Friday, March 29, 2013

Gay marriage and the natural law

BY BROTHER HAYDEN AUGUSTINE





 
GAY marriage has become a hot topic, a burning issue. Some time ago, on the front pages of our dailies, two women are captioned in matrimonial embrace. As we continue perusing the news, more captions, more divergent opinions and viewpoints, columns and letters are expressed on this most elemental of traditions. One journalist even feared for her life in the firestorm of opinions.

Is sexual expression a human right? Could opposition to homosexuality be considered a hate crime? Would homophobia be one day declared a mental sickness? These are some of the thoughts that run through my mind as I reflect on this ongoing impassioned debate about same-sex marriage.

Marriage has been a noble institution that virtually all cultures have embraced. It is the substratum of civilisation, the most fundamental unit of human society. By definition, it is the state of union between a man and a woman, a permanent and affective relationship of a husband and his wife that generates and educates its offspring.
 
All religions, not just Christianity, have denounced homosexuality and see no reason for it in marriage. That is to say, it is part of natural law. Christianity, which is Jamaica's bedrock religion, has pronounced unequivocally on the nature of marriage as the exchange of vows between a man and a woman, equally made in the image and likeness of God, and joined together in harmonious unity to "be fruitful and multiply, and (to) fill the earth and subdue it".
 
Thus, marriage is part of the natural order of the universe, the pristine and constitutive ingredient uniting man and woman in their joint stewardship of creation and as progenitors of the human race. Marriage is thus a primordial commandment, a natural law.
 
Is it now God's will that two women marry each other? Would the Creator unite two men in marriage? And to what end? We cannot now throw out the natural laws of God uniting man and woman, laws which have made possible the posterity of the race, the creation of family life and the guarantee of social cohesion, for this anomalous situation.
 
It is irrational and against natural law for two men or two women to marry each other. If they fall into sexual relationship, it is sinful and they can be forgiven. But they must control their passions and transform their relationship into friendship.
 
Indeed, its foundation is noble. It is friendship, but friendship which does not require marriage.  Friendship oftentimes grows deeper than marriage. Friendship is created for the sake of brotherhood or sisterhood, people get united to achieve one purpose or common cause. Companionship and fellowship are time-honoured joys of civilisation.
 
These must continue, be nurtured and allowed to flourish. Friendship is found in the myriad ways in which man relates with his fellow man in all the aspects of his life. Oftentimes it leads to heroic expressions of love and commitment far surpassing that of marriage, such as happened between Jonathan and King David: "They loved each other more than husband and wife......even unto death."
 
In the Christian dispensation, friendship without Eros is the highest form of love. Jesus said that "a man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friend." For the Christian, friendship is one of the foundation stones that builds the kingdom of God.
 
Friendship is also based on feelings. Feelings are beautiful and give power to our actions. They are part of the expression of our humanity, our personality, and they flavour our interpersonal relationships. But often they go awry unless we rein them in.
 
Feelings can be like an unbridled horse. If we don't control them, they will control us. Sometimes we must reject them, otherwise they create irreparable damage.
 
If we love God, we will obey His commandments, no matter how difficult. Life and love are difficult, requiring risk, trust in another, constant self-sacrifice, a veritable dying on the cross with Christ, so that something honourable and noble and beautiful is birthed in all our relationships -- with our friends, with our wives and husbands, our children, and our neighbours, without carnality, but in the love of God.
 
— Brother Hayden Augustine is a member of Missionaries of the Poor

March 26, 2013

Jamaica Observer

Thursday, March 28, 2013

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

...The Bahamas had done an “ass backwards” job in negotiations with the Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC)... ...the country should receive “no less than 60 per cent” of the proceeds ...if commercial quantities of oil were discovered

Bahamas 'Ass Backwards' Over Oil Negotiations






By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Nassau, The Bahamas
 
 
 
A well-known attorney yesterday said the Bahamas had done an “ass backwards” job in negotiations with the Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC), arguing that the country should receive “no less than 60 per cent” of the proceeds if commercial quantities of oil were discovered.
 
Craig Butler, head of the C. F. Butler & Associates law firm, told Tribune Business that the 12.5-25 per cent ‘sliding scale’ royalties agreement negotiated with BPC was similar to arrangements “Third World” states had reached with oil explorers.
 
Recalling the research he conducted on the matter in the run-up to the May 2012 general election, Mr Butler said most countries had negotiated terms where they received between 25 per cent to 90 per cent of the proceeds from any oil exploration/production.
 
He added that BPC was being “disingenuous” and seeking to recover all its development and exploration costs upfront, the moment commercial oil quantities were found, whereas most such deals allowed exploration firms to recover such costs over the lifetime of their leases.
 
And Mr Butler called for the Bahamas to create a non-political National Commission to re-negotiate the deal with BPC, and introduce more “transparency” into the process.
 
“All the countries that aren’t good at negotiating deals got the thin end of the stick,” Mr Butler said of the findings produced by his research. “The more developed countries tend to take a larger part of the pie in terms of the profits.”
 
Simon Potter, BPC’s chief executive, told Tribune Business yesterday that the financial agreement was effectively a 50/50 split between the company and the Government.
 
Based on oil selling at $80 per barrel, BPC presentations have shown that while half that revenue sum - $40 - would cover costs, with the remaining 50 per cent or $20 each going to the company and the Government respectively.
 
Yet Mr Butler argued: “BPC is being disingenuous, making it seem as if they are taking an amazing risk. They are, but that is what business is all about. They’re looking to recoup their costs right away.”
 
He suggested that typical oil exploration deals allowed companies to indeed recover their costs, but over the lifetime of their lease agreements.
 
Mr Butler said that if BPC’s development costs worked out to be $20 billion, it seemed to want to recover that “off the bat” if commercial oil quantities were found, based on its agreement with the Government.
 
As a result, the Bahamas would not see any benefits for three-four years.
 
“With the greatest respect to these negotiators, we are still enamoured that we possibly have oil, natural gas, and this money is coming in,” Mr Butler said.
 
“We’re looking at it as if the country is benefiting by $10 billion, $20 billion, and we’re salivating. We’re not thinking long-term, thinking this is the Bahamas’ last opportunity to become the first world country it wants to be.”
 
He added that Trinidad & Tobago had also squandered its oil and natural gas inheritance, with the financial terms benefiting the explorers, and proceeds concentrated in the hands of a few.
 
“If this is a national resource, if we are putting our tourism industry at risk, the Bahamas as a whole needs to benefit from this,” Mr Butler told Tribune Business.
 
“My research has shown that generally, the initial financing is paid back over a period of time, 10-20 years at a reasonable interest rate. Profits are then split. Going rates are anywhere from 25 to 90 per cent. Clearly, the better your negotiating team, the better the country’s deal.
 
