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July 2002

Jamaica bus company is broke

Just like  AMTRAK the mighty US passenger rail service here in America, the state-owned Jamaica Urban Transit  (bus) Company (JUTC) is broke. This was the assessment of the the management consulting firm, KPMG Peat Marwick in the review of the books. According to the review:

  • The negative net worth as of February 2002 stood at J$1.3 billion. In addition, accumulated deficit of J$2.63 billion is equivalent to the total revenue that would be collected over 19 months.
  • Ridership has fallen 33% between 1998 and 2002 due mainly to competition from legal but mainly illegal operators.
  • Computer system in use to streamline operations are ineffective and improperly set up.
  • Recruitment has suffered from obtaining unqualified personnel.
  • The organistion of personnel, financial management and duties are inadequate.
  • Although original projections for the company was a profit of J$39 million for the first year of operation, instead there has been an accumulated loss of $2.6 billion as of February 2002.

No bus system can survive in Jamaica in the face of competition from illegal operators (robots). These robots ply only the profitable routes, do not move until they are full, are able to complete these "express" routes faster and since full all the time, sometimes charge less. The JUTC buses on the other hand are left with the less popular unprofitable routes, must provide regular scheduled transportation and not wait until they are full to depart. Even the bus company in New York City, USA, was losing money because of competition from the equivalent of "robots", the Dollar vans.

Unfortunately these robots are popular with the traveling public, but they are a menace to a systematic regular public bus system and will continue to undermine it. At the present rate, soon there will be no public bus service and the public will suffer from the hodge-podge unreliable transportation that will remain.

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US attack CARICOM tariff protection

The banana war is supposedly over but the US is attacking Caribbean countries trade policy again. This time they are attacking the agricultural tariff of the 14-nation CARICOM countries and accusing them of being lazy. The Caribbean and the United States have been negotiating agricultural trade tariffs for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement, with the Caribbean wanting tariffs to be the same as those used by the Geneva-based World Trade Organization. But, that is not good enough for the US. They want lower rates.

CARICOM has said lower tariffs could result in heavily subsidized U.S. products flooding the region's markets and putting its farmers out of business.

The U.S. State Department wrote several letters in June to Caribbean governments accusing regional representatives of generating ill will during negotiating sessions in Panama in May. The US State Department also accused chief Caribbean negotiator Richard Bernal of stalling progress at the Panama talks, claiming his delegation was unwilling to compromise.

"What CARICOM has been doing is looking after its interest,'' Assistant CARICOM Secretary General Colin Grandison told reporters in Georgetown, where CARICOM is based.

With the existing tariffs, Caribbean farmers are already being forced to leave crops to rot unharvested, and pour gallons of milk away because they cannot compete with US often government-subsidized products. Caribbean farmers do not need lower tariffs. Already the Caribbean has a lopsided adverse balance of trade with the US. The next step will probably be threats, but I hope CARICOM resists, does not knuckle under to greedy unconscionable US interests, and keep those tariffs high enough to protect our farmers.

Residents in the Washington DC metropolitan area may learn more on the FTAA by checking :

  • Carib Nation TV show, 8:30 AM on Saturday July 6, 2002 on WHUT-TV
  • The Caribbean Ambassador's Caucus features a panel discussion on "The Future of Caribbean Business and the FTAA" at the Blackburn Center, Howard University, Washington DC on Saturday July 13 at 1 pm.

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Jamaica, UK sign drug pact

The smuggling of drugs to Britain via Jamaican visitors has become so high that Britain was considering imposing visa requirements. Jamaica in lieu of this has signed a special drug intervention agreement with the UK.

Under the agreement which came into effect June 1, 2002,

  • The UK government will provide ion scan test machines at Jamaica's two international airports, Kingston and Montego Bay. These machines will identify persons who have had recent contact with cocaine.
  • Senior customs officers from the UK will provide training for the use of the equipment.
  • Jamaican and UK officials will share information and intelligence.
  • Jamaican and British authorities will cooperate to try to catch the majority of drug traffickers at Jamaican airports.
  • An extra two million pounds will fund a new mobile customs strike force to tackle traffickers who make it aboard flights to the UK.
  • British authorities will provide more custody facilities for those attempting to enter that country with drugs.

