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From May  Hot Calaloo update



July 2001

Caribbean countries forced to subsidize foreign airlines

For many years Caribbean countries have subsidized their own national airlines. Then came privatisation, and that was supposed to relieve countries of that burden. The jury is out on whether that government expense has abated or just has a new name. However, bad as that was, Caribbean countries like Grenada and Antigua find themselves being forced to subsidize not their national airlines, but foreign airlines.

In Grenada, British Airways is demanding a subsidy of US$740,000 to continue its two flights per week into that country. The Grenada Hotel Association advises a firm commitment before giving away the money and Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell is on the verge of accepting the airlines’ terms.

The airlines have put a similar squeeze on Antigua and Barbuda, There is some resistance as they are anticipating service to the island by July from Air Jamaica and US Airways. For these countries, discontinuation of air service would be a devastating blow to the tourist industry and could send their economy reeling.

These airlines are not in business to provide a service. They are in it for the money. These routes are not profitable for them. There was a time when not only airlines but passenger transportation in general was provided as a service. Then unprofitable routes would be subsidized by the profitable ones and everyone was served and airlines still made a profit.

Now, greedy airlines drop unprofitable routes to maximize profits. By doing this they may even be able to reduce prices and are therefore able to undercut other airlines. So, the other airlines, in order to remain competitive must drop the unprofitable routes too or demand a subsidy. Therefore, the time might come when Air Jamaica or BWIA might also be forced to demand a subsidy!

Right here in America, in the name of the ballyhooed "deregulation", bus companies, Greyhound, Trailways did the same thing. All over America, small towns which were unprofitable routes lost their bus service and became cut-off. In New York city, the so-called "Dollar" vans ply the lucrative bus routes at lower rates, leaving the regular bus service to lose money on the unprofitable ones.

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Jamaican crocodiles

Growing up as a kid in Jamaica, I was virtually unaware of crocodiles in Jamaica. I might have heard rumors of one or two in Black River, but crocodiles were largely fearsome creatures from Tarzan movies, not Jamaica. How things have changed.

Now, crocodiles can be found in swamps in St. Catherine, St. Elizabeth, Clarendon, St. Thomas, all along the South Coast to Negril, anywhere that rivers enter the sea. But they are also found in irrigation microdams and commercial fish ponds. Microdams in Amity Hall, St. Catherine, and Rhymesbury in Clarendon, as well as the Greater Portmore and Hellshire Heights sewage ponds are infested with crocodiles.

Are they dangerous?
The national Environment and Planning Agency reports an average of 6 crocodile sightings per month. Over the last six years, there has been about two deaths and three injuries from crocodile attacks. The reptiles lay their eggs and leave them on the banks to incubate for 60 days. They become very aggressive in protecting their eggs. Unfortunately, in some areas development is forcing them out of their natural habitat and into competition and some confrontation with people.

Crocodiles were placed on the protected species list in 1971. Jamaican and certain international environmental organizations are attempting to conduct a census of the crocodile population.

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Caribbean illness linked to mad cow

Officials in the French Caribbean recently confirmed three cases of a brain-wasting ailment in the islands and said one could be a variant linked to mad cow disease. Two of the patients are on the French island of Guadeloupe and the other patient is on St. Martin. One is possibly suffering from Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, the human variation of the disease linked to the consumption of beef infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, known as mad cow disease, according to the French government's top official on Guadeloupe, Jean Francois Carenco. The other two cases are suspected to be another form of the fatal ailment that isn't linked to eating infected meat, he said.

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Ulster Spring Police station hospitalized

In Jamaica the Ulster Spring police station has been hospitalized. The station suffered from years of neglect and was so extremely delapidated that it had to be demolished. Since then the station has been set up in the hospital. It is supposed to be a temporary measure, but many residents feel it is unsafe to users of the hospital.

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US unhappy with Jamaica ganja eradication efforts

Jamaica ganja (marijuana) eradication efforts have declined. The US is not happy about it, which could make Jamaica very unhappy in the long run.

