Saturday, 30 May 2015

Support for Public Sector Shutdown

The People's National Party(PNP) government and its economic oversight reps of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) have made it quite clear that they are passing on the hand dealt to them by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the public sector workers who largely constitute the Jamaican middle-class in form of a 5% wage offer. Although, in the weeks immediately following the 5% disclosure the administration was insisting that it was just a starting offer and that negotiations would bear good fruits.

People's National Party
It would not be long after that the government, now under more pressure by the defiant unions and workers began to colour its own workers as inconsiderate; saying that they were selfishly ignoring the administration's tight fiscal space as dictated by the IMF and that there defiance could possibly derail the economic reform programme - although the public workers had agreed to wage freeze for 6 years despite increase in cost of living to give the government sufficient time and maneuverability to stimulate growth.

Let Actions Speak

It  was encouraging to see the leader of the Jamaica Teachers Association motivating his charges to email Public Service Minister, Horace Dalley, sending him countdown reminders for the government to respond to the teacher's offer, even drawing irritated response from the minister. Hopefully union leaders and other activist will see the value in utilizing new media and social network to not just mobilize the troops but engage the wider Jamaican populace in their cause especially to build awareness and gain support.

As the weeks pass; the public sector workers and their families are anxious for deal of mutual interest to reached - the unions have threatened inevitable industrial actions with only their sense of duty to nation sustaining them. But we challenge the unions, workers and Jamaicans not to be caught in individual battles that only serve a single interest, its time we awaken to possibilities of sustained change that only arise from us presenting a united front in the face of our new reality.

Public Sector Shutdown 
Public Sector shutdown and walkouts aren't unheard of and here in Jamaica it follows the traditions of the early union movements that led up to our independence; such an action will have large support and could be a catalyst for the type of awakening that will get turn our general apathy into ACTION!.

Don't Downplay, Encourage and Participate

It is a reoccurring theme among Jamaicans to downplay the cause, advocacy and motives of those among us with the intention of disrupting the status quot. 

It indicates a level of fear that has been driven into the people through a political culture of "don" and "area leader", but also the injustice brought about by the cronyism that amass power for the selected few and the only way to make some head way is by supporting them or "dawg nyam yuh suppah". Many are quick to place political labels hence making it easier for them to dismiss and avoid participation.

We must decide to reject the "we can't do anything" and "is dem run things" mentality that has kept governance from truly progressing. Realizing that we have the power and should be constitutionally be given more power to hold those in elected and other public offices accountable.

Despite this, we must seek to encourage, motivate and participate in the activities be them discussion or civil actions that will create CHANGE, so that everybody has a chance for reach strive for the top.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Jamaica's International Image: Reaping What We Have Shown

President Obama didn't hide his 'evolution' on Same-sex marriage, and during his visit to Jamaica President Obama was not bashful about his administration and nation's fundamental views on Human Rights that are ensured in their constitution since the USA's conception, in fact during his presentation he made the effort to point out a LGBT/Women Rights activist and endorsed her efforts to advance these rights for the communities she represents. 

It would be foolish to assume that the bilateral Obama-Simpson-Miller discussion at Jamaica House excluded Human Rights - specifically Jamaica's LGBT community, therefore it is was foreseeable that any group/person was prepared to say "told you so", if the United States decided to initiate serious diplomatic discourse on the issue, as we see now with the special envoys.

Any attempt to lead the impressionable population – those on the middle ground not convince either way – down the path of believing that nothing is wrong with how human rights is talked about and dealt with currently in Jamaica is dangerous. We can't continue rejecting the outside criticism of our internal affairs if we proclaim to be a western democracy, we must introspect or decide to isolate and block out the noise of the international community that we are apart.

Reaping What We Shown

Jamaica in the eyes of the international community has many things to be praised and rebuked for including our culture, music, athletics, economy management and homophobia - It was not too long ago the TIME magazine labeled us the most homophobic place on earth, so many other headlines have came before and still continue to be seen even as we improve.

