FactChecking, Lunacy and the White House: Am I Dreaming?

January 28, 2017
You know, these days I fact check anything that comes from the White House- even a photo.
Before this past January 20, 2017, I just accepted that information from the Office of POTUS, was by and large the truth- expected that, actually. I’m one of those who believe that any information that is released- more so from the leader of the ‘Free World –  should be accurate, factual and above the fray (of course I expect omissions and spins- I’m a journalist afterall).fact_check_2

But it seems I’ve been trapped in a nightmare and its only been a week- maybe two. Now I have to check the foreign news and several local US news sources to verify that the White House information is correct, and that my friends is a sad state of affairs. No matter how much of a supporter you are, you’d be lying if you said you’re not concerned- unless you don’t care, or you don’t mind being lied to.

These days I expect the POTUS (not Russia, not Erdoğan or even Duturte) to do and say the most outrageous, shocking, awful (not to mention ignorant) things. Frankly, I believe that pretty soon, a Tweet from the Tweeter-In-Chief will start a war, or at least get somebody killed.

Lesson From China’s Sparrow Eradication Experiment
I am convinced there is a deranged man on the loose in the White House, so with the expected changes to the EPA, an article I recently read about Chairman Mao’s decree in 1958 (which called for the death of all sparrows) came to mind The story resonates, because it illustrates how destructive a leader that creates his own facts can be (and I think seven (7) bankruptcies  is an indicator).

Mao thought sparrows ate too much grain, and was therefore hampering China’s development, so he ordered them killed. The sparrow eradication programme caused an environmental catastrophe, because (and as we all now know) every living thing as a role in this circle of life. In the three years following the decree, 45 million people died in a famine caused by out-of-control pests. You see, sparrows feed on insect pests and were critical to their control.  Read the story here

Catastrophes happen when ‘ignorant’ leaders plough ahead with their plans above all else, and history is ‘paved’ with ‘gems’ like these, -teaching moments. In fact, several unique and vulnerable species are about to meet their demise with this border wall obsession and actions POTUS promised to take so that farmers can get the water they need, and in the process destroy California’s aquifers and surface water systems. However, it is the price one pays when an illiterate (his reading and speech say so much), insufferable gas bag with a ‘god’ complex is given too much power.

Beware, The Bully Re-Awakens
Far worse, I see that old bully  re-emerging in the Americas, as an antagonist, lyingTrump and the GOP try to “Make America Great Again”. What’s even more scary? Small, Latin and South American countries acquiescing before the fight has even begun- my utmost respect to Mexico and its president Enrique Peña Nieto who had signalled their intention to back out of the January 31 meeting a day prior to the dim-wit’s tweet.  The liar implied, via Twitter ( the new bully pulpit) that he initiated the cancellation, now he says it is mutual (ofcourse I digress).gty_trump_nieto_as_160831_31x13_1600

Threats are already in the air: “Mexico is going to pay for the wall”; If you build abroad and sell in the US we will impose tariffs; “we’re taking names”, said Nikki Haley a few days ago. For small nations, targeting niche markets where people don’t mind the higher prices; selling directly to the small man and looking to nations where there is likely to be a fair price could be the advantages to break the bully.

So folks, it’s time for southern lands to look South! Looking north is no longer an option- do anything, so something, just down roll over.The boats that take food from Haiti and the Dominican Republic to their Caribbean neighbours seem to be doing well, in other words  tighten your belts and fight the bully. I remain steadfast in my belief, that anti-China sentiments in the Bush years led to the crash of the US economy and the mortgage melt-down- looking inward won’t stop it happening again. This time, be prepared.

Impose your own tariffs and rebuild your industries, form your own trading groups; stand up and fight back. Immediately after Trump announces tariffs, impose your own. Have you forgotten that it was the US who came to you with a plan, because they needed to grow their economy? Your replacement for NAFTA should already be in place. Do you know how many cars are imported to the Caribbean, Central and South America from the European Union, Japan, India and China each year? Have you seen the potential for the supply of food, other goods to go East?

Seek Alternative Markets, Trading Partners
People, there are 196 countries in the world (depending on who you ask), areas that are and continue to grow; areas that lack investments but which are brimming to overflowing with human resources and potential. Africans are leaving their countries in droves due a lack of investment, yet the educated populations on the content are growing super fast. It is time to strike while the iron is hot, as the saying goes.

China's Freight Train leaves for London

China’s Freight Train leaves for London

Lets face it, at this juncture, the US needs Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America perhaps more than they need the United States. As the world grows smaller, it becomes easier for small producers to find markets elsewhere and perhaps better prices too. Did you see that freight train from China arriving in London last week? Large, medium and small companies can make more by investing in Central and South America, China or India that they can in the US where production prices are higher and sales volume risk stagnation. Imagine the potential for growth in populations of 1.4 billion people that is China, 1.2 billion in India, compared to 318 million in the US.

