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NO BLACK POWER WITHOUT PEOPLE’S POWER! by Adofo Minka & Matthew Quest

posted 9 Jan 2020, 08:18 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 10 Jan 2020, 04:55 ]

Adofo Minka is a defense attorney who lives in Jackson, Mississippi. He can be reached at adofom1@gmail.com
This article has been updated from its original drafting more than five weeks ago. It speaks to the corr
Matthew Quest is a scholar of the legacies of C.L.R. James. See his essay on James and the history of the Haitian Revolution in the Black Jacobins Reader.
uption of a section of African American movement politics in Jackson, Mississippi that elected Chokwe Antar Lumumba mayor, and Lumumba’s relationship with former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. 

What has been happening in Jackson the past few years has stirred the imagination of Black people across the United States and has received national and global media coverage. However, the contradictions and creative conflicts in this movement have not been widely discussed.

We publish this article as a contribution to globalizing the Trinidad and Caribbean struggle, clarifying the experience of the Caribbean Diaspora in New York City, and giving an outlet to insightful perspectives being silenced in the US in the name of “black unity” and “anti-racism.” 

BLACK ‘RADICAL’ MAYOR COLLABORATES WITH

 BILLIONAIRE PRISON BUILDER AND POLICE STATE


The saying that politics makes for strange bedfellows is a statement that speaks to the many allegiances, alliances and compromises that one must make when engaging in electoral politics.

One might think that there could be no stranger bedfellows in politics than Jackson’s self-proclaimed “radical” mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and billionaire former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. However, the alignment of Lumumba and Bloomberg is not so strange at all. State power, as a crossroads of ethnic patronage politics, is not very weird unless we believe that black power means nothing without power to the common people even after people of color retain coveted positions above society. How many of us believe in that today?

Many black politicians, especially the young ambitious ones, enter office with the idea that the office they seek is merely a stepping stone to some higher office or some lucrative position as an appointed government bureaucrat or in a capitalist firm. So, while they claim to be working for the people, they are busy making allegiances with forces above them that will help to ensure that they have a safe and profitable landing once they leave their present public office.

Considering this reality, we must look at Bloomberg’s campaign event in Jackson and ask what role did his money play in his being given a platform to stump for the Democratic Party presidential nomination by the Lumumba administration? Did he buy Lumumba?

There have been many accusations made by Bloomberg’s opponents, who receive donations from forces that they would be beholden to if they win the office of US president in 2020, regarding his attempts to buy the presidency. Given the millions he has spent on campaign advertising in the initial weeks of his campaign, it appears that he is trying to. Bloomberg also spent a million dollars in Jackson. Given this fact, it is an appropriate question: did he buy Lumumba? And what in this case was recently purchased?

A year ago, the city of Jackson was the recipient of a million-dollar grant from the Bloomberg Foundation. Bloomberg came to Jackson to award the grant for an art project that aims to raise awareness about food insecurity issues and the importance of Jacksonians making healthier choices when it comes to food.

Michael Bloomberg
Though drinking fewer soft drinks is a good thing, Bloomberg in the past has been the subject of ridicule and controversy for seeking to regulate how much soda and sugary drinks can be purchased. In an economic system that views whole foods as a commodity and not the necessity they are, there is no such thing as food security except for among the ruling elites and capitalist aspirants.


The project of promoting “food security” in this fashion evinces how out of touch bureaucrats are with
Chokwe Antar Lumumba
working people and that such individuals cannot represent the interests of commoners.


Where price controls on necessities like whole and healthy foods are advocated, or guaranteeing them to all as a transitional demand, are found in historical freedom movements and would be constructive, what is really being promoted by Lumumba and Bloomberg is the premise of corporate social responsibility as a mask for those that monopolize crucial resources. Further, the idea that backward commoners need to be taught about the dangers of their unhealthy lifestyles is paternalistic and pathologizes the poor.

But why Jackson? Oligarchs like Bloomberg don’t give money out of the kindness of their hearts. Kindhearted people would not seek to hoard resources to the point that most of the society is denied basic needs while they enjoy decadence and luxury. Capitalists make investments. When capitalists invest, they always seek a return on their speculations. Bloomberg’s recent criminal justice reform roundtable event held in Jackson on December 3rd was Bloomberg collecting his return on his investment.

On December 8, The New York Post reported that Jackson is among one of a small group of cities that Bloomberg has donated millions to that he is now hosting campaign events in. For those who might think that The Post’s analysis is a stretch, we can listen to Bloomberg’s own words to provide further insight into the thinking of an oligarch.

In a CBS This Morning interview with Gayle King he stated, “Nobody gives you anything unless they expect something from you, and I don’t want to be bought.” This statement was made in reference to Bloomberg financing his own campaign and the criticism he has received from other candidates for doing so. Given Bloomberg’s statement, should we believe that Bloomberg was not seeking a return on the investment he made in Jackson? Should we believe that Mayor Lumumba gave him a platform merely because he thinks he’s a nice guy?

His appearance in Jackson was not a coincidence. I am sure that Bloomberg’s campaign staff took note of Lumumba’s popularity among many black people and young progressives particularly in the south. Given Bloomberg’s own racial baggage, his staffers know that he must capture a significant amount of support from Black voters if he wishes to win the Democratic Party nomination and have a legitimate chance of winning the U.S. presidency. He has drafted the likes of Lumumba, Stockton, Calif. Mayor Michael Tubbs and prominent Black clergy to help him do this, regardless of Lumumba’s public declarations to the contrary.

Hours after Bloomberg’s Jackson event, Lumumba took to Facebook to post that he’s met with several Democratic Party presidential hopefuls, but that he has not endorsed any candidate. This evasion has some truth in it. The “radical” mayor has met with the standard-bearers of the political party captured by the left bloc of capital and supported by half the ruling class. Lumumba also has ties to Bernie Sanders, the “democratic socialist” and “critic of capitalism” running for the Democratic Party nomination. This is a party that complains Trump is not running the American empire efficiently. Does this most “radical” of mayors think the critique of neoliberalism is a game? Does opposing neoliberalism include dialogue with transparent unapologetic capitalists who think it is normal to police our lives?

Image result for ferguson demonstrations
I wonder who believes working class black people are more stupid, Lumumba, who wants us to believe he is not compromised by taking Bloomberg’s money, or Bloomberg, who wants black people to believe that he is truly apologetic for the racist policies he instituted while Mayor of New York City?


Mayors Lumumba and Bloomberg both have nefarious histories as heads of the police states in their respective cities. This is despite the fact that the former claims to be some kind of Black Power activist and the latter claims to be a philanthropist who offers aid to urban communities as both subordinate them. What makes the choice of hosting Bloomberg in Jackson for a criminal justice reform event hypocritical and arrogant?

Lumumba, before his rise to power, traveled to Ferguson in October 2014 to be a part of the controlled opposition of Black Lives Matter, who at the time were still faking as if they opposed the Democrats and the State. Having left the militant “woke” activist Lumumba behind, Mayor Lumumba froze when within six months of his taking office, the Jackson Police Department killed seven poor Black people. In stead of taking quick and decisive action, Lumumba genuflected and babbled about officer safety, independent investigations, police control boards and hand-selected a “task force” (really a task farce) of his closest political allies, relatives and friends to determine when the identities of killer cops should be revealed.

Although Bloomberg has recently given a half-hearted and politically scripted apology for the police occupation, harassment and arrest of mostly non-white people via his stop and frisk policy in New York, he initially doubled and tripled down on the racially motivated program’s merits in stopping crime in the Big Apple.

Recent developments in Jackson and within Bloomberg’s campaign show that their histories with the police are not the only things that are reprehensible. Lumumba’s police department is participating in a federal law and order initiative from Donald Trump’s Department of Justice known as Project Guardian.
Image result for project guardian
From December 17th-20th, Trump appointee, U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst, directed the raiding and terrorizing of poor and Black communities led by the U.S. Marshals and supported by local law enforcement agencies, including the Jackson Police Department. What part of “freeing the land,” the slogan of the Black Nationalist organization Lumumba is affiliated, is this?