The international community is still concerned about our how our laws and culture continue to affect the treatment of some vulnerable groups and minorities as reported by the Minister of Justice, Senator Mark Golding in debrief of the Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review; including women, disabled and lgbt.

We are surely reaping what we have sown, its equated to our economic mismanage-rs label that has brought us to our knees before the IMF,as the world watches closely to see if we stay the austerity course towards being fiscally prudent, before they decide to seriously invest in Jamaica. 

Jamaica will continue to receive human rights nudges  from our developed international partners - It is important we reject any attempts to 'meddle' or 'strong arm' our sovereignty into submitting before our native culture and society advances either naturally or local disturbances in form of activism.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

TPPandTheCaribbean: Trans-Pacific Partnership Facts and How the Caribbean will be affected

Mainstream Messed Up

Before I do delve into 'the need to knows', I must call out any mainstream media that either under-reported this issue or ignored it, but I am especially disappointing in the Jamaican mainstream media as they have left the Jamaican masses especially the disfranchised  members of the society who have no other resources other than the mainstream media be it print or electronic to enlighten them about local and global affairs.

There is no for the media not follow and report on such a established topics such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the other less popular United States(US)-EU(European Union) Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership(TTIP). Even as Pres. Obama maneuvers his Trade Bill  through the US House of Representative and Senate that would see the implementation of the TPP in the US within a period of 6 years, along with other negotiation nations from the Americas include: Mexico, Canada, Peru and Chile. 

TPP Members 

TPP Facts

What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership 

The TPP or TPP12 is an a game changing  Free Trade Agreement that was originally signed by Brunei Darussalam, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore under its former name "Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership" and came into effect in 2006 with a vision of comprehensive trade liberalization being implemented by 2015, but between 2010-2013 the other 8 nations( including Japan, Australia, Malaysia,Vietnam) had joined led by the USA, of course making it 12 nations in total. 

TPP Objectives

The TPP stated objective is  to achieve extensive liberalization of both goods and services, and entails comprehensive coverage of trade in services, investment, government procurement, non-tariff measures, and many other regulatory areas 
including Intellectual Property.

Size and Power  

This Partnership is looked upon as another geopolitical power struggle between the US and China's emerging influence in the Americas and Asia-Pacific hence we must asses its economic size and power to really gain an appreciation of its impact on global trade, but also consider the possibilities of more Asian-Pacific nations joining the TPP.

Although the United State is almost twice the size in population and economy of the other members: Trade among TPP partners amounted to more than $2 trillion in 2012, which can be compared to World Trade Organization (WTO) global trade valued $18.3trillion for that period, TPP trading would equal 11% of all trade.

TPP nations are a 40% share of all United States world trade with the North American Free Trade(Canada,Mexico,USA) and Japan the majority of that trade.

In terms of populations according to the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) 2014 World Population Data Sheet, .the total American TPP members which stands at 555 million, more than half the total population of the Americas (971 million), is significantly larger than the Asian population figures which amount to no more than 256.6 million (285 if you add Australia and New Zealand), compared to Asia’s total population of 4.3 billion: almost half of the Asian contingent is accounted for by one member, Japan: Converted to percentage of worlds population would be 12%.

Criticism and Concerns 

Opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership says its a secretive, multinational trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property (IP) laws across the globe and rewrite international rules on its enforcement. 

The fear the deal may extend the scope of patents in sectors such a medicine and prevent the distribution of generic drugs.

With the certain deregulation of the Private Sector seen also as negative by pro consumer advocated; there will easier flow of companies and their revenue, leading to possible loss of  employment and outsourcing of local jobs.

Continued currency manipulation by some members;currency manipulation is characterized by persistent current account surpluses, and accumulation of massive quantities of foreign currency reserves.

And with the rigidity of trade and harmonization regulation to ensure equality being proposed, opponents say that smaller economies will have less room to grow and develop.

