No Exit: Former Prime Minister Seaga gives us the very bad news

Former PM Edward Seaga was never accused of being a ray of sunshine when he was an active politician. “Action, not a bag a’ mouth” was more his style. Now retired, Mas’ Eddie is writing his autobiography and reflecting on days gone by.

In his column in the Sunday Gleaner today, he gives us the bad news. What is happening to the Jamaican economy now has happened before. He reminds us that in the 1980’s, the bauxite sector tanked, and then recovered, when worldwide demand for aluminium (cars, aircraft etc) picked up. The bauxite industry has nosedived again, but now, in the 00’s, Mr. Seaga predicts that there will likely be no revival, no coming back for the bauxite sector. The ownership of the industry has changed and the productivity of our bauxite processing plants has fallen drastically, mainly because they are not energy efficient.

Mr. Seaga’s analysis echoes that of the industry experts and that of our current Prime Minister Bruce Golding. No one is seeing much of a future for Jamaica’s bauxite industry, as there is no obvious reason why any of the current owners would want to invest the massive sums required to make our plants energy efficient. It is probably going to be cheaper for them to mine and process bauxite elsewhere.

What is interesting about Seaga’s analysis is that he points out this structural problem in Jamaica’s economy but eschews blaming the situation on anyone. The lack of blaming let’s us focus on the issues.

Bauxite has always been our number one or number two foreign exchange earner, and there is no obvious way to replace its’ US$850 million in annual foreign exchange earnings. Tourism can’t bring in that type of ADDITIONAL money, nor can remittances, while manufacturing for export he thinks is dead in the water. So he’s going with agriculture as the way to save ourselves.

I don’t know. It’s hard to imagine any JLP government following Mr. Seaga to another massive Spring Plain-like investment. (For you youngsters out there, Spring Plain was Mr. Seaga’s massive high-tech Israeli-led agricultural investment that was going to make us rich quickly by selling winter vegetables to New Yorkers, and make us rich slowly by growing tilapia, macadamia nuts, hearts of palm and other “non-traditional” crops for export. The Israeli manager of Spring Plain, Eli Tisona, is currently in prison in the U.S., serving the tenth year of his 19 year sentence for money laundering – it turns out that he was in the same “traditional” export agriculture business as many other Columbian and Jamaican farmers).

So what are we going to do to replace our new annual shortfall of US$ 850 million ? Your guess is as good as mine (or Mas’ Eddie’s). What is clear is that there’s no soft option. The first step will be going to the IMF for a bailout – strictly a short term remedy and strictly unpleasant.

In the 1980’s, PM Seaga cut government spending by making drastic cuts in public sector employment. He sent home thousands of government employees (who most Jamaicans suspected never did any work anyway….) Then he lost the 1989 election, and the next government gradually expanded public sector employment again.

So, Prime Minister Golding does have the option of saving money by firing lots of government employees. However, he cannot do it. We have only had one of the 4 citizenship by-elections, and at no time in the next 3 years will it be a good time to make job cuts. So where does that leave us ? And where does it leave the PM ?

No soft options. No easy answers. No exit.

“No Exit and Three Other Plays” (Jean-paul Sartre)

Another Year : New cast of characters, new problems, same old politics

Unexpected Good News in 2008

The Olympics and the haul of gold won by our athletes

The wonderful celebrations of Independence Day

The Riu Hotel Group actually obeying Jamaica’s laws and regulations and knocking down it’s illegal fourth floor AND opening on time

The election of Barack Obama to President of the United States

Lewis Hamilton, son of a West Indian immigrant to the UK, becoming the youngest ever Formula One World Champion

The 2008 Bad News (and no end in sight)

The performance of Prime Minister Bruce Golding and his JLP Government

Take your pick from the scandals :

Corruption at the JUTC revealed after the murder of its Chairman Douglas Chambers

The firing of the new Boards of Air Jamaica (supposedly for incompetence), and of UDC (supposedly for not agreeing with the PM’s decision to bailout Government Senator Hyacinth Bennett and her Hydel Group of schools) and of the Tourist Board (supposedly because they didn’t agree to give Butch Stewart’s surrogate, John Lynch, the job of Executive Director).

The “disappearance” of $15 million dollars from a safe at the Financial Investigations Division

Or take your pick from the missteps:

PM Bruce Golding’s “No gays in my Cabinet” claim in a BBC interview served to inflame an already murderously homophobic Jamaica.

PM Bruce Golding’s assertion that schools are “extorting” money from students by charging auxiliary fees. Apparently teachers and Principals should offer extracurricular activities and maintain school facilities out of their own pockets, since the Government contributes only 50% of what is required to run a school.

Ministers Audley Shaw (Finance) and Edmund Bartlett (Tourism) asserting that Jamaica, alone among the world’s economies, would suffer no fallout from the global economic crisis, only to have to walk back those comments within a few days as the “facts” came in.

PM Bruce Golding keeping the gravely ill Derrick Smith as Minister of National Security until soaring murder rates forced his hand, and then turning over the Ministry of Mining and Telecommunications to the still gravely ill Derrick Smith as the bauxite industry implodes under the weight of debt and the global economic crisis.

The Sugar Company of Jamaica and Jamaica Cane Products Sales falling for a con and managing to lose $87 million of cane farmers money.

Yes, it’s true. In one short year the JLP has managed to make Portia and P.J.’s reign of error look like the good, old days.

Winner: Contractor General Greg Christie who’s showing he can sniff out JLP as well as PNP corruption

Winner: Edward Seaga, former Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, who warned us about Bruce Golding some time back. Whodathoughtit ?

The continued breakdown of community and civil society

DCP in charge of Crime, Mark Shields, says what went bad a morning can’t come good by evening and he ends his contract. A great loss to his Jamaican female fans, but apparently no loss to the Jamaica Constabulary Force : our murder rate goes ever upward.

The new Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Llewellyn, reminded us that it’s impossible to successfully prosecute crimes without witnesses and nobody wants to risk their life to be a witness.

Jamaican women and children are dying in ever more horrible ways at the hands of Jamaican gunmen, as well dying at hands of their husbands, boyfriends and fathers.

An international organization, the World Economic Forum, tells us the-no-news-to-any-Jamaican-woman truth that Jamaica is no great shakes when it comes to improving the status of women; and Wayne Chen, head of the Jamaica Employers Federation, says this can’t be true because “anecdotally, I don’t see that to be the case”. And, you know, men thinking, anecdotally, that Jamaican women don’t suffer from discrimination, is the same thing as women actually getting a fair shake at jobs, promotion, money, status…..(N.B. Wayne Chen’s predecessor as head of the Jamaica Employers Federation, a woman, resigned the post earlier this year after receiving numerous credible death threats….)

Murder continues to be the leading cause of death for young Jamaican men. Young Jamaican men also continue to be the leading perpetrators of crime.

The stealing of a beach marks a new low point in the normal trials and tribulations of doing business in Jamaica.

Winners: Jamaican cops in the JCF who feel they were passed over for the Scotland Yardies, and are cheering the departure of Mark Shields.

Well, naturally, there’s plenty of other stuff to mull over:-

The Chinese workers “found” working at one of the Secrets hotel sites

The leadership contest in the PNP. Portia, winner and still champion

The Reggae Boyz. No trip to South Africa but a bright future with Mr. Barnes ?

Calling all US election addicts : The Last Days

Here are some tips for reading the polls and a few links to blogs that will let you follow the US election closely in the final six days to Election Day November 4, 2008.

Follow what’s happening with the Electoral College (remember that U.S. voters vote for the 538 electors of the Electoral College , NOT for the President)

How the candidates are doing in the Electoral College is more important than how they are doing in the popular vote. Al Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 election, but George W. Bush became President because he won the Electoral College.