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Jamaica footballer Whitmore faces manslaughter charge

Jamaican national football team member Theodore Whittmore has been charged with manslaughter in the death of teamate Shorty Malcom by car accident. Malcolm and Whitmore were members of the Reggae Boys team, which took Jamaica to a first appearance in the World Cup finals in 1998. The two players, as well as Charles Ewan, had been returning to Montego Bay from a match against Bulgaria on January 28 1998 in Kingston when a rear tire blew out and caused the car to overturn. Malcolm died from head injuries. Ewan suffered a fractured spine and Whitmore had minor injuries to his arm.

The jury made the decision following a two-month inquest in Jamaica. The inquest took place in Falmouth, about 20 miles east of Montego Bay. A major issue at the inquest was "Who was driving the car?" The police report that at first Whitmore admitted he was driving, but later claimed that the victim Malcom was. Whitmore currently plays for Hull City in the English first division.

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Floods leave behind waterfalls

In the months of May and June it seemed it rained for forty days and forty nights in Jamaica. These produced devastating floods, leaving behind death and destruction in the millions of dollars. Roads, bridges, agriculture, homes, all over the island have been destroyed. The Prime Minister declared the parishes of St. Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, St. Catherine and ST. Thomas disaster areas. The country is in dire need of relief supplies. China has contributed US$30,000 in disaster relief. The Organisation of American States has also donated US$15,000 for flood relief.

In the bible, after the mighty flood, God produced the rainbow. In Jamaica, many peole say that this time it seems God has produced another phenomenon, waterfalls.

The first one occurred in Melrose in the riverless parish of Manchester. The beautiful impressive waterfall was discovered by yam vendors searching for coal. The waterfall is fed by an underground river from which the crystal clear water flows from a small hole which burst open under the water pressure from the recent heavy rains. The water has continued to rise and reached depths as high as 18 feet in some places. It has drawn crowds from all over the island. Impromptu prayer meetings have been held to give thanks from what many see as a gift from God. The Melrose falls is located near an area off the highway known for the sale of roast yam with saltfish to passing motorists. Spirits are high and many residents see it becoming a tourist attraction rivalling the world famous Dunns River Falls.

Since then other waterfalls have appeared in other areas of Manchester, St. Elizabeth and Clarendon. The most dramatic of these is in Mitcham in St. Elizabeth. It is located about half a mile from the main road and is quite substantial being about 3 miles long. The residents like elsewhere are overjoyed and envision commercial development.

The appearance of these waterfalls have never happened before. But will they last? Are these waterfalls here to stay? No! That is the answer from the expert of the Water Resource Authority. The floods have elevated groundwater levels extremely high, in some areas as high as 325 feet. These levels will subside and the waterfalls, the beautiful waterfalls, will go.

This is very unwelcome news for the residents particularly in Melrose. They have already cut a road to the falls and have set up all sorts of commercial enterprises.

"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh. Blessed be the name of the Lord."

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Flood leaves crab invasion behind too

Crabs like dirt!
In Lionel Town, a little southern Clarendon town in Jamaica, the flood have left behind an invasion of thousands of crabs. It's a bonanza for those who love to eat crabs, but many of the residents consider such unusually large numbers a nuisance. Some claim that the crabs have taken over the town. Crabs usually come out in May during the rainy season. But, this time, thousands of crabs have been roaming the streets, drains and even government buildings. Even the hospital was invaded by legions of crabs forcing medical staff to close windows and doors to keep them out.

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Overwhelming referendum support for "socialism" in Cuba

Some 7.6 million Cubans, representing more than 90 per cent of the island's voting population, have signed on in support of a "populist referendum" to cement socialism into Cuba's constitution. President Fidel Castro had predicted that at least seven million of the nearly eight million Cubans above the minimum voting age of 16 would support the measure, which seeks to reinforce the "economic, political and social regime" that has been in place for 43 years in that nation.

