The good, the bad, and the ugly (November 10)

Good

Alia Atkinson’s continued her great form in swimming World Cup into Tokyo leg, with another fine win in 100 metres breaststroke. She keeps swimming close to the world record in that event. She finished the leg with two gold medals and a bronze.

Bad

Jamaica’s under 17 women failed to advance beyond the semis in CONCACAF tournament, losing 5-0 to Canada, then losing 8-0 to USA in 3rd place match. The ladies looked to have run out of legs, after excellent group play. So, no place in 2014 FIFA World Cup in Costa Rica, but plenty of promise. Mexico and Canada have booked their spots toCosta Rica next March.

Ugly

Jamaican Police beating of allegedly mentally ill, Kamoza Clarke, to a near vegetative state and remains in hospital. Incident was caught on closed circuit television, thus contradicting claims that ‘he fell’ down stairs. The policemen accused of beating an inmate at the Falmouth Police Station in Trelwany last month have been placed on interdiction following a probe including the viewing of video footage. Police High Command has concluded that the matter should now be dealt with by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).

Ring my bell: The JLP leadership contest

A friend asked me the other day whether I would write about Jamaican politics. I answered honestly that I did not feel comfortable doing that, just yet, because I did not believe that I had a good understanding of what was driving the political processes here. Lots of seemingly interesting things  happen with politicians in Jamaica, and I may venture some opinions soon. I mean, my views are my views.

This Sunday sees the culmination of a recent decision by one politician to challenge the leader of his party for that position. The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), currently in opposition, will have delegates voting for either Andrew Holness (leader) or Audley Shaw (deputy leader). The ‘race’ has been fought in mainly bitter terms, often with ‘surrogates’ doing much of the deep biting on behalf of their man. From what I have read and heard, little separates the two candidates in terms of policy ideas. Indeed, one of the funnier developments was when Mr. Holness accused Mr. Shaw of ‘stealing his ideas’.

The political cartoonists, especially Clovis, have had a field day depicting the candidates. Mr. Holness is often portrayed as child-like–a friendly interpretation of that would be that it focuses on his relative youth; a less friendly view would be that many of his reactions are somewhat childish–seeming petulance, being one of them. But seeing his as a baby in diapers, or with a bottle in his mouth, or with a pacifier, all tend to put him into the bag as not up to ‘man-like’ performances. Mr. Shaw is often referred to as “man a yaad” (translated as “the man of the house”), meaning he is the one to turn to who can get things done, be tough, rough and mean as befits an attack dog. Being abrasive seems to be more second nature to “Audley”, as he’s affectionately termed.

Screen Shot 2013-11-10 at 6.35.25 AMThe race has been marked by many accusations of wrong-doing, the most recent of which related to the all-important list of delegates. I really did not understand the selection process but it seemed clear that more than a little jiggery pokery had come into play in preparing the list, and head of the JLP Secretariat, Dr Horace Chang, has not come up smelling of roses.

The election will be historic, being the first leadership contest the party has every held. From what I have heard and read, the JLP has done little to endear itself to the general public. Partisans within the party have shown little sign of being swayed by the other side’s arguments. I don’t know if there are really any neutrals when it comes to the contest, and what would make them sway one way or another could be any of many pieces seeming trivia. Holness’ seeming laid-back attitude? Shaw’s in-your-face toughness? Either’s ability or lack of it to engage PM Portia Simpson-Miller.

As a bystander, I have nothing to lose by putting my hat into the ring in trying to pick a winner. My feeling is that Mr. Holness will hold onto his leadership position by a decent margin. He is not as laid back as he’s painted. He’s not as gentle as his opponents want to portray him; he’s quite capable of slyness (and innuendo has been one of the traits I’ve detected when hearing him discuss his opponent, often with a double-edged “I didn’t say that” when his comments are being interpreted.