In recent weeks, it has been reported that Bloomberg “unwittingly” exploited incarcerated women’s labor by having them make phone calls on behalf of his campaign. Of course, the Bloomberg campaign issued an apology stating they ended the relationship with the company with whom they had a contract that used an unknown third-party contractor who utilized prison labor.

Not to be outdone, Lumumba, who claims to be a critic of mass incarceration of Black people, when one looks at the public records of the donors to his electoral campaign, one finds an architecture firm, M3A, who among other things has built three Mississippi prisons including in Hinds County, where Jackson is located! Among other donors to Lumumba’s campaign is Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, and Michele Crentsil, a prominent prison reform activist. This is why the popularity of the cheap slogan “Black Girl Magic,” an apparently updated version of “Black Power” that claims to challenge patriarchy, can also be an ambiguous sham.

Shouldn’t these mayors, the phony black radical and phony white apologist, and their “activist” friends have known that experienced observers could gather information to place forward independent thinking and perspectives of our own? Did they expect that “progressives” could suppress the truth for all time?

Like other Jacksonians, I (Adofo Minka) attempted to attend the Bloomberg event in Jackson but was turned away because the event was exclusive to a few individual bourgeois professionals referred to by the media as “community leaders.” Who chose these leaders? Who and what are they leading? I imagine that these individuals were hand selected by Lumumba not for their leadership qualities, but because these individuals are politically safe and would raise no dissent or criticism. Clearly, in Lumumba’s eyes, the “unwashed” masses cannot be trusted. Neither can those who might propagate the destruction of hierarchy.

As I left the Smith Robertson Museum, where the Bloomberg event was held, I spoke to three women who seemed disappointed about being denied access to the event. They talked about how they were going to call to the mayor’s office and tell him that he calls for “participation,” but denied the public access to the event. Were those women disappointed because they were being denied an opportunity to denounce the ruling class and their black hirelings or was the disappointment merely rooted in the fact they could not participate, as in passively listen, observe and “network” with Jackson’s black elites? If it was the latter, there is much work to be done.

We must stop settling for mere dependent participation. “Participatory democracy” is worthless where it obscures who must govern. What makes elected officials and their chosen sycophants more worthy to run the affairs of society than everyday people themselves? Is it because they wear fancy clothes, drive luxury vehicles and speak “proper” English? Anything short of direct democracy and popular self-governance should be unsatisfactory. Popular self-government is a process, but it blooms outside hierarchy. The hierarchy is not an asset or legitimate player in facilitating this. Sometimes their buffoonery and mystification can be a trigger in waking us up.

The ruling elites have hoarded the Earth’s vast resources and have caused the political, social and economic catastrophes the masses are facing. Why do we accept this ruling class above us? Why is it less insulting when its chosen standard-bearers are “black” and make a big show of this alone with no substance or content?

Image result for stop and frisk new yorkPolitical and economic serfdom should be repudiated because these aspiring rulers above society (and their richer associates) pursue their own personal prerogatives and neglect the pain, suffering and exploitation of poor people because they are committed to the status quo. They benefit from it. If any change is to come, we, the self-organized and self-governing masses, will bring it about.

I know many otherwise “radical” people don’t think so. I know Mayor Lumumba thinks he is sensitive to the burdens of toiling Black people. This sensitivity, intermittent and really nonexistent as expressed in his actual policies and alliances, is his personal social capital. It is what he trades on. How many really grasp this? It is what makes him useful to politicians and members of the ruling class, like the billionaire Bloomberg.

Some wish to retain state power above society by hob-knobbing with those who are against capitalism and those who are for it. Those who denounce the police state and those who cheer it on and apologize. Those who wish to defend the Earth and those who monopolize its resources. Those who speak of Black people as misbehaving consumers and potentially self-reliant producers.

We should be clear that Lumumba is not simply “independent” because he hasn’t endorsed any candidate yet. He has no special political values. Lumumba, as he and his supporters might claim, is not gathering capital and resources from every possible sector to benefit all of Jackson. Lumumba is compromised as a community leader and will be known, ultimately, by the instinctive social movement he undermined by befriending and bedding the wealthy and the apologists for the police state.

That someone did not stand up and clarify these contradictions at the public meeting in Jackson sponsored by Lumumba for Bloomberg is what was purchased not art installations and false education about food security. What was purchased was the silencing of Black radical and other community voices that are not blind and deaf but can speak for themselves.

The city of Jackson’s website proclaims that Mayor Lumumba is an active member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM). In 2013, before the “Black Lives Matter” idea and movement gained prominence by undermining and co-opting the legitimate and genuine rage, resistance and rebellion from below in places like St. Louis and Baltimore, the MXGM propagated a report that stated every 28 hours a Black person is killed by the police in the U.S. and played a central role in the civil lawsuit Floyd, et al vs. City of New York, whose judicial opinion struck down Mayor Bloomberg’s gestapo stop and frisk policy as unconstitutional.

Yet, Mayor Lumumba provided a safe space and became a political prostitute for Mayor Bloomberg who now that he is running to win the Democratic Party nomination wants to avoid accountability for his racist and fascist “stop and frisk” policies as New York City’s mayor by offering a pitiable apology and an inadequate criminal justice reform policy platform. How fast we circulate propaganda and discard the facts of our own existence! Only the veil of “black power,” purchased and manufactured so it is not distinguished by the community control of ordinary people, can mask such crimes.

THE WORKING PEOPLE ARE NOT STUPID by Alvette ‘Ellorton’ Jeffers

posted 8 Jan 2020, 05:32 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 8 Jan 2020, 05:36 ]

Image result for antigua and barbuda  flagAntiguans are constantly ridiculed. Radio commentators and opponents of Gaston Brown and the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (A&BLP), use unsavoury words when decrying what they seem to think is apathy among the population.

The castigations commenced after the general election. The people of Antigua, especially those who did not vote, are not only blamed for A&BLP’s victory, they are cited for being callously indifferent to the litany of abuses opposition forces have accused the A&BLP of.

Even after two successful demonstrations held recently by opposition forces, the ridiculing has not abated. One would have assumed that the demonstrations would have given them the feeling that the momentum was slightly shifting in their favour. However, their dissatisfaction with the people has not lessened, which indicates that there may be the feeling that the demonstrations have not been sufficiently impactful.

Why, some ask, do the people remain impervious to the nightly and daily exposés and news? No one seems to know. These spokespersons are baffled. Some become incensed and then obviously disconcerted. You know they are disconcerted because they fall back on simplistic reasoning or declare that Antigua is just an “uncivilized” place, full of people who are uncaring, malleable and too susceptible to bribe, to act out their conviction, if they have any conviction. A few among the opposition have become fatalistic. They are resigned to whatever they believe is predetermined to happen in Antigua by some unseen force. In their imagining, the future is Bedlam.

The great majority of Antiguans and Barbudans are not what the opposition forces think they are. In fact, they have a very limited conception of the people they offend daily. These working-class people are cautious and calculating. Even sceptical. And rightly so: For they are weary of self-righteous charlatans appearing often on the various political stages seeking only self-aggrandizement.

The working-class people cannot be indifferent to or unconcerned with the condition of life in Antigua and Barbuda. It is their everyday, living experience. The people know they have to manoeuvre an unfriendly and uncaring political and economic terrain, for any false step could be their ruin.

In responding to the call for action against an armed, intransigent and vindictive State/A&BLP Government, they must be sure that it is not a blusterer who is making the call for action. I imagine that the working people ask themselves the following questions: Are these leaders just marching us up a hill and then down again? What is the purpose of a repetitious activity that produces no political results? Why do leaders call us out when they have no place to take us and then leaving us to feel as if “all in compassion ends so differently from what the heart arranged.”? (Ruins of a Great House, Derek Walcott.)