Barack Obama is leading by a substantial margin in the Electoral College. That is why many US commentators are already declaring him the winner despite his small and fluctuating lead in the popular vote.

For example, this morning, October 29, 2008, the Real Clear Politics site is giving Obama 311 Electoral College votes to McCain’s 157 Electoral College Votes. This means that even if McCain won all 70 remaining “toss-up” votes, he would still lose to Obama.

The blogs below provide updated Electoral College counts all day as state-by-state polls come in from various polling companies.

If you are short on time, I recommend just checking the Real Clear Politics site. This is a highly respected Republican/right wing site that is generally regarded as the standard. If you are an Obama supporter, you can be assured that the data on this site will be presented in the most dispassionate light. If you are a McCain supporter (what’s the matter with you ?!!!) you can find articles and data which present his campaign in the best possible light……

Blogs with Electoral College calculators :

Real Clear Politics (this highly recommended site tracks all Senate races as well as the Presidential race)

Politico (this is an excellent site which has also has constantly updated blogs which cover both campaigns)

FiveThirtyEight (this is a pro-Obama site for hard core stats-and-polls junkies only)

Talking Points Memo (this is a Democratic site that follows Senate and House races as well as the Presidential race)

After Portia mash up Peter….

Those who supported Peter Phillips with their mouths and money are not happy with his second defeat. Much hysterical stuff is being said about the future of the PNP.

The future of the PNP is looking very safe with the next generation of leaders : General Secretary Peter Bunting (has won 2 seats under difficult circumstances, made a fortune in banking before returning to the party, currently bringing all his private sector savvy and administrative smarts to reorganizing the PNP)

images.jpg General Secretary Peter Bunting

AND Vice President Angela Brown Burke (ready to take over Maxine Henry Wilson’s constituency as soon as Maxine realizes it’s time to pack her bags, husband Paul Burke is still one of her biggest assets).

Layout1_1_PCATTAngellaBAM.jpgVice President Angela Brown Burke (won more votes last Saturday than Portia or Peter)

Not to mention all the other young and not-so-young successors to in-power-far-too-long Portia, Peter, Maxine, Phillip, Bobby, Danny etc namely Basil Waite, Lisa Hanna, Natalie Neita Headley, Ian Hayles, Mark Golding, Raymond Pryce and Damion Crawford…….

The fact is that Portia has no successors in the party who are in her image (black, working-poor class origin, poorly educated, female) and Peter Phillip’s party, the party of Norman Manley (well educated brownings), is now in the hands of well educated black people.

The whole class battle is already history and vanishes with Portia. Still, we will hear about it as long as Portia is leader of the PNP and sending shudders through the middle class/would-be middle class.

As for Peter Phillips, he is, as they say, a slug who has landed in salt. A slow painful death of his non-too-stellar political career seems likely to follow.

“The Politics of Change: A Jamaican Testament” (Michael Manley)

The Week: Bruce in charge

Crime plan # 4,109,347 : Can this one work ?

Yesterday, Bruce Golding, currently Prime Minister of Jamaica, announced the following measures to deal with crime:

(1) Amend law to allow a person to be detained for up to 72 hours without being charged once authorised by a police officer at the level of assistant commissioner or higher.

(2) Refuse bail for serious crimes and repeat offenders for the first 60 days with provision for the prosecution to appeal against granting bail.

(3) Right to non-invasive DNA, such as a mouth swab from a person charged with an offence.

(4) Establish a DNA database

(5) Amend evidence act to allow for witnesses to provide testimony via videotape. This system could provide protection for witnesses.

(6)Provide for majority verdict in non-capital murder. The law would be amended to allow for conviction by a minimum of nine out of 12 jurors.

All of the above seem fine to me. Now to wait and see:

If, When and How these measures are implemented.

Then we wait to see:

If they will make any difference at all…….

“Armed and Female: Twelve Million American Women Own Guns, Should You?” (Paxton Quigley)

Portia versus Peter : Should we care ?

Does it matter who leads the Opposition PNP right now ? Not really. Not when the choice is between Portia Simpson – Miller and Peter Phillips. Both are long time politicians who’ve held powerful positions in the Cabinet over the last 18 years. Anything that they were planning to do in government, or in their garrison constituencies, they should have done already. I don’t think either of them deserves another term in government.

I prefer Portia (she’s easier on the eye and seems to be a much nicer person) but if Peter becomes leader of the party in September and then loses a general election within the next year, the younger generation in the PNP will be poised to push the old guard (Portia, Peter, Omar, Maxine, Bobby, Roger etc) aside and take over the party in 2012/2013.

Pushing the old guard aside is a pre-condition for renewing the PNP. So if the start of the new brooms sweeping clean is predicated on Portia’s defeat in September, I guess I’m for it.

I’m also for Bruce calling a general election shortly after Peter Phillips takes over the PNP and trouncing him soundly at the polls. Then the PNP can get back to the business of cleaning up its’ act, and Prime Minister Golding can settle down to governing with a healthy majority without having to appease every single JLP don and every single JLP moneybags and every single JLP M.P…….

“The Power of Early Speed (Elements of Handicapping)” (Steve Klein)

Deserving our governments ?

About this time last year the big political news was the upcoming election, the polls showing that the PNP were ahead, and PM Portia naming Lisa Hanna as the PNP candidate for South East St.Ann. Also we found out that Bob Woolmer probably wasn’t murdered.

This year Portia is no longer PM, the polls are still showing that the PNP is ahead, and Lisa Hanna is the MP for SE St.Ann. Bob Woolmer is hopefully resting in peace.

“Cricket the Bob Woolmer Way” ()

So now we have a JLP government, we have free health care for all and we have slightly cheaper education (the government is paying tuition fees, but books, extracurricular activities and “school development funds” remain the responsibility of parents). Let it not be said that the new government has not kept its promises or that they have “done nothing”.

Still, it is pretty amazing how little the change of government has changed anything. This is partly because we have all been hit over the head with high food prices and gas prices.

And none of those “jobs, jobs, jobs” have materialized (unless you are a member of the new JLP administration).

And the murder rate has risen again.

And PM Golding’s innumerable Cabinet Ministers are sounding and behaving like they weren’t so much “shadowing” the PNP Ministers for all those years, as learning to faithfully imitate their words, bad habits and corrupt practices……

And Air Jamaica is still soaring to new heights (of debt).

Yup. We’re eating a big helping of same-old-same-old. Tastes very familiar……

“The X-Files – Fight the Future (Widescreen Edition)” (Rob Bowman)

Bruce Golding, crime and governing Jamaica: the harder he falls

For those of us living “on island” each week of 2008 seems to bring more bad news. Last week’s temporarily heart stopping news that the Commissioner of Police had resigned was followed by the “good” news that he’d withdrawn his resignation………leading some of us to remember the high hopes we once had of former Minister of National Security Peter Phillips – he who had fixed the local bus system and introduced some management to our health care system. Since Mr. Super Competent Phillips was unable to make a permanent dent in our ever rising murder rate, weren’t we fools to think that a new government and a new Minister of National Security – two so far for this JLP administration – would do the trick ?

Seems that we were fools. Far from denting the murder rate, the new administration has followed the path of every administration since the 1960’s and presided over a yet higher murder rate. Once again we have to recall that Prime Minister Bruce Golding represents a JLP garrison constituency – drugs, guns and dons rule his land, just as Portia Simpson Miller represents a drug, don and gun ruled PNP garrison. P.J. Patterson represented a rural western constituency and did he make a difference ? Not one whit………

In addition, to the Government’s fumbling management of the national security portfolio, Butch Stewart (he of the Sandals Hotels and owner of the Daily Observer) let the curtain fall for a moment and showed us how perfectly he controls Prime Minister Golding and the Cabinet: the Daily Observer said the Commissioner of Police should go and he went, albeit for less than 24 hours.