I think the party will be much damaged by this race and will then be vulnerable in the near-term as the party in power can exploit the obvious internal JLP divisions that the race has unearthed. Enough of my speculation, though. The voters will be casting their ballots and should know the result around 4pm on Sunday. By early evening, we’ll see who has it right.

Lilliput, Jamaica: In much need of Gulliver

We are in the midst of Restaurant Week in Jamaica. That’s a great opportunity for eating places across the island to show case their fare, flair, and style. I had no intention on Friday of heading to any restaurants to try all of that. I was headed on a road trip with some friends to play a practice round of golf in Montego Bay, at the beautiful Cinnamon Hill course. While we were there, we had a conversation about caddies. They are a microcosm of many things problematic about Jamaica. Many of them have done their jobs a long time. Many of them are good golfers. Many of them are not good caddies: they may be great bag carriers but they are often average advisers. Many of them do not appear to have been trained in any systematic way, learning on the job. It’s a problem for golfers to work with them and it’s a problem for them because they can’t progress far if they are just average. The whole matter of training staff occupied many minutes of our driving to the north coast and also while we were playing a tricky course–for me, the first time. But, let’s say that the caddies we used did a decent job and would not be rejected out of hand on another round. Final ball in the cup, tired bodies and minds needed refreshment, so we showered and headed back towards Kingston. We had some good food options for ‘road food’ en route: a great jerk spot or a great spot for roast yam and salt fish. But, our driver knew a cool beach-side spot just a few minutes from the course, located near the village of Lilliput.

If you’ve read Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travel, you’ll know it starts with the hero arriving at the island of Lilliput, whose inhabitants are very small people, about 6 inches tall. Gulliver is naturally a giant amongst them. We soon felt like Gulliver after we took our seats at our wooden table in the sand. The sand flies and mosquitoes were quick to come to serve us, biting and setting up itches with minutes. We begged a waiter for some repellant spray. Our waiter was a young man, who seemed keen but very raw. We looked at the menu and saw that the bar was on the list of Restaurant Week participants–offering a three-course meal for J$1700 (about US$17). We asked him about items on the menu. We should have taken our cue from his reaction. He looked around and asked some colleagues about what ‘whole fish’ was being served: snapper he was told. We asked about the appetizers: jerked chicken wings took my interest, but one of my play mates wanted fish tea. We look down the rest of the menu and decided that the seaside demanded we eat sea food. So, one order of brown stew fish, one order of steamed fish, one order of lobster al fredo. Within minutes the manager was with us asking that we come to the kitchen and choose our ‘one pound’ fish. We followed like puppies, excited at the prospect of seeing what we were destined to enjoy. But, again, we should have heard the sirens: none of the one-pounders came up to a pound. We suggested that some of the bigger fish find their way onto our plates. We went back to our seats and ordered our liquid refreshments: coconut water for me, lemonade and light beer for my pals. A good night ahead, we thought. Our driver told us about the great meals he’d had here before. The sea was calm. We did not hear the brewing storm.

Fifteen minutes passed and our drinks had not yet arrived. Antsy, we eyed our server, who was playing with cocktail shakers at the bar: none of our drinks were cocktails. Strange, we thought. We hailed the youth. He came and muttered something, then went away. The drinks came a few minutes later, in unnecessarily elaborate glasses. Half an hour passed and we were now champing at the bit. Our driver signalled for our man, again. “Do you have any peanuts or crackers we can chew on? We’re ravenous.” The youth shook his head and told us “They’re working on your food. It will come soon.” Like snow, we should have thought. He came back in a minute with the soup…alone. Ten minutes later, our orders of chicken wings appeared, with plates of fries (which we’d not seen offered, but we welcomed). Our soup drinker had already finished so helped us eat our hefty appetizers, really a meal in themselves. Hungry bodies fed feverishly on the little leglets and wings. Nice! We sank back and looked forward to our main courses. We should have found hammocks.

