Shortage of Labour

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The Trinidad Guardian is reporting a phenomena that I mentioned earlier this year that to us here in Jamaica is astounding: Trinidad is nearing full employment.

The evidence being presented is that outlets like KFC are having a hard time finding sufficient labour to staff their restaurants, and at least one owner of another fast-food outlet echoed the same sentiment to me recently.

This will be a real test for CSME, which is specifically intended to correct imbalances like these.

Guyana and Jamaica have tremendous unemployment problems, yet Trinidad only competing with Barbados in the minds of people across the region, for the title of the most difficult place to which one can legally migrate. Just the other day, an acquaintance of mine had to return to Jamaica after encountering work permit difficulties after several months of living in Trinidad.

Unfortunately, the CSME legislation was only very recently expanded to include nurses and teachers. It looks like it will be some time before casual workers are included, if ever. So fast-food outlets in Trinidad will continue to have the problems they are having, and it is likely to only get much worse before it gets any better.

Digicel vs. TSTT

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In an earlier post, I described how Digicel was culturally missing the boat in Trinidad and Tobago.

In the excellent online magazine — Caribbean360.com — Ian Alleyne gives some interesting insights into what has transpired over the last year or so, giving the impression that Digicel has blown the opportunity to capitalize on the deep resentment Trinis have had with TSTT, which I consider to be even worse than C&W ever was here in Jamaica.

Click here to go to the full story

Incidentally, I spent 112 minutes on hold calling C&W yesterday’s billing toll-free line, before giving up…

An Excerpt from Tantie

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“Tantie” is a Trini word meaning Auntie, that in Jamaica means “Teh-Teh” or “older female relative, usually an aunt, who can really talk”.

This excerpt is from a weekly online newsletter called Tantie which is sent out in Trinidad. One section, “Backchat”, is an opportunity to folks to send back their impressions, and this Trini’s response caught my attention.

* T R I N I D I A R Y http://www.trinidiary.com *
* your source for events in Trinidad and Tobago *
* ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ *
* *
TUESDAY 4th APRIL 2006 VOL:7 ISSUE:014

BACKCHAT: Issue 013

So wearing black as a sign of mourning I can live with.

But driving with car lights on to protest crime??? Walking against crime? Signing a petition to be delivered to our “figurehead” president? WHAT exactly do, or will, these actions EVER accomplish? To whom are we protesting? Neither the criminals nor the politicians care!

Volunteer your time and expertise to a civil society organisation working to alleviate our myriad social problems….and THEN talk to me about crime solving.

Donate a part of your paycheck to one of these same organisations, or to a family that can barely pay its rent and eat when the month comes, and THEN talk to me about crime solving.

STOP driving on shoulders, putting on your seatbelt only when you see a police officer, and breaking rules whenever you have the chance….and THEN talk to me about crime solving.

Sensitise your children to be compassionate for their fellow humans, to love everyone as they come, and to be generous with the gifts that the universe so bountifully bestows….AND THEN TALK TO ME ABOUT CRIME SOLVING!!!

Leave your comfort zones behind. Judge not, lest you be judged. Love thy neighbour as thyself. Increase the talents given to you by the universe, and use them for the good of your downtrodden fellow people. //Trinidad


Beating Our Backs to Stop the New Plague

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A few days ago I was reading the Trinidad Guardian online, and noticed that, in response to the recent rise in murders in 2006 (+37%) someone had called for a day for everyone to protest by wearing black, and putting headlights on for the entire day.

This follows a recent day of mourning where everyone wore white, and performed a symbolic act that involved lying in the streets of Port of Spain.

And there have been countless calls for prayers, fasting, a greater role for church leaders, condemnation for criminals, protests, etc.

I can tell the Trinis from experience: these things don’t work.

We in Jamaica have an abundance of evidence that they make no measurable difference. Our murder rate almost tripled in the past few years, and we are doing as many of these kinds of things as we can think of, including mass rallies of all kinds. I happen to live beside a church that insists on sharing the Sunday services with the neighbourhood through its loudspeakers that face out from the church. Every week, (and on many weekdays) there are loud calls for God’s redemption from the crime that has turned us into the Murder Capital of the world.

I cannot see that these tactics are working, and I doubt that they will work any differently in Trinidad.

On the History channel this afternoon, I happened to see a programme on the Black or Bubonic Plague in Europe, that wiped out half the population of the continent. Like us, people in the 1300’s sought to find religious solutions to the horror of the illness, which killed people within days after causing high fevers, chills, vomited blood and black boils. They sought refuge in the Catholic Church, and from the Pope, who of course was powerless to stop the carnage. There was one very moving picture depicted of a statue of the Virgin Mother being taken miles from one place to the other to help ward off the evil — to no avail.

At some point, a few in Germany decided that the priests were not being godly enough, and started a group they called the Flagellants. Membership in this group was restricted to those who were willing to spend days marching through the streets beating themselves (and each other for good measure) until their backs were rendered a bloody mess.

They eventually took to beating first Jews and then priests, at which point the Pope decided he’d had enough and brought out the troops to stop their fun.