Butch is practiced at overreaching, and failing to understand the limits of his power. He it was who declared that he had seen heavy rains that wreaked more damage than last August’s Hurricane Dean, and he it was who had to withdraw that immediately and make a big contribution to hurricane relief. Back when he was a PNP supporter these gaffes and retractions happened so regularly that most of us ceased to notice.

The difference now is that Butch’s star is still ascending the JLP sky – this administration is 4 seats and a few court cases from oblivion and supporters with money cannot be dissed until after the next general election (scheduled for SOON).

The PNP is in disarray and fighting among themselves. Who could want them back in power ? And yet, I’m about to revise my New Year prediction that Jamaicans will never recover their enthusiasm for Leader of the Opposition Portia Simpson Miller.

Bruce seems determined to make Sister P look good.….and he’s also determined to do a disservice to Leader of Opposition Wannabe Peter Phillips….Because, after all, Bruce and Peter are supposed to have the same skill set (articulate, thoughtful managers who can deliver results)……This last week has reminded us that Peter Phillips spent many years (5 or 6) as Minister of National Security with very little (the Scotland Yardies and the locking up of PNP don, Zekes, apart) to show for it. And that while Portia was as absent from the controls as Bruce appears to be, at least she made warm, comforting inclusive speeches, while Bruce’s recent speeches seem designed to encourage hate and division (because we don’t have enough already…)

Forget food and fertilizer prices over which the government has no control……where is the leadership, where is the firm hand on the rudder, where are the good government promises ? This many weeks long sense of doom and chaos is what we elected the JLP for ?

P.S. Much thanks and blessings to Usain Bolt and Senator Barack Obama (Democratic Presidential nominee) for shining some light over our way……….

“The Harder They Come(Laserdisc)(Widescreen)(Criterion Collection)” (Perry Henzell)

Story Come to Bump 2

The overripe fruits of the last election have all dropped to Jamaican ground:

Tourism and the environment

Butch Stewart’s war with the Spaniards forced the Prime Minister to do what no environmentalist or planner thought possible : he has required a foreign hotel investor, in this case the Riu Hotels, to abide by local law and regulations. More power to Butch. I’m trusting Mr. Stewart and his deep pockets, (and Mr. Golding facing the prospect of another general election soon) to make sure that Riu’s fourth floor is actually knocked down….

How likely is this to actually to happen ? Well, the site is closed apparently. Doubtless to allow Riu’s architects and engineers to decide the best way to proceed….(or to allow for their lawyers and lobbyists to figure out how to twist the Prime Minister’s arm).

In any case, what has happened to the effort to force the Riu at Mammee Bay to fix its waste water problem ? Presumably it was the Riu’s refusal to deal with this lesser problem that forced the Prime Minister to use the heavy artillery over their hotel still under construction.


Riu Ocho Rios at Mammee Bay


The Cabinet has been reshuffled to make way for Colonel Trevor McMillan as the new Minister of National Security.We can only hope and pray that he can make a difference.

Dual citizenship cases

Phyllis Mitchell (PNP, losing candidate) has won her appeal in her case against Gregory Mair (JLP MP, Venezuelan citizen). The next general election is a few weeks closer.

Peter vs Portia and Jamaica vs Air Jamaica

Whose years of long service will come to an ignominious end sooner ? Will it be Portia or Air Jamaica ?

All in all, lots of serious things to take mek joke…..maybe next week.

As per usual for this year, it is contests and hope for the future that take precedence over grim realities. Yes, I mean, Obama finally winning the nomination (it can be as early as this Tuesday, May 20, when Kentucky and Oregon vote). Hillary Clinton’s determination is admirable, but, at this point, tiresome.

“Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance” (Barack Obama)

“The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream” (Barack Obama)

Racing to the finish line again : another general election for Jamaica ?

This morning the Breakfast Club asked if the Prime Minister should call an election now. The almost universal consensus from callers was No Way ! No Election Now !

But does PM Bruce have any choice ? Since Daryl Vaz, who claims to have U.S. citizenship through his mother, has been ruled ineligible to sit in the House of Parliament, this means that, although no judge has yet ruled on the cases against Gregory Mair (JLP, St. Catherine) and Shahine Robinson(JLP, St.Ann), these M.P’s – who are dual citizens by their own act – are definitely ineligible. And there are cases pending against Michael Stern (JLP, Clarendon) and at least one other JLP MP (anyone remember who this is ?).

No matter how many PNP M.P.’s also have dual citizenship, this cannot concern the Prime Minister since he does not have any cases pending against these M.P.’s re their eligibility. In any case, these PNP M.P.’s (whoever they are) can make sure they do what Daryl Vaz has done belatedly – go to the U.S. Embassy and renounce their citizenship. Since PM Golding has to give at least 3 weeks notice of an election they will have ample warning.


Prime Minister Golding

Many callers this morning suggested that the Prime Minister just wait for each case to come up and then hold a by-election. He would be almost certain to keep his 4 seat majority if he does this.

But….But…..But…..I’m sure Mr. Golding would like to increase his majority. Some 31 of his 32 Members of Parliament are part of the government (18 Cabinet Ministers, 11 Ministers of State, 2 Parliamentary Secretaries). I think Gregory Mair is the JLP’s only back bencher…….. Which means that Bruce cannot discipline a single member of the Government without risking that person either crossing the floor or refusing to vote with the Government. Any unresolved Cabinet dispute could lead to the fall of the government.

His small majority puts some of the young men in the party – Daryl Vaz, James Robertson, Bobby Montague – in positions of overwhelming influence. Who or what can restrain them when they know that the Prime Minister cannot ?

Plus although there are PNP M.P.’s with tiny majorities ( D.K. Duncan) or small majorities (Peter Bunting, Derrick Kellier) there are also JLP M.P.’s who squeaked home (Tarn Peralto over Harry Douglas, St. Aubyn Bartlett over Trevor Munroe).

At this point, the pundits and pollsters agree that the JLP is unlikely to lose any election held soon, but all bets are off with (1) a new leader for the PNP (2) continued out of control food prices (3) continued out of control murder rate (4) any JLP corruption scandals – remember the first PNP scandals about furniture and such like, took place very early in the administration…….

I think Bruce has to call an election this year,whether he likes it or not, and this is what he has to figure out : When ?

When, will determine whether he runs against Portia or Peter Phillips.

And when may also determine whether the JLP wins or not.

So when will it be ? What’s your take on the date ?

“Lewis Hamilton: My Story” (Lewis Hamilton)

Story come to bump

Cuban lightbulbs smash around Kern’s ears

To quote Michael Manley, “for the first time, at last,” a PNP politician (Kern Spencer, former Minister of State for former Super Minister Paulwell) has been charged with fraud. Some may think that former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson should have received that honour, and I think that Phillip Paulwell should have won the “first to be jailed in revenge for J.A.G Smith” award, but never mind. Kern wins on the basis of his monumental, most easily exposed fraud, or, to give a nod to the judicial process, let’s say he is much nearer the finish line than Patterson or Paulwell. Still, despite Paulwell being a lawyer, and despite him having handed Kern the rope to hang himself, I am not giving up on the new government sending Paulwell to prison for at least one of his tieferies….There is still time…….

Mr Vaz’s American citizenship

Perhaps because there is a another general election riding on it, our newish Portia-appointed  Chief Justice  Zaila McCalla has yet to say whether Minister of State Daryl Vaz is :

(a) a pretend American citizen (got his citizenship thru his mother, so everyone calm down and stop counting the days to the next general election)

(b) a real American citizen (general election on the way, everyone panic)

Crime rate

Up! Down ! Up ! Down !

