Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Salute to Kiwanis Club of New Kingston Awardees

Dr Carol Jacobs

Excerpt from Jamaica Observer Column - Jean Lowrie-Chin | 29 March 2010

Speaking of those who take their responsibility seriously, we salute the award recipients honoured last Thursday by the Kiwanis Club of New Kingston - Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin. The citations to Sonita Abrahams, Dr Carol Jacobs, Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte, Norma Harrack, Esther Tyson and young Anders Jones remind us of our boundless capacity to empower each other.

Our young athletes should note that Anders Jones was only 14 when he came to Jamaica from Boston to visit his father who was on assignment here. He struck up a conversation with his taxi driver who noted that his son attended Mountain View Primary School. Anders asked to stop and see the school and noted the limited computer facilities. He returned home and founded Teens for Technology. Mountain View Primary School and many more throughout Jamaica now have splendid computer labs, thanks to Anders and his team. His initiative has spread to six countries, including Thailand and The Congo, providing IT services for some 500,000 students.

The achievements of all the honourees will no doubt be widely published in the media, but allow me to mention that Dr Carol Jacobs, pioneer in HIV-AIDS treatment in Barbados and globally, is the daughter of Jamaica's family planning pioneers Dr Lenworth Jacobs and the legendary Beth Jacobs. "The apple does not fall far from the tree."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Guiding our youth after Champs

Juilian Forte (left) and Wolmer’s Boys’ teammate Dwayne Extol (right) celebrate their one-two finish in the Class One 200 metres on the final day of the 100th Boys’ and Girls’ Athletic Championships at the National Stadium last night. At centre is Kavean Smith of Jamaica Colege who finished seventh. (Photo: Bryan Cummings)

by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Jamaica Observer | Monday, March 29, 2010

As our athletes bask in their achievements at our glorious Champs, we salute their parents, teachers and coaches. We are hoping that the winners will understand that victory comes with responsibility (at press time for this column the winners were not yet known).

It was with a heavy heart that I flipped through a recent issue of Time magazine and saw not one single model of colour promoting any of their high-end brands. The "most unkindest cut of all" came when I saw Leonardo di Caprio (an actor I admire) sporting a Tagheur watch. Tagheur/Tiger - what advertising genius we thought when we first saw the famous golfer sporting the Swiss brand, what a perfect match. An angry night and the revelation of a string of infidelities and suddenly our striding Tiger disappeared from the Accenture ads in Forbes and Fortune.

Oh yes, we know we'll still see him shaving with Gillette and wearing Nikes, but so does every other garden-variety sportsman. What made Tiger so special was that he had broken the glass ceiling of advertising, walking where people of colour were never known to tread.

Those who do not understand the impact of Tiger's "fall" should know that he had been carrying the combined minorities of America on his back - Asian, Native American and Black. He was their poster child who smiled his way from putting on the set of the Johnny Carson show to setting the pace at the Masters. His fall from grace was a blow to ethnic pride.

In fact, in June 2008, I had written: "I am convinced that the recent reign of Tiger Woods, the inspiring stories of his father's dedication played and replayed, Tiger's megawatt grin and fist-pumping on the course has acclimatised the widest cross-section of the American people to the possibility that another dignified, engaging Black American could triumph in a much, much bigger field." Sure enough, in January 2009, Woods was a participant in the celebrations for Barack Obama's presidential inauguration.

We in Jamaica now have our poster child, Usain St Leo Bolt. The fastest man in the world is not only selling Puma sneakers and Gatorade. He is stumping for BMW and Texaco. His heroic pose has turned the world into "signers" - we proclaim our athletic prowess "to the world!". He and his Olympic teammates are the manifestation of 100 years of our schoolboy athletic Championships and over 50 years of schoolgirls' Champs.

The world has responded, filling our hotels, bringing spectators from the diaspora, many of whom had their day on the stadium track, and guests from as far away as South Africa. That spring in our step, that swagger in our gait developed over a century of domination, from the early 20th century when a JC runner named Norman Manley held the world record for the 100-yard dash to our first outing in the Olympics when four legends, Wint, McKenley, Rhoden and Laing, wowed the world. Our athletes should take note of these names - the men who became professionals, leaders and mentors.

Let us use the example of Tiger Woods to counsel our young athletes about the dangers of celebrity. No doubt, Tiger Woods must take the blame for his misdeeds, but we should ask ourselves if naiveté played a role. Perhaps he had not been warned that his astronomical fortune would have made him a target for opportunists. He may survive to star another day. American-Mexican pop star Selena did not, after her fan club leader shot her dead when questioned about misappropriated funds.

