more local manufacturers and farmers will be driven out of business by cheap foreign imports? As the list grows, protests against these imports also grows. Recent events to illustrate how bad this is include:
-In St Elizabeth, Jamaica, fields upon fields of produce lie unharvested, because they are unable to compete with cheap imports
-Beef farmers protested at McDonalds in Mandeville and in Montego Bay against cheap beef imports. McDonalds imports beef as it contends the imported beef is 14 cents a pound cheaper. The french fries...also from imported potatoes. The beef protest was against the cheap imported beef and not against McDonalds in particular.
- the dairy industry recently had to dump 76,000 liters of milk due transportation and collection problems, but also due to competititon from cheap imported powdered milk
- the Jamaica cement company is millions of dollars in debt as cheaper imported cement makes big inroads into the local Jamaica market
- the banana companies have restructured into one Agris Services company to be more competitive with the "Dollar" bananas of multinational US corporations led by Chiquita. Every worker was made redundant and the new company rehired about 2000 of them, but at lower wages and decreased benefits. The workers are not happy but "glad to have a job".
- these "Dollar" bananas are so much cheaper than the local ones, if they were imported into Jamaica, they would wipe out the local Jamaica banana industry. So we could not only lose the EU market, but even our own local market.
Of course in the rest of the West Indies, local producers are similarly under assault from these cheap foreign imports. In Barbados, fishermen found their Christmas ruined by the numbers of unsold fish due to cheap imported fish. In an interview with Guyana's Ambassador to the US, Odeen Ishmael, he confirmed that local Guyanese produce was suffering from competition from cheap imports. It is time to slap a tarriff on them. We must protect our local producers who must contend with things like bad roads, usurious interest rates, poor electric, water, transportation and telephone services, and unstable labor.
For Whose benefit?
Who is benefiting from these existing policies? Not the people of Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean. But, multinational corporations, like Chiquita, are. Not only here, but all over the world, even in NAFTA countries. They bear down on the local industry, driving them into bankruptcy, like a Wallmart up against a mom-and-pop store. Privatisation, globalisation, free trade...they all play into the hands of multinational corporations.
The following letter was sent to selected Caribbean Officials in October 1998 along with the article "Introducing PWP". The letter is as follows:)
Dear (Caribbean Official),
I remain deeply concerned about the economic plight of my native Jamaica, the Caribbean and all other developing countries. I am alarmed at the current policies such as the IMF structural adjustment, globalisation, "free trade", privatisation, which all make rich powerful multinational corporations even more rich and powerful, and leave countries politically weaker and so far with no positive economic benefits to show for all this. I am proposing something new for Government to follow, which I am confident will lead to real prosperity and regain or retain our country from insensitive multinational corporations.
I have attached some brief characteristics of this program, which I call Partnership With People (PWP). Please give it serious consideration and do not ignore it because of its seemingly overly optimistic goals. I am sending this package to other Caribbean officials, including Heads-of-State. I would be glad to discuss it with you and so address any questions or provide further details.
I have also included a copy of the October issue of Hot Calaloo newsletter. An article in it, "Whither...IMF Privatisation or PWP Prosperity?" In this article I set the stage to introduce PWP. I have been the editor/producer of Hot Calaloo from 1992. The Hot Calaloo web page is located at: http://www.dclink.com/hcal/index.htm (since moved to http://gonow.to/hotcalaloo)
I do not intend to publish the description of PWP in the newsletter or on the Web until I give you and the other Caribbean officials a chance to respond. Also, I have to consider whether such details might be better withheld now to keep it from enemies of the Caribbean.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Michael Phillips, Editor
(As of 1/26/99 one official has responded)
Keith Mitchell led his party, the NNP to victory in all 15 seats in Grenada general elections. No party has ever won successive terms, much less every single seat. Total victory is a rarity for the whole Caribbean. Ironically, the NNP was forced to call early elections because it lost its parliamentary majority last November when one of its members bolted the party.
