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January 2002

Caribbean says good riddance to 2001

The year 2001 was a bad one for the Caribbean overall. Trinidad and Tobago is locked in a political stalemate caused by the tie in the general elections. Poverty and crime had gotten worse all over the Caribbean. Jamaica teeters on the brink of anarchy as the Seaga-led JLP fights the police more than they fight the scourge of crime. In sport, the West Indies cricket team continued to founder and in soccer, both Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago failed to qualify for the World Cup 2002. Of course the September 11 terrorist attack on America has taken  a huge bite out of tourism in the Caribbean.

But overall the worst problem, which aggravates the other problems, is poverty, worsening poverty. Jamaica got a lot of press for its deteriorating condition, but Jamaica is by no means unique. On the contrary, it is typical and not only for the Caribbean, but for almost every developing country all over the world. And, not just developing countries. Rich countries too! Argentina, for instance, a country rich in resources is bordering on bankruptcy and must now face the bitter but familiar pill of structural adjustment. (The day after I wrote this, the Argentine government collapsed financially, with people storming the banks, and their president had to quit amidst the financial chaos which still reigns.)

When we consider that even mighty corporations whose sole function is to make money, and pursue that goal ruthlessly, aided by all sorts of financial geniuses, still go bankrupt. For instance, Chiquita bananas and many powerful airline companies face such a fate. So if these fail, a small struggling developing country saddled by oppressive third world debt, a contentious self-destructive political environment, and a myriad of other severe problems really have their work cut out for them. Everyone is a critic without seeming to acknowledge how formidable a job it is.

How come all thsese countries are failing? Five , ten years down the road, do we see poverty ending? In Jamaica, the Caribbean, anywhere? No! The obvious and inescapable conclusion is that they are all must be doing something wrong, something which will not achieve the goal of reducing poverty. So, it’s time to change course and do something different. It is time to give Hot Calaloo’s Partnership With People (PWP) a try. This program essentially is modeled after the successful franchise operations like McDonalds. In PWP the Government undertakes a franchisor relationship with citizens as franchisees/ partners. Franchises are sweeping the world. The expertise is abundant and available. With such partnerships with Government and its people, I foresee substantial proliferation of quality service, and a chance for real well distributed prosperity. For details on PWP and specific targets for improvements see previous articles on PWP.


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Political crisis from general elections tie continues in T&T 

General elections in Trinidad and Tobago on December 10, 2001 ended in a tie. Both the incumbent United National Congress (UNC) and the Peoples National Movement (PNM) parties won 18 seats. This placed the decision of who would be the next Prime Minister in the hands of the President of T&T, A.N.R. Robinson. The contenders were incumbent Prime Minister, Basdeo Panday, of the UNC, and Patrick Manning, leader of the PNM. President Robinson deliberated hard and long. He consulted with both contenders and even got them both to agree beforehand with whatever decision he made. Then he made his decision, the loser reneged and the political crisis continues to rage.

In the elections itself, the UNC lost one seat, Tunapuna by a narrow margin, but secured all 18 of its seats in Trinidad. On the other hand, the PNM won 16 of its seats in Trinidad and defeated the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) for both Tobago seats, for the first time, to end up with the 18 seats also. The NAR did not win any of the six seats that it contested -- four in Trinidad and two in Tobago.
Panday became the country's first leader of East Indian descent when he was elected to his first term in 1995. Manning, who was prime minister from 1991 to 1995 is Afro-Trinidadian, as is President Robinson. But, ironically Robinson had been appointed president during the previous government by Panday. Panday's party won its second term in 2000, but he called new elections a year later when a split in his party doomed his narrow parliament majority.
These rebels of Panday’s party, led by former Attorney-General Ramesh Maharaj, formed the new Team Unity party. However, they failed to win any of the 30 seats contested in Trinidad. Its future is now very much in doubt as despite its alliance with the NAR, they gained less than four per cent of the valid votes with most of their candidates losing their deposits.
The choice and Hot Calaloo’s views
President Robinson chose PNM leader Patrick Manning. At first, Hot Calaloo felt that the selection should go to the leader of the party which had gained the majority of the popular vote, which would have been Mr. Panday. But under these conditions, so important a decision ought not to be based on just mathematics. Consideration has to be given to the reason for the sudden elections and the exodus of four distinguished Ministers of the previous Government. They left because they charged the Panday government not only with corruption but also refusing to investigate it. This was a very principled stand by these rebels and should be commended for it. Instead of clearing the air and investigating the corruption charges, Panday pretty much threw them out of the party and called elections so that his supporters could use democracy to cover up the legitimate investigation. So, if President Robinson had selected Panday, it would have killed the investigation cold. This would have been a great disservice to T&T, would reward cover-up, and worst of all give party leaders almost despotic powers over its own executive and any dissent within the party. In Jamaica, for instance, Edward Seaga, has this despotic grip on his party. Likewise, he has thrown responsible distinguished executives out of his party, while he pursues unopposed a ruthless policy that has brought Jamaica to the brink of anarchy.