Even as our renowned and emerging athletes continue their physical training, they should also be trained to separate the genuine friends and supporters from the hangers-on who come in many stripes and both genders. Having benefited from solid coaching, our athletes should work to keep and increase the admiration and respect they have earned. Their conduct can inspire and lift the nation.

Clifton Forbes

We pause here to reflect on that unforgettable JAAA stalwart, Clifton Forbes, who was recently laid to rest after serving athletics with distinction for several decades. Clifton personified the spirit of volunteerism, always contributing and never drawing attention to his service. He was a true gentleman, dignified and approachable.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The hope Jamaica holds

WE’RE GETTING THERE... PMI's Bishop Herro Blair and USAID's Dr Karen Hilliard, partners with the JCF for safer communities. (Photo: Collin Reid)

by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Jamaica Observer | 22 March 2010

WE can choose to be immobilised by fear or mobilised by faith. This week hundreds of us chose to turn our minds to the hope that our beloved Jamaica still holds. In various places, we reaffirmed Jamaica's promise, focusing on the upcoming EXPO Jamaica Trade Show, the power of sports, JCF's partnerships for safer communities and opportunities for new industries.

Now, we know that negative news is juicy. But there is far more to this "broader than broad" Jamaica. Birmingham knows this, and so officials in the English city are crowing about their big achievement. And would that be? "To say that you're good enough to attract teams such as Jamaica, and athletes such as Usain Bolt to come here, it actually sends a very strong message," exulted Zena Woodbridge, director of sport at the University of Birmingham.

Yes, even as a few are digging themselves into deep despair, the headlines of Birmingham are singing Jamaica's name. And here is why: "Birmingham is expected to get a £15m cash injection this weekend when it signs an Olympic contract with the Jamaican athletics team," reported Sky News last month. We are talking British pounds here, rolling into an English city because our team will train there in preparation for the 2012 Olympics. "The relationship between our two countries is being enriched by what we are doing today," said Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council at the signing. "Birmingham has a heart that beats like fast Jamaican athletes!"

Delano Franklyn's call in the GraceKennedy Foundation Lecture for "a comprehensive plan for leveraging Brand Jamaica" was answered when JMA's Omar Azan announced that the theme for this year's EXPO Jamaica is "Brand Jamaica - to the world!" "There is a need for more creativity and commitment in fast-tracking the manufacturing sector," the JMA president urged. "The future of manufacturing is bright, and the sector is resilient as it competes on the local and international stage and against a tough external and internal environment."

"The only way to get out of debt is to produce more, export more and so earn our way out of our individual and national debt," urged JEA President Vitus Evans. This is no idle talk: the members of the JMA and JEA are committed Jamaican entrepreneurs who are providing employment for tens of thousands of Jamaicans. We are sitting up and taking greater notice of these efforts as once again, we are reminded that moving paper around from bank to bank cannot build an economy.

Three inspiring ladies also bolstered this argument at a meeting of the Women Business Owners last Wednesday evening. Scientific Research Council Executive Director Dr Audia Barnett reminded us that there were multiple opportunities with such products as sorrel and our herbs and spices. Kingston Properties Limited Executive Director Fayval Williams took us through her company's innovative way of raising capital, including investing in valuable Trinidad property and making significant profit in the resale. In building the business with founder Leo Williams, Fayval described a shoe-string first year, advising that we should not rush to create unnecessary overheads.

For people considering new businesses, Fayval said that the trend was for self-improvement and online activities, the top three of which were money and business, health and fitness and dating and relationships. She said that the landscaping industry needs more players and that the JSE Junior Market was an excellent vehicle for small and medium enterprises to raise funds. Today, Dhiru Tanna's Blue Power Group Limited will list on the Junior Stock Exchange, citing excellent prospects for growth.

Financial guru Sandra Shirley pointed to a global movement towards alternative sources of energy with many buildings now incorporating solar panels in their design. She said the seniors' market was growing rapidly and that investors should explore housing solutions for this group. Sandra urged strong corporate governance and suggested an exit strategy for those invited to put up venture capital. She said the media should get involved, calling for more local programming and suggesting a Jamaican adaptation of The Apprentice.

None of this can happen without a safe environment, so for me the crowning event last week was a Community Based Policing (CBP) event held by the JCF in collaboration with several agencies. I saw an energised SDC actively fulfilling its mandate. The dynamic Dr Karen Hilliard, head of the USAID, underlined her country's commitment to Jamaica and PMI head, Bishop Herro Blair, moved the audience with his heartfelt prayer.