US Remains The Biggest Beneficiary of Free Trade Agreements
Mexico and other trading partners have been made the scapegoat by a blowhard who has no understanding of the manufacturing trade, he is after all a vendor and one that at best, cheats his suppliers.

After all that is being said, everybody (besides POTUS that is) knows that the North American Free Trade  Agreement’s (NAFTA) biggest beneficiary is the US, where authorities continue to impose rules that prevent smaller nations from entering their protected markets. But suddenly, because Mexico has managed to get some benefit from which should be a reciprocal agreement, they are out of style. I’m sure many African and Caribbean nations haven’t forgotten that its was the US that used the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to destroy the commodity trades with their former colonial rulers in the EU. They destroyed livelihoods and lives and made nations poorer.cargo2

The peoples of the Caribbean, Latin and South America can and must work together to build strong relationships that will rival any region, we can feed ourselves, educate our people and be independent of the bully-ism that is once again coming from America.

When all is said and done, I am still scratching my head that this is the man that Christians in America voted into the White House. They rebuke people for judging the morally deficient serial liar, while they sit in judgement and cast to hell those who oppose their points of view.

Zadie is a journalist and Communications Specialist.


Islas del Caribe buscan nuevas reglas de financiamiento

By Zadie Neufville

The following article was published by SCiDEv.NET on August 13, 2015

[KINGTON] Los pequeños estados insulares del Caribe (PEIC) están presionando a la comunidad internacional para que se revisen y cambien los criterios de elegibilidad para conseguir financiamiento para el desarrollo en condiciones que reflejen sus realidades socioeconómicas.

Los retos particulares que confrontan los PEIC están delineados en el informe emitido durante la III Conferencia de Financiamiento para el DesarrolloDevelopment UN de la ONU celebrada en Addis Abeba (13-16 de julio), Etiopía.


“Si no se cambian pronto los criterios de elegibilidad, el acceso a la ayuda para el desarrollo se reducirá aún más y provocará recortes en la ayuda actual de algunas islas porque ya no estarán calificadas para recibirla”.

Maurice Mason, Instituto  para el Desarrollo Sostenible

“Exhortamos a mejorar la normatividad, para que se consideren los indicadores de progreso ‘multidimensional’, o de bienestar y no solo las mediciones de ingresos”, dijo Jessica Faieta, Secretaria General Adjunta de Estados Unidos en un comunicado de prensa.

El economista jamaiquino Maurice Mason, del Instituto para el Desarrollo Sostenible de la Universidad de las Indias Occidentales, afirma que los cambios son “necesarios porque el Producto Interno Bruto (PIB) per cápita no refleja la distribución del ingreso en el país”.

Backyard farmers contributed to increases in vegetable production.

Backyard farmers contributed to increases in vegetable production.

IonaSamuels ilustra lo que dice Mason. Laanciana notiene hogar,empleo nipensión. Noobstante, nocumple con loscriterios paravivienda yatención deindigentes,porque sealoja donde unaamiga quetiene casapropia conestufa de gas yrefrigerador.Alcanzar el nivel de ingresos medios ha significado para muchos PEIC volverse inelegibles para financiamiento en condiciones concesionarias. Algunos donantes han reducido o retirado la ayuda para el desarrollo que tanto necesitan.

Mason propone indicadores basados en la tasa de desempleo y en la relación médico-paciente como medida del acceso a atención médica. Subraya que los estados insulares de todo el mundo se evalúan utilizando los mismos criterios, y advierte que la nueva normatividad debería sumarse a las ya existentes y “garantizar que el acceso a la ayuda para el desarrollo vaya a quienes la necesitan”.

El aumento de la deuda en algunos de estos estados, añadida a la extrema vulnerabilidad de la región a los desastres, cambio climático, aumento de los índices de criminalidad y pobreza superan los logros alcanzados en educación y salud.

“Si no se cambian pronto los criterios de elegibilidad, el acceso a la ayuda para el desarrollo se reducirá aún más y, en muchos casos, provocará recortes en la ayuda actual de algunas islas porque ya no estarán calificadas para recibirla”, vaticina Mason.

La falta de financiamiento ya está afectando la capacidad de algunos pequeños estados insulares que esperan que la ONU y otros socios financien sus adaptaciones al cambio climático y a otros objetivos de desarrollo.

Mientras que los países de la región han hecho algunos avances, ellos continúan combatiendo la creciente delincuencia, el desempleo crónico y el aumento de las tasas de pobreza. La mayoría todavía no han cumplido con los ODM 2015.


Este artículo fue publicado originalmente en SciDev.Net. Lea la versión original aquí.


Jamaican Gov’t Sees IMF Successes but No Benefits for the Poor

The article deliberately excludes interpretations from the economomists, the analyists and civil servants providing instead the interpretations of the man in the street.

by Zadie Neufville
This article was first published by the InterPess Service (IPS) on Jun 2, 2015 (IPS)
For Jamaicans like Roxan Brown, the Caribbean nation’s International Monetary Fund (IMF) successes don’t mean a thing. Seven consecutive tests have been passed but still, the mother of two can’t find work and relies instead on the kindness of friends and family.