“In other places, companies pay a large fee to come in and prospect. All the burden is theirs. And their licenses have determinable periods,” he added.
 
“It appears as though in the Bahamas we’re always ass backwards. We should be receiving no less than 60 per cent, and all infrastructural and economic costs should be paid back over 20 years at 3 per cent. Take it or leave it. If it were put that way, they’d [BPC] jump to take it.”
 
Describing 25 per cent and 90 per cent as the respective low and high ‘ends of the scale’ in terms of what sovereign countries received, Mr Butler said the Scandinavian nations received the latter.
 
“Twenty-five per cent tends to be the Third World places like Belize that have no idea how to negotiate a contract,” he added. “Nigeria has 70 per cent. If Nigeria has 70 per cent, why can’t the Bahamas negotiate 60 per cent?”
 
Asked about the way ahead, Mr Butler told Tribune Business: “What I would like to see is a National Commission appointed, not just PLPs but a cross-section of respected people in society, 15-20 of them, who can go in and negotiate these contracts on our behalf.
 
“It’s the only way we can go to have any transparency. It it’s completely political appointees, we’re doomed.”
 
He urged that ‘new faces’ be appointed to this Commission, along with several experts on the international oil industry.
 
March 22, 2013
 
 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hugo Chavez' legacy in Haiti and Latin America

By Kim Ives - Haiti Liberte:





Tens of thousands of Haitians spontaneously poured into the streets of Port-au-Prince on the morning of Mar. 12, 2007. President Hugo Chavez had just arrived in Haiti all but unannounced, and a multitude, shrieking and singing with glee, joined him in jogging alongside the motorcade of Haiti’s then President René Préval on its way to the National Palace (later destroyed in the 2010 earthquake).

There, Chavez announced that Venezuela would help Haiti by building power stations, expanding electricity networks, improving airports, supplying garbage trucks, and supporting widely-deployed Cuban medical teams. But the centerpiece of the gifts Chavez brought Haiti was 14,000 barrels of oil a day, a Godsend in a country that has been plagued by blackouts and power shortages for decades.

The oil was part of a PetroCaribe deal which Venezuela had signed with Haiti a year before. Haiti had only to pay 60% for the oil it received, while the remaining 40% could be paid over the course of 25 years at 1% interest. Under similar PetroCaribe deals, Venezuela now provides more than 250,000 barrels a day at sharply discounted prices to 17 Central American and Caribbean countries, including Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Cuba, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic.

The cost of the program is estimated at some $5 billion annually. But the benefits to, and gratitude from, PetroCaribe recipients are huge, particularly during the on-going global economic crisis. In short, Caracas is underwriting the stability and energy security of most economies in the Caribbean and Central America, at the same time challenging, for the first time in over a century, U.S. hegemony in its own “backyard.”

Washington’s alarm over and hostility to PetroCaribe is layed bare in secret diplomatic cables obtained by the media organization WikiLeaks. Then U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Janet Sanderson rebuked Préval for “giving Chavez a platform to spout anti-American slogans” during his 2007 visit, said one cable cited in an article which debuted in June 2011 a WikiLeaks-based series produced by Haïti Liberté and The Nation.

Reviewing all 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables which were later released, one realizes that Sanderson wasn’t the only U.S. diplomat wringing her hands about PetroCaribe.

“It is remarkable that in this current contest we are being outspent by two impoverished countries: Cuba and Venezuela,” noted U.S. Ambassador to Uruguay Frank Baxter in a 2007 cable released by Wikileaks. “We offer a small Fulbright program; they offer a thousand medical scholarships. We offer a half dozen brief IV programs to ‘future leaders’; they offer thousands of eye operations to poor people. We offer complex free trade agreements someday; they offer oil at favorable rates today. Perhaps we should not be surprised that Chavez is winning friends and influencing people at our expense.”

We can now expect the Washington’s “contest” with Venezuela to escalate dramatically as it attempts to take advantage of the Bolivarian regime’s vulnerability during the transition of power. Already Vice President Nicolas Maduro, whom Chavez asked Venezuelans to make his successor, has sounded the alarm. "We have no doubt that commander Chavez was attacked with this illness," Maduro said on Mar. 5, repeating a suspicion voiced by Chavez himself that Washington was somehow responsible for the fatal cancer he contracted. "The old enemies of our fatherland looked for a way to harm his health."

Maduro also announced on national television on Mar. 5 “that a U.S. Embassy attache was being expelled for meeting with military officers and planning to destabilize the country,” the AP reported. A U.S. Air Force attaché was also expelled.

In short, just as the imperative to secure oil has driven the U.S. to multiple wars, coups, and intrigues in the Mideast over the past 60 years, it is now driving the U.S. toward a major new confrontation in Latin America. With Chavez’s death, Washington sees a long awaited opportunity to roll back the Bolivarian Revolution and programs like PetroCaribe. In recent years, Chavez has led Venezuela to nationalize dozens of foreign-owned undertakings, including oil projects run by Exxon Mobil, Texaco Chevron, and other large North American corporations. The future of the hydrocarbon resources in Venezuela’s Maracaibo Basin and Orinoco Belt, recently declared to be the world’s largest, will soon reveal itself to be the central economic and political issue, and hottest flashpoint, in the hemisphere.

In the case of Haiti, Hugo Chavez often said that PetroCaribe and other aid was given “to repay the historic debt that Venezuela owes the Haitian people.” Haiti was the first nation of Latin America, gaining its independence in 1804. In the 19th century’s first example of international solidarity, Haitian revolutionary leaders like Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Alexandre Pétion provided Francisco de Miranda and Simon Bolivar, South America’s “Great Liberator,” with guns, ships, and printing presses to carry out the anti-colonial struggle on the continent.

And this was the dream that inspired Hugo Chavez: a modern Bolivarian revolution sweeping South America, spreading independence from Washington and growing “21stcentury socialism.” PetroCaribe was Chavez’s flagship in that “contest,” as Ambassador Baxter called it.

Ironically, it was former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide who first foiled U.S. election engineering in Latin America in December 1990, but his electoral victory was cut short by a September 1991 coup. Hugo Chavez was the next Latin American leader to successfully carry out a political revolution at the polls in 1998. His people defeated the U.S.-backed coup that tried to unseat him in April 2002. Due to his strategic acumen, his popular support, and the goodwill created with PetroCaribe, Chavez’s prestige grew in Venezuela and around the world during his 14 years in power up until his death today, which will bring a huge tide of mourning across Latin America.

The eulogies will be many, but former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who personally knew and worked with Chavez, made a prescient observation in January that stands out: “In my opinion, history will judge the contributions of Hugo Chavez to Latin American as greater than those of Bolivar.”