Calling all male Jamaicans ! We love you ! We need you ! Stop acting like you’re irrelevant  and that it doesn’t matter whether you live or die !!!

Air Jamaica Death Watch

This will never be over……never….ever….

Abortion laws
Jamaicans are getting fed up with the pretense that we are a God-fearing people who have special and unique objections to killing foetuses. Mother Nature does it all the time. Some Jamaican doctors claim to have done it thousands of times.

Hope the Government has the courage of the Medical Association of Jamaica and passes an abortion bill similar to what prevails in the United Kingdom.

After that, how about Jamaicans stop memorizing passages out of Leviticus and start memorizing, “Love thy neighbour as thy self”. Shortly thereafter we could repeal our hateful, colonial-era sodomy laws…….

And, while we’re talking about changing the world as we know it

What are the chances of March 4, 2008 being the day that Senator Obama sends Senator Clinton home to dream about 2016 ?

I’m hoping and praying. I’m also wondering how many of Obama’s Jamaican boosters know that he has stood up in front of black congregations and told them that, as believing Christians, they should be ashamed of their hatred for gays………The guy is for real.

Story come to bump

Cuban lightbulbs smash around Kern’s ears

To quote Michael Manley, “for the first time, at last,” a PNP politician (Kern Spencer, former Minister of State for former Super Minister Paulwell) has been charged with fraud.

Some may think that former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson should have received that honour, and I think that Phillip Paulwell should have won the “First to be jailed in revenge for J.A.G Smith” award, but never mind. Kern wins on the basis of his monumental, most easily exposed fraud, or, to give a nod to the judicial process, let’s say he is much nearer the finish line than Patterson or Paulwell.

Still, despite Paulwell being a lawyer, and despite him handing Kern the rope to hang himself, I am not giving up on the new government sending Paulwell to prison for at least one of his tieferies….There is still time…….

Mr Vaz’s American citizenship

Perhaps because there is a another general election riding on it, our newish Portia-appointed Chief Justice Zaila McCalla has yet to say whether Minister of State Daryl Vaz is :

(a) a pretend American citizen (got his citizenship thru his mother, so everyone calm down and stop counting the days to the next general election)

(b) a real American citizen (general election on the way, everyone panic)

Crime rate

Up! Down ! Up ! Down !

Calling all male Jamaicans ! We love you ! We need you ! Stop acting like you’re irrelevant and that it doesn’t matter whether you live or die !!!

Air Jamaica Death Watch

This will never be over……Never….Ever….

Updating our Abortion laws

Jamaicans are getting fed up with the pretense that we are a God-fearing people who have special and unique objections to killing foetuses. Mother Nature does it all the time. Some Jamaican doctors claim to have done it thousands of times.

Hope the Government has the courage of the Medical Association of Jamaica and passes an abortion bill similar to what prevails in the United Kingdom.

After that, how about Jamaicans stop memorizing passages out of Leviticus and start memorizing, “Love thy neighbour as thy self”. Shortly thereafter we could repeal our hateful, colonial-era sodomy laws…….

And, while we’re talking about changing the world as we know it

What are the chances of March 4, 2008 (Texans and Ohioans vote in the Democratic primaries) being the day that Senator Obama sends Senator Clinton home to dream about the Presidential Election of 2016 ?

I’m hoping and praying. I’m also wondering how many of Obama’s Jamaican boosters know that he has stood up in front of black congregations and told them that, as believing Christians, they should be ashamed of their hatred for gays………

New government in the New Year plus 2008 predictions !

The new government has :

(1) given us a new police commissioner, ex Jamaica Defence Force chief, Hardley Lewin.

No crime plan yet and we desperately need one as murder spirals (it was already out of control, let’s just say it is more out of control). The spike in the murder of policemen is depressing the morale of the force, not to mention the majority of us citizens who rely on the police, not security guards, for our protection……The raid on Tivoli, the killing of five young men and the calls for an inquiry are all depressingly same old, same old…..

(2) attacked corruption by moving to clean up the bus company, the JUTC, and the National Slush Fund Management Agency. Not to mention bringing in the Dutch to investigate Trafigura.…..

(3) continued the more distasteful practices of all previous governments by

rewarding unsuccessful candidates (Joan Gordon Webley) with political jobs (she’s Executive Director of the NSWMA otherwise known as the National Slush Fund Management Agency);

by abusing Prime Ministerial power and disregarding the law (dismissal of the Public Services Commission “for misconduct”)

by failing to demand accountability from its Ministers (Bobby Montague is still in the Cabinet)

(4) given us the welcome news that Air Jamaica is to be divested by 2009 (latest) Only better news re Air Jamaica would be if Minister Wehby announced that if the airline cannot be sold, it will be closed down to stop further massive losses accruing to the Jamaican taxpayer……

(5) bowed to reality and admitted that Jamaica is set for it’s best ever year for tourist arrivals in 2008 (this despite Mr. Gordon “Butch” Stewart’s slander against the previous Minister of Tourism Aloun Assamba and her team at the Tourist Board)

(6) given more work to the French builders of Highway 2000 . Big up Bouguyes Travaux – the highway is still a pleasure and a relief to drive, especially if one is driving AWAY from Kingston ! I’m still waiting to hear why it is the “French” roads don’t dissolve into a strip of grit and potholes like our “Jamaican” roads do whenever it rains……

(7) presided helplessly over price increases – every Jamaican is spending a bigger portion of their income on food and transportation just like citizens everywhere on the planet (except possibly Venezuela …..)
The new government hasn’t:

(1) given us hope of any fundamental change.

(2) lost the support of it’s supporters. The JLP handily won the local government election on December 5.

(3) yet lost any seats to the citizenship challenges making their way through the courts.

(4) yet made us look back with fondness on the days of the PNP.

Still possible section:

Although PM Bruce has found out that the Prime Minister does NOT have too much power (as he thought when he was Leader of the Opposition), the Prime Minister may yet turn out to be ‘new and different‘.

To be ‘new and different’ Bruce needs a bigger margin of seats in Parliament so that his numerous Ministers can be disciplined by losing their Cabinet posts if they mess up.

Another general election which gives him a bigger margin in Parliament may yet enable him to deliver on his good governance promises. Otherwise, all the cleaning up of corruption in various parts of the government will likely come to naught, as the ‘cleaned out’ PNP supporters are replaced with ‘hungry’ JLP supporters…

As for Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition, they are still getting used to the idea that they lost the election and will lose the one likely to be held this year. There doesn’t look like there will be a challenge from Peter Phillips right now and the man of the moment, Peter Bunting, is positioning himself for the General Secretary of the PNP , the better to run for the leadership in three or four years time…..Good luck with that, Peter…While you’re clearly the best candidate, Mr Phillip Paulwell et al are not likely to think that Paulwell’s history of scandal and incompetence are any reason to disqualify him from leadership and will act accordingly. Watch your back !

Xaymaca’s 2008 predictions ! Hot ! Fresh ! Implausible !

1. Jamaicans will never recover their enthusiasm for Portia. We will look back at that love affair and wonder what it was all about……..If the PNP lose a general election this year, Sister P will graciously retire and allow Peter Phillips to take over as Leader of the Opposition……This will set the stage for Peter Phillips similarly gracious retirement shortly before the end of the JLP’s ‘first term’ to allow Mr Bunting or Mr Paulwell to lead the party into the next general election…..

