COVID update, Jamaica-April 30, 2021

Health and wellness minister, Dr. Chris Tufton gave a broad update on COVID trends, yesterday evening, including stressing the need for people to get their second vaccination, which are noted in the thread, below:

The chief medical officer, Dr. Jaqueline Bisasor-McKenzie, added an extensive assessment of how trends has been affected by various restrictive measures. She gave stark warnings that a third wave could occur if people ease off the protocols and it would likely be worse than the previous two.

It would likely push health services way beyond their capacity.

She cited a long list of countries that were in a third wave, though the worst situation is in India, having its 2nd wave, whose crisis now needed help from other countries.

With that background, Dr. Tufton pointed to confirmation that the ‘UK variant’ had been found in Jamaica and was perhaps behind the 2nd wave:

When asked about statements that flights from the UK would resume on May 1, he gave a circuitous reply, suggesting the decision had not yet been taken but was for consideration by Cabinet subcommittee over the coming weekend.

This clearly begs the question whether tourism minister Bartlett’s categorical statement on reopening borders to the UK was premature.

Biden’s first joint national address to Congress-April 29, 2021

The optics of President Biden’s 99 days joint address to Congress were odd yet typical of #COVID19Life. The audience on the floor of the Congress was only 200 people—not the usual full complement of elected members and only a handful of Cabinet members, including no need for a ‘designated survivor’ not present in the chamber; no invited guests or Supreme Court justices; few members of the press and diplomatic corps. People had to pass metal detectors and show proof of full COVID vaccination. People didn’t shake hands or hug, but bumped fists.

The first black sergeant-in-arms introduced the president:

The image of the Speaker of the House and the vice president being women was quickly pointed out by the president as a first.

The full broadcast can be seen, here:

The substance of the speech was wide-ranging, spelling out a huge package of spending that would restructure the USA physically and socially, spending some US$6 trillion. Funding would come from tax hikes on the richest 1% of society in income and capital gains levies.

President Biden did not step away from matters he’s touched on in a clearly personal and presidential manner, such as racial injustice and voting rights, as well as cancer research.

He’s on a wave of public approval:

Admittedly, it’s skewed heavily on partisan lines.

We got a look inside the preparations:

He harked back to the January 6 insurrection:

He showed some love for his political opponents, such as Rep. Liz Cheney, even if there was less love amongst some of the opponents for each other (with Cheney still at loggerheads with Rep. Kevin McCarthy).

BBC fact-checked the speech:

So, too, did the New York Times:

Ted Cruz fell asleep during a section on immigration and that’s been widely watched online:

Ploughing the wrong furrows on Jamaican farm labour overseas-April 28, 2021

Labour minister, Karl Samuda, said something is wrong with Jamaica’s farm labour programme, and the low take up of opportunities suggests he’s right. But, putting selection into the hands of MPs smells of a wrong approach.

Reasoning ability 101, Jamaican-style-April 27, 2021

The house phone rang last Friday and my wife answered it: “Dennis? I’ll get him.” Before she even started to approach, I asked her who it was and what did they want. People don’t generally call me on the house line. She said it was Z, who helps around the house, asking about a machete; he’d gotten a message from our housekeeper, who’s gone abroad to sort out her passport. My wife relayed a message that Z had read our housekeeper couldn’t find the machete. I just jumped out of my couch. “Stop dealing with foolishness!” I yelled at my wife. She couldn’t understand why I was so frazzled, so fast. She told Z that he could speak to me when he next came to the house, in a few days.

He came to do one of his regular sessions yesterday, and I asked him about the call. He explained that ‘Miss G’, the housekeeper, had left him a message on his phone about a missing machete. I looked at him and asked how she could be concerned about such a thing, given that she’d been in the USA for about 10 days. He kept on about the machete. I said that’s not relevant, but just ask himself what sense the message could probably have. It was more likely that an old message just appeared on his radar. He blinked and saw that he was chasing a rabbit into a dark blind alley. But, he still went to check on the machete, which was where I had left it the day before, after doing some chopping. The ‘missing’ machete was a figment of imagination, but concern about it based on a message from someone in the USA showed a lack of intelligence.

If it’s still not apparent, there’s no way that our housekeeper, 3,000-plus miles away could have any issues with things going on at the house, unless she’d suddenly become Superwoman with x-ray vision or had master intercontinental travel without need for aircrafts.

I have lots of conversations with people in Jamaica where they don’t see that they have no logical basis for the points they want to discuss. But, they press on, regardless, and I keep saying the basic principle of the argument has no sense; just stop the discussion.

I fall back on the fact that I was only educated for three years of prep school in Jamaica and I know that they (rote) teaching here leads many to struggle with constructing arguments without first establishing some important assumptions about the points at hand.

I had a similar experience yesterday when discussing the exchange rate, where it seemed some people didn’t understand the basic arithmetic of exchange rate conversion, so that they did not see immediately that if someone had say US dollars, then the Jamaican dollar depreciation was a gain for the US dollar holders. They still went on about how people were suffering from the weaker Jamaican dollar exchange rate. Worse still, someone stated “only rich people gain from deprecation”. I guess all those ‘rich’ people we’ve seen lining up outside Western Union and other remittance agency offices prove the point….NOT.

Such is the lot of many issues in Jamaica. I’ve decided to really give my brain a holiday and not engage in discussions where people cannot see white and black are different, let alone that there’s a place between that’s grey.