The 32-year-old has been in several government-sponsored training programmes and has even filed for help under the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), a safety net set up to assist the poor. But she fails to qualify and can’t understand why.

The single mother spends each day making phone calls, sending messages and making as many trips as she can afford, hopeful that one will result in a job. Roxan is desperate to help her son who graduated high school last year and has qualified for college. Her daughter is in secondary school and is preparing to sit exams.

The small box of goods

The small box of goods

Several miles away in the south coast village of Denbigh, the two elderly women also share their stories of hardship. Five days a week, they scratch out a meagre living selling a few sweets, biscuits, some bottled water, drinks and fruits to make ends meet. Neither have pensions and none qualify for even the basic of government assistance under PATH.

Seventy year old Elise Young’s small box of mixed sweets and biscuits and the plastic bucket containing some ice and a handful of drinks is hardy enough to pay the 18-dollar electricity bill each month and buy food.

“It’s very rough but I still have to live,” she said, noting that her daughter, who generally helps out with a few dollars a week, is now unemployed.  Next to her sits Iona Samuels, an on-again off-again vendor who sells a few dozen oranges and bananas to make ends meet. Iona is lucky: she lives rent free, housesitting for a friend who lives in Canada. Her onagain offagain business is due to the many times she is unable to restock the plastic crates that serve as her stall because she uses all the cash to buy food and pay water and light bills.

“Sometime I buy two dozen oranges and two dozen bananas and I only sell half. Sometimes I don’t make a profit because I have to sell them for what I pay for them and I have to eat and pay the bills,” she explains. Iona admits that advancing age has slowed her ability to do more strenuous work. She is concerned that government has no programmes for “the poor and vulnerable” people like her.

The good fortune that allows Iona to live rent-free also goes against her in her quest for government assistance with her daily expenses.

“I live in a house that is fully furnished, so I am unable to qualify for anything. There is no consideration that the house is not mine. It is my friend’s house. There is a gas stove, and a television so I don’t qualify for help,” Iona complains.

International Monetary Fund headquarters' complex in Washington

International Monetary Fund headquarters’ complex in Washington

 In the long history of Jamaica’s on-again off-again relationship with the IMF, it is the poorest of this nation’s 2.8 million people who suffer the heaviest burden. With most earnings going to pay loans, there is nothing left for government assistance.

Media reports cite information from the U.S.based Centre for Economic Policy and Research, which states that three years into its latest IMF programming, Jamaica’s economy is suffocating, struggling to reach its current quarterly growth rate of between 0.1 and 0.5 percent.

After 20 years of improvement to the country’s poverty rate, the number of Jamaicans living below the poverty line has ballooned in recent years from 9.9 percent in 2007, to 12.3 in 2008, 16.5 percent in 2009 and 19.9 percent in 2012. And if the 2014 research by the local Adventist Church is correct, today there are 1.1 million Jamaicans living in poverty.

The most pressing problem is the country’s debt, which the government readily admits has severely hampered its economic growth. According to the World Bank website, Jamaica’s debt to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) ratio, estimated at 140 percent at the end of March 2015, is among the highest in the developing world.

For the Portia Simpson Miller-led administration that won the 2011 general elections on a ticket of being a friend of the poor, there is not much caring left, at least not under the IMF. The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) reports that while the IMF programme is necessary, it is still not sufficient to unlock the kind of growth necessary to boost the economy and grow jobs.

According to the PIOJ, “Economic recovery remains fragile” even as the country successfully completed the IMF assessments with improvements in most macroeconomic indicators and outlook for growth.

The World Bank states on its website that, “For decades, Jamaica has struggled with low growth, high public debt and many external shocks that further weakened the economy. Over the last 30 years real per capita GDP increased at an average of just one percent per year, making Jamaica one of the slowest growing developing countries in the world.”

Simply put, Jamaica continues to spend far more than it earns. But while individual sectors continue to show improvements, manufacturers and the international community blame the cost of fuel, high energy costs and crime as impediments to growth.


Tourist at one of many streetside stalls on the island

Last year, Jamaica paid the IMF over 136 million dollars more than it received, and the country still owes the World Bank and InterAmerican Development Bank over 650 million dollars through 2018. Even so, government continues to struggle to maintain social gains such as free healthcare and free primary and secondary education.

There are those who believe government is not doing enough to create jobs and that the available jobs are going to government supporters. There are those who blame the private sector, and they in turn point to a depreciating dollar, high cost of fuel and high energy costs. And of course there is crime.

With unemployment rate at an alarming 14.2 percent and youth unemployment estimated at twice the national rate, things are not looking good for Roxan, who falls into that category.

The original story is here