The ganja eradication programs is run jointly by the army and police. A recent report contends that the program failed to meet set targets last year and continues to fall short this year because of lack of organization, funds, of Jamaica’s effort to eradicate the weed and stop drug trafficking. The report points out that fewer hectares of ganja (marijuana) were destroyed in 2000 than was projected in a 1999 agreement. "The GOJ eradicated 517 hectares of marijuana in 2000, short of a goal of 1,200 hectares set out in the (1999) Letter of Agreement with the U.S."

Jamaica blames this drop on lack of resources. Soldiers in the eradication effort had to be pulled off to serve as wardens during an extensive prison strike. Soldiers even now are continuing to shore up gaps in the prison system. Eradication trucks break down and other problems add up to this reduction.

To complicate matters, as of June 1 of this year, the United States Government stopped funding the salaries for the civilians who assist the JDF and JCF in cutting the ganja plants. This responsibility now belongs to the GOJ which has not established a set budget for the salaries, even though the U.S.'s intention to stop funding was announced from 1999.

"There is no specific budget, under the police vote there are provisions for salaries and provisions of goods and services and this is what we have been allocating from - down the road we will have a separate budget," .The program is expected to cost about J$6 million per year. In the past the U.S. underwrote the expenses of the program by reimbursing the GOJ for claims made ­the U.S. contribution varied around US$100,000 to US$200,000.

Crimefighting is expensive. We have seen Jamaica forced to house a police station in a hospital because of money crunch. But who decides priorities? I bet we will have to keep the US happy.

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Update on blacklisted Caribbean countries re money laundering

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) released its 12th annual report in Paris recently. This report for the second time included Caribbean countries and territories deemed non-cooperative in the fight against money laundering. Three Caribbean countries continued on the list. They are Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. These countries could face financial sanctions. Basically FATF contends that these countries have not done enough to prevent money laundering. On the other hand, the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas were removed from the FATF list.

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UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS continues

The United Nations General Assembly's first special Session on HIV/AIDS took place in New York recently. On the opening day, Caribbean leaders and health ministers called on the international community to work collaboratively in seriously addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic. St. Kitts and Nevis' Prime Minister, Dr Denzil Douglas, said that, like African countries, the Caribbean had little access to the expensive anti-retroviral medicines that prolong the life or improve the health of infected persons. On Tuesday, Britain said it was doubling a previous US$100 million pledge to a global health fund against AIDS while Sweden said it was committing $60 million and Nigeria $10 million. The latest contributions to the fund brought total pledges to a still disappointing US$701,207,000.

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Trinidad economy continues robust performance

Trinidad and Tobago, fuelled by an energy-based economy can, look forward to its eighth year of expansion by year end, according to Central Bank Governor Winston Dookeran. "Real GDP (gross domestic product) is expected to grow at around four per cent in 2001 with inflation estimated at just below four per cent in the absence of any major supply shocks," Dookeran told business leaders here on Wednesday. "The public sector should achieve an overall surplus of just under 0.5 per cent of GDP with crude oil prices holding at around current levels in the range of around US$25 a barrel.

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Country poised to decriminalize bigamy

 No fear. It is not a Caribbean country. Colombia will no longer be just the drug producing center of the world. It will have a new distinction. It is poised to decriminalize bigamy and Catholic authorities in this deeply religious country are seeing red.

Under Colombia's new penal code, which goes into effect on July 25, men and women who take a second spouse will no longer be charged with a crime. At present, bigamy is punishable by one to four years in prison.

"This opens the door to promiscuity," Roman Catholic Bishop Hector Gutierrez, a member of Colombia's powerful Episcopal Conference, said on Monday.

Colombia's Chief Prosecutor Alfonso Gomez Mendez, one of the architects of the new penal code, said the bigamy law is irrelevant because there have been no recent reported cases. However, Gomez said bigamy will still be ground for civil action, including divorce in civil marriages. "The best punishment for a bigamist is a second marriage," he said.

Colombia, a deeply Catholic country of 40 million people, was referred to until its 1991 constitution as the "Country of the Sacred Heart."