March 17, 2013

Source: Canada Haiti Action Network

Venezuelanalysis


Monday, March 18, 2013

Should Mr. Louis Farrakhan again visit The Bahamas ...we would appreciate it if he would refrain from meddling in the affairs of our islands ...particularly as he seems to be so ill-informed about our history and way of life

Louis Farrakhan Makes Misinformed Observations





Tribune242 Editorial
Nassau, The Bahamas




LOUIS Farrakhan, controversial Nation of Islam leader, was here for a few days last week, saw a narrow section of Nassau life, and departed, leaving behind his usual racially devisive comments.
 
“I was in a place last night,” said Mr Farrakhan, “that was magnificently beautiful and there were all these black people that came past the gate because Mr Nygard wanted them there on that piece of ground that most black people just keep driving by, they make it a gated community. And they don’t want no riff-raff. You come, you do your work and get out. When night time come, go. And there is always somebody to ask you what you doing here? In your land. Did you hear me.”
 
Yes, Mr Farrakhan, we all heard you. If you lived in a crime-ridden land as Bahamians now do, you too would be happy to be behind gates in a secure community. But to refer to staff who work behind those gates as “riff-raff” is not only demeaning, but untrue. Most staff — unless they are live-in staff, as many of them are — usually leave a premises, gated or not, when their work is done.
 
Anyone arriving after those hours — unless they inform the security at the gate that they have been invited by an owner within those gates — are not allowed in. And, for Mr Farrakhan’s information, the colour of one’s skin has nothing to do with who goes past those gates once they have an invitation.
 
Apparently, Mr Farrakhan was invited to make the trip to Nassau by Mr Peter Nygard’s lawyer, Keod Smith. And, according, to Mr Farrakhan, he was flown here from Miami in Mr Nygard’s aircraft.
 
While here — particularly as he was not interested in the glitter and entertainment on the Nygard estate — it is a pity that Mr Smith did not make more of an effort to show Mr Farrakhan the true Lyford Cay. Was Mr Nygard told that many successful black Bahamians live behind those gates in the relatively secure comfort of Lyford Cay? If he would have visited in the early morning, he would have seen black and white neighbours taking their morning walks, or playing a game of golf or tennis, or relaxing around the pool together.
 
There are property owners — both black and white — who live behind the Lyford Cay gates. There are also Lyford Cay members, who do not necessarily live at Lyford Cay, but have full access to all of the amenities of the club as would those members who live on the property. Some of them are even honorary members. They are lawyers, doctors, businessmen, politicians — all successful black and white Bahamians.
 
Not one of them wants “riff-raff” hanging around — just as ordinary citizens who cannot afford life at Lyford Cay want “riff-raff” around their premises. In the context of today’s Bahamas, “riff-raff” means trouble. Usually it results in a crime story on the next day’s front page of the newspaper. We are certain that if Mr Farrakhan lived here, he too would be behind a high gate.
 
And then Mr Farrakhan challenged — presumably those to whom he referred as the ”riff-raff” Bahamian — with these words: “Now either this is your land or you’re not the owner anymore of this. But you paid a price and the land is being sold right out from under your foot.”
 
Obviously, Mr Farrakhan does not know the history of this land. The Lucayans were the indigenous peoples of the Bahamas, not the Europeans or the Africans. The Lucayans were wiped from the face of the earth when they were transported in Spanish slave ships to work the fields of Hispaniola.
 
On July 9, 1647, in the 23rd year of “the reign of King Charles, King of England, France, and Ireland”, the island of Eleuthera and adjacent islands were ceded to the Eleutheran Adventurers to work as plantations for the Crown. Eventually, these islands were populated by the white man bringing with him his black slaves. So — with the Lucayans wiped out — we really do not know what indigenous owners Mr Farrakhan refers to.
 
The Bahamas belongs to Bahamians — black, white and brown. Throughout history, they all made sacrifices to make the islands what they are today. No one group can claim ownership. However, once our elected government gives an outsider permission to make the Bahamas his home, whatever piece of property he purchases and gets clear title to is his. However, should he break our laws, he puts himself in the category of the undesirable.
 
And so, Mr Farrakhan, each piece of property in Lyford Cay is owned by whoever has purchased it, be he white, black, Bahamian or foreign.
 
As for selling the land under the black Bahamian’s “foot”, maybe Mr Farrakhan should be informed by Mr Smith that without the foreign investor, the Bahamas would not be where it is today.
 
Daily, the Bahamian is praying for the tourist and the foreign investor. Everyone is now holding their collective breath should either or both of these turn their backs on these islands.
 
Mr Farrakhan is noted for his inflammatory language. Many Bahamians should remember the sensational headlines at the time of the murder of Malcolm X, leader of the Black Panther movement. For those interested, they will find a report on Wikipedia under the biography of Louis Farrakhan.
 
Wikipedia reports, among other things: “In a 60 Minutes interview aired in May 2000, Farrakhan stated that some of the things he said may have led to the assassination of Malcolm X. ’I may have been complicit in words that I spoke,’ he said. ‘I acknowledge that and regret that any word that I have said caused the loss of life of a human being.’ A few days later, he again acknowledged that he ‘created the atmosphere that ultimately led to Malcolm’s assassination’.”
 
Should Mr Farrakhan again visit our shores, we would appreciate it if he would refrain from meddling in the affairs of our islands — particularly as he seems to be so ill-informed about our history and way of life.
 
March 18, 2013
 
 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Homosexuals In Jamaica


Do Homosexuals Have A Place In Jamaica




By Jaevion Nelson:

FOR SOME strange reason we have concluded that retaining the buggery law can prevent people from being born homosexual. On top of that, we want nothing to do with homosexuality but talk about it, usually expressing disparage, at every waking moment in songs, political speeches, and sermons. In Jamaica, your (gay or lesbian) sexual orientation is an axis on which grave discrimination and even violence occurs but the commonplace homophobia is often denied.

