Photo of the Week

Photo of the Week

East Indian dances perform at Jamaica’s 169th Indian Arrival Day at Chedwin Park, Old Harbour held on May 11th, 2014.

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IMPACT OF THE LIBERALISATION OF THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS SECTOR ON THE JAMAICAN ECONOMY, CULTURE, AND COMMUNICATIONS

With its long history in the region, Cable and Wireless has been the monopoly provider of telephone services in many Caribbean markets. Indeed the high cost of telecommunications infrastructure and equipment meant that the sector was regarded as a natural monopoly thereby precluding supply under competitive markets. This led to high relative user charges compared with developed countries and often inefficient and unreliable service delivery. The captive market provided by the monopoly arrangement also dampened the impetus for modernisation, innovation and research and development. In fact, services were provided on a tacit take or leave it understanding. These factors contributed in no small way to calls for the liberalisation of the sector.

Liberalisation, it was felt, could propel competitiveness in the sector, lower prices, increased bandwidth coupled with improved service delivery and provide the impetus for new sectors and products. Cable and Wireless Jamaica Ltd. (CWJ) had exclusive licence to provide telecommunication services in Jamaica until March 2000. In 1999, an agreement was reached to break the monopoly of CWJ and to liberalise the sector with the entrance of Digicel.

Since the commencement of the phased liberalisation process, the country has attracted over US$300 million in investments in the sector, resulting in the phenomenal expansion of the mobile phone market, which is now estimated at over 2 million subscribers, coming from approximately 70,000 in 1999. There are now approximately 600,000 landlines, compared to 100,000 in 1999.

Full liberalization now means that service providers no longer have to use the telecommunications infrastructure of the dominant provider, CWJ. The subscriber television industry, for example, has exploited the opportunities for the provision of a range of services, including high-speed internet services and utilizing Voice Over Internet technologies. The cable industry has developed its broadband capacity delivering multimedia, video, voice, text, graphics, and data delivered through television sets and computers by wireless, cable and satellite systems.

The liberalization process has had a positive impact on the telecommunications sector with respect to investments and revenues. Data on the sector revealed that revenues for the two largest operators in 2005 were 65% higher than they were in 2001.

It is safe to assume that in the first three years of liberalization, investment in the mobile segment was the key driver of telecommunications investment. The upgrade of the incumbent’s fixed and mobile networks as well as the deployment of the FibraLink submarine cable. Columbus Communications Limited’s operating as Flow has to date reportedly invest over JA$14 billion to build its infrastructure in cable, internet and mobile network has also contributed to the increase in investment in the telecommunications sector. In the years since liberalization, the sector’s contribution to economic growth (as measured by GDP) has shown a steady increase moving from J$14275.7M in 1999 to J$28511.3M in 2004.

In April 2014, Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell signed the spectrum and telecommunications licence for both Digicel and LIME, granting them a renewal of their existing licences. The renewal of the licences and the award of additional spectrum to both entities represents some J$12.6B (US$115) in investment, with Digicel committing to some J$9.36B and LIME J$3.29B.
On March 31, both companies made part payments, with Digicel in the amount of J$5.48B and LIME in the amount of J$1.53B. In addition Digicel invested some J$6B on its 4G network in 2013 to facilitate mobile surfing resulting in cheaper plans for consumers, about J$50 a day for surfing. Lime has embarked upon a US$ 79M network upgrade and expansion to accommodate anticipated demand.
The revolution that liberalization has introduced is taking place online and in the business world. The ability to choose an internet provider is transforming the way Jamaicans conduct business. E-Commerce, electronic transaction, sale or purchase of raw material and consumer items from overseas suppliers and the ability to communicate with friends and family in real time using video and audio has been credited to the liberalisation of the sector.

Businesses and technology savvy Jamaicans have taken advantage of the various broadband enabled services such as video-on-demand, video Internet commercials, short-form videos and various online entertainment, animations and advertising. Popular media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are being utilized by Jamaican businesses to tap into increased revenue streams, greater advertising opportunities and worldwide reach, stronger and more interactive relationships between customers, companies, brand development and customer feedback. This is quickly becoming our standard and reality here in Jamaica as we embrace the social, cultural, and economic benefits of social media and the internet.