Consequences of the choice
As mentioned before, Panday has reneged on his pledge to abide by the President’s decision. He threatens to form an alternative government. This is a volatile situation and both leaders must be commended for keeping race out so far. But, party support is largely along racial lines unfortunately. T&T has a proud record of racial tolerance and harmony. But, that could change if manipulated by a ruthless desperate politician willing to put his political desires over the good of the country. Edward Seaga of Jamaica and Desmond Hoyte are such ruthless politicians, but lets hope this cancer does not spread to T&T too.


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Third parties stand no chance

One of the obvious lessons arising from the elections in T&T , which is not a new lesson, is that third parties have no chance. Four distinguished and highly regarded former Ministers and remember the popular Hulsie Baghan before that, all failed to get 5% of the vote. The same thing happened in Jamaica with the National Democratic Movement in Jamaica. Even in the US, the renown fighter and consumer advocate Ralph Nader bombed similarly at the polls as a presidential candidate in the last US elections. It is high time these third part aspirants learn the lesson that they are fighting an unwinnable battle. Instead they should divert their efforts and resources into some attainable goal to improve their respective countries.

Unfortunately, working to change the party from within seems like an uphill battle too in Jamaica and T&T. Seaga and Panday have such a grip on their respective parties, that it seems dialogue, much less dissent, is forbidden and is the sure road to becoming an outcast.

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Another deadly massacre in Jamaica

Another day, another vicious massacre. Yes, another vicious massacre has taken place in Jamaica. This is not surprising and more will occur again. The police force has been undermined and their effectiveness as a deterrent to such vicious carnage has been eroded. JLP leader Edward Seaga has led this erosion by his politically motivated attacks on the police, virtually forbidding them to enter his constituency.

This particular massacre took place in the area of 100 Lane off Red Hills Road in north central St. Andrew. The massacre was a JLP vs PNP political reprisal raid by a gang of about 50 gunmen. It was systematic and obviously well planned. They attacked shortly after midnight. They wore trench coats. They caused a blackout in the area by first shooting up an electrical transformer that served that area. They then blocked access to 100 Lane to keep out the police. Then they went on a deliberate methodical and cold-blooded killing spree which did not spare men, women or children. Reports are of women begging for their lives only to have several bullets pumped into them. Even goats were deliberately killed. When the deadly rampage which lasted for more than an hour was over :

  • 2 schoolgirls, a 6 and an 11 year-old, were killed
  • 3 women were killed
  • 2 men were dead
  • 19 of 21 goats were burned to death
  • 2 houses were burnt to the ground
  • other houses were shot up and only iron grate burglar bars saved the occupants from being killed also
  • spent shells from 9 mm handguns, 12-gauge shotguns and AK-47 rifles remained behind as grim reminders that the gunmen had sprayed mercilessly the targeted houses.

100 Lane is considered a People National Party garrison. Parke Lane on the other hand, is a JLP garrison and they are separated from each other by a narrow alley just a few yards long.

Parke Lane residents contend it was retaliation for the killing of one of their residents on New Year’s eve. They said that night 8 men from 100 Lane, wearing blue denim and military fatigues, armed with rifles and handguns shot the victim to death. This itself was in retaliation for a killing by the other side and so the vicious chain goes back and back and back. In fact, this bitter feud has been going on for years even though some residents have relatives in both neighbourhoods. It had become so bad that the police had to establish a command post between the two. It had been recently removed.