In a contribution in the Winter 2010 edition of Americas Quarterly Magazine, entitled 'The Advocate', I highlighted that "the dominant heterosexual culture [in Jamaica] continues to breed intolerance, revealed in inadequate public policies" and laws to all sectors of society including educational and religious institutions.
Notwithstanding the antipathy which exists, more and more Jamaicans are becoming open about their sexual orientation. Many people see persons they think are homosexual - usually effeminate males and 'masculine' females - and conclude that we are not homophobic. People who are opposed to constitutional provisions for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) seemingly think their brothers and sisters who are non-heterosexual are not deserving of being called Jamaican.
Nothing could be more ludicrous. How can this be so when so many LGBT people are active participants in the development of Jamaica. As my friend Javed Jaghai, an openly gay Jamaican, said, "if every gay person working in mass media, law, government, banking and insurance, tourism and the performing arts were to take a year-long leave of absence tomorrow, their sudden departure would send tremors through the various sectors."
Regrettably, LGBT people's contribution to our national vision to make Jamaica a developed country by 2030 will never truly materialise with the distinctions which currently exist in our society about the respect for one set of people over another. The majority of a subsample of businesspeople in the 2012 National Survey on Homophobia revealed they would not readily hire a gay or lesbian person. It is my hope that all Jamaicans will recognise and appreciate that a country is enriched when it reaches out to all its citizens, enshrines the dignity of all and celebrates diversity. A contrary approach, which criminalises those who do no harm to others, makes outcasts of some and narrows the definition of who is truly Jamaican.
It is my firm belief that more must be done and can be done to achieve our national vision to ensure that the "Jamaican society is secure, cohesive and just" by promoting tolerance and respect for human rights and freedoms, regardless of sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, disability or health status.
Contribution to development
Importantly, despite what appears to be widespread fear of and dislike for homosexuals in Jamaica, many respondents in the National Survey of Attitudes and Perceptions to Same-sex Relationships, conducted in 2010 by Professor Ian Boxill, readily point out that persons who are homosexual make an important contribution to the society. Most Jamaicans believe that homosexuals are and can be productive members of society. They conceded, on some level, that many homosexuals are 'normal' and that they may be interacting with us every day and not know our sexual orientation.
As Jamaicans, we should all lend our support to human rights advocacy so our Government can demonstrate leadership and protect members of the LGBT community. Already, a third of Jamaicans believe they aren't doing enough in this regard. We must take important steps to make Jamaica the country for people to live, work, raise families and do business. We should ensure that the Jamaican law is based on the concepts of inclusivity and dignity, and on an appreciation of contemporary science on human sexuality, not on prejudice, fear and misinformation.
This is achievable given that the Government has on more than one occasion committed itself to protect persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity from human-rights abuses at the regional and international levels. These commitments encourage us to condemn, and take steps to address, all areas of human rights violations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. We have already articulated the need to address human rights violations throughout Vision 2030, the national development plan.
As J-FLAG, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, has said, "We must commit to rebuild this great nation on the principle of understanding ourselves and fellow men and women. Each of us should invest in promoting equality ... Gay or straight, Christian or non-Christian, JLP or PNP, let us use our talents and resources for the betterment of our country."

Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com  and jaevion@gmail.com.
March 14, 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Bahamian Government will allow exploratory oil drilling ...to determine whether there are commercial quantities of oil in The Bahamas ...prior to any referendum

Exploratory Oil Drilling Before Any Referendum



 

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter
nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net
Nassau, The Bahamas



THE Government will allow exploratory drilling to determine whether there are commercial quantities of oil in the Bahamas prior to any referendum, a Cabinet Minister said yesterday.

Kenred Dorsett, minister of the environment and housing, said it was unlikely that there would be any referendum on oil exploration in the Bahamas prior to the 2015 second half.

“The fact that oil exploration is being pursued so seriously and systematically in such very close proximity to the Bahamas dictates that we hasten our own decision making process as it pertains to oil exploration and environmental regulation here in the Bahamas,” Mr Dorsett said in a statement released yesterday.

“Accordingly, my Ministry, supported by the Office of the Attorney General, has prioritised the task of strengthening and modernising our Petroleum Regulations, ensuring that they reflect international best practices and standards. These regulations will combine best practices identified in a variety of leading jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom, Norway, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States (as modified after the Gulf of Mexico incident), and Greenland.

“They will reflect the most up-to-date risk management practices and mandate the use of the best technology suitable for our conditions. These new regulations will also establish appropriate oversight and monitoring protocols to ensure that offshore exploration is conducted responsibly, and with a high regard for safety and environmental vigilance, having particular regard to the need to ensure human safety and, as I stated earlier in this statement, to preserve the beauty of our waters and beaches and our marine life and eco-systems.

“The new regulations are substantially complete already and will be presented to Cabinet very shortly to preserve the beauty of our waters and beaches, and our marine life and eco-systems.”

Mr Dorsett said the Government was not going to conduct a referendum without ascertaining whether there were commercial quantities of oil in the Bahamas. “The new regulations would be in place well ahead of any oil exploration,” he added. “Exploration drilling is, of course, the only way the Bahamian people will be able to get a scientific answer to the burning question as to whether petroleum reserves even exist in commercial quantities in our waters.

“Obviously, we are not going to have a referendum on a hypothetical proposition. We are not going to ask the electorate to vote on whether they want to develop an oil industry if there is no oil to begin with. Thus, we need to find out first, through exploration drilling, whether we do indeed have oil in commercially viable quantities. If we don’t, then obviously it would be completely pointless, and a shameful waste of public funds, to have a referendum on the matter.”

Mr Dorsett said if commercial quantities of oil were discovered in the Bahamas, the Government would engage the Bahamian people in an extensive public information programme to ensure all important facts were made available before a national referendum.

“This public consultation process would take place throughout the country, and would ensure the widest possible dissemination of important information about the discoveries and their potential significance,” he added.

“As part of this public information process, the Bahamian people would also receive a timeline for production and, very importantly, there would have to be a national dialogue on all important aspects of the question, including how oil revenues should be used to develop our nation and our people in ways that would probably not be achievable under current revenue streams from tourism and other existing industries.

“Estimates suggest that exploration data, sufficient to answer the question of whether we have petroleum reserves in commercially viable quantities, would probably not be available until the latter part of 2014 or early 2015. Therefore, allowing for the public consultation process I have referred to, it is unlikely there would be any referendum on the oil development question before the second half of 2015.”

March 11, 2013

Tribune 242


.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

50 Truths about Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution

Venezuelanalysis:




President Hugo Chavez, who died on March 5, 2013 of cancer at age 58, marked forever the history of Venezuela and Latin America.

1. Never in the history of Latin America, has a political leader had such incontestable democratic legitimacy. Since coming to power in 1999, there were 16 elections in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez won 15, the last on October 7, 2012. He defeated his rivals with a margin of 10-20 percentage points.

2. All international bodies, from the European Union to the Organization of American States, to the Union of South American Nations and the Carter Center, were unanimous in recognizing the transparency of the vote counts.

3. James Carter, former U.S. President, declared that Venezuela's electoral system was "the best in the world."

4. Universal access to education introduced in 1998 had exceptional results. About 1.5 million Venezuelans learned to read and write thanks to the literacy campaign called Mission Robinson I.