Liberalisation has acted as a vehicle in the creation of a knowledge-based society; the Internet has generated greater opportunities in education particularly in rural Jamaica. E- Learning has surpassed geographical barriers, increasing access to information once relayed in a classroom. Jamaicans are no longer limited by what our universities offer, neither do they have to leave the island to study overseas. Many are now doing local and international degrees and other on-line programmes.

Full liberalisation of the telecommunications sector has presented major opportunity in the Information Communication and Technology (ICT)/Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry. The BPO industry currently employs some 12,000 people in over 30 companies and is growing rapidly, largely due to the expansion of companies already established in Jamaica.

Recently released Economic Social Survey Jamaica data indicates that Jamaicans with high-speed internet jumped by 641% from 120, 000 in 2012/13 to roughly 920, 000 in 2013/14 fiscal year. The main cause for this rise relates to mobile broadband which jumped to 786, 000 in 2013/14.

The Office of Utilities Regulation in its latest quarterly Report for Telecommunications Sector Entities, indicate that smart phones aided the 165% rise in mobile data revenues to $1.18B in the first quarter 2011 over year earlier levels, while voice calls earned $5B year on year and to date voice calls from both Digicel and Lime account for some $7.1B in total mobile revenues. Image

Jamaica must legalise Marijuana

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The controversial debate surrounding the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana has once again become a topical issue in the Caribbean region and on the international front. In the last decade, we have seen the decriminalization of marijuana in Canada, Holland, parts of Europe, Uruguay and sixteen States within the USA. Voters in the states of Colorado and Washington approved referenda that support the legalisation of marijuana on a recreational basis. Amendment 64 in Colorado will amend the state constitution to legalize and regulate the production, possession, and distribution of marijuana for persons age 21 and older. The Washington referendum called for a 25% tax rate imposed on the product three times: when the grower sells it to the processor, when the processor sells it to the retailer, and when the retailer sells it to the customer. The measure, Initiative 502, will legalize and regulate the production, possession, and distribution of cannabis for persons age 21 and older.

Indeed, 2014 will see the legalization movement gaining greater political strength in Jamaica and across the Caribbean. Proponents of decriminalization emphasize that marijuana is a safe drug with beneficial health effects and that decriminalization results in considerable savings to the criminal justice systems. On the other hand, opponents of decriminalization highlight the adverse health effects associated with the drug, the potential for dependence, the possible increase in drug use and other negative socioeconomic impact.

Jamaica has placed great emphasis and spent millions of dollars in the eradication and interdiction of marijuana throughout the years, decriminalisation could reduce the country’s spending on policing and enforcement of legislation aimed at criminalizing marijuana use. Less government funds would be required to channel into the criminal justice system for arresting, prosecuting, sentencing and incarcerating marijuana users. The resources saved in this way may therefore be used in properly protecting Jamaica’s borders from cocaine traffickers and regulating the production, possession and distribution of marijuana for person age 21 and older Further legalisation of marijuana is likely to increase the supply of marijuana and as the law of demand dictates, an increase in the supply will reduce prices. This is probably an effective way to remove the profits out of drug trafficking and force traffickers out of business.

Jamaica is recognized as producing and consuming the highest quantity of marijuana in the Caribbean, and during 1981-2000 was recorded as the number one producer in the world (Caribbean Drug Trends 2000- 2001). The United States in its 2014 International Narcotics Strategy Report noted that Jamaica remains the largest Caribbean supplier of marijuana to the US and other Caribbean islands. The Jamaica Customs Agency seizure records 2009- 2012 indicated that 10,551.0352 KGS of marijuana valued at J$4,611,883,295.98 and 2,967.11KGS valued at J$1,261,021,750.00 (2013) was seized by the Contraband Enforcement Team. National Security Minister Peter Bunting in his 2014/2015 directorial presentation to Parliament indicated that the Transnational and Narcotics Division seized 30, 769KG of marijuana in 2013. Now can you imagine if the exportation of marijuana were legal and the potential new revenues for the government? Marijuana has and continues to contribute directly and indirectly to the Jamaican economy and has the potential to contribute greater to the stabilization of the economy and put average Jamaicans to work. The proceeds from illicit drugs is said to contribute 7.5% to Jamaica’s GDP (The Economist 2008, March 8).