2. Jamaicans will concentrate on holding our corner. As the American economy tanks, we’ll look back at our early 21st century plans and ambitions and wonder why we bought into the idea that we could be a first world country any time soon…..Our housing market will collapse and numerous young professionals will vanish from the island leaving behind massive debts…..

3.Thousands of new Jamaicans (also new Bajans, new Trinis, new Dominicans etc) will arrive in the Caribbean from China……

4. Local radio stations will start issuing hourly bulletins on the state of the Palisadoes road along with the flight arrivals and departures…..

5. Persons previously obsessed with Jamaican politics will spend all their time being obsessed with American presidential politics….

6. Barack Obama will defy Hillary and all predictions and become the U.S. President-elect……

“Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia” (Elizabeth Gilbert)

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Ongoing arguments: tourism, Air Jamaica, Bob Woolmer, price of rice…..


Gallery R1 C1
Iberostar Rose Hall

John Lynch (Executive Vice President Marketing, Sandals Group) is the new Chairman of the Jamaica Tourist Board. The Government couldn’t have chosen a better person, says the head of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, Wayne Cummings (General Manager of Sandals Negril). The Opposition says there is clear conflict of interest between working for a major player in the industry and chairing the tourist board.

The only people with sufficient clout to object (the Issa family, who own Super Clubs, Couples and Swept Away) are silent (so far). Perhaps for good reason – the only similar conflict of interest in this particular post occurred when John Issa, Chairman of Super Clubs, chaired the Tourist Board under the last JLP administration in the 1980’s.

Butch Stewart, Chairman of the Sandals Group, and major financial backer of the current JLP government, is so irritated at the Opposition’s suggestion that his employees should not now control all aspects of the local industry (he’s paid good money for this, after all) that he’s accusing the former PNP administration of having sold their soul to foreign investors. The foreign investors now in possession of the PNP’s soul are doubtless the Riu Group, the Fiesta Group, the Grupo Pinero, Iberostar et al. Hope the PNP’s soul is worth something, because it seems to me that these investors are in for a very rough ride indeed………….

The Palmyra Rose Hall (still under construction by foreign investor…..)

On a side note, it is interesting that Mr Stewart blames his misfortunes on a cabal consisting of former tourism Minister Aloun Assamba, former State Minister of Tourism Wykeham McNeil and former Tourist Board Chairman Dennis Morrison. He also sticks it to former Minister of Finance Omar Davies. Considering that former Prime minister P.J. Patterson was responsible for bringing the Spanish hoteliers to Jamaica, and ex-Chairman of UDC, Vin Lawrence, aka God, was responsible for the massive cost overruns and building defects at Sandals Whitehouse, it suggests that Mr. Stewart thinks these gentlemen remain too powerful (or know too much) to be dissed in public, whereas his targets are has-beens who will not be back to haunt him……..


The late and unlamented Minister of Industry, Commerce and Energy, Phillip Paulwell, is under fire again over those free light bulbs he got from Cuba. Turns out that the fluorescent light bulbs were free and they were handed out by Cubans, but the Government of Jamaica agreed to pay transportation, handling, storage etc etc .

The monies paid for these expenses went to some little known company that didn’t bid for the job, and isn’t registered with the National Contracts Commission…….How much do you want to bet that the little known company will turn out to be owned by a PNP crony or even by Phillip Paulwell himself……

Wonder whether it will take two, three or five years to discover the exact extent of Phillip Paulwell’s ‘youthful exuberances’…….He must be first on the list of potential former Ministers to go to jail (you haven’t forgotten Portia sending J.A.G. Smith- her JLP predecessor as Minister of Labour- to prison for stealing farmworkers’ money, have you ? Someone in the PNP is going to have to pay for that …..)

“Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings: All New Listings of the Most Efficient Products You Can Buy” (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy)

Serious changes

(1) The new government is actually going to fund Parish Councils by allowing them to collect and keep property taxes. Could be the start of something good. However, I’ll believe it when I see it, and I only expect to see it if the JLP retains control of most of the Parish Councils in the upcoming Local Government Elections………..

(2) Colonel Trevor McMillan (former head of the police force, former head of the Revenue Protection Division) is to be a Special Advisor to the Ministry of Finance and Public Service. This is one of those jobs that involves rooting out corruption and going after corrupt people (in other words, treading on the corns of important private sector persons, dons from both parties, and sundry ‘small people’who will complain they ‘just want to eat a bread’…..)

This is also a believe-it-when-you-see-it deal, but with former Minister of National Security Peter Phillips to help him, Colonel McMillan may succeed in locking up a few PNP cronies and officials whom Peter Phillips would just as soon have out of the way (Phillip Paulwell, yuh really in trouble boy…..).

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Colonel Trevor McMillan

Woolmer death

The coroner’s inquest is turning out to be a re-run of the murder investigation with feuding pathologists, conflicting witnesses and all sorts of contradictory evidence…..

Air Jamaica’s future (or the deathwatch continues)

Shirley Williams, who, as head of Metropolitan Parks and Markets cleaned up Kingston in the 1980’s, has been given the job of fixing the problem that is Air Jamaica. The new Chairman promptly dispensed with the services of the CEO and said that she won’t be replacing him as she is looking for a partner to take the airline off the government’s budget, and the partner will likely want to put in their own CEO. Sounds good, and the kind of tough talk we expect from Shirley Williams.

Also sounds a bit optimistic as the ex-CEO confessed that Air Jamaica is not profitable on one single route. Not one single route….. Might be more of a loss leader than even Virgin Atlantic could think of taking on…….

Outcome of September 3 general election

D.K. Duncan, PNP, is to be declared the winner of the Eastern Hanover seat on Thursday. Final tally : JLP 32 seats, PNP 28 seats. Any changes after this will be a result of court action and not the choice of the electorate……

The courts will get a first look at the U.S. citizenship cases on October 31st (Daryl Vaz having asked to postpone the October 16 hearing, because he changed lawyers……)

Education and gender

Good news about boys at some of our boy’s schools doing very well in their exams has not damped down the arguing about women in tertiary education. Peter Espeut puts the blame on the colonial administration, UWI gender experts point out that doing well at university hasn’t translated into money and power for women, and Carolyn Cooper is annoyed that men are upset….

Meanwhile, we take note that in quite different societies with quite different histories (Norway, Iran and Saudi Arabia to name a few) the majority of university students are female…..

Serious tax problems

“Undisputed” (Beenie Man)

Beenie Man failed to show in court today to tell the judge about J$47 million in unpaid taxes. He’s been having a lousy year what with the whole of Jamaica discussing his divorce from D’Angel and trying to figure out his/her motives…….A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Real money issues

The Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) has ‘revealed’ what every Jamaican knew already – inflation is way higher than the previous government let on. The new basket of goods for judging inflation shows inflation is 75% higher than previously stated. Glad to know that I wasn’t hallucinating the constant increase in prices over the last two years….

The new government is heavily into reviewing and revising the government machinery – reviews have ordered of everything from the health care system to Kingston’s drainage. We’ve also had lots of straight talk about “no quick fixes” .

“Wild Figments” (Michael Leunig)

This is all wonderful and very necessary (no doubt) BUT…in the past couple of months, price increases have reached us in everything from flour to chicken to rice to cement. The Jamaican dollar is following the U.S. dollar into the toilet. The economy is tanking. The schools still haven’t received their ‘free tuition’ money from the government…..Clean up after Hurricane Dean is stalling for lack of money….

Whatever the new government is planning to do for us, I’m thinking they should be starting right about now…..

And R.I.P. Lucky Dube

“The Way It Is” (Lucky Dube)

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The week: Who’s your daddy ?

Shame and scandal in the family: Yu father not yu father, but yu father don’t know…….