We heard about the growth of partnerships between the police, residents, civic groups, public sector and international donor agencies. Assistant Commissioner Novelette Grant traced the 17-year journey of CBP, involving extensive training. She thanked the USAID, DFID represented by British High Commissioner Howard Drake and the UNDP's Deputy Resident Representative Akiko Fujii, for their support. Other partners are the Citizens Justice and Security Programme, Citizens Security Initiative, Jamaica Social Investment Fund, National Housing Trust and the National Neighbourhood Watch Movement.

And then, representatives of the communities spoke as if with one voice. Enfield, St Mary; Mountain View, St Andrew, "Russia" in Savanna-la-mar, Westmoreland. They are humble, resolute individuals who represent the Jamaica we know, the Jamaica that is still alive. The communities have experienced "a complete turnaround in terms of crime, public disorder, and youth anti-social behaviour".

Anthony Earle of "Russia" cited the unifying force of reggae music and football. Of the police liaison officer he says, "I see him as a friend, not a threat. He is welcome anytime, day or night."

These entrepreneurs, security officers, agencies and ordinary Jamaican people are sending us an important message: they see a strong future for Jamaica. We are not sitting and fretting over the negatives of our country. We are planning and working to overcome them. Let the world know, as Birmingham knows: we are a courageous people who will never give up on our vision of "Jamaica, strong and free".

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Joscelyn Lowrie Award for Top Accounting Student

Beth Ann Jacobs' representative Millicia Henry accepts the Joscelyn Lowrie Award from Maisie Lowrie, widow of the late Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, while PROComm Board Member Hubert Chin looks on. The inaugural presentation, the Award goes to the student who scores the highest mark in Paper P4-Professional Accountant. Ms. Jacobs scored 85%.

The Award is sponsored by PROComm as a tribute to legendary chartered accountant Joscelyn Lowrie. "Our company has survived for over 30 years, thanks to the values and wisdom handed down by my brilliant father," commented PROComm's Founder, Jean Lowrie-Chin. "This award honours his passion for excellence and integrity."

Prediction, Action and Outcome


SUNDAY OBSERVER column | Sunday, March 14, 2010

My friend, the great economist Ralston Hyman, usually starts his commentaries by quoting noted international economists who have given thought to particular macro-economic problems. I, being far less sophisticated than Ralston, will therefore have to rely on my practical nature to endorse for the country of Jamaica P X A = O. Where P is prediction, A is for action and O is for outcome. Readers, please note that it is a multiplication sign between P and A, therefore, if one of the multipliers is zero then the outcome will also be zero.

For over two years, this writer has been making predictions (P), which I feel need to be acted on with alacrity. I get the feeling that action (A) is not one of our strong points in the political or productive sectors, and therefore it is no surprise that we are going to have to be governed by the IMF. So much for our vaunted "sovereignty". With that said, I wish to examine 10 issues:

1. Economic Depression
I had indicated to the public that what we were going to experience was not a mere "financial blip", but rather a full worldwide depression similar to that experienced between 1929 and 1938. We, of course, laughed at that prediction and tried to cover up the possibilities of disaster. The massive unemployment and deterioration in living conditions is a result of a lack of action, and therefore we have no positive outcome.

2. Closure of Bauxite Companies
I had predicted that due to the depressed nature of world markets we would see a closure of bauxite companies. This was treated as if it was some safely guarded secret, and no one spoke about it until reality has given us a zero outcome and severe loss in foreign exchange earnings.

3. Engineers and Machinery
I had suggested that several engineers would be out of work as a result of the fallout of the bauxite industry. In addition, many pieces of earth-moving and construction equipment would become available, and perhaps the rental rates would be less than customary as heavy equipment which is left unused often deteriorates at a faster rate than when in use.

4. Infrastructure Employment
The suggestion was made that said engineers and equipment could have been used for major infrastructure undertakings such as the construction of roads, as well as projects involving the storage of additional amounts of water and the replacement of leaking pipes, which would lower the line losses experienced by the National Water Commission. This suggestion was also disregarded. We have wasted one year in commencing operations, leaving many persons with skills without jobs.