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Caribbean sugar exports over 530,000 tonnes

Exports of Caribbean sugar totaled 531,728 tonnes to the end of May 2001, as the present crop which began in July last year begins to wind down. The Sugar Association of the Caribbean (SAC) said that production for the period amounted to 691,497 tonnes with Guyana and Jamaica -- the region's top producers -- accounting for 265,046 tonnes and 174,284 tonnes respectively. Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago finished their 2000-2001 crop at the end of May, with total tonnage of 47,751 and 88,078 tonnes respectively. Projected production for the present crop is 774,000 tonnes, with production last year being 871,597 tonnes.

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Privy Council orders Grenada gov't to pay Gairy estate

The Grenada government is to pay nearly three million Eastern Caribbean dollars in compensation to the estate of the late former Prime Minister Sir Eric Gairy for properties, which were confiscated during the reign of the People's Revolutionary Government (PRG). The London-based Privy Council, the region's highest appellate court, ordered that the compensation package be paid "forthwith" while overturning a ruling of the OECS Court of Appeal in a judgement handed down this week. "The payment is already overdue and no deferment should be approved save on the basis of full clear and compelling evidence," said the Privy Council's order.

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11 Haitian migrants drown in Bahamian waters

Eleven Haitian migrants died and six were trapped in the hull of a wooden sloop that was shipwrecked in shark-infested waters off Rum Cay in The Bahamas, officials said. The victims were among a group of more than 90 Haitians who crowded on to the 30-foot (nine-metre) vessel in a bid to reach the United States from their impoverished Caribbean country. Bahamas Immigration Director Vernon Burrows said tiger sharks circling the boat prevented rescuers from getting to the partly submerged sloop.

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Life and Debt in Jamaica

Life and Debt is a feature length documentary which addresses the impact of the IMF , the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and current globalization policies on a developing country such as Jamaica.. It was invited to be the opening filem of the Human Rights Film Festival at the Lincoln Center in New York city. On June 15.

Life and Debt has received the critic’s Jury Award, Honorable mention "Best Film of the Festival" at the Independent Feature Project/West Los Angeles Film Festival. Over the nine-day event, 51 features and 48 shorts were presented.

Excerpts from speeches of former Prime Minister set the background of Jamaica’s historical relationship with the IMF. Dub poet Mutabaraka and conscious lyrics from Ziggy Marley establish the ideal background for the film. The narration is written by famous Caribbean author Jamaica Kincaid based on "A Small Place" (c) 1987.

The filmmaker, Stephanie Black isan award winning director for 1990 feature-length documentary, H-2 Worker at the Sundance Film Festival. For over ten years, Stephanie Black has been producing and directing live-action documentary segments for Children's Television Workshop for Sesame Street, including several episodes shot in Jamaica. 

Although an American , she is well grounded in Jamaica, as for over ten years, she has been producing and directing music videos and EPK's for such artists as Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, Buju Banton, Snow, Anthony B, INOJ, among others. In 1999, Stephanie Black directed and produced a 30-minute documentary on the "Making of Chant Down Babylon" a Bob Marley tribute album produced by Stephen Marley featuring Lauryn Hill, Busta Rhymes, Erykah Badu, among others

Life and Debt airs on PBS on August 21, 2001, so check local listings. Life and Debt is a must see. Not only for individuals , but Caribbean organizations should buy the videotape, show it at special meeting, followed by a discussion.

To obtain a videotape of the film, send an email to .
For more on the film check

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Dominica says no to IMF's calls for fuel price hike

The Dominica government has rejected a recommendation by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it should increase petroleum prices on the local market. The announcement by Trade, Industry and Marketing Minister, Osborne Riviere, came ahead of the presentation of the 2001-2002 national budget in Parliament on July 2. "Government will continue to absorb the increases in the price of petroleum, in an effort to prevent further damage to the economy that would arise from increased fuel costs," Riviere said.

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Barbados Mutual buys Jamaican insurance Co.

Another Caribbean company has won a major stake in the Jamaican insurance market. So cash-strapped FINSAC gets to unload another bankrupt Jamaican company, Life of Jamaica insurance company. Barbados Mutual outbid First Life and Colonial Life Insurance companies of T&T, Life Insurance of Barbados, and Colina Insurance of the Bahamas.

FINSAC said Mutual got the nod because of its strong financial capacity. This ensures strong competition in the field from two other independent full service insurance companies Guardian and First Life. The Bajan company had acquired another Jamaican insurance company, Island Life, two years ago.