The Sunday Gleaner gave us something to talk about this week: DNA tests to prove paternity in Jamaica result in one third of Jamaican men doing the test finding out that they are not the baby father. This is supposedly higher than in other countries such as the U.S. and the U.K. Much shock and much cussing all round.

So does this prove Jamaican women are more promiscuous, wickeder etc than women in other countries ? No, but it probably proves what we know already: – all the men who go around boasting that they have “nuff gal” are NOT just talking, and they are also NOT defying the laws of mathematics (see this New York Times article about the mathematical impossibility of a population with a lot of promiscuous men and a lot of chaste women).

Jamaican men have “nuff gal” AND Jamaican women have “nuff man” – it’s just that Jamaican women know better than to boast, and Jamaican men hate being reminded that their girlfriends and wives are not waiting quietly at home while they go out to check out the new ting…….

“Calypso Carnival” (Various Artists)

The new government is planning:

For Air Jamaica

Thinking about taking back the London route from Virgin Atlantic

Making the airline profitable by following yet another model, this time it’s the Sri Lankan model

What we can look forward to:

(1)A few more years of massive losses
(2) More chest-pounding talk about national pride
(3) Several more changes of the Board and the CEO
Virgin Atlantic taking market share from Air Jamaica and British Airways (try flying Virgin just once to understand why Air Jamaica can’t make it)

For the national debt

To tackle the debt by adhering strictly to fiscal targets

To widen the tax net and increase compliance

Growing the economy by 6 to 8% annually and collecting $10 to 20 billion in new taxes

What we can look forward to:

(1) Minister Without Portfolio Don Wehby getting an education in the difference between public and private sector fiscal management
(2) New taxes
(3) Growth (well, let’s hope and pray)

For the transport system

Reduce the losses (running at $100 million per month)

Get the hundreds of buses awaiting repair back on the road

What we can look forward to:

(1) More buses on the road
(2) Renaming of the losses as “government subsidy” (but, hopefully, not until after some significant loss reduction has occurred)

For the Local Government Elections

The elections are to be held as scheduled (i.e. before the end of December 2007)

What we can look forward to:

(1) Polls, polls, and more polls
(2) Analysts explaining why the polls are wrong

For National Security

New blood at the top of the
Jamaica Defence Force (Hardley Lewin out as JDF chief) and the Jamaica Constabulary Force (Lucius Thomas out as Commissioner)

What we can look forward to:

(1) Lot of argument about the performance of the four Scotland Yardies and whether they should stay or go…..

Total amnesia section

Venture capitalists ?
Business leaders are supporting the establishment of a venture capital fund, as suggested by banker Ryland Campbell. This is because it’s a good way to kick start new businesses and help young entrepreneurs.

Also because the failure of previous venture capitalists to kick start new businesses (for example, Dennis Lalor and David Panton’s Caribbean Equity Partners; the Noel Lyon headed Jamaica Venture Fund; the government’s notorious Intech Fund/Universal Access Fund set up by the gone-but-not-forgotten Phillip Paulwell) should not prevent Mr. Campbell from throwing his money in the same direction……

“The Google Story: Inside the Hottest Business, Media, and Technology Success of Our Time” (David Vise, Mark Malseed)

Crime fighters ?
Business leaders are supporting
an increase in spending on fighting crime, rather than on education. This is because crime is an immediate problem and improving the education system is going to take time.

Also just because we have neglected education year after year, and crime has exploded, and every single analysis tells us that the criminals are poor, uneducated and unemployable young males, this is absolutely no reason to change our short-term quick-fix approach….. Absolutely no reason….

Beautiful women in politics – David Panton section

Womanmag8 Wendy Fitzwilliam and son, Ailan

Images-8 Lisa Hanna and son, Alexander

Miss World 1993 Lisa Hanna won her seat in recent general elections in Jamaica and now represents the people of South East St. Ann in Parliament.

Not to be outdone, Miss Universe 1998 Wendy Fitzwilliam is planning to run for a seat in Trinidad’s general election set for November 5, 2007.

Both ladies have sons with David Panton, one time JLP candidate and Jamaican venture capitalist. Mr. Panton now resides in Atlanta and appears to have shelved his own political ambitions for the time being…..

Still pending: – the outcome of the September 3 general election

The legal battle for Eastern Hanover continues…. The PNP’s D.K. Duncan goes back to court today October 10, 2007……

First U.S. passport case (Daryl Vaz) will be in court next week Tuesday….

Performance review : Reggae Boyz section

Captain Horace Burrell

The Captain is
set to get back in the saddle as President of the Jamaica Football Federation after the November 4, 2007 elections.

Soon-to-be-former-President Crenston Boxhill’s four years in office are notable only for the hiring of Bora as technical director.

As a few cynics have pointed out, Bora (at US $1million a year) costs Jamaica more than the annual salaries of Prime Minister Golding and his entire 18 member Cabinet…..And in November, he’ll have been here for a year…… So what has Bora done for us lately ? (Or ever, for that matter ? No offence meant…..)

“Luciano Pavarotti – Nessun dorma (Arias & Duets)” (Luciano Pavarotti, Mirella Freni, Katia Ricciarelli)

“The 3 Tenors in Concert 1994 / William Cosel” (William Cosel)

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The week: Still waiting to exhale

Prime Minister Golding and his government start to ring the changes and gladden hearts.


Transfer taxes abolished, stamp duty reduced !

Real estate agents and home owners rejoice. When will these kick in ? I notice the Minister of Finance didn’t mention that part….. Just asking……


The Opposition is to chair five committees in addition to the public accounts committee. Leader of the Opposition, the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate all get improved status. Not clear what this is going to mean for governance…… Great idea or gridlock ?

The Prime Minister plans to revamp Parliament’s website (now defunct , of course, as it was another Phillip Paulwell effort) to allow greater access to Parliamentary documents. Good news for serious bloggers (I don’t mean me)

Same old, same old….

Jamaica is ranked more corrupt than ever by Transparency International. No big surprise after Trafigura, Solutrea and other youthful exuberances of former Minister Phillip Paulwell et al.

We are also suffocating under our tax burden and our debt burden and tons of red tape.

And cement dey pon shortage again…..despite Minister Samuda and Prime Minister Golding chastising the Caribbean Cement Company (our sole manufacturer)………

“Back to the Future – The Complete Trilogy (Full Screen Edition)” (Robert Zemeckis)

Breathing space for the government ?

The JLP’s Tarn Peralto wins South East St. Mary after counting of two remaining ballot boxes. Seat count still 33- 27.

Or chickens coming home to roost ?

Eastern Hanover is still waiting for a declaration, but PNP’s D.K. Duncan was leading by 12 votes last Monday when JLP stopped the second recount. Next week’s likely seat count 32-28.

Abe Dabdoub (PNP) challenges Minister Without Portfolio Daryl Vaz’s U.S. passport in court on October 16.

Next up, Oswest Senior Smith (PNP) challenges Minister Without Portfolio Shahine Robinson’s U.S. passport; followed by Phyllis Mitchell (PNP) challenge to JLP’s Gregory Mair’s Venezuelan passport.

Abe Dabdoub, long time JLP lawyer, now PNP lawyer, says that the citizenship challenges are not likely to take years because the rules have changed and judges can now set the timetable for cases (attorneys used to be able to delay and put off cases at will)…….

If the PNP wins the 3 pending citizenship cases (shifting the seat count to a PNP lead of 31 to 29) will they really try to take back the government, when the voters gave the JLP a 4 seat victory ?

What happens if the PNP win only 2 of the citizenship cases (Daryl Vaz maintains his U.S. citizenship comes through his mother, which is permitted under the Constitution) and the seat count is 30-30 ?

