Monthly Archives: September 2007

The week: Still waiting to exhale

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

Taxes

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……

Parliament

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….

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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……

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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 ?

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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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