5. In December 2005, UNESCO said that Venezuela had eradicated illiteracy.

6. The number of children attending school increased from 6 million in 1998 to 13 million in 2011 and the enrollment rate is now 93.2%.

7. Mission Robinson II was launched to bring the entire population up to secondary level. Thus, the rate of secondary school enrollment rose from 53.6% in 2000 to 73.3% in 2011.

8. Missions Ribas and Sucre allowed tens of thousands of young adults to undertake university studies. Thus, the number of tertiary students increased from 895,000 in 2000 to 2.3 million in 2011, assisted by the creation of new universities.

9. With regard to health, they created the National Public System to ensure free access to health care for all Venezuelans. Between 2005 and 2012, 7873 new medical centers were created in Venezuela.

10. The number of doctors increased from 20 per 100,000 population in 1999 to 80 per 100,000 in 2010, or an increase of 400%.

11. Mission Barrio Adentro I provided 534 million medical consultations. About 17 million people were attended, while in 1998 less than 3 million people had regular access to health. 1.7 million lives were saved, between 2003 and 2011.

12. The infant mortality rate fell from 19.1 per thousand in 1999 to 10 per thousand in 2012, a reduction of 49%.

13. Average life expectancy increased from 72.2 years in 1999 to 74.3 years in 2011.

14. Thanks to Operation Miracle, launched in 2004, 1.5 million Venezuelans who were victims of cataracts or other eye diseases, regained their sight.

15. From 1999 to 2011, the poverty rate decreased from 42.8% to 26.5% and the rate of extreme poverty fell from 16.6% in 1999 to 7% in 2011.

16. In the rankings of the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Program for Development (UNDP), Venezuela jumped from 83 in 2000 (0.656) at position 73 in 2011 (0.735), and entered into the category Nations with 'High HDI'.

17. The GINI coefficient, which allows calculation of inequality in a country, fell from 0.46 in 1999 to 0.39 in 2011.

18. According to the UNDP, Venezuela holds the lowest recorded Gini coefficient in Latin America, that is, Venezuela is the country in the region with the least inequality.

19. Child malnutrition was reduced by 40% since 1999.

20. In 1999, 82% of the population had access to safe drinking water. Now it is 95%.

21. Under President Chavez social expenditures increased by 60.6%.

22. Before 1999, only 387,000 elderly people received a pension. Now the figure is 2.1 million.

23. Since 1999, 700,000 homes have been built in Venezuela.

24. Since 1999, the government provided / returned more than one million hectares of land to Aboriginal people.

25. Land reform enabled tens of thousands of farmers to own their land. In total, Venezuela distributed more than 3 million hectares.

26. In 1999, Venezuela was producing 51% of food consumed. In 2012, production was 71%, while food consumption increased by 81% since 1999. If consumption of 2012 was similar to that of 1999, Venezuela produced 140% of the food it consumed.

27. Since 1999, the average calories consumed by Venezuelans increased by 50% thanks to the Food Mission that created a chain of 22,000 food stores (MERCAL, Houses Food, Red PDVAL), where products are subsidized up to 30%. Meat consumption increased by 75% since 1999.

28. Five million children now receive free meals through the School Feeding Programme. The figure was 250,000 in 1999.

29. The malnutrition rate fell from 21% in 1998 to less than 3% in 2012.

30. According to the FAO, Venezuela is the most advanced country in Latin America and the Caribbean in the erradication of hunger.

31. The nationalization of the oil company PDVSA in 2003 allowed Venezuela to regain its energy sovereignty.

32. The nationalization of the electrical and telecommunications sectors (CANTV and Electricidad de Caracas) allowed the end of private monopolies and guaranteed universal access to these services.

33. Since 1999, more than 50,000 cooperatives have been created in all sectors of the economy.

34. The unemployment rate fell from 15.2% in 1998 to 6.4% in 2012, with the creation of more than 4 million jobs.

35. The minimum wage increased from 100 bolivars/month ($ 16) in 1998 to 2047.52 bolivars ($ 330) in 2012, ie an increase of over 2,000%. This is the highest minimum wage in Latin America.

36. In 1999, 65% of the workforce earned the minimum wage. In 2012 only 21.1% of workers have only this level of pay.

37. Adults at a certain age who have never worked still get an income equivalent to 60% of the minimum wage.

38. Women without income and disabled people receive a pension equivalent to 80% of the minimum wage.

39. Working hours were reduced to 6 hours a day and 36 hours per week, without loss of pay.

40. Public debt fell from 45% of GDP in 1998 to 20% in 2011. Venezuela withdrew from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, after early repayment of all its debts.

41. In 2012, the growth rate was 5.5% in Venezuela, one of the highest in the world.

42. GDP per capita rose from $ 4,100 in 1999 to $ 10,810 in 2011.

43. According to the annual World Happiness 2012, Venezuela is the second happiest country in Latin America, behind Costa Rica, and the nineteenth worldwide, ahead of Germany and Spain.

44. Venezuela offers more direct support to the American continent than the United States. In 2007, Chávez spent more than 8,800 million dollars in grants, loans and energy aid as against 3,000 million from the Bush administration.

45. For the first time in its history, Venezuela has its own satellites (Bolivar and Miranda) and is now sovereign in the field of space technology. The entire country has internet and telecommunications coverage.

46. The creation of Petrocaribe in 2005 allows 18 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, or 90 million people, secure energy supply, by oil subsidies of between 40% to 60%.

47. Venezuela also provides assistance to disadvantaged communities in the United States by providing fuel at subsidized rates.

48. The creation of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) in 2004 between Cuba and Venezuela laid the foundations of an inclusive alliance based on cooperation and reciprocity. It now comprises eight member countries which places the human being in the center of the social project, with the aim of combating poverty and social exclusion.

49. Hugo Chavez was at the heart of the creation in 2011 of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) which brings together for the first time the 33 nations of the region, emancipated from the tutelage of the United States and Canada.

50. Hugo Chavez played a key role in the peace process in Colombia. According to President Juan Manuel Santos, "if we go into a solid peace project, with clear and concrete progress, progress achieved ever before with the FARC, is also due to the dedication and commitment of Chavez and the government of Venezuela."

Translation by Tim Anderson

March 09, 2013

Venezuelanalysis

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Venezuela With and Beyond Chavez

By Dario Azzellini - Upside Down World





“Chávez was one of us”, say the poor from the barrios in Caracas, the people throughout Latin America, and Bronx residents together with probably two million poor people in the US, who now have free heating thanks to the Chávez government. Sean Penn said on Chávez: “Today the people of the United States lost a friend it never knew it had. And poor people around the world lost a champion.” These are sad days.