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What an Audley “Man a Yaad’ “Ray Ray’ Shaw Shadow Cabinet Would Look Like?

 If Audley Shaw is successfully in his bid to unseat “Prince” Andrew as Leader of the Jamaica Labour Party and Opposition Leader he will have to confront the mountainous task of rebuilding a divided  party, appoint eight  opposition Senators and announce a new shadow cabinet and start the process of rebuilding the party and become the next best alternative to the current government. 

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The following are changes Man A Yaad would make:

IN THE SENATE

Dr Christopher Tufton will replace Arthur Williams as Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate and shadow the Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade portfolio.

The Senate will see new faces in the form of former G2K President Delano Seiveright, former Senator and Parliamentary Secretary Warren Newby and former senator Dennis Meadows.

 

Author Williams will remain as Spokesman on Information and will shadow the Justice portfolio,  JLP Chairman Robert Montage, Kamina Johnson Smith and Marlene Malahoo Forte  will return to the Senate.

The New Shadow Cabinet.

Audley Shaw- Opposition Leader & Spokesman on Finance and Planning;

Delroy Chuck will remain as Leader of Opposition Business & Spokesperson on National Security and Justice.

Andrew Holness to return to his old job and shadow the Education and Human Resources portfolio;

 

Former House Speaker Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert will be rewarded and become the deputy Leader of Opposition Business and will shadow the Youth, Sports and Culture portfolio;

Gregory Mair – Spokesman on Investment, Industry and Commerce;

 

Feeling vindicated the visionary and former minister Mike Henry will return as Spokesman on Housing Transport and Works;

Former Information Minister Daryl Vaz will become the new Spokesperson on Water, Environment & Climate Change;

Former Health Minister Ruddy Spence will return to the shadow cabinet as Spokesperson on Labour & Social Security;

The embattled former Energy Minister James Roberson will shadow the Science, Technology, Energy & Mining portfolio;

Ed Bartlett will remain as Spokesman on Tourism and Entertainment;

 

*Dr Ken Baugh despite declaring support for Holness will retain his position as Spokesperson on Health;

 

*Karl Samuda if he is to accept will shadow the Agriculture and Fisheries;

 

*Desmond Mckenzie will remain as Spokesman on Local Government and Community Development;

Abolishing our antiquated abortion law!

The World Health Organisation study suggests global abortion rates are steady, at 28 per 1,000 women a year. However, the proportion of the total carried out without trained clinical help rose from 44 per cent in 1995 to 49 per cent in 2008. Unsafe abortion is one of the main contributors to maternal death worldwide, and refers to procedures outside hospitals, clinics and surgeries, or without qualified medical supervision. Women are more vulnerable to dangerous infection or bleeding in these environments. In developing countries, particularly those with more restrictive abortion laws, most abortions are unsafe, with 97 per cent of abortions in Africa described this way. In comparison, 95 per cent of abortions in Latin America were deemed unsafe, falling to 40 per cent in Asia, 15 per cent in Oceania and nine per cent in Europe. To compile the figures—often a difficult task in countries where abortion is illegal, the researchers at the Guttmacher Foundation used surveys, official statistics and hospital records. They concluded that while the abortion rate had fallen since 1995, that drop had now levelled off, and overall, the rise in world population meant that there were 2.2 million more abortions in 2008 compared with 2003.