Fifteen minutes later out came the brown stew fish dish…alone.Chill out food Fitting? Sort of. Our friend had had his soup earliest, too. Then five minutes later, the al fredo arrived…alone. The scrawny youth started to talk. “We have a problem with the other fish. They served it to another table and are starting to prepare another one…” Steamed fish does not cook quickly. That was a blow to my stomach. We asked how that could be. What kind of system did this restaurant have that meant that food came out of the kitchen and went to the ‘wrong’ table? None, it seemed. We asked the waiter to send the manager to us.  He went away. She did not come to us. Minutes later, the youth came to us again. My driver gave him a lesson in customer service and how to respond to requests to speak to managers. He told us he was new and just a week into the job. He went away.

A man came to our table and he and our driver got into excited talk about a party. Then the visitor explained that the manager was new and was in the process of ‘restructuring’ the staff, firing many and having to hire new people. Things he’d been slow in the kitchen. We agreed that that had not changed. We explained our chaotic situation.

My two friends finished their meals and wanted to wash up, so went to the bathroom. I sat patiently, waiting…. The manager came towards my table, and turned away to take a phone call. She came back towards me and turned away again, for another call. Like waves, I thought. At last, she arrived and explained that things had just been a nightmare. She talked about having to work with her new staff and on top the bathrooms had flooded. I told her bluntly that the meal was “a disaster”. She agreed, and said that she would deal with the meal and the bill accordingly. She mopped a sweaty brow and headed to the kitchen.

My friends returned shaking their heads. “Man, my feet are so wet!” one said. The flooded bathroom had been ankle-deep in water. They were shocked that I was still meal-less. Well over two hours had passed. I explained that the manager and I had had friendly words. But, still no food in sight.

Ten minutes later, a bold striding waiter came my way, with his tray help proudly aloft. “Your fish…” It looked lovely and all of my expectations were about to get their real test in the eating. The fish, dressed with steamed okras, onions, and carrots, looked great, with steamed bammy at the side. I patiently began to work with knife and fork. My friends chilled and talked about how hard they found it to train staff. We were back at our earlier talk about caddies, but this time dealing with restaurant or other staff. “Some of them don’t want to learn…” “Some of them can’t learn…” “Some of them think they know it all because they’ve worked for years…” “Some of their managers just want to pick up their pay…” Problems in training. Problems in attitude. I couldn’t comment on either except that I was suffering from something not working well.

“Man, you’re working that fish!” one of our trio said. I smiled. “It was good. Worth the wait, but that was long,” I replied. Done, we were now focusing on a three-hour drive ahead, over the mountains in the dark, with tired and aching bodies. We had our left over bagged and asked for the desserts to be boxed. We got ready to pay and leave. My meal had been ‘comp-ed’, so we only had to pay for two dinners, plus extras. Paying then took another ten minutes. How else could it be?

Two and a half hours for a slow, lazy, beach-side dinner. Not what we had come for. Tired, but filled with food, we edged back to the car and headed onto the road. Back to discussing how a country with so much potential was losing its way through so many little things that aren’t done well. The little people of this Lilliput needed a few giants to help them out. Situated in the strip that is most traveled by foreign visitors and having a week to showcase their best one restaurant had failed miserably. Did they need Gordon Ramsay? Did they just need something more basic? Was the owner and manager able to tackle the little things that were making them grow in the wrong direction. The food was very good, but the experience is not just about the eating. The meal will be memorable for many wrong reasons. We are due to be back in this area next week to play a tournament, with over a hundred players and supporters in tow. Our idea of trying this place out as a means of suggesting it for a group meal was not going to be more than another idea. Failing where we ought to find it easier to succeed seemed too familiar a tale.

Going all unconventional: not just a nation of sprinters, cricketers and male footballers

The past few weeks has seen something unique: a Jamaican swimmer, Alia Atkinson,Alia-Atkinson2_w304_w304 has been tearing up international waters, winning and placing high in the touring series of swim meets, called the World Cup. World Cup legs this year have already taken place in Eindhoven, Berlin, Moscow, Dubai, Doha and now Singapore.The series will end with two legs in Tokyo, Japan (November 9-10) and Beijing, China (November 13-14). Having just brought my child back from her swimming practice, I wondered if Jamaican children are beginning to focus on what Alia is doing and in some little way starting to turn their eyes toward less popular sports in which we should be able to excel, but tend to fall short. Here’s to hoping.

