Most tourists arriving by air land in Montego Bay. Montego Bay... the name alone is alluring! As one flies above the island it is a lovely scene of rolling green hills and valleys. Unfortunately, the approach to the airport is a let down and sadly, so is the town. We have prime real estate overlooking the sea housing eyesores. We could start the process of improvement by buying some paint....
The city needs 100s of millions of dollars investment. Hotels are being built but nothing is spent on the environment or the heart city. There are too many dilapidated and scruffy buildings along potholed roads. The pavements are hazardous and quite often blocked by piles of rubbish that do not look out of place. The few bins are invariably full so people dispose of litter on the roads and in the drainage gullies which are also used as dumps. Hence when it rains we have roads that become streams due of blockages and gullies transporting their misplaced contents out into the bay. Every single time. But worst still, there is no outrage. It really is an awful sight. So sad.
In early 2014 I met the previous mayor and he appeared concerned about litter. I live next door to a primary school and litter is appreciably worse during the school term. I suggested that his office contact all the schools and ask them to remind their charges not to drop litter - a reminder at class registration. A simple idea of heading to the source of the problem and the cost of the initiative would be a few phone calls. Unfortunately, it wasn't implemented.
Shock bloody horror, there is smoke in the background! Did the Lord say "Let there be smoke"? It appears so. Go on, those who have been to MoBay check your photos. There will be plumes in the background. Ubiquitous.
This is a snap of the beach road Gloucester Avenue and no, it was not taken at 5 in the morning. It is also known as the Hip Strip. Hip? Hip? What a falsehood! Shit is more appropriate. At the time of writing we are in the height of the tourist season. I walked along the strip between 12:30 and 13:00 and a deader more uninspiring piece of real estate must be hard to find in the tourist world. Photos of my stroll are below.
The plan is to rename it in honour of Jimmy Cliff. Poor Jimmy, he obviously has not been to Montego Bay for decades. However, there will not be any complaints from all the Gloucester families. They will be partying. Big time.
Tourism is our biggest industry but it is left in the hands of the hoteliers and they are only interested in their pockets. They build all inclusives and the vast majority of their guests only leave to go on organised trips. Almost every week I walk on the strip when there is a boat is in town and so I am writing based on my observations. Most of the cruise ship passengers that disembark head straight for Dunns River or Negril. Some will head to the near by Hard Rock and Yacht Club. A couple hundred are bused to the strip but they are taken straight to a couple of tourist spots. Then there are a few adventurous souls that wander around. Hence there is very little trickle down. Vendors have made investments - it may be only US$10 for trinkets for resale - and need to make sales. Whilst their sales tactics might be considered a nuisance the fact is they have to put food on the table. When you might only make one sale that day what are your options other than engaging with the parsimonious amounts of tourists?
A handful of folk make money in tourism and successive governments are happy with the status quo. We need to create a Hip Strip that lives up to its name. I believe it can be done. Unfortunately our ministry of tourism is clueless and inept.
Friends and family who have visited say I live in paradise and it is easy to understand why when you see the Caribbean Sea every morning. But it is far from a paradise for many, especially those who do not get help from abroad.
The country certainly needs monetary help but more so intellectual assistance. The vast majority think that the current bunch of 84 parliamentarians are untrustworthy. Read Greg Christie's facts and opinions http://m.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Jamaica-s-future-choked-by-cancer-of-corruption_93609&template=MobileArticle . What we know for certain is that most are seriously out of their depth and don't care.
"We don't have anyone to speak for us." I hear that quite often. If we cannot find suitable candidates here why not look to the diaspora? The creation of a panel of our finest minds.... The first thing I'd want them to do is to look at the CVs of our ministers! Sorry mate, being buddies with people in high places doesn't count. That is nepotism. Adios. Guh wuk.
I would like to know who contributed to Vision 2030 (http://jis.gov.jm/features/vision-2030-jamaica-national-development-plan/ ). WARNING - sit on the floor before opening the link. The first guiding principle: Transformational leadership. This is obviously satire but I'm not laughing. The temerity! Transformational blouse and skirt leadership. It does not stop there. The third principle: Transparency and accountability. Evidently it is also a test of one's diction - do you know the opposite word? I have learnt something, it is called an antonym. So the third principle reads Opaque and Irresponsible. I didn't waste my time reading the rest of it. Moving on....
The diaspora is seen as a cash cow. Remember 2012? You don't? Senator Floyd Morris wanted to impose a 5% tax on remittances (http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Gov-t-senator-proposes-a-tax-on-remittances&template=MobileArticle ). What a liberty! Instead of finding ways to increase growth he advocated theft of your hard earned cash money. Why? Because you live in 'forrin' you must have money to burn. How many people have more than one job to survive? And I won't mention the cold, discrimination, racism, poor housing and crap some have to endure, eh? Dodging bullets because of the colour of your skin.
In the US there is a proposal to tax remittances by 2%. When the IMF rules bite again the scoundrels will have an excuse to try again - Trump has done it! Peter Phillips wanted to tax withdrawals from ATMs so he will be a supporter. (As my Dad used to say "can yuh imagine?" Indeed Dad, indeed!) Theft. And what are you going to do about it, eh, what? Stop helping loved ones? Crahsis. And what will they do with your money? The first year or so some might go to where it was earmarked but after that? A trough for their mitts. Another NHT. Trust them at your peril.