The Jamaican dollar exchange rate, a simple tale of cats crying over spilt milk-April 25, 2021

A Jamaican friend who runs an investment business and I were discussing the foreign exchange (FX) market and the Jamaican dollar exchange rate, yesterday. I will not go into the abstruse points we touched on. I will distill things into what the FX market is about, in fact what any market is about-buyers and sellers (not permanent states, though some are more significant than others); gainers and losers (not permanent states, though some are more significant than others). I’ll offer a smidgen of context that’s not yet clear, as odd things happen during the pandemic, but the essential story is not affected.

Jamaicans buy lots of imported things-the weaker Jamaican dollar can hurt them (consumers and producers and retailers), if its effect is passed on into prices. Their voices tend to be loud and more often heard. The impression given is that the country is suffering when the rate goes to, say, J$154:US$1, as it did this week.

Jamaicans receive large amounts of remittances from overseas-the weaker Jamaican dollar can help them as they get more J$ for every US$ or UK£ they receive. They often are not heard complaining or their views sought when the rate goes to, say, J$154:US$1, as it did this week.

The reality we know and must see is that many Jamaicans are surviving better because of the weaker J$. Why? Because ‘weakness’ is the lot of those who don’t have FX assets or inflows. Those with such assets are smiling and happy that they are protected from the FX movement and may actually be gaining purchasing/spending power.

Now, I don’t expect those who are gainers to get up and start beating their chests, but have a look around. If you wonder why the Jamaican economy has not gone into a deep spiral downward because of the pandemic, especially its impact on local tourism, with far fewer foreigners coming to this lovely island and spending their money on fares, and hotels, and trips, and trinkets, and food, etc. Sure, economic indicators show negative growth and tendencies, but not as bad as some expected. Why? Because Jamaicans abroad have been sending to friends and family here huge gobbets of US$ and UK£.

According to a report from the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ), the amount of total remittances for the period from January 1 to December 31, 2020, was US$2.91 billion. This represented an increase of 20 percent over the same period in 2019, which totalled US$2.47 billion. Over 2/3 of these inflows came from the USA. (In December of 2020, net remittances totalled US$282.4 million, an increase of US$79.9 million, or 39.5 percent, over the total amount in December 2019. The BOJ attributed that increase to a rise in gross remittance inflows of 35.3 percent (US$78.7 million) helped by a reduction of 6.2 percent (US$1.2 million) in outflows. The rise in gross remittance inflows stemmed from an improvement measuring 42.7 percent in inflows through remittance companies and a rise in other remittances of 0.7 percent for December 2020.)

Those remittances almost offset what was lost from tourism.

So, next time you hear the catawauling about the exchange rate remember it’s those who’re suffering who making noise. Those who are gaining, are kicking back and eating oxtail and curry gravy. 🙂

It’s Ramadan, but I’ve been fasting all year-April 24, 2021

Though I’m not a Muslim, I note Ramadan, this year April 12-May 12. I’m not fasting during it, but I’ve observed Ramadan fasts several times, while living in a Muslim country. The first year, I didn’t realize early on I could take water and suffered as dehydration kicked in. I was saved by a Lebanese family who ran a restaurant and introduced to their Iftar time-when daily fasts are broken-the times are set.

Once I had the water thing sorted, I was good to go. I learned about the exceptions allowed during Ramadan, eg for travel.

But, I followed strictly so that I could get a better understanding of how near-national fasting affected the socioeconomic functioning of the country. Basically, productivity declined.

Now, I’ve been intermittent fasting by choice since January and I’ve passed my March deadline and just kept on going.

Someone asked me how I fast and eat what I do. Simple: I’m not on a specific diet, just controlling when I eat. In the process, I eat less, and lost weight as a result-12-15 pounds/6-8 kg.

My energy levels are high and I sleep well (9pm-4am) most nights. I have few cravings and if I do I staunch them deftly eg by eating near zero calories as some cucumber. If in a real funk, I take a nap 🤣

My mind is clear, aided by giving up alcohol over the same period. I had a tipple of wine last week and it tasted horrible. Water is my drink of choice.

COVID takes a new downturn in Jamaica, but vaccination programme has to stall-April 22, 2021

Health and wellness minister, Dr. Chris Tufton, gave Parliament an update, yesterday, on COVID issues and the vaccination programme:

Key points are in the following Twitter thread:

Notably, the reproductive rate has fallen from about 1.3 to 0.9, indicating the chances of spread are lessening. Also, positivity rates have fallen from near 40% to about 15%.

Data show that COVID trends are improving. The vaccination programme has stalled because of the slow supply coming from COVAX.

He also addressed reports of health workers coming under attack:

Such attacks have included death threats to the chief medical officer.

European Super League trips over its feet and there’s no #VAR-April 21, 2021

It looks like the European Super League will be a super bust as its founder, Juventus chairman, Andrea Agnelli says without the six English clubs it cannot go ahead.

Six English teams walked away in wake of widespread condemnation and fan protests:

Several English club owners have issued apologies:

Atletico Madrid withdrew:

Two Italian clubs are set to withdraw and the ‘project’ has been suspended:

Now, only the Spanish giants, Barcelona and Real Madrid remain as founders.

Early assessments continue to be harsh.

It’s a fight between elites, and it’s far from over-it’s really UEFA vs club owners:

Sanctions to come?

Now, the idea has been relegated to the butt of jokes and memes: