Tag Archive | Economy

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.


Unravelling the Science behind Ganja

The original article appears in UWI Pelican Magazine

Cannabis also called Solomon’s Weed, Ganja or Marijuana, is hailed as God’s gift to medicine but only a handful of institutions including UWI’s Mona Campus are studying the properties and possible medicinal applications

By Zadie Neufville
The University of the West Indies has revived the ganja research programme it began in the 1970s as it prepares to launch Jamaica as a global “powerhouse” for cannabis research; as famous for its products and services as it already is for reggae and the good ‘ol sensi weed’.

UWI’s Mona Campus in Kingston is one of the few places in the world where marijuana research can take place from plant breeding, through to clinical trials. The country’s international reputation – the ganja culture, music and athletic success – has brought many to the UWI in search of research collaborations.IMG_7735_1

There is new energy and excitement as researchers leverage over four decades of experience in cannabis research, even as they await the completion of regulations that will guide recent amendments to the Dangerous Drug Act.

“We have the knowledge and we have the expertise to make Jamaica and the Mona Campus a major centre, the leading authority and we are positioned to use our Jamaica brand to drive the programme,” Principal of the UWI’s Mona Campus Professor Archibald McDonald, said in an interview with the Pelican.

Best known for the euphoric effect of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), Cannabis is said to contain more than 60 other chemical compounds. It is these other elements that the UWI and its partners want to exploit in its mission to treat a host of complaints for which modern medicines have no answer.

Researchers are particularly excited by the possibilities of the cannabinoids (CBDs), a group of chemicals referred to as terpenophenolic compounds, also known as terpins.

Scientists at UWI’s research partner Citiva Medical are also excited by the promise of ‘terpens’, particularly after the team successfully developed cannabis-derived products to treat a number of ailments. Citiva is the company behind Charlotte’s Web – a strain of cannabis with less than 0.3 % THC – which is being used to treat paediatric epilepsy.

Prior to being treated with the cannabis extract, 8-year-old Charlotte Figi reportedly suffered up to 300 seizures a day due to a rare form of epilepsy, even while on traditional medicines. The extract from Charlotte’s Web and continued success of the treatments using the oil is one of several success stories from Citiva.

The strain of cannabis named Charlotte’s Web for the little American girl, is being grown at the UWI and will be studied with a view to standardising the extracts. The aim is to ensure that every cannabis plant used for medicine has exactly “the same levels of the specific chemical compounds” required to target specific illnesses, with the same results.

In the medicinal cannabis world, Citiva’s executive director Josh Stanley is a rock star. Described as ‘telegenic’ in his approach to the marketing of cannabis as the future of medicine, both Stanley and the equally visionary McDonald share the belief that research in cannabis goes way beyond smoking the weed.

“We are interested in the whole plant, getting away from the single compound and into the promise of its biology – a multi-compound approach to its natural properties,” Stanley said.


Professor Archibald McDonald, Principal – UWI Mona

McDonald noted: “We are using our permit effectively to help us to establish a Centre of excellence in cannabis research in the Caribbean. We want the Mona Campus to become the leader in Cannabis research internationally”.


And there is no shortage of researchers willing to help him build UWI’s reputation and join the quest to find treatment for a long list of complaints. In addition to examining the use of cannabis in the treatment of diabetes, epilepsy, cancer and chronic pain, the UWI Medicinal Cannabis Research Group (UWI-MCRG) is also contemplating the possibilities for its use in anaesthesia and psychiatry among other areas.

Since 2010 UWI’s Forensic Unit under the leadership of Professor Wayne McLaughlin has diligently mapped the DNA of cannabis to among other things, help police identify key ganja growing areas on the island. These days, the data is being repurposed and put to more beneficial uses, he said.

McLaughlin noted that chemical and gene profiling have allowed researchers to classify cannabis plants not only by the names the farmers give them, but also by the plants’ colouring, their unique chemical compositions as well as by the genes that will make them less susceptible to contamination from heavy metals and other impurities.

“Now we are not only able to track the plants but also look at other genes that are important to the plant and its survival. We can now identify those plants with high and low THC and CBD levels as well as identify male and female plants,” the forensic scientist said.

The UWI-MC Research Group are light years ahead of the authorities and were ready with scores of project ideas covering all areas of medicine and science by the time the University received its exemption permit last year.
“The lobby (for legalisation) had the widest cross section of people and professions I’ve ever seen,” Professor McDonald laughed. The result, he explained, is that the UWI is already working on scores of projects ranging from basic science studies to pre-clinical and clinical studies, all in an effort to expand knowledge of the therapeutic uses of cannabis.

ganja ap

Marijuana researchers on the Caribbean island of Jamaica are planning to develop new pharmaceutical products following the partial decriminalisation of cannabis. (AP/David McFadden)

At the same time, the medicinal research is being enhanced by the ongoing chemical and DNA analyses of the plant. McLaughlin agreed that with so much of the gene sequencing and identification of the chemicals already done, the work done by his team has slashed several years from the expected start-up of clinical trials. It also makes possible the start of the planned Pain Clinic by year’s end, just about coinciding with the start of clinical trials at the University Hospital of the West Indies.

