So much to gain from Caricom unity

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, July 09, 2018

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It was really hard on Caricom to be holding its 39th heads of government conference during the World Cup. There they were, discussing and signing off on life-changing issues, and there we were, glued to 'the greatest show on Earth'. Lucky for them, but to the sorrow of many, the great Brazil lost to a powerful Belgium on Friday, and so folks could drown their sorrows in some positive news out of the conference which ended the same day.

Were it not for 'the big dance' in Russia we would have been all over the arrival of newly elected Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley, especially as Jherane Patmore of WE-Change pointed out on Twitter, she was the lone woman among her colleague prime ministers. No shrinking violet is this landslide winner, and so she stood up for the many brothers and sisters of Caricom who have felt unwelcome in certain countries.

There would have been a buzz also around Prime Minister Andrew Holness's assuming the chairmanship of Caricom. He stepped up well-prepared, as did our brilliant former Prime Minister Bruce Golding who had chaired the commission to review Jamaica's relationship with Caricom, which produced a substantial report including 33 recommendations for strengthening Caricom.

The Jamaica Information Service notes: “Among them is that member states should facilitate the full, free movement of people within Caricom, except in cases of security and public health risks. They should also push for the harmonisation of Customs laws, regulations and procedures, among other things.

“Another key recommendation is for Jamaica to seek a clear, definite commitment from all member states to a specific, time-bound, measurable, and verifiable programme of action to fulfil all their obligations and complete other requirements for the [Caribbean Single Market and Economy] CSME to be fully established and operational within the next five years.”

For too long we have overlooked the many opportunities and underestimated the value of synergising our efforts for the greater good of the region. Thankfully, our prime minister signed three instruments relating to education and security on the last day of the conference, namely:

1. Protocol Amending the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to incorporate the Council for National Security and Law Enforcement as an organ of the community, and the Caricom Implementation Agency for Crime and Security as an institution of the community

2. Revised Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Examinations Council

3. Caricom Arrest Warrant Treaty

We cannot begin to measure the gains of families, communities and countries created by our coming together to establish The University of the West Indies. Imagine if we were to take this to the grass roots level how much more we could be learning from each other?

I am happy to hear that the citizens of Haiti, a member of Caricom, will now have the right to stay in member countries for up to six months. In Jamaica's case, I believe we should welcome them to stay as long as they wish, so we could pattern their gentility and have them instruct us in creating exquisite craftwork.

Kingston leads in BPO growth

Kingston is now the Caribbean city with the fastest expansion of business process outsourcing (BPO) services, copping the Nearshore City of the Year Award at the Nearshore Americas Illuminate Awards last month. Kudos to JAMPRO, led by Diane Edwards and Vice-President Claude Duncan, for their role in this growth, resulting in an investment of US$22 million over the past year in building or renovating BPO spaces to accommodate 5,000 new jobs.

Now, we have heard complaints about strict regulations and modest pay from some BPO employees, but they should know that there are great prospects in this field if they stick with it.

“Our future in outsourcing is pretty bright,” noted Edwards. “We are embarking on a huge upskilling programme for our young people in the skills that are necessary; not just customer service and technology support, but all types of digitally based services such as health care, accounting, finance, legal, as there are a range of services in the outsourcing arena that we have not touched.”

Jamaica 56 Festival

The colourful launch of Jamaica 56 Festival activities by Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange last Tuesday is preceded by months of parish competitions in culinary arts, literature, speech and drama, visual arts, Festival queens and, of course, the popular Festival Song Contest. Our Jamaica Cultural Development Commission team is one of the hardest-working government agencies.

The festival song competition for 2018, which was cancelled last year because of poor entries, is gearing to be one of our best. Chaired by the energetic Vernon Derby, who keeps us up to date on the competition's progress, we share his report on this year's Festival Song highlights:

• highest number of entries of 221;

• largest group (63 people) performing a song in the competition;

• highest number of professionals in the top 10;

• first time a choir is part of the competition;

• first time a church group is a part of the competition; and

• first time in a long time that people are saying the songs are good.

Reverend Stevenson Samuels has been a fine mentor for the choir of Escarpment Road New Testament Church of God, which he pastors, and is mightily proud of their patriotic entry, Strong Jamaica, which can be enjoyed on YouTube.

Our Festival songs have been joyful markers on our lives, from street dancing to the Maytals' What a Bam Bam and Sweet and Dandy, to the singing along to Eric Donaldson's Cherry, Oh Baby and Land of My Birth. We look forward to the grand final next Sunday, July 15.

Lessons from Petrojam

It is surprising that the protocols being put in place now for appointments to government boards had not previously existed, thus precipitating the Petrojam debacle. It is a given that successive governments make loyalty to their party's mission a consideration, but this cannot supersede integrity and loyalty to country.

The Jamaican people, all of us taxpayers, have a right to question the stewardship of our commonwealth. We appreciate the watchfulness of private sector bodies, including the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, and Jamaica Chamber of Commerce. The Andrew Holness-led Administration has made some encouraging strides, even more reason that they should protect their legacy. This is yet another reason that they should support the call of the Press Association of Jamaica to have regular Cabinet briefings. This will help them to keep their officials honest.

Congratulationson 20 years OGM!

Hearty congratulations to Oral McCook and his team on the achievement of OGM's 20th anniversary. Oral founded his advertising agency after the closure of McCann Erickson, at which he was a senior executive. His comparatively young agency has been on par with the big guns, scoring top clients and winning various media awards.

When our PR company decided to expand into advertising, it was Oral, then Advertising Agencies Association of Jamaica president, who mentored us through the process.

Oral McCook is one of the most decent human beings you could know, besides being a top professional.

Long may OGM prosper.

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