The first response to this massacre has been to put the command post back. It has created some calm, but fear still stalks the areas and some of the terrified residents are trying to move out and far away.

Officials condemn shootings but..
Government officials from the Prime Minister and several Ministers have condemned the shootings. I made a special search of different news media but was unable to find any such condemnation from JLP leader Edward Seaga. The only JLP on record that I found was Derrick Smith, the JLP spokesman on national security, who appealed for an end to the "senseless bloodshed."

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CANA closes down

The Caribbean News Agency (CANA), the Caribbean region's only source of indigenous news and programming has closed down. They report that the closure on January 4 is temporary in order to re-structure. Fifty of the 54 employees of the parent company, the Caribbean Media Corporation, have been laid off. The remaining 4 employees have been retained to work on re-structuring the organisation, which also includes CANA radio, CANA Wire and CBU-TV. The Board of Directors report that they undertook months of attempts to re-finance, re-structure, and recapitalize, seeking help from banks, shareholders and some regional governments.
CANA will be badly missed as the Barbados based organisation is a mainstay of news and information for Caribbean radio and other media not just in the Caribbean, but especially here in the US.

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Durex international sex survey?

On the lighter side, unless you are Japanese…..The frequency of sexual intercourse is highest in which country? That was the question posed by researchers conducted by a leading condom manufacturer, Durex. The answer. Survey says: The US with Americans averaging sex 124 times per year. The Greeks were second with 117 times per year and Japan came last with 36.
It is my understanding that West Indians are demanding a recount. Actually the source of this story did not report how West Indians placed.

Some more details of the study:

  • 60% of all respondents said they had sex at least once a week
  • 4% claimed to have sex daily
  • Single people had the least sex – 86 times per year; married people claimed 100 and the winners, people living together – 145 times
  • 10% of all never had sex
  • Men appeared more active than women claiming an average frequency of 102 times per year. For women it was 91.

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Big nations flaunt WTO rules at poor nation’s peril

It seems the World Trade Organisation persecutes small poor countries for subsidizing its struggling industries. But, when we look at how the US subsidizes its sugar industry, it’s a completely different story. Because of this price support, US sugar costs twice the price of sugar grown in the Caribbean and elsewhere. The US General Accounting Office estimates that this price-support program costs American consumers US$1.9 billion a year. Big corporations like Domino Sugar, Florida Crystals Corporation and the American Sugarbeet Association make sure this large subsidy program continues in the US Congress by its powerful lobby. Programs like these make a mockery of the so-called free trade in which big powerful developed countries flaunt the anti-subsidy rules and poor countries are prime targets for enforcement.

Multiply what happens with sugar by dozens of other U.S. agriculture interests seeking to preserve their own frosting. Then multiply that by dozens of other industrialized nations, each with its own entrenched, subsidized sons of the soil, and you get an idea of the power that the World Trade Organization is up against to be fair to developing countries.

Scrapping agriculture-import obstacles is the single most effective, compassionate, good thing rich countries can do to help the world's poor. The Third World already knows how to grow crops. Developing-nation farmers don't need much training or capital. They're not as labor-efficient as U.S. agribusiness, but low wages make them competitive. The pittance they would earn from a free global crop market could double their standards of living.

For consumers in rich nations, however, the Third World larder is more or less locked up. Swayed by pastoral nostalgia and political full nelsons, rich countries shelter their own farmers on reservations rimmed with quotas, subsidies and tariffs. Offshore growers need not apply.

The following facts illustrate this vividly:

  • According to the WTO, The average import duty on manufactured goods around the world is 4 percent while the average duty on agricultural products is 60 percent.
  • The World Bank says global agriculture subsidies are six times greater than all the financial assistance rendered to developing nations by the entire developed world.
  • Government subsidy payments to the agriculture sector by the 30 rich-country members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development exceed the gross domestic product of Africa.

Editor’s Comment: The developed nations will always hang on to this power and poor nations will continue to be victimized by WTO double standards.