It must be the time for incumbents and landslides. In Barbados too, the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) of Prime Minister Owen Arthur, took 26 of 28 seats in general elections there. The opposition Democratic Labour Party leader, David Thompson, retained his seat, but party stalwarts such as former Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford and ex-Trade Minister Branford Tait lost.
Coral Reefs Imperiled
The January 1999 issue of National Geographic reports that coral reefs all over the world are in grave peril. Coral reefs are produced by living organisms which secrete a limestone cup around itself for protection. Hence, these limestone deposits are responsible for the beautiful white sand beaches and even limestone cliffs. These coral organisms like doctor birds "hard fe dead", and are very resilient ordinarily. They have survived a lot, but in so many countries they face death and destruction.
Unfortunately, like deforestation, Jamaica is one of the worst. National Geographic contends that nine-tenths of the corals in Jamaica's northwest coast have been killed by hurricanes and diseases with no chance for recovery because they have been smothered by algae. Some algae is normal and accounts for proliferation of fish that feeds on the algae. This makes these reefs so good for fishing. But, in Jamaica as in some other countries, pollution caused by coastal development, deforestation aggravated soil erosion, and agricultural runoff, nourish the algae into profusion. Overfishing on the reef leaves algae untouched to grow, hence the algae smother the reefs. Of course, tourism has also taken its toll as the coral itself become targets for collection and abuse. Ironically, the survival of tourism depends on the survival of the beautiful white sand beaches which depends on the survival of the corals. The Government is aware of this crisis and is pinning its hope on improving public awareness to preserve this vital resource.
Castro Apologizes to Mexico
Reporters quoted Cuba's Fidel Castro as saying that Mexicans have traded in their historic heroes for Mickey Mouse in his criticism of Mexico's relationship with the US. Mexico, a long time supporter of Fidel, was not amused. Fidel explained that he was misinterpreted.
Wild Deer in Jamaica
It seems the mongoose will have to step aside to make room for another wild animal in Jamaica, deer. These are not compliments of Santa, but Gilbert...Hurricane Gilbert to be exact. In 1989 this hurricane liberated deer from a property where they had been penned as a tourist attraction in the parish of Portland. They tasted freedom and never returned, but apparently went forth and multiplied. Not only freedom did they taste, but also a variety of food crops, especially pumpkins and carrots. So much so, that over 35 farmers in the area have complained about them ruining their crops.
Oh deer me, with praedial larceny, runaway farm animals, cheap imports, bad roads to transport products, the poor beleaguered farmers certainly do not need another pest.
FINSAC in the Red
FINSAC has struck again. This time to the rescue of Dyoll Life Insurance Company. With what? FINSAC, the Financial Sector Adjustment Company of the government of Jamaica has incurred huge financial losses. Since January 1997 to March of 1998 it lost J$45.6 billion. Moreover, its value in the form of shares is placed at J$15.8 billion or 35% of the original investment. These losses are the high price for bailing out bankrupt banks, insurance companies and similar financial institutions, whose demise would have probably torpedoed public confidence in all economic institutions in Jamaica. So, they had to undertake money losing rescue which included:
buying several non-performing loans at book value
taking out many loans at interest rates as high as 29% to lend at rates as low as 4.5%.
Editor's Note: FINSAC seems perfect for PWP, which would not restrict it to money-losing operations only. How ? See PWP article.
(This article was modified 1/26/99 after receiving a communication from a Scripps-Howard official)
American Spelling Bee officials have retaliated against Jamaica's victory by barring them from this year's competition. They made sure there would be no repeat this year. Last year, Jamaica's Jody Anne Maxwell was such an impressive winner of the US National Spelling Bee then. She defeated 248 other contestants to become the first black winner and also the first foreign winner ever. Not only that, but Jamaica served notice they were formidable contestants in the two years they have entered the 71 year-old competition. In their first year, Jamaica's Jason Edwards James finished 8th. Last year, in addition to the winner, Jody-Anne, Bettina McLean finished 6th.