It’s sort of hard to believe that anyone misses Phillip Paulwell or Peter Phillips or Maxine Henry-Wilson or Omar Davies…..

On the other hand, there are a lot of people who just discovered that all politicians talk out of both sides of their mouths, namely:-

(1) Parents who’ve now realized that free tuition doesn’t cover books or ‘school development fees’ or extra-curricular activities, and that these costs always made up the majority of school fees.

(2) The nurses who say they have a DVD of Minister of Finance Audley Shaw promising them a 100% increase in pay at their Founder’s Day celebrations in the not-so-distant past (July 2006). He says he never did. They say they are not going to use the DVD until salary negotiations next April….just a little warning to the government that even though the nurses (and doubtless, the police and teachers) know that the JLP was just electioneering when all these wild promises were made, they intend to remind them of these promises “when time come….

“When time come” is likely to be rather sooner than next April.

“When time come” is likely to be when Prime Minister Golding has to call an election :-

EITHER the Local Government elections which are due by December 2007

OR a by-election in a seat(s) where the JLP winner has been removed by the courts

OR a general election if no other compromise can be found and the Government is holding a minority of seats in Parliament.

Once any sort of election is called, campaigning will begin and that is when the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance will have to account for promises made……
Today’s Gleaner (Sept 29, 07) suggests that the JLP has a Plan B to deal with their “marginal victory problem” – purchase a few M.P.’s from the Opposition, preferably those that used to be Labourites….

Next few months should be fun for the onlookers (those of you living outside Jamaica) and sure to be hell for those of us here on island…. <a href=””> Widgets</a>

Trinidad catches election fever

Trinis will go to the polls on November 5, 2007. Thanks to Island Spice and Caribbean Free Radio for telling us about the hilarious secret blog of Prime Minister of Trinidad, Patrick Manning. Calling all Jamaican bloggers ! What about ‘The Secret Diary of Sister P’ ? Or “The Private Thoughts of Your New Prime Minister by Bruce Golding “? Wonder if PM Manning has any advice for PM Golding about how to govern with a hung Parliament …….( Trinidad had general elections in December 2000, December 2001 and October 2002….due to slim or no majorities for the PNM or the UNC…….)

“The Mystic Masseur” (Ismail Merchant)

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The new Prime Minister of Jamaica needs time – will he get it ?

Magisterial recounts

The struggle continues.

The Eastern Hanover recount is being recounted after D.K. Duncan (PNP) wins by 12 votes, reversing Barrington Gray’s (JLP) 9 vote victory.

The counting of the 2 uncounted ballot boxes in South East St. Mary continues to be blocked by the JLP’s lawyers who want the JLP’s Tarn Peralto’s victory to stand.

The outcome of the recounts is desperately important to the newly installed JLP government. If one seat goes to the PNP, the JLP/PNP split will be 32- 28, or a 4 seat margin. If both seats go to the PNP, this means a 31-29 split, or a 2 seat majority for the JLP (effectively a margin of one, since the Speaker only votes to break a tie.)

What this would mean is the Prime Minister could not afford to alienate or discipline a single member of his parliamentary majority. The past few years saw a fairly constant dribble of caretakers, M.P.’s and Senators switching parties – the main effect then was an opportunity for point scoring on either side, but it had no real effect on the fortunes of either party.

Now, a single M.P. deciding to cross the floor would throw the ruling party and government into crisis.

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Prime Minister Golding and his Cabinet Ministers

In a slightly more perfect Jamaica, the Prime Minister would be able to rely on all his M.P.’s to stay in line and with the JLP, on the grounds that after 18 years in Opposition, no JLP M.P. would even be contemplating risking the JLP’s opportunity to govern.

In the Jamaica we live in, disaffected M.P.’s may well decide that revenge is sweeter than humble pie.

And who might be disaffected after only a few days in government? Well, Minister of Finance Audley Shaw might be somewhat miffed over all the excitement over Don Wehby, who is NOT a junior minister but a full cabinet minister with responsibilities in the Ministry of Finance. After all, what is it that Don Wehby expects to do in regard to the massive national debt that Audley Shaw is not expected to be able to do ? Press for a massive new tax package on citizens ? Press for massive cuts in spending ? Either route looks likely to lead to a super quick return to the polls and a JLP defeat.

What Prime Minister Golding needs is to win the outstanding seats AND for the Supreme Court to reinterpret the Constitution to permit U.S. passport holders to keep their seats in Parliament, at least for the time being.

What he needs is to win the upcoming Local Government elections with the sort of decisive majority that the JLP won these elections with in 2003.

What he needs is a workable majority in Parliament – 33-27 – for at least the next two years.

Without this, both the Prime Minister and the PNP are only counting the days, weeks and months to the next election.

Without this, Prime Minister Golding is looking at taking the blame for the PNP’s massive build-up of debt, by being able to do nothing about it.

Without this, Prime Minister Golding is hostage to the desires (no matter how ridiculous) and the requirements (no matter how unreasonable) of every member of his 31 member government (18 Cabinet Ministers, 11 Ministers of State, 2 Parliamentary Secretaries).

And, by the way, this is probably the most likely explanation for the ending of the weekly post Cabinet press briefings (now to take place on the following day, Tuesday). No disrespect for the press was probably intended, but certain political realities have to be attended to i.e. unpopular Cabinet decisions have to be communicated to other members of the government and private sector party supporters before these decisions become generally known. Egos will have to be soothed, promises given (and, where necessary, veiled threats made) BEFORE post-Cabinet press briefings take place, to ensure that they do not turn into debacles for the Government.

Interesting times.

In the meantime, we can look forward to the new appointments to Government Boards (crucial for cash cows such as the Urban Development Corporation– which is one of the biggest players in the construction industry- and the CHASE Fund – which is sitting on hundreds of millions of lottery proceeds).

We can look forward to Andrew Holness’ attempts to deal with the unholy bureaucracy that is the Ministry of Education.

We can look forward to Minister of Information, Culture, Youth, Sports and Gender Affairs Babsy Grange using her Ministry to do something for the crime plagued and poverty stricken residents of Spanish Town.

“Gone is the Ancient Glory: Spanish Town, Jamaica, 1534-2000” (James Robertson)

We can look forward to the new Government doing its best to change Jamaica’s course as far as is possible, given their political realities and the country’s economic realities.

As for the Opposition, it is truly a Government-in-waiting…….

Wondering about crime and the new National Security Minister Derrick Smith ? What’s on his plate is this : – Murders are up 23% over 2006.

This week’s “Woes of the Spanish Hotels”

(1) A section of the 1,800 room Fiesta Hotel under construction in Hanover collapsed (again) this week injuring two workers. The Prime Minister appointed Minister Without Portfolio Bobby Montague and State Minister Joseph Hibbert to investigate. This is the same hotel construction site where police allegedly shot a worker in February 2007 and his colleagues responded “with fire” and burned eleven vehicles……

Site of the Fiesta Hotel, Bamboo Bay, Hanover

(2) The Riu Ocho Rios is being sued by the owners of the neighbouring Mammee Bay Estate for dumping sewage and waste water into the sea, causing bathers to suffer both the sight of untreated waste on the beach and rashes from swimming in the water.

Anyone who has visited either the Riu Ocho Rios or Mammee Bay will know that if the water at Mammee Bay is polluted, the waters at the Riu Ocho Rios must also be polluted.
So, is it that the Riu discourages its guests from swimming in the sea, or is it that their guests think the waters of the Caribbean are naturally a slimy, stinking mess ?

The Riu Ocho Rios

The women – way too many of them…..

