Not quite sure how to take these

First, Omar Davies announcement, according an article in today’s Observer, that “We [the Jamaican people, led by the GOJ] are going in the right direction [with the economy].” Throughout the poorly written article – really a collection of quotes from the Minister’s speech – I couldn’t help but notice how often the word “hotel” was mentioned, and the many explicit and implied references to tourism. And I couldn’t help wondering exactly what methodology the Min. of Finance uses so that the Minister could utter the following: “poverty is declining consistently.” Ahem, has he looked down from the window of his tinted SUV lately? Read for yourself; I’ve underlined the more bemusing and perplexing sections of the ‘article.’

On a related note: it is becomming more and more appalling what passes for journalism in the Jamaican media…the print media is in shambles, I think. Glaring grammar gaffes aside, there is no development of articles, no analysis of statements made, no investigation and resultant evidence offered to support, illuminate, highlight, explain, or even attempt to clarify statements made by whichever official’s speech is being covered, or whichever murder is being related. Honestly, reading the paper often feels like reading a colletion of press releases and crime statistics.

We are going in the right direction – Davies

By Dennise Williams

Sunday, January 28, 2007
Minister of Finance and Planning Dr Omar Davies has declared 2006 as one of the best years of his 14-year career as head of the country’s finances and proclaimed that the country is “going in the right direction” economically.

“When I take a look at the macroeconomic environment of 2006, I say that we are at an exciting point in Jamaica’s history,” Davies declared at the Mayberry Investment Seminar on Wednesday, held at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston. “The macroeconomic indicators are pointing in the right direction. Inflation is the lowest level in over 30 years. We didn’t expect it to come out so well – but give thanks.”

The finance minister added that growth in the economy is expected to be at 3 per cent and unemployment level is at a single digit of 8.9 per cent “for the first time in decades”. Davies stated that an indication of the growth in the economy, especially in employment, are the major construction developments on the North Coast.
I visited one of the hotel sites and saw 4,000 persons on the work site. I have never seen so many persons employed in one place at one time,” said Davies. “This is a real live demonstration of the growth the economy is seeing.”

Corresponding to the growth in the economy, Davies noted that “poverty is declining consistently. And the infrastructure development is unprecedented and will provide the basis for further widespread growth and development.”

He added that “the rate of inflation was 5.8 per cent for the 2006 calendar year and this is the lowest rate in 30 years. Visitor arrivals increased by 15.7 per cent over 2005. The number of cruise ship passengers was 18.4 per cent higher in 2006. The foreign reserves remain at adequate levels fuelled by private capital inflows, tourism receipts and remittances.”

The finance minister also pointed to several large projects undertaken recently, the completion of the Portmore leg of Highway 2000 and the continued work on the North Coast Highway as major developments. “We also have large scale hotel investments that shows that our economic prospects remain positive. In fact, for 2007 and beyond the buoyancy (is expected) to continue in the sectors of tourism, mining and construction,” noted Davies.

Looking at his successes with the fiscal numbers, Davies highlighted that “the April to November fiscal operations are within the budgeted level. Expenditure has been contained even though revenue and grants were slightly below budget reflecting the lower-than-projected growth in nominal income.”

Davies informed the audience that while the economy was on the right track, the tax administration strategies have also been enhanced, highlighting that the government has turned to third parties and the Internet to assist in the tax collection process.

“We have implemented several legislative amendments to enhance the collection process and we have allowed for collection of taxes through third parties for greater ease and access for taxpayers,” he said. “We have improved our technological solutions to include electronic filing and electronic payment as well as to allow for online taxpayer account enquiry.”

Second, an interesting opinion piece also from the Observer on a possible link between the Trafigura stink and the Cockpit Country disgrace. This will take some digesting, googling and thought before further comment.

Is Trafigura deal linked to the Cockpit Country?

Betty Ann Blaine
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Dear Reader,

There is a principle of God that can never change – not by man – not by emperors, kings, presidents or prime ministers. It is the principle that says, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” There is another principle articulated by the late Dr Martin Luther King Jr on that day in Selma, Alabama, when he declared, “Truth pressed to earth will always rise again.”

I don’t care what anybody says, the “Trafigura truth pressed to earth will surely rise again”, and that is precisely what is happening with the emergence of the Cockpit Country debate. The question is, are the two connected? There has been quite a bit of speculation surrounding the issue, and about the connection between the two, and no wonder. Trafigura and Cockpit appear to be like two peas in a pod – same look, same nature, except the details of how they are conjoined remains sketchy.

What we know is that some of the same players are operating, and that the bottom line is money – big money. One common denominator is the colourful and checkered Marc Rich, the commodities dealer with strong ties to Jamaica. Speculation is that he is a silent partner in Trafigura, and we know for certain that he has interest in Jamaican bauxite. It was Rich who reportedly formed the Clarendon Alumina Partners (CAP), during the time of his long association with the bauxite giant, Alcoa. It’s reported that Alcoa is now purchasing a company called Century Aluminum, 40 per cent owned by Glencore International, formerly Marc Rich and Company.

The total world trade in aluminium is over US$30 billion a year. According to writer Craig Copetas, “Rich controlled over one-third of the aluminium that gets into the open market, and was the world’s largest independent dealer, trading about two million tons of ingot annually. His total sales were second only to those of Alcoa.”

Somewhere around the mid-1980s, the price of aluminium dropped. Alcoa, one of the biggest businesses here at home, shut down its plant, putting our government in serious trouble, particularly at a time when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had put severe constraints on the country. Alcoa agreed to lease the plant to the Jamaican government, but someone had to be found to buy the aluminium produced. Rich signed a 10-year agreement to buy most of what Alcoa produced in Jamaica, so from 1986 to 1995, Rich received a guaranteed four million tonnes of alumina annually, at about half the market price.

The question that is on a lot of people’s minds is, could there be a link between Trafigura and the Cockpit Country? In other words, was Trafigura’s $31 million for an “in” to the metal-rich Cockpit Country? It is very curious that the issue of mining in the Cockpit Country should come on the heels of the Trafigura scandal, particularly since no one knows, except those in the PNP, who cut the deal and what Trafigura paid for. The PNP said that the money was a “donation”. Trafigura said no, and up until this moment, the Jamaican public has absolutely no knowledge of what Trafigura paid for. There are myriad questions that need to be asked. What happened to the Trafigura investigation? What exactly did Trafigura pay for? We were told that the Dutch government was undertaking an investigation; what has happened to that? Why has Mr Golding gone quiet on the Trafigura issue, after he pressed so hard for an investigation?

What is the current status of agreement between the Jamaican government and Trafigura? Is Trafigura operating under a temporary or permanent agreement? Is it true that a long-standing board member of CAP was summarily asked to resign, only to be replaced by a known PNP political insider, and why? Why is there such a great interest in mining in the Cockpit Country at this time, and who is to benefit? All of us know that the game that the big boys play is called “cutting deals”, and it is a “game” that makes for strange and varied bedfellows. The word on the street is that the “Trafigura deal” has to do with bauxite mining in the Cockpit Country and that the “deal cutters” are some of the wealthiest young “Turks” deep inside the political system. I believe it’s time for our questions to be answered and for us to know the truth about Trafigura and the Cockpit Country. With love,


mood: *shrug* wondering: where is Michael Lee Chin? He hasn’t bought anything in a while.
sounds: tap, tap, tap


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