Antiguans and Barbudans have a history some care not to remember or study. The working people remember and sometimes recall how in 1968 they locked
 the whole island down, demonstrated, received teargas, demonstrated again, catched teargas canisters and hurled them back at the police. At the end of this great, political upheaval, the Progressive Labour Movement (PLM), accepted four seats in Parliament instead of the resignation that VC Bird offered.

The PLM acted as if the working people participated in a general strike and risked their lives so that they could settle for four seats in Parliament. Many 
understood PLM's betrayal. The chance for a new beginning was lost then and because of it, social change has been made more challenging today.

PLM, as a Government, pushed the working people to the margins of society to act as spectators, instead of encouraging their participation in a process of societal transformation. Every government, before or after the PLM, has reinforced the alienation of the people from the everyday running of the society. Yet, some pretend to be surprised when working people show little enthusiasm in their calls for action.

Notwithstanding the working people’s alienation from political power, there are these rare moments when they act outside the influences of their parties and
support a call to action. In these moments, they are catapulted into action because they become aware that a great injustice has been done to their brothers and sisters that needs to be remedied: And that is what they attempted to do in 1979 after the Antigua Labour Party government, arrested, transferred, then fired several teachers.

The students from Princess Margaret and Grammar schools protested. Later, under the direction of The Antigua’s Teachers Union, several hundred demonstrators gathered for a demonstration but were teargassed by the police before they even started. The working people knew that day, in 1979, what they were fighting for and even though there was the possibility that they could lose, yet they were willing to try. Working people cannot be shamed into action. They are not easily bamboozled. Only the politically untrained believe they can be. 

Working people will adequately respond the moment they recognize that something is so fundamentally wrong in the society that it requires their intervention to bring about the desired changes. And when they do so, as they have done in the past, it will not be a half-hearted measure but a full commitment to ending the societal scourge. Antiguans and Barbudans understand the enormity of the problem. Failing at it would be disastrous for the whole of society. Those acting as leaders do not understand what working people have learned from their past experiences.

The working people may have a sense that those acting as leaders maybe playing at it, too. If they were not performing, then there would be a Declaration stating their intentions. It would be a call to action. The Declaration would state what it is they are against, why they were against and the remedy and a course of action. This would be the main discussion among the working people. Nothing else. That is how serious leaders behave.

Image result for antiguaIf there is no Declaration, the working people are right to suspect that all these demonstrations are just called to maintain them in a constant state of agitation until the next general election. Certainly, it cannot be to educate the people about their problems. They are not unaware of them. If truth be told, the working people, who are maligned so often, are not inactive or passive. They take action at their place of work.

Strangely, the exploitation of labour is not central to the political discussion at all; and the increasing marginalization of working people due to Antiguans' preference for a foreign directed economy, receives minor attention because leaders prefer not to ask the important question; is this the way forward?

Those who continue to believe that Antigua and Barbuda’s most serious problem is corruption or the absence of governments’ accountability and that all you need is just a change of administration to amend things, are seriously out of touch or are wilfully acting duplicitously. The problems have gone way beyond that!

The needs of the political administration of Antigua and Barbuda are very intertwined with the needs of those whom they have allowed to own and control the economic resources of the country. As the foreign directed economy gains tighter hold of Antigua and Barbuda, the commitment of the political elites to the success of their strategy also increases because they are concerned with their immediate political problem, which is winning elections.

The A&BLP has to have something to show the population if it is going to win an election. But at this moment, ordinary people have begun to feel that black Antiguans and Barbudans are being sacrificed on the altar of white capital. You know the feeling is real when vendors demonstrate and declare, in 2019, in a country headed by people of African origin, that “black people have rights too.” (Observer12/3/2019)

The A&BLP government, of which some are investors, the middle professionals and those who control the commanding heights of the economy, are appearing as a united class standing in opposition to the general, public interest. For this reason, it is the whole system that needs a total realignment. Either that or the skirmishes we see today are going to be transformed into a greater conflagration.

Antiguans and Barbudans are not going to tolerate forever their marginalization and constant humiliation at the hands of government and foreign investors. The working class has not been presented with any evidence that those calling for protest are ready for the great challenges that lie ahead. And that is why they hear you but are not willing to follow. They are not following because they are not stupid.

SPORTS IN THE NEW YEAR by Rae Samuel

posted 5 Jan 2020, 12:23 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 5 Jan 2020, 12:27 ]



Professor Jay Coakley
This is the time of year when we all get somewhat mellow. We are grateful to have seen out another year, one that closes a decade. To have spent another year 'in the waving gallery' as Comrade Brother Michael "Scobie' Joseph puts it, with reference to our ages.

I have had a very fortunate and enlightening year in sport, which is what I want to talk about somewhat. Maybe because of my training and involvement in sport, viewed through the prism of my time in the labour movement, I study and analyse sport as part of our social development, buttressed by the readings of CLR James and internationally renowned Professor Emeritus Jay Coakley. And of course the vociferous but accurate analyses of comrades here at home. The volume and colour of their language in no way diminishes the accuracy of their insights. Especially if it is cricket.

Starting in January through to September I attended 5 workshops. In January I worked as a research assistant for a sports psychology workshop in St, Vincent, sponsored by IAAF. It was through the kind courtesy of the St. Vincent and Grenadines Olympic committee whom I thank. I returned in September to attend a seminar in sports law. In between I was at seminars and courses in sports administration, on gender balance in sporting bodies, put on by the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee and rules of photography in sporting events here at home. Why have I become a student in my grey age? G5. What is G5 and Huawei? Times and technologies are changing so rapidly a la Huawei and sport is no different.

To further make the point of how multi-layered and complex the issues are, I will reference the hosting of the upcoming 2021 Commonwealth 
Image result for commonwealth youth games 2021Youth Games which is to be held in Trinidad and and Tobago. One of the leading contenders, Gibraltar, which had prepared an excellent bid, may have had its chances affected by the vagaries of Brexit, something no one could have accurately forecast. In the same context many cities are no longer bidding to hold these mega-events.

Games are awarded to cities, not countries. The cost is staggering, the international federations gain the most financially and after the games much of the infrastructure remains unused. Also filling stadia is difficult in this day and age of instant mass communication. The processes of upgrading and organising have already begun. It would be interesting to see how/if a change in government will affect the process.2020 is an election year

Where are we today? We do not have a national sports policy. No, no no! Maybe I missed it but I have yet to hear a government state what it wants sport to do for national development or how it wants sport to help shape our social personality.

Fidel Castro has a book entitled "Pensamientos en Deportivo/Thoughts on Sport''. Chavez played and invested in sporting development, which is why Venezuela is a force in international football. We have in recent times had Brent Sancho, Darryl Smith and presently Ms. Shamfa Cudjoe. I have heard none address the issue in a comprehensive way. No, discourses on sports tourism, that chimera is not it.

I do not know how the relevant agencies and federations interact with the governments in terms of shared vision. And please a dozen gold medals in the Olympics in a given year is not a vision for having sport helping to shape the culture of our society.

But the pace on and off the playing field quickens. Sports lawyers will be very busy. At home and abroad. We have a local athlete who has a matter arising out an injury sustained while competing at 2019 National championships. Then our cyclists are involved in a wrangle about doping violations. It seems a judgement was leaked to the media while the matter was still in arbitration, prejudicing the outcome of process. Governing bodies, in the wake of gymnast Thelma William's 2016 experience, have to be specific and detailed about selection criteria.

The biggie in 2020 is the Tokyo Olympics. A historical wrong will be righted when our 2008 4x100m men's team will belatedly receive their gold medal following Jamaican Nesta Carter's failed drug test which was announced much later. As I said earlier, they were robbed, not the Jamaican team. You cannot claim a wicket with a no-ball or a goal with a hand ball. For the first time it looks like our cyclists, male and female, are more likely to medal than our swimmers or track and field athletes.

