Tag Archive | European Union

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.

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JAMAICA’S SUGAR JOB LOSSES SIGNAL AN INDUSTRY AT A CROSSROADS

by Zadie Neufville

This article was first published by EqualTimes on 26 August 2015
JAMAICA’S  sugar industry is attempting to weather a perfect storm of high production costs, a two-year drought resulting in falling yields for some of its most productive cane fields and low price forecasts on a highly competitive global market.

As a result, restructuring and job losses are expected, as already seen in the eastern parish of St Thomas. But for some, this could mark the start of a new beginning.

On 7 August, cane cutters and harvesters for the Golden Grove sugar factory received notices and 14-weeks severance pay as the owners, Seprod Jamaica Limited, acted on a two-year plan to cut cost by outsourcing cultivation and harvesting operations.LABUSA-SUGAR-CANE-WORKERS

“Approximately 600 field workers, including those in tractor and transport operations will be given their redundancy payments on 4 September,” University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU) representative Clifton Grant told Equal Times.

There has been no agreement on how many workers will be re-employed by the new, as yet unnamed, contractor. But trade unions representing the workers – UAWU, the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) and the National Workers Union (NWU) – say they will do their best to ensure the new contracts are favourable to the workers.

Golden Grove is currently one of just six functioning sugar factories in Jamaica and one of just a handful of large-scale employers in rural St Thomas. Although factory jobs will not be affected, the loss of 600 jobs could have a major impact on the agriculture-based economy of St Thomas, which has some of the highest levels of unemployment on the island.

BITU’s representative Hanif Brown told the Jamaica Observer newspaper: “During the out-crop period these workers receive guaranteed payments, and approximately 60 per cent of them would continue working at reduced pay. We don’t know what will happen under the [new] contractual arrangement”.

Grant told Equal Times: “We will continue negotiations with the management to protect the workers rights”.

As one of the island’s top manufacturers of food and household products, and majority shareholder of the Golden Grove factory, Seprod made the decision to outsource all field operations after losing US$17.4 million of a US$26.1 million investment in the factory in 2009.

cane fieldIn Jamaica, although some aspects of cane cutting are mechanised, most sugar cane is still cut by hand, dating back to the days when the island was a British colony and sugar – the empire’s most valued commodity – was planted and harvested by African slaves.

As well as providing thousands of jobs, proponents of hand cutting say it prevents crop damage and allows farmers to keep older cane roots that result in bigger yields in the coming season. In addition, in some hillside areas, cane fields are only accessible by donkey, mule and foot.

Changing fortunes
The Golden Grove redundancies are symptomatic of Jamaica’s struggle to carve out its place in today’s highly competitive global sugar industry.

Brazil, India and China are world leaders in cane sugar production, but while its yields are tiny by comparison, in Jamaica, sugar is still king. As well as being its primary agricultural export, the sugar industry is the country’s second largest employer with some 28,000 out-of-season and 38,000 in-season workers contributing US$74.5 million to the GDP in 2010.

Changes to Jamaica’s sugar industry began in 2008 with the privatisation of five dilapidated government-owned factories. To facilitate the sale, around 8,000 sugar workers were laid-off under the European Union-funded Sugar Transformation Programme (STP).

Some €147 million (approximately US$109.8 million at the exchange rate of the time) was paid-out to assist with the privatisation process, to enhance the quality of life in ‘sugar dependent’ communities while revamping the ailing sector after years of “under-investment and poor commercial management,” according to documents from the EU mission in Jamaica.

The agreement also provided for redundancy payments to facilitate divestment and provide training and funding for alternative forms of employment. Additionally, it funded farmers to replant old fields and establish new ones to help Jamaica meet a national production target of 200,000 tonnes per annum.

cane-blog480This target is yet to be met: last year, Jamaican sugar producers yielded 154,000 tonnes of sugar; this year that figure fell to 134,000 tonnes.

In 2009, the ’sugar protocol’ – a long standing-agreement which provided Jamaica and other sugar producers from African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states duty-free and quota-free access to the EU sugar market – came to an end. Until 2012, ACP countries were still allow to export sugar duty-free to the EU, but prices and quantities were not fixed.

However, a subsequent transitional agreement – known as the Accompanying Measures for Sugar Protocol Countries – which provides help to countries to help deal with the changes – ends in 2017. George Callaghan, chief executive of Jamaica’s Sugar Industry Authority in Jamaica, recently described the move as an “earth-shattering event”.

In anticipation, the Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (a local subsidiary of COMPLANT, the China National Complete Plant Import and Export Corporation Limited, which owns and operates the island’s three largest sugar factories) removed itself from a cooperative agreement to sell its sugar through Jamaica Cane Product Sales Limited (JCPS) – the agency which markets most Jamaican sugar at home abroad.

Seprod is now also seeking government approval to market its own sugar in an attempt to secure a higher price for its product on the local and global market. However, Hugh Blake, chief executive of JCPS, remains confident that the current set-up is beneficial for all those involved.

“When we lost our preferential markets three years ago, Jamaica managed to negotiate some of the highest prices paid for sugar in Europe,” he tells Equal Times.

caneblue03Whatever happens, for now, there remains some optimism despite the uncertain future. Allan Rickards, chairman of the of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers’ Association, told Equal Times that his association, which represents all of the island’s cane farmers, has seen numerous improvements to the working conditions and welfare of its members in recent years.

“The lay-offs could be a blessing for workers who want to use their severance packages to set up small businesses. Some workers will grasp the opportunity to do other things; many will use the payments to boost their own farming and other businesses. Some will also find work in other sections of the island and others will get jobs with the new contractors,” he said.

Rickards pointed out that most of Golden Grove’s field workers are seasonal and frequently older workers, earning a living out-of-season as farmers, shop keepers or by planting their own cane crops. Many are tired of the hard work of cane cutting and would relish the opportunity to make money some other way. For them, receiving termination pay from Golden Grove could be a good thing.

But for those who have no choice but to remain cane cutters, things to don’t look so sweet. Over at the Worthy Park Estate in the nearby parish of St Catherine’s, drought conditions make it doubtful that extra work will be available this year. Office manager Herman Chambers told Equal Times: “We have enough cutters at Worthy Park and with the drought, I don’t think we will need additional workers”.

Original story is here