Then you have to look at how you are treated when you get here. What do they do for the diaspora, eh? How do they thank you? They leave an ambulance to rot. If you send a car it costs more than it's book value to get it released. Last year my cousin had to pay $14 million to get her 10 year old US$10 grand BMW. A Canadian retiree has to find CA$43,000 for his CA$40,000 car. Hahaha! That is a growth area! Taxation! To reduce motor bike fatalities they have just increased the import tax on bikes! I'm not lying! Nothing about helmets being compulsory! A tax. You have got to laugh. So we can add taxation to one of their growth areas.
There is always something to frustrate you and part you from your cash. Everywhere. You may have been born here but you have to pay tourist rates to enter attractions! In your own country your word is not good enough. What do they want you to do, traipse around with your birth serfitificate? If you don't have ID pay serious bucks. I didn't have my ID and telling the Dunns River automaton about where I live, my schooling, knowledge of Jamaica, rum, the cost of bread, salt fish, jelly coconuts did not help. I was a foreigner. When inside I met a very irate young lady. Not many girls looked more Jamaican than her! Rock stone! Stevie Wonder would have known she was from Yard. She had a bit of yank accent and like me, paid US$22 entry fee for that privilege. She had returned for her first holiday after a couple years away. She didn't even have dual citizenship. 100% Jamaican.
Backfoot! I was watching CVM news recently and the parliamentarian on the panel advocated a wage increase for MPs. Honest, he did! Kiss mi neck! CVM has recently changed their format and this deluded fellow obviously thought there was a comedy section. Or 'make the most outrageous comment ever' section. Needless to say that I was doing my best goldfish impression and the two newsreaders poor ting dem were also taken aback. They didn't really challenge him because they were in shock. Being professionals, they must have been prepared for the improbability of him lighting up a gigantic ganja spliff and telling the newsreader how he like a browning on live TV but not this. A wage increase? No chance. Only a seasoned veteran could have handled this outrage.
Here is a yardstick my friend: if you are a junior minister you "earn" over 15 times the minimum wage. And you get expenses to boot. Nuff a dem. In the UK your peers earn under 5 times the minimum wage. Out of touch?!? What an understatement. Yuh lucky! Unnu is..... Chuh @#$@&€£@. Let me just @#$@&€£@ stop there....
The CIA Factbook states that 30% of our foreign exchange comes from remittances from the diaspora. That equals the amount earned from tourism, our biggest industry. That is a lot of cash which the island cannot do without it. Things are harsh here and many people could not exist without help. For those who do not receive help, their earned Jamaican dollar continuously buys less so their plight deteriorates. I'd like to see a Jamaica less dependent on charity - give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. You cannot have a business plan based on charity but that is what we have here. The stake holders in tourism hold sway here - the convention centre, Ian Fleming Airport - but the diaspora does not. Why?
We need industries that pay a living wage and the diaspora can help in their creation. The vast majority of the jobs in tourism and call centres do not pay a living wage. They generate tax revenue but the employees get very little. If Jamaica continues on it's current course the outlook is poor. People won't visit a filthy crime ridden island, they'll find cleaner and safer destinations. That is logical. According to the minister of tourism some cruise liner passengers do not disembark. Soon the boats won't dock in Jamaica and we are currently having issues with that. In the future the only tourists will be from the diaspora. It certainly will be the case if people believe the Forbes Magazine.
The prime minister announced that the government is quote, far advanced in examining options for waste-to-energy solutions (http://jis.gov.jm/govt-far-advanced-identifying-waste-energy-solution/ ): “The government has commissioned an enterprise team to look at waste disposal in Jamaica, from a national strategic perspective. How can we improve waste collection, solid waste collection, and solid waste management and importantly to look at the options for waste to energy”.
We have heard it before. It was discussed in 2009 and undoubtedly prior to that. I'd like to see the credentials and financing of his "Enterprise team". Do you trust them to find the best deal or solution for the people of Jamaica? Their waste-to-energy solution will be low wages with profits benefiting the owners and their government buddies. If we create the industry that we should have, we could aim for 100 green energy well within 2030. This would also be excellent for tourism. Many people are concerned about their carbon footprint and the likes. If Jamaica had green energy that would be an excellent selling point.
To conclude, I would like you to consider this scenario: I successfully raise cash to build a school. After construction it wouldn't be long before I'd be raising cash for furniture, staff, books, maintenance and the likes. To cut it short the school would rely on charity forever. The government spends $19,000 per annum on a student. US$150 is a paltry amount so I would be begging every year. If the school failed to generate the funds one year then what? St. Joseph's High School has just shut down after 40 years service. A school is not a building. It is Johnny Mac, Mr Dawkins, Ditta Williams, Jacko, Jah Stone, Ms Taylor, Ms Hewitt... (sorry, some of my teachers at Clarendon College).
The alternative: We raise cash for a waste-to-energy plant, build it and that is the end of handouts. It starts to make money. Have big enough plants and they will generate enough money to build and run a school. And they create permanent employment and clean the island to boot.
So I am asking for financial and moral support to start building a viable industry for the island. Transparent and corruption free. Politician free! The Jamaican people think that corruption is the norm but we know that is not the case. So let's make Jamaica great again!
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