The United States medical marijuana industry is expected to earn as much as US 13billion dollars by 2019 up from US 2.7 billion dollars in 2014. It is expected that the UWI and indeed Jamaica can earn a significant share of the global market from pharmaceuticals, bringing jobs and much needed development. But there will be no products to smoke at the UWI’s Medical Research facilities, even with the 100 million US dollars in monthly sales the US State of Colorado reportedly makes from medical marijuana.

“We aim to change their perception that Jamaica is about a bunch of Rastas and white women getting high,” researcher Carole Lindsay said chuckling. She has been leading the chemical analysis of every strain of Cannabis the University collects from farmers.

A professional chemist, Lindsay noted that creating the chemical profiles of the plants found in Jamaica is critical to protecting both the country’s and the University’s interests.

“Our local strains of cannabis are vulnerable because we assume that with all the interest in ganja, people could be bringing in plants to grow them here. We also know that farmers have been doing their own cross breeding for years,” she explained.

ganja 2

Ganja plants being destroyed by security forces.

Aside from ongoing research into the properties and effects of Cannabis, the UWI was among the first in the world to successfully develop medicines from the plant. Its work, going back to 1972 when ophthalmologist Albert Lockhart and pharmacologist Dr. Manley West began investigating the anecdotes of fishermen who attributed their exceptional night-vision to their consumption of ‘ganja teas’.

From their research, the Department of Pharmacology in 1987 released the Canasol (TM), eye drops to treat glaucoma and followed that success in later years by a number of pioneering marijuana-derived pharmaceuticals: Asmasol for asthma; Cantivert also used to treat glaucoma; Canavert for motion sickness and Cansens for treating viral infections.

“They (the products) were sold on the local market but we really never managed to export it because of the cannabis. But what it showed clearly, was that there are substances in ganja which can provide effective treatment of glaucoma and asthma,” McDonald, a surgeon by training said.

Much of the University’s work in Cannabis is unknown internationally because the laws that prohibited the use of marijuana severely hampered the University’s research programme as well as the marketing of the products.

In Jamaica, the ‘weed’ is also listed as a dangerous drug and until April 2016, possession attracted penalties of imprisonment. The 1961 UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs criminalised the possession of ganja, a plant that had been used for generations as traditional medicine by local healers and householders.

When parliament ratified the amendment to the Dangerous Drug Act on April 15, it revived decades old research ambitions at UWI and other local institutions. It also paved the way for a “broad permit” that facilitated the planting of the first legal cannabis plant, thereby establishing UWI’s own ‘ganja’ plot and officially initiating the production and testing of cannabis derived medicines.


Rastafarians can freely use ‘ganja’ as a sacrament

The amendment that was inked on 6 February – birthdate of the late reggae icon Bob Marley – relaxed rules on the use of ganja on the island. Nowadays, possession of two ounces (56 grams) or less, no longer results in jail time. Rastafarians can freely use ‘ganja’ as a sacrament for the first time since the birth of their movement in the 1930s and householders are allowed to grow up to five plants.

In the months since, several companies have released a number of nutraceuticals and topical pain products derived from cannabis. Not withstanding, McDonald said, UWI is interested in the whole plant.

“Our interest is in unraveling the science behind ganja,” he said.

It’s a philosophy shared by its major partners including Citiva Medical, which Stanley a co-founder said, includes the belief “that the future of cannabinoid medicine lies in strict adherence to unraveling the science”.

As head of the UWI Cannabis Research Group, McDonald is expecting even more successes with new technologies, new investments, new partners and if negotiations go well, he is also looking forward to creating improved versions of Canasol and Asmasol.


Strains of Charlotte’s Web grow in the facility at UWI as Citiva and the University unravel the secrets to producing consistent dosages of the chemicals found. Photo Z. Neufville

US Federal legislation classification of cannabis the plant as a class 1 drug has forced the Jamaican government to tread lightly, even as it granted permits to UWI and others. Regardless, the University is accelerating its research, construction of green houses, the cultivation of several species of cannabis and the signing of MOUs with agencies and organisations from across the globe.


There are several proposals awaiting the regulations and profiling must be done quickly to continue supporting the research and development. To aid the process, more than 600,000 US dollars have been spent to upgrade the equipment in the Toxicology lab.

“We are expecting that many products will be produced and have to be tested and quality checked for them to be marketed. We also expect the USDA will soon come up with regulations on cannabis-derived medicines and we are preparing to meet them,” Lindsay said.

Construction of the UWI Mona Cannabis Research Centre and supporting facilities to expand the institutions research capacity and house its partners is estimated to cost some US 4million dollars.

McDonald is expecting that funding from partners will equip and build the facility as “their contribution to UWI’s 40-year cannabis research legacy, accommodation and the prestige of brand-Jamaica”.

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