This article is not going to delve into the many accomplishments of the Bolivarian process with regard to healthcare, life expectancy and education – even if no country in the world has improved living standards as much over the past 14 years as Venezuela under Chávez. I will not write about how Chávez shifted hemispheric relations, helped to bring the FTTA to an end and built Latin American and Caribbean unity for the first time without the US or Canada. Many articles and writers focus on these matters.

This article addresses the different approach to social transformation in Venezuela, the idea of revolution as a process and the primacy of the constituent power, which has been developed from below in the form of popular power throughout the country. Chávez was an allay in the construction of people’s power and creative building of a new world. This is the reason that while I am so sad with the passing of Chavez, I am also totally confident about the future of Venezuela. As with the people of Venezuela, I know where the power is. In the neighbourhoods, in the towns, villages and cities, organized together.

The Two-Track Approach – From Above and Below

The particular nature of the Bolivarian movement stems from the fact that social transformation and the redefining of the State have led to the creation of a “two-track approach”: on the one side, the State, institutions and traditional left organizations, and on the other, movements and organized society. It is a construction process both “from above” as well as “from below”. This entails the participation of antisystemic organizations and movements, along with individuals and organizations which can be characterized as traditional and state centred (for instance, unions and political parties).

Both from the government and from the rank and file of the Bolivarian process, there is a declared commitment to redefine State and society on the basis of an interrelation between top and bottom, and thereby to move toward transcending capitalist relations. The State’s role is to accompany the organized population; it must be the facilitator of bottom-up processes, so that the constituent power can bring forward the steps needed to transform society. The State has to guarantee the material content the realization of the common wealth requires. This idea has been stated on various occasions by Chávez, and is shared by sectors of the administration and by the majority of the organized movements.

The Communal State

Since January 2007, Chávez proposed going beyond the bourgeois state by building the communal state. He applied more widely a concern originating with antisystemic forces, meaning the movements and political forces that assume that the state form has to be overcome. The basic idea is to form council structures of different kinds, especially communal councils, communes and communal cities, which will gradually supplant the bourgeois state.

Communal Councils

The Communal Councils are a non representative structure of direct democracy and the most advanced mechanism of self-organization at the local level in Venezuela. The most active agents of change in Venezuela have been--and continue to be--the inhabitants of the urban barrios and the peasant communities.

Communal Councils began forming in 2005 without any law and as an initiative ‘from below’. In January 2006 Chávez adopted this initiative and began to spread it. In April 2006, the National Assembly approved the Law of Communal Councils, which was reformed in 2009 following a broad consulting process of councils’ spokespeople. The Communal Councils in urban areas encompass 150-400 families; in rural zones, a minimum of 20 families; and in indigenous zones, at least 10 families. At the heart of the Communal Council and its decision-making body is the Assembly of Neighbours. The councils build a non-representative structure of direct participation which exists parallel to the elected representative bodies of constituted power. In 2013, more than 40,000 Communal Councils had been established in Venezuela.

The Communal Councils are financed directly by national State institutions, thus avoiding interference from municipal organs. The law does not give any entity the authority to accept or reject proposals presented by Communal Councils. The relationship between Communal Councils and established institutions, however, is not exactly harmonious; conflicts arise principally from the slowness of constituted power to respond to demands made by Communal Councils and from attempts at interference. The Communal Councils tend to transcend the division between political and civil society (i.e., between those who govern and those who are governed). Hence, liberal analysts who support that division view the Communal Councils in a negative light, arguing that they are not an independent civil-society organization, but linked to the State. In fact, however, they constitute a parallel structure through which power and control is gradually drawn away from the State in order to govern on its own.

Socialist Communes

At a higher level of self government there is the possibility of creating Socialist Communes, which can be formed from various Communal Councils in a specific territory. The Communal Councils decide themselves about the geography of the Commune These Communes can develop medium and long-term projects of greater impact while decisions continue to be made in assemblies of the Communal Councils. As of 2013 there are more than 200 communes under construction.

The idea of the Commune as a site for building participation, self-government and socialism traces back to the communitarian socialist tradition of the Paris Commune, and also to Venezuelan Simón Rodríguez, who proposed local self government by the people, calling it ‘Toparchy’ (from the Greek ‘Topos’, place) in the early 19th century, to traditional forms of indigenous collectivism and communitarianism and the historical experiences of the Maroons, former Afro-American slaves who escaped to remote regions and built self administrated communities and settlements.

Various Communes can form Communal Cities, with administration and planning ‘from below’ if the entire territory is organized in Communal Councils and Communes. The mechanism of the construction of Communes and Communal cities is flexible; they themselves define their tasks. Thus the construction of self-government begins with what the population itself considers most important, necessary or opportune. The Communal Cities that have begun to form so far, for example, are rural and are structured around agriculture, such as the ‘Ciudad Comunal Campesina Socialista Simón Bolívar’ in the southern state of Apure or the Ciudad Comunal Laberinto’ in the north-eastern state of Zulia.

Challenges

After 13 years of revolutionary transformation, the biggest challenge for the process is the structural contradiction between constituent and constituted power. Especially since 2007, the government’s ability to reform has increasingly clashed with the limitations inherent in the bourgeois state and the capitalist system. The movements and initiatives for self-management and self-government geared toward overcoming the bourgeois state and its institutions, with the goal of replacing it with a communal state based on popular power have grown. But simultaneously, because of the expansion of state institutions’ work, the consolidation of the Bolivarian process and growing resources, state institutions have been generally strengthened and have become more bureaucratized. Institutions of constituted power aim at controlling social processes and reproducing themselves. Since the institutions of constituted power are at the same time strengthening and limiting constituent power, the transformation process is very complex and contradictory. Nevertheless, the struggles liberated by constituent power in Venezuela are often struggles for a different system and not within the existing social, political and economic system. The contradiction is grounded in the difference between institutional and social logic.

For example, if the job as community promoter and the existence of a certain institution is guaranteed only as long as the Communal Councils still depend on them, then the interest of the institution and its employees in having independent Communal Councils will be minimal. Conversely, the individual civil servant as well as the institution as a whole will be desperately presenting advances and positive results, but always proving that the Communal Councils, Communes and other instances of self-administration in whatever sector need the support of the corresponding institution. In fact the Ministry of Communes turned out to be one of the biggest obstacles to the construction of Communes and most of the Communes under construction complain about the Ministry. Only the growing organization ‘from below’, especially the self organized Network of Commune Activists (Red de Comuneras y Comuneros), bringing together about 70 Communes could bring enough pressure on the Ministry of Communes to start changing its politics at the end of 2011. They forced the Ministry to register some 20 Communes.

