The 2007 Cross, Angry, Miserable Awards
Published: Sunday | January 6, 2008


Kevin O'Brien Chang, Contributor

Casting out negativity is a path to inner peace. In hopes of a serene 2008, I hereby get out of my system a few things that made me cross, miserable, angry in 2007.

  • Samfie Man Cup -

    Former Finance Minister Omar Davies predicated his April 2007 Budget on a JA$71 to US$1 exchange rate. He also predicted six to eight per cent inflation. Now according to the relative purchasing power parity theory, shifts in exchange rates are determined by price level changes. So the US$-JA$ rate is directly linked to the difference in the American and Jamaican inflation rates. There can be short-term discrepancies between PPP predictions and actual exchange rates. But the actual US-JA exchange rate has closely tracked PPP estimates since 1989, particularly over the past three years. Only inflation expectations above 10 per cent would have predicted a JA$-US$ shift from 67 in April to 71 by year's end. Why was Dr. Davies publicly talking about 6-8 per cent inflation, and privately estimating the $JA trend with a double digit rate?

  • Termite Brain Economics Ribbon -

    In October some media persons and politicians blamed the JA$71-US$ rate on the JLP administration which took office in September. Yet clearly Dr. Davies' budget expected forces already in effect - money supply increases, government spending, expected oil price spikes or whatever - to fuel inflation and push the dollar above 71. Few in our media seem to understand basic economics. One report talked about inflation being driven by a rising exchange rate, when it's the other way around. But senior politicians should know better. Or doesn't Dr. Davies talk to his PNP colleagues about these things?

  • Not Really So Wonderful Laurel -

    How good a job has Bank of Jamaica Governor Derick Latibeaudiere done since taking office in 1996? Well, a main task of any central bank is keeping inflation low. But the Jamaican inflation rate has exceeded 10 per cent in four of the past five years and averages over 11 per cent since 2003. Our main trading partner, the U.S., has averaged 3.2 per cent. Persistent double-digit inflation despite a low inflation world economy, is not the mark of a successful central bank.

  • Ponzi Pyramid Plaque -

    A child could google 'Ponzi' and 'Pyramid schemes' and learn more about the 'alternative investment clubs' operating in Jamaica than our media have uncovered. A responsible press would be digging to find out exactly what these entities do, and only refer to them in 'quotations' or as 'alleged' financial traders, or whatever they claim to be. How can the Financial Services Commission be faulted for trying to protect the public from operators who refuse to provide credible financial statements? Sadly the working poor are being left holding the bag.

  • Tempest in a Teapot Trophy -

    In the Westminster Prime Minister's Questions, the Queen's first minister and the leader of her majesty's loyal Opposition hurl intellectual barbs at each other. "The Prime Minister tries to run everything but can't run anything. What we have is an incompetent leader unfit for the office he holds!" Dave Cameron recently jabbed at Gordon Brown. They laugh about it afterwards like adults and get on with running the country. So it was pathetic to see our media obsess about Mr. Golding's rather schoolboyish - 'It's as if termites have infested their brains' - comment. A mature press ignores the petty outbursts of thin-skinned politicians and focuses on substantive matters. As Peter Phillips says, the path of national consensus building cannot be abandoned in a fit of pique.

  • Much Ado About Nothing Plate -

    In 1977, Prime Minister Michael Manley called for and got a new Public Service Commission (PSC). So did Prime Minister Edward Seaga in 1980. Now in 2007 some are making a big deal about Prime Minister Bruce Golding doing the same. Ken Jones and Ken Chaplin covered the matter excellently. A democratically elected Prime Minister is given a mandate by the people to do whatever he thinks is in the best interests of the country, as long as he stays within the bounds of the constitution. Mr. Golding has not transgressed the constitution anymore than Mr. Manley or Mr. Seaga did. Every democracy allows its elected leader to choose his own management teams, subject to the scrutiny of relevant bodies. Surely the proper function of the PSC, which was not voted in by the people, is to make certain that the PM's picks are fit for the job, and not to impose selections he deems unsuitable upon him. And no self-respecting democracy would allow the head of its Public Service Commission - responsible for vetting all major public service jobs - to provide rent-free premises to any political candidate. Caesar's wife, etc ...

  • Mark Twain "Better to Remain Silent" Medal -

    During the general election run-up the most common talk on the street was "After 18 years we need a change. But crime is our biggest problem, and where is the JLP's crime plan?". Labour party crime spokesman Derrick Smith did not say one memorable thing during the entire campaign. This changed for all the wrong reasons when he became Security Minister. His "Police have told me things about some PNP candidates" and "We are going to lock them up" outbursts breached the principles of privacy and 'innocent till proven guilty'. When will Mr. Smith say something to give the public hope that 2008 will be less murderous than 2007?

  • "Where Have You Gone Joe Dimaggio?" Mystery Prize -

    In May 2006, the JLP launched its 'Road Map to a Safe and Secure Jamaica' with great fanfare. It proclaimed "of the 33 recommendations in this report, 27 will require minimal or no extra funding ... we sincerely hope that the Government and the Opposition - acting in concert - will find the political will to implement our recommendations." It has not been seen or heard of since.

  • "Say What Again?" Shield -

    After years of hammering the PNP for inadequate governance, Prime Minister Bruce Golding responded to questions about our out of control murder rate with "We don't need a new crime plan". Does he mean that the crime plan which allowed murder to go from 429 in 1989 to over 1650 in 2005 is a good one? The JLP's silence on crime in Opposition - it almost cost them the election - and now in government, is mind boggling.

  • "Please Read Amy Chua and Thomas Sowell" Citation -

    The Gleaner's celebrity page is somewhat balanced. But a visiting Martian judging Jamaica from the Observer's Page Two would likely conclude this country is 90 per cent white and light brown and 10 per cent black, and not the other way around. This is not a colour issue to me, simply a majority and minority one. Any majority made to feel like a minority must grow resentful. Racial upheaval may seem unthinkable in Jamaica, but who could have imagined peaceful Kenya slipping into its current near-civil-war scenario? In 'A World on the Edge' and 'Migrations and Cultures', Amy Chua and Thomas Sowell discuss 'market-dominant middleman', ethnic minorities who economically dominate 'indigenous' majorities. Periodic violent assaults by 'native' majorities on 'outsider' minorities, often sparked by economic crises, are a worldwide historical phenomenon.

    To quote Sowell, "The special hatred directed at middleman minorities ... says something about the irrational side of human beings ... Such groups often live at peace with the surrounding society for generations or centuries, until some special events or movements make them targets." What would be the fate of Jamaican middleman minorities - of which I'm one - if all the 'alternative investment schemes' crashed, oil went to $150 a barrel and the U.S. sub-prime crisis sparked a worldwide recession? Whatever the fallout, the Observer Page Two mindset could not help matters.

    Well, here's to getting a lot less angry in 2008.

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