I must mention the presence of Alex Ekessa, a young Kenyan athlete who came to Trinidad in early June. He proved quite popular with the local athletes and crowds. He showed us that we have to raise our standards if we want to be competitive. With Trinidad as his base he competed in St. Vincent, Guyana; ending the year with victory in the Barbados marathon.

He was joined by his country woman Ms. Veronica Jepkosgei who also successfully ran races here and in the region. We must thank Comrade. Michael "Scobie' Joseph and the Southern Marines Steelband Foundation for accommodating both these athletes. Long distance running in Kenya is what Pan is to us in Trinidad and Tobago,

What are my predictions for 2020? Let us just say the social crisis will deepen and like any and everything else, sports will be affected.

WHO COMES UP WITH THESE IDEAS? by Tony Bedassie

posted 16 Dec 2019, 06:39 by Gerry Kangalee

Image result for rush for 100 dollar  at the banks trinidadNow I am not directly affected by the change out of the $100 bills since I am broke, yet I can't help but sympathise with the many citizens who are. One cannot help but wonder the reason for creating such chaos on this the busiest time of the year.

What's the urgency? Couldn't the state have put this off until after Christmas? Last year it was inspections. Who really comes up with these ideas? Who really makes these decisions? I know a lot of people who no longer deal with the banks, simply because the cost of allowing them to invest your money {savings} far outweighs the benefits of putting it there.

Service charges and transaction fees have all but obliterated any benefits one would have gained from the interest paid to you on your account. Many people have therefore gone back to the mattress for their savings. These people are now being forced to go to the bank. Yet there are no measures in place to protect them. Should you be robbed, the bandits have until the end of the month to carry it in themselves and claim it as their own.

Again I ask, what's the rush. It’s totally ridiculous and further to that, geared towards achieving some goal that you and I, the average citizens, are not privy to. I don't get into party politics but I offer this: the government of the day is, in my humble opinion, the worst that I have ever seen.

Closures, job losses, lack of foreign exchange, taxes and more taxes, corruption, children with guns, lands being paid for by the state from its own elected members which reeks of insider trading. So much has happened over the last four years. Fuel prices increased three times while the Minister laughs at the public. Now he's laughing at fishermen and farmers.

The worst part of it all is that the people who seem most affected by the decisions are willing still to come out and support their party in return for simple favours which should be their right rather than a bribe for a vote. Our racial division and party loyalty have us thanking the slave masters for whipping us into submission.

It truly amazes one such as me what we are willing to accept as a people. Again, I am no racist nor party supporter but to think that the ruling party's base could really believe that the Finance Minister or the AG are of their ilk and are representing their interests is truly amazing. Let me state at this point that I have no faith nor love for their crooked political opponents who formed the opposition, yet within all my dislike for that bunch of crooks, I don't believe that they would have done the crap that this bunch is doing.

It seems that real thinkers and intellectuals are never the ones given the responsibility for decision making here. It's left up to the bacchanalists, the haters like the Finance Minister who never knew a day of poverty to make the decisions which will affect you and I the average Joe.

Its left up to an Opposition with the likes of Dr. Moneylal to present a viable alternative. Everyone and their grandmother knows he wants to become the leader. If that happens then God help us. It's left up to an Opposition leader who has throughout her tenure as PM, proven that she is a poor judge of character, simply by the people she hired and quickly fired.

It's left up to a Labour movement, led by a man who has proven himself a failure through the repeated job losses of his membership. Where are we really headed as a nation?

THE BLESSING IN THE CURSE by Aaron S A Moyne

posted 13 Dec 2019, 07:19 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 13 Dec 2019, 07:20 ]

It was April 1, 2015 when I was instructed to report to the Yara Plant. I had returned from secondment to the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) after five (5) years of national service with Comrade Roget and his team. The instruction was odd as I was native to the newer Tringen 2 Plant and it would have then taken years to learn the Yara Plant’s systems.

My comrades therefore viewed the decision as retaliation for my role as Labour Relations/ HSE Officer; winning all cases and leading negotiations opposite the same company who almost wholly sponsored the extended period of secondment.

I remember the careful and deliberate walk to the Yara plant. I asked the Lord for wisdom to make the best of what I interpreted to be an arbitrary decision, a curse for being a diligent union officer. The “sweet” scent of traces of ammonia, harmonic noises of compressors, turbines and pumps and firm handshakes comprised my welcome party.

The Plant Manager, Ronald, briefed me in his office. I listened to the challenges and plans to modify the Plant to utilise less energy and produce more ammonia. The plant was also then on a record uninterrupted period of production.

I entered the Control Room to join the “A-Shift” eager to learn and contribute, albeit with a degree of contempt for the inexplicable transfer. I visited the Yara and Tringen 1 plants often as an Operator Trainee since February 2000 and later as OWTU Branch Secretary and knew almost every worker. I was now getting the serendipitous opportunity to be a grafted part of the fabric of the Yara Plant.

Yara’s workers were generally more cohesive than the other two plants. One reason was their system was more manual, demanding cooperation to operate valves which took hours to open or close. Some procedures required 2-3 Operators to be at an equipment or system. They complained of being short-staffed and many letters and meetings were exchanged between union and company to alleviate the hardships.

Increased overtime, a symptom of manpower needs, was taking a toll on their well-being. They adapted to the demands of the aging process plant. Safety and Reliability was atop each shift’s agenda- ever cognizant of the two 1997 fatalities and lessons learnt were shared with workers across the globe.

I observed workers who loved their jobs even amidst continuous threats of impending closure. Sylvan Wilson - former Branch President and OWTU Vice-President - and the senior workers had sculpted a work culture of unity and resilience. Undeniably they were the most militant when upholding collective decisions for the greatest good. But their strength was waning with the changing of the guards and business dynamics.

Mr. de la Bastide championed a US$50M Energy Efficiency upgrade project approved in September 2015. He had toiled on the Yara Plant as a young FedChem Engineer, and as its President was seen walking throughout the Plant in his endeavour to ensure quality workmanship. 4 years ago, he referred to it as a do or die project.

On platforms hundreds of feet above ground workers repaired vessels. They operated high-rotating compressors, pumps and turbines, surrounded by high risk chemicals and fluids at super-heated and sub-zero temperatures. When most would instinctively run from industrial fires, spills, earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding and national states of emergency they held their station to support their family and country.

I was blessed to have shared a year working shoulder to shoulder with Yara Plant’s workers and 18 years at the site. A 60-year-old plant producing around 270,000 tons of Ammonia annually is a commendable achievement. With the threat of mothballing, faith provides 100 blessings for every curse. This rare-breed of skilled workers will be redeployed, assimilated into the two running plants or across the local and international petrochemical industry.

Possibilities abound, having recently sat alongside a Patriot- in the company of Yara’s workers and management- who reiterated their interest and energy to revive and refine ammonia and oil respectively.

ON EARLY RETIREMENT by David Walker

posted 10 Dec 2019, 10:14 by Gerry Kangalee

Image result for hundred dollar note trinidadI'm old enough to remember the introduction of the "blue note", our much loved hundred dollar bill several decades ago. It is now to be retired, replaced by a newer (younger?), stronger, better looking version. I will miss it but that feeling will surely pass quickly as there will still be a "blue note" in circulation.

To listen to our leaders explain the reason for the change and its hurried implementation, one is left with the view that this has become a critical issue in our fight against corruption. They claim that it must be done in two short weeks to have maximum impact. What utter nonsense!

In my writings I have highlighted several matters where corruption has been reliably identified yet no action is even discussed. Case in point - the judge in a CLICO matter saying there needs to be an investigation into overpayments of what is an unfathomable amount of public money. There has been no discussion or call to action as a result.