The big non-political story of the past couple of weeks is the news that female students now make up 82% of students at Mona Campus of the UWI. We’ve had the usual consternation and wringing of hands over young males deciding to skip higher education and go directly into the workforce. Heather Robinson challenges the new JLP government to increase male enrollment in tertiary education….. And yet another study of the problem is promised……

Elsa Leo-Rhynie
Elsa Leo-Rhynie, Professor of Gender and Development Studies at the UWI, and Pro Vice Chancellor

And, while much is made of this “Jamaican/Caribbean problem”, the New York Times carries an article about young American women who (by virtue of being more educated) make more money than the men they date.

We have forgotten that there used to be a consensus that women were disadvantaged compared to men in every aspect of adult life – jobs, opportunities, incomes, career choices, prospects for promotion, ability to plan their family, ability to live independently, ability to avoid poverty and abuse…. Women’s low status in society was supposed to encourage male abuse and to have a detrimental effect on the life chances of children whose mothers were poor and illiterate. There used to be a consensus that the only way for women to improve their status in society was to get an education….

“Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics” (bell hooks)

So generations of parents, teachers and community leaders encouraged girls to choose education and a job over early motherhood and dependence on a man. This strategy seems to have worked. Now we are hearing that the problem is that men aren’t getting educated at a rate that will allow them to maintain their traditional dominance over women in the workplace. Now male abuse is said to be the result of women’s improved status in society…….. Why am I not surprised ?

“The Color Purple” (Steven Spielberg)

“My Brilliant Career” (Gillian Armstrong)

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Jamaican elections prove time longer than rope (for both PNP and JLP)

The JLP squeaked home and we have a new government. Despite Portia’s supremely ungracious ‘not conceding’ speech – she must have had coaching from her old friend Eddie Seaga – I shall miss her. We can count on the PNP spending the next year squabbling, and Peter Phillips trying to take over as PNP Party President and Leader of the Opposition within a year. This would be the best outcome for the JLP, since a Peter Phillips-led PNP will present no real alternative government. However, Portia has shown that she intends to fight on for now …….

“Farewell, My Lovely” (Dick Richards)

Looking back at the election

JLP candidates that won, generally won by healthy margins. Most ironic PNP loss is probably of the St Elizabeth South Eastern seat where sitting PNP MP Len Blake was pushed aside for flip flopping Norman Horne (PNP, JLP,PNP) only for Horne to be beaten by the JLP’s Franklyn Witter.

The pollsters were correct – Don Anderson was again the most accurate by giving the JLP the edge in an election that was “too close to call”.

The popular vote split 50/50 with the JLP edging the PNP by between 3,000 to 4,000 votes nationwide.

Looking forward

From the moment of Bruce Golding’s statesmanlike and conciliatory victory speech, the pundits began speculating about how long a Government with one seat majority in Parliament can last. Over the ensuing days the count shifted in favour of the JLP. In theory, a 33-27 majority could hold for 5 years.

However, this is unlikely, given that :-

(1) There are 3 magisterial recounts still in train (Duncan vs Gray, Douglas vs Peralto, Henry-Wilson vs Gordon-Webley), despite Peralto tying to ensure that the 2 remaining ballot boxes are not counted.

(2) Two JLP MP’s (Shahine Robinson and Gregory Mair) are known to fail the constitutional test for M.P.’s (no swearing of allegiance to a foreign country) in respect of their US and Venezuelan passports. Once these cases have proceeded through the courts, their PNP counterparts will be declared victors by default and the JLP would only have a 1 seat majority (one member of the governing party must act as Speaker of the House – now Mr. Delroy Chuck – and does not vote except to break a tie).

Knowing this is coming, Prime Minister Golding will concentrate on consolidating his popular support, in preparation for going back to the country sometime within the next two years. He has taken his first steps to ensure his M.P.’s stay in line – virtually everyone who won a seat on September 3rd is in the government as a Cabinet Minister(18), Minister of State (11) or Parliamentary Secretary (2). Unless the Prime Minister and the JLP really mess up, a Peter Phillips-led PNP will present no real alternative government, and Bruce should get an increased majority. (See UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson who was twice elected with (1) a majority of 4 in 1964, and (2) as a minority government in 1974 after the Conservatives under Edward Heath failed to form a coalition. On both occasions, he returned to the country within 18 months and won an increased majority.)

A Portia-led PNP is walking a high wire as well. If they push the Prime Minister to a too early election (within six months) they may alienate some of their own supporters. Portia also needs to get rid of some of the old guard, but even those who lost their seats like Horace Dalley will not like the prospect of getting ‘real jobs’, while senior figures like Peter Phillips cannot be moved short of a massively prestigious and lucrative international job. In favour of Portia and an early PNP return to office will be all those whose noses have been abruptly removed from the trough – as long as the JLP looks shaky in government these folk will work night and day to get Sister P back in office, their preference for Peter Phillips as leader not withstanding…..The PNP also has to deal with the fact that even if they win an election within the next two years, it is hardly likely that they will get a large majority of seats, so internal divisions have to dealt with now, or we could have the government changing hands several times in the next five or six years……..

In the meantime, expect us Jamaicans to get little change of course in the economy, and for the JLP both to concentrate on the poorer classes (free secondary education and free health care at public hospitals from April 2008) and to disappoint some of their well-heeled supporters when it comes to the immediate hand-out of jobs, contracts and other goodies.

Big JLP supporters like Gordon “Butch” Stewart”, owner of the Jamaica Observer and the Sandals/Beaches hotels, will expect (and get) quicker returns on their investment. Look for the government to finally start enforcing environmental regulations and labour laws at the Spanish hotels (those already built and those under construction) and look for these hotels to experience myriad “labour” and other troubles. The curse of the sea turtle will at last become apparent……

“V for Vendetta (Widescreen Edition)” (James McTeigue)

All in all, it seems to me that the election has had a most satisfactory outcome for the vast majority of Jamaicans who can expect a shaky government to pay lots of attention to meeting their needs for good health and education, jobs and better infrastructure, and who can expect non bread and butter issues (like constitutional change) to stay on the back burner……

Crime management ? Crime reduction ? Let’s wait and see.

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The Jamaican elections : the debates

Debate on social issues: Minister of National Security Peter Phillips beat Ken Baugh, JLP.

How come?

Peter Phillips wants to be in the Cabinet if the PNP wins; and he wants to replace Portia as leader of the PNP if the PNP loses. He had every incentive to perform and did so.

Ken Baugh was not a popular or effective Minister of Health in the 80’s, and recycling him for the 21st century was just a bad idea.

Debate on the economy: Audley Shaw, JLP, beat Minister of Finance Omar Davies.

How come ?

Audley Shaw knows his entire political career is at stake. He has no future in politics if the JLP loses the election and he loses his seat. He had every incentive to shine and he did.

Omar knows he is going to be replaced by Peter Bunting if the PNP wins, and if the PNP loses, he has no chance of winning the leadership. He had no incentive to win and he didn’t.

Debate between the leaders: Leader of the Opposition Golding beat Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

How come ?

He’s smarter and more articulate. He will have a tough time continuing in politics if the JLP loses this election. He was a gentleman and he showed his class, winning without making her a loser.

The Prime Minister went in to the debates to hold her own. She did. She believes that her supporters are (1) in a majority (2) don’t care about whether she can talk about stuff they don’t understand either…

What effect will the debates have, if any ?

Your guess is as good as mine…….

However, let’s whizz back to the U.S. elections of 2000 and 2004. George W. Bush (rich, educated, but not terribly smart) fought and won against two very smart and articulate Democrats, Al Gore and John Kerry. He used religion, and the fact that people liked him, to win. See any resemblance to our lady Prime Minister ?

Let’s just hope that if Portia wins she turns out to be better leader than George W. Bush has turned out to be…….

[posted with ecto]

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