How TPP will Affect The Caribbean

The  magnitude of the affect that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is still hard to predict as nations still negotiate and hence we await the final agreement, if they are successful in reaching there:
The European Center for International Political Economy(ECIPE) report: "Mega-Regional Trade Agreements: IMPLICATIONS FOR THE AFRICAN, CARIBBEAN, AND PACIFIC COUNTRIES" has provided some insight into how these two Free Trade Agreements would affect the African, Caribbean and Pacific(ACP) countries and provided some recommendations going forward:
For the Caribbean specifically, ECIPE said that the TPP may have a significant impact on trade, with the USA accounting for close to 35% of the Caribbean’s exports while the EU and the rest of the TPP account for 11% and 8% respectively. 

Also that there are a number channels through which mega-regional agreements such as the TPP can impact on ACP countries. The first is the direct effect that mega-regional agreements can have on existing ACP access to EU and USA markets on preferential terms not available to middle and high-income countries. The second channel is the impact that the reduction of non-tariff measures and the harmonization of standards within the TPP can have on either raising or reducing export costs for ACP countries. 

What Must We Do

Some ECIPE recommendations for ACP countries include:

ACP countries continuing to push for increased and more targeted aid for trade, development and should also bolster their domestic systems for receiving and utilizing this assistance these tools should be used to cater for the country’s domestic institutional, political economy, and governance constraints.

Conducting national assessments of how we are positioned in the mega regionals “game”- domestic reform imperatives could best be pursued so that the country is not left too far behind.

Strengthening and widening regional economic integration:  enlarging the regional economic space will provide some attraction to outside investors, particularly if the transactions costs of accessing regional markets can be made less burdensome or, even better, attractive.

Without "high-level" government and policy intervention Caricom and its Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) will be on the receiving end of whatever trade deals, regulatory  changes, environmental and intellectual property rights agreements result from this new arrangement with no way out. 

Next Time we analyze the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership(TTIP).

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Two-Tier Local Governance for Jamaica

It was interesting to hear Opposition leader Andrew Holness ratify the position of his party local governance when he said to MP Warmington[opposition whip]: 

“Wehave to support the bill. We can't look like we not supporting localgovernment." Jamaica Gleaner 13/5/2015

It was almost amusing in that instance to see the opposition fumble and tumble in the House of Representatives during the vote on the amendment to theLocal Government Act{link to Bill} being proposed by the government, prior they stood united and defiant against the CCJ bills that had eventually passed with only government MPs support.

Entrenchment is not enough

It must now become the priority of the government not settle with the entrenchment of the current system, that sees rampant nepotism, corruption, lack of trust, little participation of citizens and community groups, with the current system of local government in the past
Constitution of Jamaica 1962
being disbanded on the grounds of corruption and ineffectiveness, it is understandably that we should be hesitant of protecting a unsatisfactory institution.

The move towards reform are derived from reports recommendations on constitutional reform in 90's and over 20 years later have seen the best and worst of our style of Westminster politics hence any recommendations then must be viewed in the context of nation that has a trust deficit between citizen and government that only be described as unfavorable for development and growth.

County Councils and Parish Administrators

A county council is the elected administrative body governing for an county that often are responsible and are compliment by smaller public bodies including city, districts, parishes, etc. The political system we mirrored belonging to the United Kingdom had county councils from 1889, and reformed in 1974 to one-tier-unitary authorities in most areas of the UK, others nations with County councils include: Sweden, Taiwan, Norway and USA [10 states].

3 Counties/14 Parishes of Jamaica
With County Councils established in Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey [with exception of the Portmore Municipality] - as an elected assembly - the parish/district administrators would be either be elected or appointed on the advise of Justices of the Peace/Magistrates/Community workers.

Constitutionally, the county councils would exercise a degree of municipal self-government provided by the Constitution
Within the boundaries of the county the smaller Parish administration would exercise local self-government independent of the county councils. Each parish in the county could contribute a number of Council members dependent on size and population leading to lesser number of elected at the local levels.
Constitutional reform is matter of when, not if for a young democracy and it must be repeated that the constitution is not a stagnant document but a living scripture that changes constantly and must be continuously updated and reviewed.

Young democracies such as Jamaica have the advantage of learning from the mature democracies that have evolved through trials and errors.