No, this is not an anti-corruption measure. And it didn't have to be rushed either. As usual we're left to guess at the real reason for this decision. I have to tell you that this bears all the hallmarks of a decision that was forced on us by an external agency. Both the haste and the remarks about combating corruption point in that direction. I can see international agencies needing the extra security features in the new notes in order to do their work.

Since I do not believe the reasons given you might be surprised to discover that I support the change, though not the haste. In fact, I advocate that we go even further. If any change were being contemplated to the notes that we use for exchange of value, then surely the introduction of a thousand dollar must be in the mix. I would have had that as of the highest priority even with respect to money laundering and corruption.

I would need an entire column to explore the many benefits that would accrue. Paying a bill of any size requires one to walk with a large number of "blue notes" in bulging envelopes on leaving the bank. We all experience it sometime or other, especially during the Christmas season.

I also know from studies elsewhere that despite the initial cost, the newer notes prove to be cost effective in the medium term due mainly to less need for regular replacements. This argument could easily have been put forward as the main reason for the move but it was mentioned almost as an afterthought.

Having introduced the new fifty dollar bill a few years ago, what has been the experience as regards cost and the other benefits that were promised? Do we not now have data about our own experience that guided and supported this new move? Or is this another instance of our decision makers pouring scorn on the need for data in support of decision making by our leaders?

I support the move but see no need for the haste based on the explanations thus far presented. I implore the authorities to gather and report on the performance of this note as well as the fifty-dollar bill over the next few years so that the next decision is supported by live metrics. Put the data gathering systems in place with as much urgency as was afforded this rapid change. And do consider a thousand-dollar bill as a priority.

If in any doubt, go to the banks and other financial institutions for the data. They can tell you how many citizens walk out with more than say, five thousand dollars in cash every week just to go about their normal, legitimate business like purchasing household appliances.

I see this as a good move but for the wrong reasons. I believe that we've been strong armed into it. Consider that arrangements for the printing of the new notes would have taken many months. The government and the Central Bank did not decide on this schedule last week just before their announcement. Whatever or whoever forced them into this hurried retirement of my "blue note" will probably remain a mystery to us ordinary citizens. Bring on the urgently needed thousand-dollar bill.

Finally, I do not share the concern about the possible impact on the economy as long as there are sufficient new notes in circulation and that the Central Bank is open to accept old notes for exchange for a period of at least six further months. That is standard practice internationally. There will be persons like foreign resident nationals who are unable to meet the two week deadline and must be accommodated.

DOMINICA, THE OAS AND THE REGIME CHANGE AGENDA

posted 5 Dec 2019, 01:27 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 5 Dec 2019, 08:13 ]

This is not a commentary on, or an interference in, the upcoming elections in Dominica. The people of Dominica are more than capable of deciding who should serveMap of Dominica them as elected representatives. Dominicans can and should exercise their democratic and constitutional rights without any form of external interference. Unfortunately, a motley assembly of foreign actors seems to think otherwise, and their coordinated meddling confirms the resurgence of the type of naked imperialist manipulations that we thought were left behind.

Luis Almagro
On 7 February, 2019, Caribbean diplomats were stunned to see a tweet from Luis Almagro – Secretary General of the Organisation of American States – implying that the next General Elections in Dominica might not be free and fair.

Almagro’s tweet was stunning for multiple reasons: First, elections in Dominica were previously held on 8 December 2014, and were thus not constitutionally required until 8 M
arch 2020 – a date 13 months beyond Almagro’s tweet. The far more pressing concern of the OAS should have been what happened in Dominica 17 months before Almagro’s twitter finger got itchy – the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria, and the island’s continued struggle to recover.

Second, Dominica had historically enjoyed peaceful and democratic transfers of power, and there was no suggestion that the next election – whose date would not even be announced for another 10 months – would be any different. Yet there was a smiling Almagro, shaking hands with Crispin Gregoire – a former Dominican Ambassador and disgruntled former member of the old guard of the Dominica Labour Party, whose own carefully-planned political ascent was derailed by the sudden rise of Roosevelt Skerrit.

There was the head of a major hemispheric body recklessly raising the issue of electoral fraud to his 1.3 million Twitter followers without a scintilla of evidence beyond the usual baseless fearmongering and paranoia that seems to accompany every election these days. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) reacted angrily to Almagro’s tweet, issuing a terse statement that it was “deeply concerned by the actions and statements of the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) which are outside the bounds of his remit as the Head of an international organisation”.

Branding the tweet as the “latest manifestation of [Almagro’s] inappropriate behavior,” CARICOM demanded that the Secretary-General “refrain from actions and statements which are beyond the competence of the Office and affect the impartiality of the Organisation.” But Almagro didn’t refrain. He doubled down, suggesting that Dominica isn’t sufficiently compliant with the OAS’ electoral recommendations, and stating that “when [OAS recommendations] are not followed and not implemented, this does not help member states to increase the level of trust from the opposition and the international community in their electoral processes.”

And just like that, a full 10 months before the eventual Dominican election date, the Organisation of American States unambiguously signalled intent to revisit and revive its shameful historical pattern of interference and intervention in the electoral affairs of any member state that does not pass its ideological litmus test. There are entire wings of libraries dedicated to chronicling the shadowy and subversive role played by the OAS in facilitating coups, discrediting elections, or legitimizing illegal transfers of power.

A quick recap of some of their greatest hits: Barring Cuba from the Organisation for the sin of having a Marxist government; supporting the coup d’état against Salvador Allende in Chile and the installation of the brutal government of General Augusto Pinochet; enabling the 2004 coup d’état in Haiti that removed President Aristide; rehabilitating a deeply-flawed 2010 election in Haiti; recognizing the government of Juan Orlando Hernández in Honduras after the OAS’ own observers declined to declare the 2017 elections free or fair; validating the illegal ouster of President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil; recognising the self-declared presidency of Juan Guido in Venezuela, and advocating the use of force to remove President Maduro.

Look up any US invasion in the region, and assume the vocal or tacit support of the OAS. Guatemala in 1954? Check. Dominican Republic in 1965? Check. Panama in 1989? Check. Grenada in 1983? Of course. And the beat goes on.


Bolivia – Coup by Electoral Observer


Most recently, the OAS played a central role in the removal of President Evo Morales in Bolivia, using a regime change playbook that has been updated for modern times. In Bolivia, electoral authorities have an unofficial “quick count” that gives the general public updates on the counting of ballots. It is a system that was implemented with the help of the OAS. On election night, with about 84% of ballots counted, the Bolivian electoral authorities held a press conference to update the public on its quick count numbers.


At the time, Evo Morales was ahead with 45.7% of the vote while his opponent had 37.8%. Under Bolivian law, you must have at least 40% of the vote and lead your opponent by 10 clear percentage points to win the election in the first round of balloting. With 84% of the votes counted, Evo was facing the possibility of a second ballot. A second ballot would have made Evo more vulnerable, since the defeated opposition parties could pool their votes against him. However, Evo was still confident of victory in the first round of voting, because the ballots from the indigenous mountain villages had not yet come in, and those villages tend to support him strongly.


After the press conference, the electoral commission stopped reporting quick count numbers. Ordinarily, this would not be surprising. That’s how they did it in the past and that’s what they’d announced they were going to do beforehand. But the OAS saw an opportunity, and they pounced. First, they expressed “alarm” that the quick count had stopped, and demanded it restart. When it was restarted, 95 per cent of the votes had been counted, and the results from some more rural villages had pushed Evo to a 46.9% to 36.7% lead over his main rival – enough to win in the first round.

Before all the votes were even counted, the OAS had already released a communiqué voicing “concern” about the “inexplicable change in trend” in the quick count. In truth, there was no change in trend. A recent study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington DC-based think tank, shows that the vote count was perfectly in order with the trends indicated by the earlier quick count, which had tallied the opposition-friendly cities before the Evo-backing rural communities. But the damage was done. The opposition, seizing on the OAS communiqué, mobilized its supporters to the streets, and began rioting.

