Hear I Rant Jamaica

He’s not the prime minisiter, he just plays one on tv.

I was in Jamaica when prime minister Golding addressed the issue of the firing of BoJ governor Derick Latibeaudiere. But that is only for time reference for the moment. I will address that issue further on.
As is usual when I visit Jamaica, I try to get a feel for what is happening from the people… not the media, which for the most part is in some kind of lala land. The true story of Jamaica is in the streets and not on tv.
This time, I was based in Ochie, where I walked the streets, shopped in the markets, took the ‘people’s’ minibus, sat on the corner, talked and listened.
What I have come away with is that Jamaica is continuing its slide into the abyss, unchecked. Again, I was heartened by the strength and resoluteness of the Jamaican people, but even those qualities are no match for the breakdown of the country. And before any yapping fool jumps up and defends the current administration by pointing to the previous administration, let me say that I am not a defender of either. The decay of my beautiful country is fathered by both parties in equally gigantic amounts.
When I say ‘tings tuff’ in Jamaica, I mean tings tuff… but people still hold on, still send their children to school, still try to survive, do without some things until they can. They survive. But you can see that the seams are bursting. Tempers are simmering.
In Ochie, there is a rule that tourism is the community’s life-blood and none dares threaten it without feeling the wrath of all. This means that while hustlers rush the tourists, there is a clear line of demarcation between approaching and harassment. That line is never to be crossed. However, I see many edging closer to the line.
When man and his children get really hungry, then moral values and the community’s economic wellbeing play less of a role in how they approach the tourist. I sense that there is far more ‘hard-sell’ now than earlier this year when I was also in Ochie.
I also got the impression that tourism minister Ed Bartlett’s credibility is shot in the industry, from line-staff, management or any other. For while he appears to be hardworking, nobody trusts his words coming from behind rose-coloured glasses anymore. Added to his credibility issues, is the cost of the refurbishing of his offices.
Another thing I sense, is growing disquiet between the ‘black’ Jamaicans and the ‘new’ Asians who control most of the in-bond shops and other retail stores. The racial and class tensions remind me of Kingston’s Chinese riots in the ‘60s. The relationships are primarily based on resentment. This is being primed to explode.
The current hot topic is the government’s firing of the central bank governor, Derick Latibeaudiere. Prime minister Golding is spinning it as a case of the governor’s outrageous salary and benefits. The JLP’s ‘psychophants’ are spinning it the same but also questioning Latibeaudiere’s competence, while muddying the waters with attacks against the previous finance minister.
I haven’t the financial expertise to judge the governor, and I’m greatly uncomfortable with his salary and benefits package. And I find it odious that he gets the BoJ to lend him money at highly favorable rates when most of us are being driven into bankruptcy based on loan-sharking ‘market rates’.
That said, those are side issues, distractions.
No sensible, objective person can believe that these are the real issues for Latibeaudiere’s dismissal. The prime minister is certainly not being candid.
The JLP monitored Derick Latibeaudiere from his first appointment in 1996. If he is incompetent, he would have been immediately fired when Golding took office in 2007. And if Golding was fooled after 11 years, he certainly would have seen firsthand the governor’s incompetence over the last 2 years. Yet he renewed Latibeaudiere’s contract in August 2009. Incompetence cannot be an issue.
Latibeaudiere’s financial package is not news. That was publicly revealed years ago and again, with said benefits in the contract, the governor was signed anew in August.
If the government had decided on not renewing his contract in August, citing disagreement on the benefits package, I could understand. But THEY renewed his contract, AND made him head of Jamaica’s IMF negotiating team. THEN they fired him in the midst of said negotiations? It doesn’t make sense.
You don’t re-sign a man whose contract is ‘unacceptable, embarrassing and repugnant ….’, if he is incompetent or if the contract repulses you that much. Golding surely had enough time to find someone else. Actually, it was widely known that the government was looking to replace Derick Latibeaudiere, but perhaps they couldn’t do it without attacking his reputation. Why?
The incoming governor Brian Wynter, is the son of JLP stalwart Hector Wynter, once editor of the Gleaner. I have been told that Wynter is qualified, but is he more qualified than Latibeaudiere? That is one question.
Golding claims that he is committed to an independent central bank… but how likely is that with the son of a party hack in place? I don’t believe Golding wants an independent BoJ… and this would not be the first of his many idealistic promises broken. Take for instance, the case of his garrison, Tivoli. And then there is the extradition hold-up on Tivoli strongman ‘Dudus’ Coke.
But back to Latibeaudiere’s dismissal. The most commonly held theory is that he, as the head of Jamaica’s IMF team, was in stark disagreement with the government’s strategy and goals regarding the negotiations…. The technocrat vs the politicos. You know which tends to be wrong.
Immediately following the news of Latibeaudiere’s resignation, Standard and Poor (S&P), the international rating agency, downgraded Jamaica’s credit worthiness, much to the chagrin and surprise of Golding. What did he expect? You just fired the head of your IMF negotiating team, someone who the international bodies respect! And a downgrade came as a surprise? That tells you how out of touch Golding is. As out of touch as his finance minister who last year when the walls of the world economy were crumbling, stated that Jamaica’s economy was safe.
By the way, S&P had just issued a new rating in August. This means that Jamaica’s credit credibility has plunged in 3 months.
One now is made to wonder about what is in the IMF package. We already know that politicians like to postpone bad news (election reasons) so they negotiate it into the future even if things will be worse in the long run. Is this what Golding is doing?
And what are we to make of the resignation of police chief Hardley Lewin? While I don’t expect a smearing of his reputation, it concerns me that this is the 5th change at the head of the security leadership in 2 years. That’s not stability.
The absolute saddest thing about what is happening in Jamaica is that as inept as this government is, no one is looking to replace them with the PNP. Jah kingdom indeed gone to waste.
I take no real pride in saying that I was one who very early pointed out that Obama was not living up to his campaign promises, instead was following George Bush’s foreign policy to the ‘T’. This I said even before him officially taking office based on his early pronouncements regarding Cuba, Iran and Venezuela, and his forced selection of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.
I only hope he will do something to resurrect his leadership by announcing a quick pullout from both Iraq and Afghanistan. Increasing troops in Afghanistan would be a major betrayal of those who voted for him.
Afghanistan is lost and no amount of troops will save it for ‘democracy’ or from the taliban. What should have been done wasn’t done and it is too late now.
As much as the world still looks to him for hope, he will unfortunately can’t delvier but words. One needs to understand that no president of the United States has not been in control of the country for a long time. That is left to special interests particularly private sector interests in manufacturing, wall street, the health and insurance industries, the gun lobbies, and most of all, the military-industrial complex.
While Obama is a far better selection that Clinton, McCain or that duffer Palin, he will not be able to change the basic ways that America operates. Sad, too sad. HOPE gone amiss.

About the author


Writer, photographer, artist. Have been doing all three for some time. More about myself and my art can be found at http://www.louisdavisart.com, and http://www.broward.org/arts/publications/cq/2008/winter08/cq_winter08.htm