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Multi million $ investment in Jamaica

The Zia Metallurgical Processes of Dallas, Texas, will invest US$55 million in rural Clarendon in Jamaica to extract iron from the nation's red mud. A 35-year lease has been signed with the property owners West Indies Sugar Co. and Zia. Besides, Zia is expected to produce more electricity than it needs and will be able to sell the excess to the Jamaica Power Co.

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Generosity still lives in Ja

In Jamaica all the news is not bad as donations poured in to help 12 children in need of surgery to repair holes in their hearts. The Jamaica Foundation for Cardiac Disease, a non-profit organisation, coordinated the activities. The surgeries, despite donated services from local cardiac care surgeons and a team of 19 from the Chain of Hope in the UK, required $800,000 to cover expenses. Anonymous donors poured in $600,00 dollars days before the operations were scheduled. These operations on the 12 children, ranging in ages from 2 months to 8 years old, will take place over about a week. Requests for blood also met with a positive response.

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Women protest in Jamaica

So what? A protest in Jamaica is not news. This one is. It was different. For one, it was peaceful. They did not block the roads. These women of the rural Manchester village near Porus had a very important point. Christmas work clearing the streets was being given out, but only to men. They refused to stand for that and protested. I hope the matter was resolved fairly. Right on sisters!

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Gunmen attempt coup in Haiti

Armed commandos stormed the Haiti's National Palace , taking over radio communications and killing several people in what government officials are calling an attempted coup.

Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his wife were unharmed, and sleeping at their suburban home in Tabarre, about four miles from the palace, said Guy Paul, the minister of culture and communication.

Dozens of armed security personnel surrounded the downtown building, trying to dislodge the gunmen who were reportedly still inside. "This is an attempted coup d'etat,'' said National Palace spokesman Jacques Maurice. "This is not a staged event.''

The gunmen killed two police officers guarding the palace when they stormed the building. There were reports of other deaths, and an undetermined number of officers were injured. Before attacking the national palace, the commandoes in three pickup trucks and a jeep attempted to assault the national penitentiary, Maurice said. When they were rebuffed, they then went on to attack the palace.

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Munro controversy splits Jamaica

Munro is a very prestigious boy's boarding school in rural Jamaica. Recently, it has been torn by controversy between two sides. Five boys were caught smoking ganja and were promptly expelled. In Jamaica, expulsion is a very severe punishment as often an expelled student will not be re-admitted to most of the better schools. The Minister of Education intervened and overruled the expulsion as being too harsh for a first offence. That set off a blazing controversy in which:

  • The Munro Board of Governors were incensed charging the boys had tarnished the reputation of Munro and promptly threatened to resign.
  • Even prefects and housemasters threatened to resign too.
  • The townspeople held a protest against the reinstatement of the students.

It is reported this decision was volatile and split not only the local community but Jamaican society islandwide . Attempts at a compromise punishment such as withholding boarding privileges also failed. Seven of the eight Board members resigned and the Munro and Dickenson Trust sided with the Minister. A new board of Governors is being selected. The students were reinstated and made a verbal apology to an assembly of the entire school.

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Ja Govt. sells LoJ to Barbadian company

A consortium of Barbados Mutual Life Assurance Society (Barbados Mutual) and Life of Barbados (LoB) bought the Jamaican Government's 76 per cent shareholding in the insurance giant, Life of Jamaica (LoJ), for US$41.2 million, equivalent to J$1.95 billion. The purchase from FINSAC follows the earlier acquisition of Island Life by Barbados Mutual, which obtained a 64 per cent controlling interest in the then ailing insurance company in December 1999 for $260 million.

"Once all the necessary regulatory approvals have been obtained, it is the intent of the consortium to merge the operations of Island Life and Life of Jamaica," said Arthur Bethell, president and chief executive officer of the Barbados Mutual. He is to become the chairman of the new LoJ board of directors.

A major restructuring is taking place at the executive level of the new enterprise. Island Life will be merged into the operations of LoJ, so that the new entity will operate under the name Life of Jamaica. The two companies have a staff of about 500 employees.

The new LoJ will dominate the Jamaican insurance field. It will control about 45 per cent of the individual life market and about half of the market for group business.

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