The OAS and Almagro continued its destabilizing commentary, egging them on. The situation on the ground began to spiral out of control. Evo Morales, still trusting in the legitimacy of his victory, agreed to an OAS offer to audit the results. The audit predictably listed a series of failings of the system – every election everywhere in the world has vulnerabilities or failings on election day – and reiterated the assertion that Evo’s late surge was “inexplicable.” The die was cast.

Evo suggested fresh elections, predicting an even bigger victory. His military, however, suggested otherwise, and deposed him, sending him into exile in Mexico. Notably, in the disputed 2017 elections in Honduras, Luis Almagro urged that “no irresponsible pronouncements’ be made before observers could deliver their definitive reports,” but in Bolivia, the OAS was making reckless and destabilizing pronouncements even before the counting was finished. Also notable is the fact that, three weeks after Evo Morales’ exile to Mexico, neither the OAS nor the replacement government can identify any evidence whatsoever that the results of the Bolivian elections were manipulated or stolen.

Maybe, now that they’ve dispatched the legitimate President of Bolivia off to Mexico, they’ve stopped looking for any proof of their reckless claims. Which brings us back to Dominica. Almagro’s photo op with Crispin Gregoire was a calculated opening salvo to legitimise and elevate the seasonal loose talk about electoral fraud to the forefront of their Dominicans’ minds. When, predictably, a small minority of opposition supporters spent a night engaging in low-level pre-election vandalism and civil disobedience in Dominica’s capital, Almagro was quick to fire off another inflammatory tweet.

Right on cue, an American diplomat addressed the OAS to complain (1) that the Dominican PM called elections “early” (it’s not early. It’s almost 5 years to the day after the 2014 elections. And Skerritt is entitled to call early elections under his constitution); (2) that Dominica doesn’t have a voter ID card (neither does the USA!); and (3) that OAS observer missions are the “the gold standard in ensuring free and fair elections,” which should therefore be allowed to observe the Dominica election (the USA does not invite the OAS to observe their elections nor allow them to audit American election results).

The American envoy ended his statement with the thinly veiled “welcom[ing of] the attention of the OAS member states to appreciate the tense political situation in Dominica surrounding the December 6 elections, and the decision of the Government of Dominica to hold these elections without implementing electoral reforms.”

Pause here for a moment, and think about the last USA Presidential elections: There seems to be bipartisan agreement by America’s Democratic and Republican Parties that there was fraud in that election, even if both sides disagree on where the fraud lies. 

The Democrats say, with some evidence, that the Russian government interfered with the election. President Trump counters that there were 3 million illegal votes cast for Democratic Candidate Hilary Clinton. 

With such an apparently flawed and disputed election, you’d think Almagro would be involved. You’d be wrong. However, if you want to hear his shrill warnings about Russian presence in Venezuela, there’s plenty of that]. 

The Foreign Minister of Dominica refuted the American allegations in her own statement to the OAS, and detailed her Prime Minister’s numerous attempts to clean up the voters list and implement electoral reforms – often over opposition objections – but it scarcely mattered. Between the OAS and the USA, the narrative of Dominican electoral fraud has been established.

Not coincidentally, another element was added to the mix: An Al Jazeera news special aired in the midst of the Dominican election campaign, suggesting all manner of fraud and corruption in the sale of diplomatic passports to unsavoury foreigners. Reporting that corrupt and shady characters are attracted to the unscrupulous hawking of passports and citizenship is as newsworthy as suggesting that bees are attracted to honey, or flies to faeces. But in specifically linking the sale of passports to the financing of Dominican elections, Al Jazeera buttressed the outsider interference by once again tying the words “Dominica” “elections” and “corruption” into a single, Google-friendly, search term.

So what do we have here on the eve of the Dominica election? Three public statements by the head of the OAS calling into question the legitimacy of the upcoming Dominican elections. A follow-up statement by a senior American diplomat doing the same thing. A riled-up opposition amplifying these statements, without proof. And a curiously-timed mass media report linking dodgy foreigners with the financing of election campaigns in Dominica. That’s a fertile and well-tilled soil for the seeds post-election mischief.

It’s not hard to imagine a defeated party challenging the results or validity of 6th December poll. It’s not hard to imagine the OAS either endorsing or amplifying those challenges, on the basis of its earlier statements. And it’s not hard to envisage externally orchestrated events to disrupt the constitutional order of Dominica and usher in a government that is more in tune with the OAS’ ideological leanings. The question is why. Why would Almagro busy himself with building a narrative about an illegitimate electoral process in Dominica? Why would the USA suddenly question the validity of the Dominican electoral process, when it is the same electoral process that accurately reflected the will of the people in eight post-independence elections, including the polls of 2000, 2005, 2009, and 2014?

Why would anyone buy into dark conspiracy theories about international interference in the elections of a tiny country of 70,000 people? Why now? The answers to those questions take you back to the OAS. With precious few exceptions, the OAS has been alarmingly predictable in who it sides with in electoral disputes or coup d’états. Governments characterized as “progressive,” “socialist,” or “leftist” almost always find themselves on the wrong end of OAS machinations. The OAS’ ability to spot and expose imagined left-wing electoral malfeasance is legendary. Its “see no evil, say no evil” response to obvious right wing abuses is similarly infamous.

In recent years, the defining battle of Luis Almagro’s tenure, and the clearest fault line among Member States, has been the extent to which the OAS should meddle in the internal affairs of Venezuela. A sustained diplomatic effort to isolate and interfere in Venezuela – using military force if necessary – was the shared objective of Almagro and former-US National Security Adviser John Bolton. That push for military intervention has been thwarted time and again by a coalition of Latin American and Caribbean countries that have stood on the foundation tenets of international law – sovereign equality, non-intervention, and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.

In June 2017, Almagro endured his biggest diplomatic defeat when he shepherded a carefully-crafted resolution to the floor of the OAS General Assembly in Mexico. The resolution would have paved the road for intervention in Venezuela, and Almagro thought he had the votes to pass it. His well-laid plan failed spectacularly, not the least because of stout resistance by Dominica and other Caribbean countries.

Who were historically among the reliable votes opposing foreign intervention in Venezuela? Dilma Rousseff of Brazil (prematurely replaced by a right-wing President); Evo Morales of Bolivia (prematurely replaced by a right-wing interim President); and Roosevelt Skerritt of Dominica (OAS interference currently in progress). After Dominica, Almagro’s electoral intervention campaign has a few more stops to make in the Caribbean. Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne is a self-described socialist, whose government has been consistently anti-intervention and whose Ambassador, Sir Ronald Saunders, recently called the OAS a “handmaiden to the tyranny of a minority” for its interventionist Venezuela positions.

Lucky for Prime Minister Browne, his elections aren’t due ‘til 2023. More immediate are the general elections in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, likely to take place sometime in 
Image result for OAS Latin america cartoons2020. The Vincentian government has been outspoken in its opposition to military intervention in Venezuela. Prime Minister Gonsalves also recently made history by steering Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council – the smallest nation ever to be elected to that powerful body.

In a country where three of the last five elections were determined by narrow one seat majorities, and where defeated opposition candidates have already unsuccessfully played the “stolen elections” card in the judicial system – the Vincentian 2020 elections seem tailor-made for the Almagro disinformation machine.

But there is hope. First, the people of Dominica may prove themselves impervious to OAS’ interference, and make up their minds on the basis of what is important to the people of Roseau, Portsmouth and Marigot, instead of those in Washington DC. Whatever the result of the Dominica elections, it would be refreshing to hear no further parroting of OAS propaganda in the lead up or aftermath.