Conclusion

While the ‘from above’ and ‘from below’ strategies have maintained themselves in the same process of transformation for 13 years and the conflictive relationship between constituent and constituted power has been the motor of the Bolivarian process, conflicts are increasing. The growing organization ‘from below’ and the development of popular power inevitably clash with constituted power. The growing organization ‘from below’ and the development of popular power limit the constituted power and overwhelm it if it does not limit them. They can only expand over time if they get the upper hand, in which case constituent power would profoundly transform constituted power.

I have no doubt that peoples power will expand. The most important experience people have had over the past 14 years in Venezuela was that they learned they can overcome their marginalization by participation and self organization, creating their own solutions. “We are all Chávez”.


Dario Azzellini, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria, lived and worked in Venezuela between 4 and 8 months a year from 2003 to 2011. He worked with communal councils, communes, workers control, rural and urban movements. He has written extensively and directed documentaries on Venezuela. He published the internationally acclaimed documentaries “Venezuela from below” (2004), “5 factories – workers control in Venezuela” (2006), and “Comuna under construction” (2010). He also published the books: “Caracas: Bolivarian city” (Berlin: b books, 2013); “Partizipation, Arbeiterkontrolle und die Commune” (Hamburg: VSA, 2012); “Venezuela bolivariana. Revolution des 21. Jahrhunderts?“; (Cologne: Neuer ISP Verlag) and “Il Venezuela di Chávez”, (Rome: DeriveApprodi, 2006); and several articles in journals in English, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Italian: www.azzellini.net
 
 
March 08, 2013
 
 
 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

...advancing the equality of gays and lesbians in The Bahamas

The Second Emancipation and gay Bahamians

Front Porch


BY SIMON


In the still fresh second decade of this century there continues to be a fundamental shift in humanity’s moral imagination with regard to respecting the dignity and advancing the equality of gays and lesbians.

In this decade and during this century, gays and lesbians will experience less prejudice and witness the end of discrimination on various fronts.

Fear-mongering accompanied by malevolent rhetoric are the eager co-conspirators of prejudice and bigotry, all of which gay and lesbian Bahamians continue to experience as targets of malicious attacks on their humanity.

It is unacceptable to publicly attack someone as a “nigger” whether from a public platform, in a blog, in a tabloid or in Parliament; in the case of the latter whether from a member on their feet or from their seat.

Similarly, it should no longer be tolerated when the rhetoric of intolerance is applied to gays or lesbians in these venues, with venom like “sissy” or the feminization of a man’s name.

Disguised

Shamefully, in the vanguard of the hate- and fear-mongers have been clerics, decidedly not heaven-sent, but hell-bent on perpetuating pernicious stereotypes about gays and lesbians.  Yet, God’s love will not be defeated by hate, even when it is disguised as defending morality.

Today, there is another awakening or epiphany in the arc of history which constitutes the second emancipation narrative of the Bahamian experience.

The second emancipation liberated black and white Bahamians from the deceits and conceits of racist ideologies.  It liberated women and men from much of the legal codification of sexism and male supremacy.

Today, gays and lesbians rightly lay claim to the vision and values of the movements for racial and women’s equality which remain pivotal struggles in the living tradition and democratic tapestry of the second Bahamian emancipation.

Today’s struggle for equality will help to liberate many who hold prejudices against those who by happenstance have a different sexual orientation.

As with black and female Bahamians, gays and lesbians are not asking for special rights.  They are demanding equality and social justice under the canopy of rights and freedoms enumerated in the constitution.

Those prone to proof-texting the Bible as they are the preamble to the constitution should know that the preamble is a hortatory prelude, but carries no legal force, nor is it dispositive in the adjudication of questions of various rights and freedoms. Indeed, despite the reference to Christianity in the preamble, freedom of religion is guaranteed in the charter of rights and freedoms.  Perhaps some of those itching to amend and chisel into the constitution their prejudices and social exclusions, might wish also to dispense with freedom of religion for non-Christians.

One cleric infamously deployed incendiary rhetoric, referencing Guy Fawkes as a role model.  Might there also be a grand inquisitor or two wishing to fuel a bonfire of their vanities and prejudices, perhaps using the constitution as tinder to help eviscerate certain human rights as protected in that very document?

Some question whether the struggles for equality by black and female Bahamians are the same as the struggle for equality of Bahamian gays and lesbians.

Rainbow

They are not exactly the same.  But they are profoundly analogous and similar on democratic and ethical grounds, constituting a rainbow of promise or an arc of history concerning mutual human and civil rights, sometimes creeping, sometimes galloping, but ever bending towards justice.

Barack Obama’s second inaugural address was a plea continued from a preacher King in 1963, echoes of whose dream reverberate still, nearly half a century later, across the quilt of memorials, museums and marches binding the National Mall in Washington, D.C., from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol Building.

The cadence of call and response between the martyred preacher and the re-elected president resounded in Obama’s “Our journey is not complete”, a refrain of Martin Luther King Jr.’s plea for equality and “I Have a Dream”.

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” said the president.

The second inaugural of America’s first black president was more than an oath-taking.  It was a pageant of the mythology and history of the American experience.  Obama narrated the pageant with magisterial sweep, invoking the nation’s founders, and Lincoln and King, on whose bibles he swore his oath, as well as the now iconic triptych of Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall, referencing respectively the struggles for equality of women, African Americans and gays and lesbians.

Reminiscent of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Obama used one of the highest civic rituals of the American Republic to recalibrate America’s cannon of equality by calling for the full equality and rights of gay and lesbian citizens to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Seneca Falls recalled the eponymous convention of 1848, an epochal moment in the struggle for women’s equality.  Selma recalled the 1965 Selma, Alabama, marches for civil and voters’ rights.

In 1969 came Stonewall, a series of spontaneous demonstrations, the proximate cause of which was a police raid on a gay establishment.  Longstanding grievances of discrimination and harassment exploded into an event which was pivotal in “the modern fight for gay and lesbian rights in the United States”.

After the swearing-in, many wondered what Obama was imaging, as he paused to survey the National Mall when walking back into the Capitol.  Whatever was in his mind’s eye, many imagined what he or they may have seen from that vantage point. The National Mall Obama surveyed stands witness to America’s own second emancipation.  With the Washington Monument as its centerpiece, calling to mind America’s founding promises and original sins; the mall has been trod and sanctified by those who fought to bridge the gulfs of equality in America’s history.

The 1963 March on Washington at which Dr. King famously intoned his dream of equality was largely conceived and organized by the brilliant Bayard Rustin, both African Americans and gay, the content of whose character was foremost that of an American patriot and a drum major for justice.

Quilt

Suffragettes and those fighting for women’s equality have also marched the mall.  So too have gays and lesbians and their families, who formed a literal and human quilt in response to the HIV-AIDS crisis, a disease which never discriminated based on sexuality.

