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Air Jamaica un-privatised
After racking up loss after loss after loss each year, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart has given up and turned Air Jamaica back over to the Jamaica government. Negotiations for a new structure that would have diluted the stake of AJAG, the Butch Stewart company which had taken over the airlines, to 55 per cent, from 78 per cent, fell through. The Government would have owned 45 per cent under that deal. Even with Stewart’s departure, he will pump US$20 million (J$1.2 billion) into the troubled airline to help with working capital and to write-down debt.
Air Jamaica had debts of US$560 million and had lost US$682 million during its decade of privatisation. A team of management consultants had also projected that it would require about US$270 million in capital over the next five years.
Although Stewart leaves Air Jamaica deep in debt, he is credited with rejuvenating the airline's previously battered image and winning market share. The airline brings 51 per cent of all air passengers to Jamaica and is considered a strategic asset to the island's economy, to which it is estimated that it contributes, directly and indirectly, about US$1.2 billion annually. It has done everything but made money, despite ‘Butch’ Stewart’s legendary Midas touch. Obviously, that extends only to his Sandals hotel chain.
However, other big factors in all that red ink is 9/11 terrorist attacks which , the Iraq war and skyrocketing gas prices, which blasted air travel and even now many an airline has not survived and others are still flirting with bankruptcy.
Meanwhile another major carrier to the Caribbean, US Air is proposing to stave off bankruptcy by cutting health benefits for 10,000 retirees and wipe out the pensions of 50,000 current and former employees. With current trends, Air Jamaica employees could be soon on such a bubble.
Editor’s Comment: Once again the privatization panacea has failed. The government is stuck with money losing enterprises and private investors get the valuable money making ones. Just like the rail system, the profitable freight lines were sold off easily leaving the government stuck with the money-losing passenger service which for years now remains badly needed but rotting away, unusable and financially undesired.
Jamaica & T&T offer tsunami aid
Both Prime Ministers, Patrick Manning of T&T and PJ Patterson of Jamaica have offered financial aid to the victims of the tsunami disaster in South Asia. Both prime ministers declined to say how much they planned to contribute to that catastrophic disaster which has claimed over 100,000 lives. Patterson said that his government would be working through international agencies such as the UN Disaster Relief Committee and the International Red Cross.
Quakes hit Caribbean
There has been a whole lot of shaking going on in the Caribbean recently by earthquakes. It started in Dominica and Guadeloupe on November 21, 2004. They were shook by a quake registering 6.0 on the Richter scale. In Dominica, one person was killed and the rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads, bridges, schools and health facilities is estimated to cost US$19 million.
Next an earthquake registering 5.4 hit Trinidad and Tobago on December 3. Then on December the Cayman Islands became the latest Caribbean island to be rocked by an earthquake. This one was the strongest yet registering 6.7.
Of course, these quakes are nothing compared to the monster 9.0 off Sumatra, but lets hope all this earthquake activity is not a sign of worse to come.
Guyana divest bauxite mines
The Guyana government has announced that they have sold
90% of its shares in the Berbice bauxite company Aroaima Mining, to RUSAL,
Bauxite and Alumina Mining Venture (BAMV). The buyers have promised to
invest US$20 million to boost production. The new entity will be called
the Bauxite Company of Guyana Incorporated and is slated to be a joint
venture with the Russian giant, the second largest alumina company in the
world. The contracts will take effect in 2005 and the Guyana government
says bauxite production is expected to expand to 2.5M tons per annum over
the next two years.
Cuban President Fidel Castro said an offshore crude-oil
deposit has been discovered containing up to 100 million barrels. He said
production, could begin during 2006.
This could have serious repercussion on the US sanctions. The sanctions would exclude US companies from cashing in leaving European, Canadian and Latin American rivals free to develop new oil resources on doorstep of US. Even Halliburton has said it wants economic sanctions against Cuba lifted. Of course US could really cash in if they invaded Cuba like they did oil rich Iraq.
Major gas find in T&T
A significant discovery of gas has been made on the east
coast of Trinidad and Tobago.
Airport troubles in Guyana and Tobago
Hundreds of international passengers were left stranded at
the Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Guyana after air traffic
controllers took industrial action. The strike followed the expiration of
the deadline for settlement of a pay dispute with the Government. The
dispute has been partially resolved allowing flights to resume at the
airport late the following day.
China gets access to Venezuelan oil
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has offered China
wide-ranging access to the country's oil reserves. The offer will
allow China to operate oil fields in Venezuela and invest in new
refineries. Venezuela has also offered to supply 120,000 barrels of fuel
oil monthly to China.