Almagro, who is up for re-election shortly, may be judged and found wanting for his reckless interventionism. His replacement may be a more moderate and mature diplomat and return to the areas where the OAS enjoys widespread support – education, sustainable development, institution-building and poverty reduction. Also, the American Government may lose interest in the quagmire of regional disputes and focus its attentions elsewhere, freeing the OAS to perform tasks other than being an ideological attack dog.

The OAS’ 47-year isolation of Cuba was only lifted when President Obama signalled his intent to normalise relations with the Cuban government. Now that John Bolton has surrendered his post as National Adviser on Warmongering, President Trump may realign his diplomatic efforts toward the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East or China.

Finally, though, it is critical that the governments and peoples of the Caribbean clearly see the OAS for what it is, and what it has been. Far too often, we have viewed the OAS’ interventionism as a peculiarly Latin American phenomenon, unrelated to the vibrant democracies of the English-speaking Caribbean.

Vincentian warnings in recent years that the OAS will ultimately target a CARICOM state with its weapons of regime change were derided as alarmist fearmongering. But here we are. At the 2016 Cuba-CARICOM summit, then-President Raul Castro called the OAS “an instrument of imperialist domination.” He wasn’t lying. Nor was the Cuban Government lying in 2009 when it refused to re-join the OAS, stating:

“Today it can be understood more clearly than in 1962 that it is the OAS that is incompatible with the most pressing desires of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, that it is incapable of representing their values, interests and genuine yearning for democracy; it is the OAS that has been unable to solve the problems of inequality, disparities in wealth, corruption, foreign intervention, and the predatory actions of transnational capital. It is the OAS that has remained silent in the face of the most horrendous crimes, communes with the interests of imperialism, and conspires against and subverts governments genuinely and legitimately constituted with demonstrable popular support.”

It’s time we all wake up to that clear, present and dangerous reality.

THE DAY THE WOLF HOWLED "BOY"! by Aaron S A Moyne

posted 4 Dec 2019, 07:57 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 4 Dec 2019, 07:58 ]


Aaron Moyne is a former worker at Yara; a former branch official of the Yara district committee of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union; a former haelth and safety officer and labour relations officer of the union.
The Norwegian energy giant Norsk Hydro acquired the Braun ammonia plant in 1991- then known as Federation Chemicals (or FedChem)- the name probably as tribute to Dr. Eric Williams’ pursuit of the West Indian Federation. It was their first venture into the Americas, wholly owning the country’s oldest ammonia plant Hydro Agri Trinidad Ltd (HATL) and entering into a 49% stakeholder Joint Venture in Tringen 1 (built in 1977) and Tringen 2 (built in 1987) with the Government of Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (GORTT).

The availability of large quantities of cheap natural gas, a skilled and relatively low-cost labor force, its proximity to American continental markets, among other factors drew and kept the Norwegian entrepreneurs for 29 years. Not only were the Norwegians drawn to the honey-comb of natural gas, but the United States’- Atlantic LNG, Farmland MissChem, Canadians- PCS Nitrogen, French- Air Liquide, Germans- Proman (IPSL), Indians- Mittal and other transnationals.

They came, they saw and they tapped into the non renewable resources of our nation to advance their motherland. Natural gas and Petroleum became the new sugar cane. British Petroleum (bpTT), American Oil Company (Amoco), Enron Oil and Gas Resources (EOG), British Gas (BG) and the Spaniards’ Repsol dominate(d) the deep water gas drilling and supply to the National Gas Company (the NGC) decade after decade using local offshore talent but only to an extent.

The GORTT never invested in developing total local drilling capacity but remained content to collect taxes/ royalties at a nominal value to the final products’ market value. Every administration represented their own interests via brown paper bags, containers and wire transfers while misrepresenting ours at the various gas contract negotiations tables .

Discipline, Tolerance and Corruption became our new watchwords as O’Halloran to Hart and others ravaged our patrimony without consequence. Somehow politicians are convinced it is their sworn duty to grab everything their hands can grasp when companies under their remit prosper. They choose to be blind to the fact that global markets are cyclical. Thus, when commodity prices are low, companies must either be shutdown and loyal citizens retrenched.

Yara was faced with low ammonia prices and further markets (change from North American to Far East markets) thereby increasing the cost of shipping their product. In their latest negotiations bid for natural gas the GORTT decided to increase the preferential price of natural gas given to Yara and its predecessor, WR Grace. The net result of that decision, Yara stated, puts its flagship plant out of business and threatens the viability of the other two joint ventures.

The GORTT suggested Yara should have been running its operations more efficiently over the years and should not now be seeking concessions. Workers, represented by the OWTU, continuously lobbied for upgraded equipment, suitable manpower and processes to ensure the viability of the Yara Plant. They were never involved in final decision making but are the lambs to pay the ultimate price. Yara’s local management team would have also petitioned their principals for capital projects, all contingent on securing a favorable gas price.

A widely known fact is that one molecule of ammonia and methanol secures higher returns than liquified natural gas. Yet it is the government’s policy to religiously supply the trains at the expense of increased returns for the country. When it is eventually depleted we will remember how we sheepishly allowed our leaders of the day to squander that which we borrowed from future generations. The Wolf would have then devoured yet another village who ignored its approaching howls. It is high time we arise and defend our nation’s wealth from wolves and foxes within and without!

 

GAMBLING WITH OUR LIVES by David Walker

posted 4 Dec 2019, 05:23 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 4 Dec 2019, 05:48 ]

Image result for TRINIDAD DAVID WALKER
David Walker
Our Prime Minister has declared that 'Gambling is a ridiculous pastime' and I have to say that I agree with him. It is no coincidence that the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) is consistently one of the most profitable State Enterprises. Gambling is beneficial to those who operate gambling businesses, hence the plethora of gambling establishments, all apparently thriving even during our current economic downturn.

Indeed, economists will tell you that the gambling industry is one of a rare breed. That breed is described as counter cyclical economic entities. Basic
economic theory, not to mention common sense tells us that during an economic downturn businesses are expected to do less well that otherwise. It has been found that the gambling industry thrives during such periods, presumably as desperate persons seek a magic solution to their woes via a game of chance.

As an aside I have also written that our financial services sector likewise shows consistently impressive performance during recessions. If you wish to access my writing on that phenomenon, contact me at d.walker@alcindorwalker.com.

Some make a distinction between gamblers and players. Players are those who pay little or no regard to numbers or probabilities of various outcomes. They will place hundreds of dollars on a number because "somebody fall down on the corner". Gamblers study probabilities seeking out situations where it exceeds a certain threshold that they set. Yes they take risk, but they assess risk by objective criteria and gamble (some will say invest) on that basis.

Which brings me back to the Prime Minister. While he criticises citizens for engaging in the ridiculous pastime of gambling with their own money, he and his political colleagues routinely gamble away taxpayer dollars on projects based on little more than a hunch or a warm feeling for a particular project or supplier.

This is what has happened with Petrotrin and so many other State Enterprises and we the taxpayers and citizens are left to pick up the tab. Like the "real" gambler, what we ought to be doing is estimating the probability of success of each proposal as a bare minimum. We should also be evaluating the need for and likely impacts of whatever will emerge from a proposed investment.

Perhaps the greatest irony of this reality is that this government agrees with me. In debating and passing the procurement legislation they extolled its virtues at length. It demands the performance of Needs Analyses, Feasibility Studies, Impact Analyses and Income Projections among other things. It mandates open tendering which is the equivalent of comparing odds (returns) offered by different establishments. These are at the core of the legislation that the Prime Minister himself told us forcefully was needed in order to eliminate corruption and underpin better investment decision making.

Yet despite that, this government is determined to rush through a whole raft of investments (gambles) without reference to the undeniable benefits of the legislation while the Prime Minister lectures us about the ridiculous nature and outcomes of gambling. While he criticises the average citizen for enjoying "the rush" that comes from gambling, he is himself addicted to it on the strength of the nation's money and no personal loss suffered regardless of the outcome.