From our point of view it is a curious sight — men beating themselves on the back with whips in order to… stop the Bubonic Plague. Given that the Plague was spread by a bacterium from person to person through bodily contact, it must seem to us to be a pretty bad choice of cures.

Which brings me to Trinidad. I think we Jamaicans can teach them a thing or two about some of the things that we have tried that just do not make any difference. In fact, it strikes me that reinforcing some religious beliefs can not only deepen crime and violence, but also further divide our societies.

How so?

There are lots of Bible verses, for example, that people use to sanction violent acts like beating children, discriminating against gays and promoting the death penalty. Recently, a group of Christian lawyers in Jamaica appeared to be protesting against the new Charter of Rights because it did not discriminate against gays sufficiently.

The book “The Sins of Scripture” by an Episcopalian bishop is a eye-opening excursion into church history that outlines many of these ways in which the claimed “inerrancy” of the Bible is used to justify all sorts of historical and present-day evil, in the name of God.

Furthermore, using religion is the quickest way to divide our people within the countries that make up the region.

For example, our new Prime Minister made a call yesterday at a Seventh Day Adventist church that pastors will be appointed to boards of government institutions across the country. In principle, having a spiritual viewpoint in positions of power is an excellent idea.

However, the truth is that we all have our favourite religions, including our new Prime Minister, and we would want our favourite pastors to be appointed to the more important positions.

Furthermore, we also have those religions that we either fear or despise. The great thing about the “Church of Satan” in the USA is that its very existence stops the government from going too far in the direction of mixing church and state.

While I doubt that there is a chapter in Jamaica, there are enough denominations and religions that exist that most of us don’t want to place anywhere near the levers of power. These include the old chestnuts such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, Catholics, Rastafarians and the permanently crusading clap-hand tent church around the corner. To hear that the pastor who recently prophesied that Portia would win the race to become the next Prime Minister has been appointed to the board of the Electoral Office of Jamaica would probably worry everyone who does not belong to his church.

Perhaps Portia will come up with a short list of approved churches and pastors, to prevent the boards from making errors. Then, we could all know which religious leaders have received the stamp of approval.

But, that would probably put us all in even more trouble. I could imagine that fracas that would break out, as power is given to some and not others, and placed in the hands of some holy men and women, but not others.

Having said that, I do have a few ideas to share with the readers of this website from a prior blog: “The Source of Crime in Jamaica“.

More on this to come in future posts.

Starting a New Conversation

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In reading and listening to Peter Block’s brilliant book — “The Answer to How is Yes” — I was struck by a rather obvious statement.

He spoke about the need for change to start in companies through the creation of a new conversation.

A new conversation.

That means going past stuff that has already been said, opinions that have already been shared, histories that have already been explored, facts that are already known, responsibility that has already been taken, roles that have already been defined, steps that have already been taken.

While the content of these existing conversations may be correct, they are not new.

A new conversation results in new actions that come from new degrees of personal responsibility.

This is why increases in praying and fasting and supplication have done nothing to reduce the crime rate across the region (which has been increasing).

At least, not through the prayers we have been praying!

Maybe a new prayer would be “Lord, show me where I am contributing to the crime.” That would certainly be the start of a new conversation between the Lord and the supplicant.

What kinds of conversations can we Jamaicans create around us to generate new dimensions of personal responsibility? He has mentioned a few in his book that I am eager to share in this forum, in some shape or form. His ideas are quite challenging, and quite applicable to us here in the Caribbean.

For example, he raises the notion that change starts with new conversations for personal responsibility, rather than ending with blame being assigned.

So… I ask myself… where have I contributed to the crime we have?

P.S. A recent study showed that prayer had no effect on heart patients, and in fact resulted in complications for some heart patients who knew they were being prayed for: Click here

CSME — Offense or Defense?

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In a recent conference on the impact of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) there was a presentation by a representative of CSME. During her presentation it struck me that the reasons being given for the implementation of CSME were defensive rather than offensive.

In other words, the CSME was being formed to protect the region from the adverse effects of being very small countries. It seems that in key negotiations, our territories have suffered from not having sufficient clout in important international negotiations.

In short, CSME will enable us build a trading bloc that will enable our governments to accomplish more.

There is nothing wrong with this rationale, except that it’s all about reacting to circumstances, and attempting to right a weakness.

As a business-person, however, I think that while that objective is a worthwhile one, it doesn’t do a whole lot in the short term for my business.

And this is the challenge — CSME is not being sold with enough of a vision to attract the average man.

I am sure there are people who are creating such a vision, but they are yet to be heard from.

I wonder if this has something to with Federation, and whether it was not fulfilled due to Jamaica’s 1962 withdrawal? Are people feeling that if they create too big a vision for the region, then the old suspicions will be rekindled, and a collapse would ensue?

Or is it that there is a subtle fear that if CSME is too successful, then our countries will be overrun by foreigners from the countries that we are not so fond of?

There needs to be a much more clear vision for the new world that CSME is creating, and I’m going to get the ball rolling by painting the picture for myself.