At this moment, Jamaica’s under-17 women’s team is playing a semi-final in the CONCACAF Championships. The winner will advance to the 2014 World Cup in Costa Rica. The matches are being played in Jamaica, at Montego Bay Sports Complex’ Catherine Hall Stadium. This is historic: the team has done better than ever before. Close behind them will be their under 20 compatriots. Screen Shot 2013-11-07 at 6.18.08 PMThe 2014 CONCACAF Women’s  under 20 Championship is scheduled to kick off on January 9, 2014 in the Cayman Islands. The men’s team may get the public attention, but success is a very good basis on which to build, so I hope that the young women will be more than an afterthought.

More openings are coming along for girls to play soccer in Jamaica. For my part, I just had the pleasure of being nominated to coach elementary girls at my daughter’s school. I’ve been there before, in the US, and I have the coaching qualifications 🙂

Many doors could be open for talented youths in areas that have been less in the public eye, and as Americans have found, educational opportunities may come with the sports, too, in the form of scholarships. The fact that women are coming to the fore is not so surprising, but it’s not my view that we have special advantages there, but we do have good female athletes and a long tradition of having women in sports, at least through high school, and after that for track and field. Let’s see how this moves. Too early to talk of groundswell, but make noise.

Thinking deficit: JUTC’s busted logic

A few days ago, I pondered the matter of Jamaican strategic decision-making abilities. Several actions by government agencies in recent days make me wonder more if there is a cultural aspect of how local bureaucrats operate that is moulded in a deep cast that has to have elements which many people find offensive, inconsiderate, foolish, backward, and a whole host of other negative terms. Two particular sets of decisions by the Jamaica Urban Transport Company (JUTC) have me puzzled.

First, JUTC has been running a ‘test’ of bus-lanes on a heavily congested stretch of road leading into Kingston. Unlike many other bus-lane restrictions, that proposed will be for JUTC buses only. JUTC is a public corporation, which is loss-making. But, many other private buses operate and move large volumes of passengers. So, if the logic is that large ‘people movers’ get priority, then the natural question seems to be “Why give the privilege to JUTC only?” I don’t have a good answer to that question and suspect there isn’t one, other than JUTC, and the government by extension, want to discriminate against other public transport providers. As someone commented yesterday, such ‘tests’ are usually of what is meant to be implemented, so the expectation is that private bus operators will not be getting any privileged access. JUTC called the tests ‘a success’: their buses moved an additional 6,000 passengers during the three- hour test run on October 24. Judging by comments heard on various media, things were a nightmare for other road users. But, maybe they are not part of the consideration. Wheel and come again!

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Second, JUTC has decided to end the practice of free transfers. The changes will affect 15 routes. JUTC says it loses between J$500,000 to J$1million per day. The scheme was introduced to encourage use of JUTC buses. I have no idea what studies were done before introducing it, but, logically, it had to be a loss-maker. The size of the losses indicate that free transfers have succeeded, so why penalize passengers by making them pay for what they were ‘enticed to do’ by making it free? That shouldn’t be the reason to stop it. Had JUTC begun by offering the free transfers on a short-term experimental basis, the scheme might have failed. But, that wasn’t the deal. Should I suggest that this idea was not well thought out? As economists would say, JUTC should have anticipated the losses and if they were a problem, then had offsetting measures ready to ensure that the overall deficit didn’t worsen. News reports indicated ‘The bus company says it regrets any inconvenience that this change may cause to its customers.’ I find that hard to believe, or is some knee-jerk corporate PR. They can’t regret something that they introduce and is meant to have a particular negative impact.