Values and attitude training for Jamaican schools
Secondary schools in Jamaica will soon be required to integrate a comprehensive program of values training into the school's extra-curricula activities, starting at grade seven. The HEART Trust/NTA, in collaboration with the National Youth Service (NYS), is proposing to implement the program using a values and attitudes manual developed by the NYS and which has been used to train NYS participants and tertiary students of the JAMVAT program. The manual has five units: self development and interpersonal skills, citizenship, conflict resolution, family life and work ethics.
The recently-tabled Task Force on Education report calls for a citizens' education program in schools that would address serious issues of anti-social and violent behaviour. Specifically it calls for training in values and attitudes, character education, patriotism and service and recommends mandatory co-curricula or extra-curricula enrollment for all students.
HEART and NYS are proposing to infuse the manual's curriculum in the activities of the clubs and societies, such as the Inter Schools Christian Fellowship, Girl Guides, Brownies, Cadets and other clubs and societies operating within the schools.
Divorce causing housing shortage in Bermuda
There are growing fears in Bermuda that the country's high divorce rate is contributing to a chronic housing shortage. According to official records one in two marriages in Bermuda ends in divorce to give Bermuda one of the highest divorce rates in the world. This high rate and couples splitting up doubles the housing needs which in turn is contributing to the housing shortage. This split-up and children wanting to leave home early is also placing stresses on the Bermudan law that permits families to own only one vehicle.
Over 5,000 traffic tickets in a week
Jamaica traffic police mean business. With over 24 persons killed in traffic accidents within the first three weeks of December, the police are reporting that they have issued 5,421 tickets to traffic offenders islandwide between December 22 and 28, 2004. Of this high number it is reported that:
Police records show that for the year 2004 there were 344 fatalities, from 294 accidents. This is 47 fewer fatalities than the corresponding period for last year.
Rising soca star dies from accident
Young music sensation Onika Bostik died on December 19, 2004 as result of a car accident on December 11 in Trinidad and Tobago. The 24-year-old T&T born singer with the Antiguan band Invazion had been in a coma since the accident. The car in which she was being driven by a bandmate went out of control and hit a wall. She was rushed to the Port-of-Spain General Hospital but never regained consciousness. She gained fame while she was a member of the well-known Antiguan soca band Burning Flames for such hits as ‘Mash It Up, Rush’, ‘Get On Bad’, and ‘Devilish’.
Bajan woman elected to NY Supreme Court
Barbadian native, Sylvia Hinds-Radix, has become the first person from Barbados to be elected to the Supreme Court of the state of New York. Justice Hinds-Radix was inducted on Sunday, December 19 at a ceremony held at the First Baptist Church of Crown Heights in Brooklyn. Before being elected to the bench she previously had a successful law practice and served as legal advisor to District Council 37, the largest municipal labor union. Justice Hinds-Radix served previously as judge of the Civil Court in Brooklyn, New York, and had a laudable tenure.
St. Lucia Govt. to control nurse migration
The St. Lucian Government has announced plans to manage the migration of its nurses to better paying jobs in North America and Europe. The CARICOM Health Ministers conference in Barbados earlier this year estimated that 600,000 nurses could leave the region for North America and Europe in the next few years. According to the plan, nurses would be allowed to go out and be trained in various specialized fields but this will be managed in collaboration with certain agencies. Also the plan would encourage nurses already in the island to remain by creating incentives for them to serve the island’s medical institutions.
Fire destroys historic Guyana church
Guyana’s 141-year-old Sacred Heart Church went up in flames on Christmas Day. Decorative lights in the nativity crib at the altar started the fire. The adjoining newly renovated school, the Sacred Heart Primary school, was also destroyed The church was built to cater to the needs of the Portuguese immigrants in the late 1800’s. It was identified for inclusion as one of the 13 monuments selected in Georgetown’s nomination as a World Heritage Site.
Jamaican boxer named fighter of the year
Jamaican-born boxer, Glen Johnson won in a split decision bout Saturday night, December 19, 2004 in Los Angeles over Antonio Tarver to become the new light heavyweight Champion of the World. He had advanced to the championship bout by knocking out the seemingly invincible American champ Roy Jones in the 9th round in Memphis. Antonio Tarver also got there by knocking out Roy Jones. With such an outstanding record, Johnson is being labeled the fighter of the year.
Ralph to play in Spain
Damani Ralph will not be playing for the MLS Chicago Fire next year. The striker for Jamaica’s Regge Boyz is on his way to play in Spain for Malaga.
Jamaica wins belated bronze medal
Former Jamaican world indoor champion, Juliet Campbell, is
now the bronze medal winner for the 200m of the 2003 IAAF world indoor
track and field championship following the disqualification of American
gold medallist Michelle Collins. Campbell had finish fourth in Birmingham
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