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Negril Beach eroding away

There is cause for dismay in Jamaica. Jamaica's most famous beach, the seven miles of white sand beach and tourist mecca of Negril, has eroded away at an alarming pace. The sea "giveth and the sea taketh away". In the last three years the sea has "taketh away" an average of 300 feet of sand. Harsh winter storms, hurricane generated summer storms and the el Nino phenomenon has eroded away the beaches.

In addition protection from coral reefs in the area has lessened as the reefs themselves have been severely damaged. A study conducted last year at five shallow water reef sites by Dr. Jim Porter, professor of Ecology and marine sciences at the University of Georgia in the US showed reefs with less than 5% coral cover in Negril. The coral on these reefs are being literally choked to death by algae from nutrients and sewage entering the water. Last year the situation became so desperate that some hteliers created offshore breakwater structures and groynes as artificial reefs in contravention of the law, in a futile effort to keep the sea at bay.

But, to end on a hopeful note, within the last three months, months of quiet storm-free seas, the sea has "giveth back". It has "giveth back" an average of 45 feet of sand. The beach has not by any means recovered pre 1997 levels, but stands at the best it has since then. Let us hope the generous seas continue the recovery and hurricanes and storms do not make them angry again for a while.

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Slave compensation underway

The government has freed a fund of US$4.5 billion to compensate slave labourers for their sufferings and toilings. Claimants will receive about $7,000 each. Unfortunately, this is not a successful end to the quest for black reparations for slavey. No, this is a settlement for the enslavement of Jews by Germany during the Nazi regime.

After years of litigation, checks have been sent out to thousands of Holocast survivors. . The New York-based Jewish Claims Conference sent payments of about $4,400 each to some 10,000 Jewish survivors in 25 countries. At the same time, checks were sent to 10,000 non-Jewish survivors in the Czech Republic. Payments to survivors in Poland were expected to be made June 28.

The Claims Conference estimates that up to 160,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors worldwide will eventually be eligible for payments from a $4.37 billion fund authorized by the German government to settle a series of U.S. lawsuits seeking compensation from German companies..

Tens of thousands of non-Jews also have applied. "Slave laborers" are people those who were forced to work in a concentration camp, ghetto or comparable conditions of confinement. They are eligible for payments of up to $6,600. "Forced laborers," those who were forced to work in areas under Nazi or Axis occupation, will receive about $2,200 each.

In addition to this $4.5 billion, the German government has shelled out some $60 billion in restitution for suffering at the hands of the Nazis, but slave labor had always fallen between the cracks. German companies long denied responsibility for using slave labor, arguing United Nations. "We have to make sure that a tragic history does not repeat itself. In that spirit, let us continue to work together."

This US lawsuit was successful. Ironically in the US itself, black reparations for over 300 years of slavery remains on the back burner and continues to fight an uphill battle. (For more information on the Black Reparations Movement see African Reparations Movement, an organization founded by the late Guyanese-born British MP, Bernie Grant.)

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Letter to the editor

The banana boat...

Hello Michael

I was casually surfing the net, looking for any information, re the banana boat "Jamaica Producer" and came across your little article in the Hot Calaloo site.. I really was wondering what had happened to the banana trade in Jamaica.
I sailed on the Jamaica Producer back in the sixties as the Radio Officer. I must have been on that boat for about 4 years in all. We would leave London Docks and sail down to Jamaica, unloading general cargo in Kingston. Then we would load bananas in such ports as Port Antonio, Oracabessa, Ocho Rios and a couple of other places. Then another 10 day trip back to London. The ship usually carried 12 passengers. At that time the ship was staffed by English officers and Jamaican crew, although attempts were being made to get an "all Jamaican" contingent aboard.
Who knows, I may have been on the ship when you first saw it. I emigrated to Canada in 1970 and now live (retired) on Salt Spring Island BC. I have never been back to Jamaica, although I'd still like to visit the island again. I bet it's nothing like what I remembered.

Ken Mugridge

Editor: Thanks for that perspective in response to article from March 2001 update, Banana Wars, Banana Memories

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