JUTC is not being fair to those who fund them and those who depend on them. Accountable for being badly run? Accountable for badly affecting the rest of the transportation structure? I wonder…

Poor life, all around

Everyone in Jamaica is a ‘sufferer’. Life in Jamaica is always hard. The music business lets us know this. Songs about how ‘they’ are downpressing ‘us’ have been in vogue for decades. I guess that it’s not really the done thing to sing a song that goes something like:

“My life is so sweet,

On my little street,

Where all that I do is just drink and eat

Chicken, beef and all kinds of meat…”

Official data show that Jamaica is not riddled with abject poverty, taking that as people living on less that US$ 1.25 a day. Jamaica has about 17 percent of its population below that level. Jamaica ranks a decent 117th out of 157 countries on that scale. Taiwan has the least (just over 1 percent), while Chad, Haiti and Liberia have the most (each at 80 percent).

However, one sees so many people struggling that the poverty line indicators don’t really tell much of a story. Yesterday, I was in a market when a young man walked in and tried to buy some vegetables.

Man: “Sell mi wun poun a yam, Mummi!”

Vendor: “Dis wun poun an half. Hundred twenty dolla.” She shows him the piece that has been cut from the foot of yam.

Man: “Mi cyan afford dat. Is poun mi want…” He then goes on about how his budget cant stretch to make it easy for him to buy more than a pound of yam. After he’s bought the salt fish to go with it, he’ll be broke.

I wrote previously that people always seem to be hustling. It’s become a sort of second nature or knee jerk reaction. Something like:

“What’s the weather like today?”

“Man, how you can talk about weather when I can’t rub two red cents together. You know times hard. You can help me with a small something?”

But, the reality is that we can’t take for granted that life is hard for a lot of people. On a daily basis I see things that tell me that people are pushing their hardest with the slimmest of means, or trying to make the most of what little they have. Some random examples since the weekend:

Taxi drivers washing their cars in gullies. This makes perfect sense. The rain water is generally clean and free flowing, and free.

People taking baths by standpipes. I was the lucky witness to a man taking his full bath in front of me and a lady friend on Sunday. He washed thoroughly and then proceeded to put on his two pairs of dry underpants and went on his daily way, I imagine. Yes. he wore nothing but boxer shorts.

I cite those two instances because one was by someone who to all intents and purposes was ‘doing normal things’ being a taxi driver. The other instance involved someone whom we could regard as marginalized from society, judging by his unconventional practices.

But, that ‘kiss my teeth’ attitude is also abundant. The fish lady I met in the market yesterday clearly wanted to sell whatever made money. Her speciality is fish, but her business card–I kid you not– shows that she sells toilet paper, too. Whatever the people need.

When the read the reports of how jet ski operators had their vehicles confiscated by police over the weekend, I can’t help but think that some officials really don’t see that poor life is all around and the few opportunities people have to make some money and feed and clothes themselves and family are slim and dwindling.

Save us from those who should save us

Generally, it’s hard to tackle social issues in a vacuum. Everything is connected to everything else in some way.

Sometimes, we can do what economists do: apply ‘ceteris paribus‘ and assume “all other things being equal”, as a way of trying to deal with an issue as if nothing else will be affected. We know it’s artificial, but it’s a way of stopping your head from exploding.

Othertimes, you have to take the view that you have a particular backdrop and that will help frame your considerations.

When I think about problems in Jamaica, I cannot go for the heroic economics assumption, because I know that other things are far from equal and that is often one of the factors that is driving the problem. So, I try to go with the backdrop approach. In Jamaica’s case, I may use the frame that economic conditions are very difficult and have been that way for decades. People, therefore, position their actions in the context that financial conditions will be difficult. That may make them tend toward certain behaviour that worsens the problem. So, when there’s a shortage of foreign currency, those who are earning or gaining it may tend to horde it, thus making the situation worse.