The Bahamian parallels to Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall are different by date and occasion, yet no less significant, including the vote for women in 1962 and majority rule in 1967.

For gays and lesbians, the calendar of emancipation has been more staggered.  In 1991, The Bahamas, through progressive legislation by the PLP, became the first independent, former British colony in the Caribbean to decriminalize sexual activity by adult homosexuals.   In 1998, in an extraordinary statement in response to a demonstration against a gay cruise, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham issued the most humane statement of tolerance and non-discrimination ever made by a Bahamian government.

We are on the cusp of another groundbreaking moment relative of the fuller inclusion of gay and lesbian citizens in terms of a fundamental human and civil rights issue.

Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett recently noted that the question of marriage for same-sex partners would likely come before the courts.  Appropriately, he did not discuss his views on the issue.

He did note that the courts would likely review legal decisions from other jurisdictions, including the United States, where there are a variety of cases before state and federal courts, and now the Supreme Court.Sir Michael and U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts are Roman Catholics.

They appreciate that marriage is partly a religious institution.  Yet, it is also a civil institution, and in the end, the question of same-sex marriage should be decided on this basis.

Those who do not want same-sex marriages performed in their churches are within their rights.  Yet, the state has no right to ban gays and lesbians from exercising their civil right to marry, a right that should be challenged in the courts.

frontporchguardian@gmail.com , bahamapundit.com

March 07, 2013

thenassauguardian

 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Comrade Hugo Chavez has Died

President Hugo Chavez has Died


By Tamara Pearson:



Merida, March 5th 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) –After two years of battling cancer, President Hugo Chavez has died today at 4.25 pm.

Vice-president Nicolas Maduro made the announcement on public television shortly after, speaking from the Military Hospital in Caracas, where Chavez was being treated.

Military and Bolivarian police have been sent out into the street to protect the people and maintain the peace. For now, things are calm here, with some people celebrating by honking their car horns, and many others quietly mourning in their homes.

Maduro made the announcement just a few hours after addressing the nation for an hour, accusing the opposition of taking advantage of the current situation to cause destabilisation.

“Those who die for life, can’t be called dead,” Maduro concluded.

March 05, 2013

Venezuelanalysis

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Jamaica: ...To be young, gifted and blank

BY LLOYD B SMITH:




 

ALL of a sudden, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has become Jamaica's greatest bane. But is it? In real terms, it is supposed to be a boon if we are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices and maintain the fiscal discipline necessary to attain economic prosterity.
 
However, if a disease is to be effectively cured then while one fixes the symptoms through various prescriptions, one has to seriously deal with the cause. And I am convinced that this country's main ailment has nothing to do with inflation, a depleting Net International Reserve (NIR), a wobbling Jamaican dollar that is fast approaching J$100 to US$1, an import bill that far exceeds our export earnings, the debilitating spectre of crime and violence, waste and corruption, a savaging energy bill, or the many social ills that have caused us to descend into crass indiscipline and disorder.

That which hurts this fledgling nation most is that collectively we have failed to develop our greatest potential, which is our people. The starkest example of this is the continuing success of the tourism industry, despite an anaemic economy. In the final analysis, it is not the sun, sea and sand that make hundreds of thousands of visitors want to make it Jamaica again and again. Repeatedly, surveys have shown that it is the warm hospitality of the Jamaican people. Come to Jamaica and feel all right. Irie!
 
Yet, isn't it ironic that while we are so warm and hospitable to the tourist, we remain one of the most violent nations on Earth? Isn't this some form of schizophrenia? We kill each other daily but we smile for the tourist. Intriguingly, if we were able to solve the crime problem, tourism arrivals have the potential to move up to five million per annum, not to mention a dramatic increase in foreign direct investments. Why, therefore, do we continue to kill the goose that lays the golden egg?
 
Re-engaging the International Monetary Fund is in essence surrendering our sovereignty to a foreign entity, and we will only be able to get it back when we truly put our people first.
 
And in that context, my focus turns on the youth of this country. It is perhaps tragic that even as we bask in the seeming glory of having attained 50 years of political independence, not only are we yet to achieve economic independence but have created "a generation of vipers". This may sound silly, but I am convinced that unless we deal with the youth crisis in this country then we will never ever become truly independent, economically or otherwise. Indeed, our political independence hinges on the way we treat our youth because they are the future of this country. They are the ones who must be the producers, the innovators, the creators, the game changers, the nation builders.
 
Unfortunately, most of the crimes committed in sweet, sweet Jamaica are by young men, many of whom are uneducated and unskilled. Sadly, there is a disconnect between them and us. "Di yout pon di corner" who continue to lament the fact that "nutten nah gwan" are angry and oftentimes hungry young men who are totally disenchanted with the system.
 
Let's face it, this country has a great number of young persons out there who have the potential to become useful and happy citizens. Jamaicans are a very talented people. Any country our size that can produce a Bob Marley and a Usain Bolt should not be taken for granted. The tragedy is that because of the failure of our politics, there are thousands of Jamaican youngsters in our midst who are young, gifted and blank. They cannot read and write, they have no marketable skill, they are plagued by a sense of hopelessness and have very little faith or confidence in the future. Practically every day, a young man dies in this country, and any nation that keeps killing off its young men will never be able to create the environment in which Vision 2030 can become a reality. Incidentally, how many of our young people are aware of this national objective and have bought into it?
 
We have failed to exploit 'Brand Jamaica' in the positive way we should, because we continue to be a nation of samples, talk and no action. Is it that youth heeds nothing? Too much lip service is being paid to our young people. Yes, it may well be argued that there are many success stories with respect to our youth, but aren't they more the exception than the norm? Sometimes when I watch TVJ's School Challenge Quiz, I am struck by the ease with which students can answer questions relating to foreign topics, including identifying outstanding individuals as against relating to local figures and institutions. Our young people for the most part have foreign minds and foreign tastes. Most of our most qualified youngsters migrate, the average youth in the ghetto has no clue about what is going on around him or her. During a job interview I asked this young man the following questions: "Do you read?" "No." "Do you watch or listen to the news?" "No, sah. Me lissen to Beenie Man and Bounty Killa." Enough said.
 
Their mode of dress, the way they speak, their body language and just about everything about them reflects an alien culture.
 
Recently, Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips declared that after the IMF obligations and other major housekeeping matters have been met, education will take top priority with respect to budgetary allocation. It's a pity we did not take such a stance from 1962. Today, we would have been the better for it. After all, education is about youth. In this vein, the Ministry of Youth and Culture has its work cut out for it. God help us!
 
Lloyd B Smith is a Member of Parliament and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the People's National Party.




lloydbsmith@hotmail.com

February 26, 2013

Jamaica Observer