But not this year. The spelling bee officials have changed the rules in a obvious deliberate move to keep out the Jamaicans. Jamaica had their spelling bee as they have always done in August. Now the US National Spelling Bee officials have barred these winners by now requiring contestants to be selected after February 1 of this year for the May competition. This rule change was made known 2 weeks before Jamaica held their competition, obviously too late to comply with it. They claim the early date of Jamaica's bee is an advantage.
Preposterous! The long wait the Jamaicans must endure before the US National Spelling Bee is not an advantage. On the contrary, it is a disadvantage. It is competition that provides the edge, so after preparing and honing their skills for the Jamaican bee, that long intervening wait makes it more difficult to maintain that edge. If Superbowl Team A had to wait months between their last game and their opponents, Team B, had only a week off, Team A would be at a tremendous disadvantage.
The real reason
Someone made a mistake. It was very gracious to allow Jamaica to join other countries like Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Bahamas, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands, to enter the US National Spelling Bee. This was fine but the mistake was they did not expect little Jamaica to win. Not only did a Jamaican win, but Jamaica's collective performance was so good that they probably would win again! AThe US national Spelling Bee won by non-US nationals! Houston, we have a problem!@ So, a pretext was found and now Jamaica is out this year.
Could race be a factor?
One cannot overlook the racial component too. Prominent American black leader, Jesse Jackson, has noted his concern that this action excluded black contestants. Even before this broke, Extra (November/December 1998), a magazine that monitors fairness and accuracy in the US media, noted the unequal press coverage that Jody-Anne received when she won. This Extra article cited the Jody-Anne coverage as an example of how the US press snubs young black achievers. It noted that:
-The day before Jody-Anne won, another contestant, a four-time veteran and the favorite to win, received a front-page, 1539-word profile in USA Today newspaper. In contrast, Jody-Anne's stunning victory received a mere 225-word story and on page 7 (5/29/98).
The famed New York Times in their coverage of her victory did not even mention her name until 7 paragraphs into the article.
Many leading newspapers, such as the Dallas Morning News, Indianapolis Star and the Boston Globe, who traditionally feature this story prominently, buried her victory many pages away from the front page.
The reigning local Jamaican champs are bitterly disappointed at their exclusion from the coming competition. These kids must feel cheated. As the news spreads, Jamaicans at home and abroad are enraged at this transparent cowardly act. However, to exclude Jamaica because Athem fraid ah we@ shows the tremendous respect they must have for Jamaica. To now exclude Jamaica to ensure a victory by a US national is wrong and they have compounded their mistake. Hot Calaloo urges its readers and Caribbean organisations to write letters to the spelling bee sponsors, the Scripps Howard newspaper publishers, to appeal to their sense of fairplay and justice. Write to:
Mail: Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, P.O. Box 371541, Pittsburgh, PA 15251-7541
Over 100,000 marijuana plants were destroyed in the hills of St. Vincent. The massive eradication involved more than 120 troops from Regional Security System and US Marines and took about 10 days. The farmers were defiant and unrepentant and considered the Government's action unfair. They did not consider growing these plants to be illegal but just a legitimate means of earning a livelihood in hard times.
A rare thing happened in Jamaica. Police Commissioner Francis Forbes criticised members of the police force for allowing their behavior and attitude to alienate them from the communities they police. Bravo, Commissioner! It seems police, regardless of how bad they are, never get criticized by other police. Obvious police brutality here in the US is always condoned with three little words. "Standard police procedure". This is the gravest error police officials make, because when they continually justify bad police work, they ruin the reputation and credibility of good cops. Let's hope police officials here in the US will follow suit. Sigh..not likely.
South Africa Demolish WI in Cricket
How the mighty has fallen! South Africa whitewashed the touring West Indies cricket team 5-0 in the test matches. The games were not even close. After the victory the players had in the strike led by captain Brian Lara and vice-captain Carl Hooper at the start of the tour, other victories were hard to come by as they struggled in other tour matches. Without question, this is the worst ever performance by a West Indies team. The summary of the Test matches clearly shows how bad it was.