If he really believed his own exhortations while promoting the legislation, he would use his authority as Prime Minister to dictate that no project will henceforth be approved unless it went through the procedures prescribed in the legislation. We do not have to wait until all the apparatus is in place. He could demand Needs Analyses, Feasibility Studies, Impact Analyses etc. today if he were really minded to seek the best investment decision for the country.

I won't list the numerous failures of public expenditure but put the Petrotrin debacle and the incorrectly named CLICO rescue at the top. There are dozens more, accounting for tens of billions of wasted public funds over just the last ten years. The Prime Minister tells us that his procurement legislation represents a massive step in avoiding repeats and I couldn't agree with him more. He has the power to make it happen right now but he appears to enjoy the gambling "fix" too much.

Why are we rushing to "invest" in the rescue of Magdalena Hotel, an airport to meet an unspecified need or various other "assets" of dubious value and almost certain negative returns? It may well be that some of these projects are worthy of our scarce investment resources. If they are then proper analysis will confirm that and enable us to invest with the greatest chance of success.

The strictures of the procurement legislation are a great start but represent only a part of valuable, professional Investment Appraisal. Most notably best of breed investment appraisal includes sophisticated Risk Management. No major corporation or investor would undertake any commitments without it. If there is one addition I would wish to see added to the processes undertaken by government in making investment decisions it would be Risk Management to include all its major components (Assessment, Mitigation etc.).

Sadly though, our current crop of leaders pour scorn on the notion of proper Investment Appraisal. It has been derided by one prominent Minister as "paralysis by analysis". Another says that people like myself wish to "talk projects to death" (if only someone could have talked the Petrotrin projects to death). Our leaders describe anyone who dares to ask for information as being against progress or wishing to block progress.

They prefer to gamble. They never have to answer for the consequences (losses). For example, in the Petrotrin matter, the outgoing Chairman (appointed by the PM) told us that the biggest cause of the problems was political interference. I take that to mean that the costly decisions were taken by the politicians rather than the directors, executives and hired professionals. Cabinet gambled based not on proper investments appraisal but on their hunches and other external factors. Unlike the citizens who the Prime Minister now chastises for their gambling habits, our political leaders suffer no personal losses as a result.

This is what will be all but eliminated under a proper Investment Appraisal regime. We can't continue to gamble with our national patrimony. It is a truly ridiculous way to manage what is effectively our development budget. Can the leaders of either or both major parties be weaned off of their gambling habit? I suspect that the Prime Minister's criticisms of gambling are meant for us and not for himself. I would love to be proven wrong.

BARBUDANS MUST RISE! by Alvette Ellorton Jeffers

posted 27 Nov 2019, 07:30 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 27 Nov 2019, 08:15 ]

You may write me down in history 
With your bitter, twisted lies, 
You may trod me in the very dirt 
But still, like dust, I’ll rise. 

You may shoot me with your words, 
You may cut me with your eyes, 
You may kill me with your hatefulness, 
But still, like air, I’ll rise 
Maya Angelou 
They were not assigned their national identity or being referred to as a people of African origin. For the material requirements of the moment, Barbudans were presented as “deracinated imbeciles.” “Dunce elements,” and “squatters” who did not like hard work but stay at home recipients of “welfare.” As if to make the cut more galling and bitter, it was insinuated that Barbudans were sexual deviants. 

Soon after, even some who credited themselves with a level of intelligence, began to repeat ad hominem, parts of the Prime Minister’s diatribe. Why would a Prime Minister of African origin 
the white, slave masters and the colonizers of his ancestors to falsely portray the descendants of Africans living in Barbuda as uncivilized 
with low forms of intelligence which, it was suggested, made them incapable of deciding what was good or bad for them?

It seems odd, doesn’t it, that a people who had been forced to work during slavery for centuries and after emancipation, relied on the labor of the family unit and the solidarity of the wider community in order to live, were being portrayed as mendicants.

And this willful mischaracterization of Barbudans was started at the same time that they were trying to come to terms with the havoc the 2017 hurricane created in their country. These venomous words were not off the cuff utterances.

They were chosen and used for ill intent. Specifically, the Prime Minister was seeking to make Barbudans seem dated in beliefs and lifestyle. Worse, they were intended to infer that
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Why would a Prime Minister of African origin imitate the white, slave masters and the colonizers of his ancestors to falsely portray the descendants of Africans living in Barbuda as uncivilized with low forms of intelligence which, it was suggested, made them incapable of deciding what was good or bad for them?
Barbudans had no standing in the discussion about the future of the place they have called home for over four hundred years. If they gained approval to speak, it would be on the condition that they accepted their subordination to 
the State and the investors of capital; and in such a duopoly of State and finance or gangster capitalism, their words would acquire meaning only when it is not in opposition to the selfish and pecuniary objectives of the duopoly.

What is this outmoded existence in Barbuda which so infuriates the Prime Minister and his government that it requires public shaming? Their attitudes and philosophy, it is said, are not in alignment with modes of living in the twenty first century. 

 Twenty first century capitalist mode of production and the pursuit of endless growth is destroying the environment and human beings now face the real possibility of becoming extinct. Displacement of people is already occurring as a result of rising sea levels and severe hurricanes. When you add displacement caused by imperial and genocidal wars, plus famine and the social degradation in which millions of human beings are trapped, the twenty first century, as a way of living, is not to be promoted but critiqued and dismantled.

To drag Barbudans into the twenty first century, the Prime Minister, who is a strong advocate for reparations is prepared to destroy everything African in Barbuda, preferring to replace it with that which is European in origin and predatory. It has always been the assumption of colonizers, neo-liberals and now his, that underpopulated and public spaces should be converted for capitalist gain.

Barbudans’ outlook counterposes this neo-liberal ideology and practice. For as far back as Barbudans can remember, they have always held a contrary view. They are not so sure how and when that conception of living entered their consciousness. But it seems that there was never a time when they did not believe that the land was the property of all the people to provide for all the people. Additionally, they were to be and are conscientious protectors of the environment, using everything around them in a judicious manner to allow for the replenishment of the environment and its species.

This is essentially African, and it is European intervention in Africa in the 19th century which countered its development with the imposition of a violent and rapacious economic system that established command over the continent’s natural resources and people. In Chapter V1 of his book African Life and Customs, published in 1908, Edward W. Blyden describes the governing principles of property ownership in Africa before European conquest took hold in Africa. 

Image result for barbudaThe following is what he had to say. “The people always have free access to the land and to the water, to cultivate the land for food and clothing, to hunt and to fish…There is no law of property so sacred that any man, woman, or child would be allowed to remain and suffer either hunger or nakedness without sufficient supply of food or clothing provided such things existed in the village or community. “When the full meaning to the life of the African of the two conditions we have mentioned above, as regards land and water, is understood, then it will be realised why the African everywhere fights for his land when he will hesitate to fight about anything else.”

This reads like Barbuda to me and guided by their principles of community, a new approach to the organization of economic development can evolve. This system of economic development would discourage the exploitation of one human being by another and the steady lessening of the distinction between those who manage and those who are managed by the introduction of forms of democratic practices into the workplace.

Work on the land and in whatever enterprises that are formed would become a communal effort to satisfy, to the extent that its resources allow, the material needs of the people and to aid their advancement in the intellectual and artistic fields that they choose. When the Prime Minister uses vulgar language to denigrate Barbudans he is hoping that they become less confident in their capacities to gain mastery over their transformation.

If they become what he says they are, it makes it easier for a euro-centric notion of development to be imposed on them. But if they discover in their African traditions a philosophy which can aid the renewal of Barbuda, then they will transcend the servitude that Brown wants to impose on them. In this way, they will rise far above and away from the political sludge that flows from the mouth of the Prime Minister. Barbudans have one choice. They must rise!

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