In the Caribbean, Cuba followed the communist world in legalizing abortion; Puerto Rico is part of the USA where abortion is legal and Martinique, Guadeloupe and the French side of St Martin have legal abortions. Barbados became the first country in the English speaking Caribbean to introduce abortion legislation in 1983 with the passage of the Medical Termination Pregnancy Act. The act permits legal abortion to save the life of the woman if the child is likely to suffer severe abnormalities; for rape and incest; to protect the physical health and mental health of the woman and for social and economic considerations. Doctors are also expected to provide those seeking abortions with counselling, the scope of which is outlined in the regulations.

The Government of Guyana, in 1995, enacted the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, the Act stipulates that abortions can legally be done in Guyana but there are conditions that must be met.  In Guyana abortions must be done by a qualified medical practitioner who is certified to conduct the procedure. The Act also requires the termination to take place in a safe place. Women who wish to terminate pregnancies undergo a strict process whereby they are counselled and told about the pros and cons of such an act. Those women are also given 48 hours to talk with her friends and family and the partner who has caused the pregnancy, to make that decision.

 Studies have revealed that 1% of all abortions occur because of rape or incest; 6% of abortions occur because of potential health problems regarding either the mother or child, and 93% of all abortions occur for social reasons (that is the child is unwanted or inconvenient). The truth is in Jamaica, one of the greatest cycles of injustice against our children has been allowed to continue. One of the causes of child abuse is the bringing into the world, children who are abused because their parents are unable to cope, did not want or plan the conception, or in other ways had no business having children due in part to their inability to take care of them, and the lack of proper parenting skills.  The government has to spend more than $436 million to operate eight Government-run children’s homes and places of safety. In her sectoral presentation Minister Hanna reported that the “weekly cost of $13,000 per child or $676,000 per child per year. We currently have 334 children at these facilities.” This is simple unsustainable and unacceptable! I appeal to the relevant authorities to correct this historic wrong.

 

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500 Years of Ramadan in Jamaica

Muslims in Jamaica will join their brothers and sisters in Islam and start the annual ritual of fasting between dawn to dusk for the month of Ramadan.  Ramadan will start on July 9, 2013 and will continue for 30 days until August 7, 2013. To the western mind, the fast of Ramadan may appear harsh and yet, over a billion believers gladly grasp the opportunity not only to engage in this fast but are saddened when the month comes to an end.

Muslims see the month of Ramadan as a special opportunity to come closer to their God. It is said Ramadan is the only month in which Muslims from all over the world share common experiences, like the feeling of hunger and thirst and relief on breaking the fast on evenings. Muslims believe that during this holy month all sins can be wiped out with fasting. The Holy Prophet is reported to have said: “Whoever fasted in the month of Ramadan out of belief in it, and sincerely seeking the reward from Allah, all his past wrongdoings will be forgiven.”

The month of Ramadan affords the believer an annual opportunity to come closer to God to re-establish bonds of family and friendship, to learn humility and compassion towards others and to come closer to the gates of Paradise, which are believed to be opened during this month. The Prophet is reported to have said: “When the month of Ramadan comes, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of hell are closed.” The fast itself requires total abstinence between the hours of dawn and sunset from all evil thoughts and deeds, food, drink and conjugal relations; any divergence from or transgression of this concept nullifies the fast, because it entails giving up material pleasures and desires during the daytime in this holy month, Allah allocated extra rewards and benefits for any believer who sincerely tries to observe the etiquette.

This year marks 500 years since the first Ramadan was observed by West Africans Muslims who arrived in Jamaica as servants to the Spanish settlers in 1513 from the Iberian Peninsula. In 1845 East Indian Muslims arrived in Jamaica under the indentureship programme from India.  Over time most Muslims lost their Islamic identify due to forced commingling, Muslim marriages were not recognised in Jamaica until 1956.

For the month of Ramadan, I shall reflect on parts of our history, how it must have been for our fore-parents to have laboured in the plantations for the enrichment of others, yet hiding in secrecy under the cover of darkness seeking to practise their religious and cultural beliefs. I would like to convey my best wishes to Muslims across the Caribbean and indeed the world.

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