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Bush proposes $500 million for AIDs fight 

President Bush on Wednesday proposed spending $500 million to keep mothers in parts of Africa and the Caribbean from passing the AIDS virus to their babies. He called on other world leaders to help "save children from disease and death.''
Parts of the proposal already are pending in Congress. And the $500 million figure falls far short of what many say is needed to battle the global epidemic.

Bush's announcement is part of a White House strategy to project a compassionate image for the United States ahead of a summit next week in Canada. The aim is to soften criticism that America doesn't spend enough helping poor countries, a senior Bush adviser said. The president called his proposal ``the first of this scale by any government anywhere.''

Two million women infected with HIV become pregnant each year, most of them in poor countries. Between one-quarter and one-third transmit the disease to their newborns either during labor or while breast-feeding. That translates into 2,000 new AIDS-infected infants each day - a statistic that alarms public health officials and cripples the countries' ability to develop their economies.
More than 8,000 people die of AIDS each day. The right medication regimen has been shown to significantly reduce the risk that pregnant women will pass HIV to their children.

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Jamaica's Island Grill chain spreads

Lookout McDonalds! Island Grill is on your tail. Well actually the Jamaican fast food chain has a long way to go before it can become a serious competitor to the fast food giant MacDonalds, but recently it opened two more restaurants. The restaurants were opened simultaneously though miles, no countries apart. One was opened in Pembroke Pines, Florida and at the Norman Manley Airport in Kingston Jamaica.

The one in Jamaica was opened by Jamaica's Minister of Tourism and Sports, Portia Simpson. The one in Florida was opened by Prime Minister of St. Lucia, Dr. Kenny Anthony. Island Grill has seven branches in Jamaica and two in Florida. The first Island Grill branch outside of Jamaica was officially opened a year ago in Lauderdale Lakes in Florida.

Hot Calaloo hails this as a very significant development. Multinational fast food giants roam the world, setting up outlets, sucking profits away from the respective countries, overwhelming the local restaurants, changing the cultural eating habits, and often disdaining local agricultural products for supplies. Let us hope Island Grill continues to spread and hopefully some of the profits will find their way back to Jamaica.

This is also significant because government-backed franchise operations are a fundamental part of Hot Calaloo's PWP, Partnership With People, progam to bring real prosperity to Jamaica and countries like Jamaica. PWP will give local people a real chance to compete in their own land, but has been ignored, while marauding multinational corporations continue to sew up every type of business in Jamaica with their franchise operations.

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Jamaican chemist honoured at the White House

Dr. John Ewen, a research chemist and inventor was honoured at the White House in Washington DC recently. Dr. Ewen, who is president of Catalyst Research Corporation in Houston Texas, received a National Medal of Technology from US President George Bush.
Dr. Ewens publications and patents since 1984 have been instrumental in bringing about many technological changes in the plastics industry. His recent discoveries in the field of plastics have created the "salad in a bag" and longer flying golf balls.

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Is NY trash bound for the Caribbean?

Yes! According to the New York Post, City officials, struggling to find a home for New York's 12,000 tons of household trash a day, are considering sending it on a Caribbean vacation - permanently.
Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty confirmed at a Town Hall meeting in Ozone Park, Queens, that Mayor Bloomberg is considering the Caribbean as a possible final destination for city garbage.
Doherty gave no indication which Caribbean country might be interested in receiving the trash. This would not be the first time as New York trash ended up on an isolated beach before. And, the lucky country then for this prize was Haiti.

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Study reveals bacteria killing Caribbean coral

Caribbean coral is not only beautiful. It is vital to the tourist industry and the fish population. A recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has identified bacteria found in the intestines of humans and other animals as the cause of a disease killing elkhorn corals in the Caribbean Sea.
First reported in 1996, the disease has spread widely, causing severe damage to the branched corals. On some reefs near Key West, mortality of elkhorn coral has reached 95 percent, and the disease has been recorded in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Caribbean areas of Mexico, the Bahamas and Florida, said James W. Porter of the University of Georgia.
Porter and his research team traced the white pox disease that causes the problem to Serrate marcescens bacteria, which are widely found in the intestines of humans and other animals.