In trying to tackle many issues in Jamaica, the idea that the country is mired in violence is hard to dislodge. So, although much of general life seems safe and normal, there is an overlay of horrific violence that may have its origins in gangs, drugs, and guns, but may spill over into the lives of people not really related to those activities. The litany of horror stories is really quite gut-wrenching: general abuse, maiming, shooting, stabbing, chopping, etc. People are taking out their anger and frustration with life and each other in ways that defy reasons. That social violence, however, has an added component that is not uniquely Jamaican but is a well-known local characteristic.

One of the things that makes Jamaica seem very different from many other countries is the high rate of killings by ‘agents of the State’. The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) reported what seems like a startling statistics. While 80 civilians were killed by agents of the State, 36 deaths recorded in October alone.Jamaican-police-006

According to INDECOM, in the last 15 years, Jamaica has been averaging 200 security force-related fatalities annually. Data through September indicate that Jamaica is on track to exceed that number by about 10 percent.

Amensty International has been on Jamaica’s case over this for several years, monitoring trends since the 1980s. They note that the rate of lethal police shootings in Jamaica is one of the highest in the world. Police accounts of victim-initiated “shoot-outs” are often disputed by witness accounts and contradicted by forensic evidence. With new technology, such as mobile phones with cameras and videos, people have witnessed some incidents where police have killed first and sought answers later.

People will ask many questions about this trend. The apparent spike in recent months may reflect an increase in confrontations between police and alleged criminals, as part of what may be termed ‘increased crime fighting efforts’.

In a country regularly described as being plagued by crime, I would understand that many people would see this development with mixed to positive reactions. The criminals who are a scourge are apparently being given ‘justice’ swiftly, albeit brutally. The police may well be in a situation where they could justify their actions in terms of ‘kill or be killed’. They have the means to use deadly force and choose to use it.

Others may say “This is not right.” Why are the police killings at such a high rate and can that not be curbed? Jamaica’s security forces have long had a reputation for being brutal, and are much disliked for that reason. Amnesty has also documented instances of brutality that seems more systematic and systemic than random. Interactions between citizens and the police are often heated, so one should not be surprised that interactions between police and criminals would be like Alice’s tea party. But, could it really be expected that Jamaica would be any different?

Like Jamaican economic fortunes, this is not something that will turn around quickly. Who will around to see it happen?

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The good, the bad, and the ugly (November 3)

Good

The petition that gathered over 1 million signatures protesting the ridiculous light sentence given to alleged rapists of a girl in Kenya. Grass cutting doesn’t cut it!Grass cutting rapists

Jamaican under-17 women win twice and make semifinals in CONCACAF tournament.

Bad

Jamaica’s most colourful policeman, Senior Superintendent Radcliffe Lewis, retired from the Island Traffic Department. Gone are his wonderful quotes.

Ugly

If true, the story of a Virginia mother who let her child dress as a Ku Klux Clan member for Halloween. Was her name really ‘Black’? Say it ain’t so.

Money in, money out…

I have not gone through a day in Jamaica since I came back in June without someone asking me for money. I’m not really surprised and I try not to get annoyed. Times are hard for many people and if there’s a hint that someone has means, they become ready targets.

If you participate in certain kinds of activities, this pressing for money is going to happen more, and it may persist and may also come with other requests. Take, for instance, an afternoon playing golf yesterday.

The caddy wants his money, and that’s fine because they are supposed to be paid. But, he wanted more than he was due to get. He also asked for ‘help’ because he was due to play in a tournament in Montego Bay. Reasonable? He has to pay his taxi or bus fare. If he wins a prize, this may be in cash.