West Indies 261 (Chanderpaul 74, Pollock 5 for 54), South Africa 268 (G. Kirsten 62 Walsh 4 for 66)
West Indies 170 (Pollock 4 for 49); South Africa 164 for 6 (Kallis 57 n.o., Walsh 3 for 45)
South Africa 245 (Walsh 4 for 87), West Indies 121 (Pollock 5 for 43)
South Africa 195 (Rhodes 64, Ambrose 6 for 51, Walsh 3 for 58), West Indies 141
West Indies 198 (Lara 51), South Africa 312 (Rhodes 87, Rose 7 for 84)
West Indies 259 (Lara 79, Chanderpaul 75, Pollock 5 for 83), South Africa 147 for 1 (Kirsten 71 n.o.)
South Africa 406 for 8 declared (Cullinam 168, Kallis 110), West Indies 212 (Hooper 87)
South Africa 226 for 7 declared (Kallis 88 n.o., West Indies 271 (Jacobs 69 n.o., Kallis 5 for 90)
South Africa 313 (Boucher 100, Kallis 83, Walsh 6 for 80), West Indies 144 (Lara 68, Donald 5 for 49)
South Africa 399 for 5 (Kirsten 134, Rhodes 103 n.o.) West Indies 217 (Jacobs 78)
Walsh left game day 2 with hamstring injury.
There are reports that Gregory Messam, of the Reggae Boys, Jamaica's, national team will represent DC United Soccer Club of the US Professional Soccer League. It is reported that Messam impressed club officials in recent try-outs with the club. I am sure Jamaicans in Washington DC will be glad to hear that.
UWI Mona campus in Jamaica is reeling from a financial crisis. They are reportedly without enough money to fill staff vacancies and the future of over 1,000 students is in doubt. The money shortage is blamed on failure of so many students to pay their tuition. The Jamaica Students Loan Bureau approved the tuition loans but the commercial banks have failed to deliver the cash. Worse yet, this money shortage has raised doubts about the nursing school from the overseas accreditation body.
The Cable & Wireless telecom monopoly, which is spread all through the Caribbean is doing battle with the Cayman Islands too. Recently, the Cayman newspaper, the Caymanian Compasss announced plans to publish the 1991 contract between C&W and the Government granting the company an exclusive license. C&W got a court order to stop publication, ensuring the details will remain secret for now.
The Caribbean is mourning the death of two stalwarts of Caribbean integration, William Demas and Dr. Kurleigh King. Tributes from heads-of-states down have poured in to these two pioneers of Caribbean unity. Both men died on November 28 1998.
Demas, a Trinidadian, was the first Secretary General of CARICOM and later served as president of the Caribbean Development Bank.
King, a Barbadian, served as Secretary General of CARICOM in 1979-83.
Police in Manchester, Jamaica, intercepted a small Toyota Corolla automobile containing 4 goat thieves and 14 freshly stolen goats. The men and goats were packed in the car like sardines. All four men were in the front seat and the 14 goats were crammed in the back seat and the trunk. The police recovered an additional 16 stolen goats from the homes of the thieves much to the relief of the victimized farmers.
Puerto Rico rejected statehood in a referendum on December 13, 1998. Statehood received 46.5% of the votes. The vote for "none of the above" which maintains the present commonwealth status was 50.2%. Nationhood got less than 5%. The results are very similar to a referendum taken in 1993.
The Canadian Government has agreed to compensate its World War II vets
for years of slave labour at Japanese POW camps. The enslavement took place 60 years ago,
when the men were captured in the fall of Hong Kong. Japan refused to compensate them so
the Canadian Government did.
About 700 still-living veterans and surviving spouses will each get $15,600 with the total payment about $11.7 million.
Editor's Note: Compensation for slavery...can reparations for slavery of blacks be far behind?