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High turnover rate for Jamaica police

Last year more than 1 policeman per month was killed for a total of 15 for the year. This year 7 have already been killed. The high murder rate of policemen probably is one of the major reasons for the high turnover rate in the Jamaica police force. Between 1999 and June 2002 more than 500 policemen and policewomen have resigned according to the Constabulary Communication network. This figure represents a doubling of the rate compared to the previous 2 years.

Millions of dollars in reward money for information about cop killers remain unclaimed. This reward money does not come from the private sector but comes from regular contributions from the police themselves. What a shame!

The stress from the job are forcing resignations but there are many more to take their places. The Jamaica Constabulary Force lauched a massive drive to recruit 1,000 cops in 18 months. After only 4 months 2,487 persons had applied.

Editorial: JLP leader Eddie Seaga has fueled public dislike for the police for political reasons and has thereby placed targets on their backs. Jamaicans for Justice and other civic organisations have not spoken out against this, but continues their one-sided criticism of the police. As long as Eddie Seaga is head of the JLP, police will continue to be prime targets for murder, suffer low morale and endure high efficiency-robbing turnover rates.

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New Zealand makes cricket history

New Zealand made cricket history by winning their first Test match ever in the West Indies. They took the first Test handily by 204 runs as WI bats failed again. They made this 1st Test victory hold up to win the 2-Test series, by drawing the other Test. At least in this 2nd Test, the windies salvaged first innings lead thanks to splendid batting of Chris Gayle in scoring 204 for his first Test double century. In that test New Zealand all-rounder SB Styris made a glorious debut to test cricket scoring a maiden century (107) in the 1st innings and 69 not out in the 2nd.

1st Test (NZ won by 204 runs)
New Zealand 337 (SP Fleming 130, RG Hart 57 n.o.) WI 107 (Vettori 4 for 27)
NZ 243 (NJ Astle 77, Collins 6 for 76); WI 269 (Gayle 73, Lara 73, Bond 5 for 78)

2nd Test (Draw)
New Zealand 373 (SB Styris 107, MH Richardson 95, NJ Astle 69, Collins 4 for 68); WI 470 (CH Gayle 204, Chanderpaul 51, Bond 5 for 104)
NZ 256 for 5 (Richardson 71, Styris 69 n.o. L Vincent 54)

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Jamaica Leaders sign code of conduct

Here we go again. Jamaican political leaders of the two major parties have signed a code of conduct. The code was the product of a private-sector –led committee on crime and violence. In addition to the party leaders, it was signed by their leaders of business in Parliament and party chairmen. Together this code of conduct and the report of the national Committee on Crime aim to reduce the causes and incidence of criminal and political violence.

Editor’s Note: This is a good step but I am not too optimistic. Even if these leaders follow this code, I am skeptical that they have the control over their henchmen on the constituency level.

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Illegal gasoline

Jamaican criminals are just too resourceful and inventive. They are now even in the gasoline business. They set up illegal gas stations , dispensing gas from huge underground tanks. Where on earth are they able to steal gas to fill these storage tanks? They must have gasoline tankers too.

The police have launched a crack down on these operations. The latest police raid of a facility on Hagley Park Road in Kingston netted 3 arrestees, and over 10,000 gallons of gas. The illegal operation involved officials from the Ministry of Mining and from the state-owned Petrojam.

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Jamaica trade deficit shrinks

Man bites dog! "Dog bites man is not news, but "man bites dog" is.
Well something very unusual has happened. Jamaica’s trade deficit, that’s the gap between imports and export, narrowed for the first two months of the year. The trade deficit fell from US$353.9 million to US$334.8 million. Imports totaled US$ 508.3 million and exports totaled US$173.5 million.
Imports fell by 9% but unfortunately exports fell by even more, 16%.


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