I noticed my car was clean and shiny, after the heavy rain storm that had occurred while I was paying. “Hey, mi boss!” I heard, as an old, bearded man ran alongside a fence paralleling my path. I asked if he’d washed my car today, and also during the week. “Yes. A mi dweet. Yu ‘appy?” I was not unhappy, but my car hadnt needed a wash. I could have done with the insides being cleaned out of all the elementary school garbage that had built up in a week of ferrying 10 year-olds around. I asked him if he just washed the cars if he thought they needed it. He nodded. It’s a good service and as a service done every week or fortnight it would work for me. But, the man knew he was onto a good swing. He has about 4 hours to tackle cars, and there’s no end of possible needs during the course of a day. I asked someone how much I should give him. “Five bills, mi boss.” I took out J$500 and handed it over. It’s the going rate for a car wash. I’ve been on this little path before, when I was visiting the hospital over recent weeks, and the ‘security’ man made good use of the ‘captives’ in the car park. Give both people and those like them an A for effort and another A for enterprise.

When my father was in hospital during the past few weeks, almost every day one of the security guards at the hospital was asking if I could help “buy a food”. I imagine these men and women get low wages. They do not seem to have great qualifications, which might command higher pay. When I saw them sitting in their guard posts or on a chair outside a ward, they did not appear to be doing very much, apart from checking text messages on their cell phones.

Bottom line: money is short or tight for many people. Life may be hand-to-mouth for many. Any extra that can be made is well worth it. Does it seems likely that people in such circumstances have much money to spare?

Earl Jarrett, General Manager of Jamaica National Building Society, commented this week that Jamaica has amongst the world’s lowest saving rates.  broken-piggy-bank-small-1The figures he cited showed the rate for Jamaica at 16 percent for Jamaica. For comparison, he cited 25 percent for Trinidad and 47 percent for China. He argued that this was ‘linked to the public’s generally limited access to financial services and the lack of a cultural emphasis on saving’.

World Bank data show a very different picture, with Jamaica among a raft of countries with very low saving rates, including the USA and many developed European countries. Low domestic savings are less of a problem if a country can take advantage of foreign savings.

Also, culturally, Jamaicans have a history of saving, e.g. though partner systems. Lack of opportunities through financial institutions is not something the public can solve!

Right now, many Jamaicans have little income left over to save. I commented yesterday that, after a series of large price hikes for taxi and bus fare, electricity and water rates, many people are right up against the wall, if not under water–to mix metaphors.

Kick JADCO in the pants?

An interesting little skirmish is going on right under our noses. One of the local papers has been putting forward a proposal, quite openly and quite cogently, that a major public organization should dismiss its Board. The Gleaner thinks JADCO has fallen down on the job: “…they have managed the recent affairs of the agency incompetently…”, the Gleaner Editorial stated boldly today. The Observer has had a similar point, but I feel that the Gleaner has been more strident.

I’m interested in how things work out here. I’m also of the view that JADCO has done a poor job of managing the country’s affairs as a drug testing agency, by what it has done, what it has not done, what it has said, and more evidently by what it has not said. I don’t mind standing up and saying that JADCO is a good example of how not to manage public relations.

Times have changed and what is clear is that JADCO does not see that open and fluid communication is part of its remit. Informing and clarifying in anticipation of requests seem to have been beyond its remit. It has a public face that is blank.

What’s interesting to me is whether any change will be made, and if it is, how the government will spin it. They could say something like, “…in light of public discontent..” or “…time for a change and a breath of fresh air…”, or “…new directions from the Board are needed to coincide with the arrival of a new Executive Director…” Many options are there. WIll the government want to suggest that its decision in independent, or that it’s reflective of a concern that public confidence needs to be bolstered by a change.

What’s been funny to watch has been how the image of the athletes has been tainted by an institution that should help keep the image pristine. That seems to have been the case by the suspicion JADCO has allowed to surround what it’s been doing. The athletes can fess up, but the drug testing agent seems hard pressed to do the same.

We know that there are many hands washing many backs in terms of how public power is wielded, so I would not necessarily expect to hear any self-criticism from JADCO except of the most minor kind. I would also be surprised if the JAAA stood up and made its voice heard clearly. So, maybe the athletes need to make sure that people understand how they are all being held to ransom by an agency they do not control.

Of course, nothing may happen–though, I’d wager that wont be the case. I’m not a gambler but maybe a little wager on this one would be a good payer.