5. Gabion Baskets
It was suggested that we engage persons with low skill levels in the production of Gabion baskets, which would be necessary for road repairs, hillside retention, river training, and sea defence. This was ignored. Today, the unskilled sit by the sidewalk, smoking 'you know what', and by not earning a penny sink deeper into depression while contemplating a life of crime as a survival strategy. The Government has lost revenue as well as consumption in the domestic market, and the poor are getting poorer. We currently import Gabion baskets from China. The outcome is negative.

6. Bank Closure and Unemployment
At lower interest rates, many banks that had over-expanded, I had indicated, would have to close several of their branches. The positive to this is that banks will now have to earn their money through good banking practices, but at the same time they will have made a significant number of people unemployed. Unfortunately this will continue for several months.

7. China's Mineral Policy
I had carefully explained the items and actions highlighted in China's strategic plan as published as part of their development programme. I indicated that their need for aluminium would allow them, as one of the few countries with cash, to buy mining resources worldwide. This is true for Jamaica and it is only a matter of time before we hear who will buy our bauxite companies. It seems we are about to sell an asset that is extremely valuable not due to our own initiative, but because of geographical location. Jamaica is in the best position for providing north/south and east/west container traffic. So let us see how cheaply we can give away this natural resource. I can almost guarantee that if we do sell them, within three years there will be no Jamaicans working at these facilities. Start studying Mandarin and Spanish, please.

8. Caricom Rules
At the time of some trade disputes, I had advised that the unilateral lowering of the Common External Tariff would be in contravention of the Revised Treaty, and businesses would be protected through the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). To date awards have been made against countries that insist on ignoring the rules. So here we are again today with another dispute over cement importation, which appears not to have been handled in accordance with the correct procedures for obtaining derogation. Waivers continue to be a very topical matter, and each time they are issued they seem to smack of political favouritism. So the government willingly or perhaps inadvertently continues to set itself up to be accused of corruption, which is certainly shared by the IMF based on their stance against waivers.

9. Transparency
The suggestion was made that to take a path other than the purely transparent route would be to intentionally ask that accusations of impropriety be levelled against government officials. The Contractor General's department now seems to have their hands full with investigations into areas which could have been avoided if a more open communication policy was adopted. Perhaps the Contractor General's department will have to beef itself up with the redundant employees from bauxite and Air Jamaica.

10. The Rule of Law
I have said very publicly and clearly since 1996 that if politicians choose to remain in the company of criminals and/or criminal gangs, then they would be unable to effectively govern this country. That day is here and both political parties are not blameless, and must realise that they have lost control. I can see where a simple situation as the protests by the Nurses Association of Jamaica about pay owed to them can tip a snowball down this slippery slope, and gather tremendous momentum, perhaps leading to a general strike as has been the case in other countries.
My prediction (P) is that any helpful comments will continue to be ignored, no effective action (A) will be taken, and therefore the outcome (O) will still be zero.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Chef Colin Hylton's Saltfish Pasta

Chef Anthony Miller's Sugarcane Skewered Saltfish


Kingston, Jamaica, March 3, 2010: The second annual Saltfish Culinary Challenge dubbed this year as ‘Me and My Family' Saltfish from Norway event will be held on Sunday March 21 at the HEART Runaway Bay Academy.

Students from the University of Technology and the Heart Academy have been invited to prepare a creative and innovative saltfish dish with the assistance of a family member. Ten culinary students will be selected as finalists to present on the day of the Challenge.

The winning student will receive an all-expense paid trip to the Dominican Republic in October later this year for its annual Saltfish Festival. Second and third place teams will receive kitchen utensils and appliances valued at $150,000 and $100,000 respectively.

The Challenge follows on the ‘Saltfish Culinary Adventure’, the successful culinary workshops held in 2008 and 2009 and sponsored by Seafood from Norway. The exclusive workshops, have featured renowned Brazilian culinary artist, Chef Dada, and Norwegian Chef, Sven Erik Renaa, who shared new and non-traditional methods of creating tasty, gourmet style saltfish dishes.

Espen Hanson, Marketing Manager, Norwegian Seafood Export Council is excited about this Challenge. “Through initiatives such as these we will continue to encourage the use of saltfish in exciting and creative ways and build awareness of the product while promoting its value and versatility.”

The distinguished judges for the ‘Me and Family Challenge’ are Champion Chefs of the Seafood Culinary Challenge 2009, Anthony Miller, Executive Chef, Couples Swept Away, Colin Hilton, Owner and Chef, Guilt Trip and 2nd place winner, Chef Debe-Ann Chen. The main criteria for the judging of the saltfish dishes are creativity/originality, taste/flavour and presentation.