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WIGNALL'S World (Will this be Minister Hylton's great blunder or his 'buss'?) Options
Posted: Thursday, April 2, 2015 10:31:29 AM

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Did the US and the IMF have a hand in the PNP's 2011 election win?



Sunday, March 29, 2015 101 Comments

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GOLDING...possibly had more than a nudge to leave office SIMPSON MILLER...Obama’s visit bound to boost ratings HOLNESS...what really are his motives?

In the recent Budget debate Finance Minister Peter Phillips cited the re-establishment and the restoration of Jamaica's credibility in the international marketplace as the reason US President Barack Obama is visiting Jamaica in early April. 'International marketplace' is wide, and a restoration of credibility there could mean fiscal responsibility via International Monetary Fund (IMF) dictates as well as Jamaica's willingness to hand over to the US those it deems international criminal kingpins.

It may be purely political on the part of Dr Phillips, but if we make a dispassionate examination of certain events that took place when the JLP was in Government, we will see a confluence of negative events in the obstinacy of the Golding Administration in signing the extradition order for Dudus, the engagement of Manatt to lobby against the move, the resignation of Golding, and problems securing an IMF agreement in the period 2009 to late 2011.

Now that we have secured an IMF agreement under a PNP Administration, and were recently told by the PM that we got assistance from the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC); and she apparently secured the OK from the CBC to admit it out loud. In light of the fact that we have passed a significant number of IMF tests, it would appear that the JLP Government had so muddied the water in the eyes of Washington that Jamaican diplomats and politicians in the PNP Administration needed skilful lobbying strengths to get Jamaica tight with the US from 2012 onwards. Which is another way of saying that at a certain stage of the last JLP administration the US State Department saw Jamaica as a pariah state, the message was conveyed to the IMF directors and, in a state of economic crisis where Jamaica could not secure international funding from the traditional sources, overseas diplomats from the US and in the EU states had all but committed the JLP Administration to the political and electoral graveyard.

In certain circles it is the civil thing to do to heap praise on former Prime Minister Bruce Golding for 'doing the decent thing' by resigning in late 2011. If the recent statements by Phillips and Simpson Miller are to be taken seriously, as they appear to be, it does appear that Golding did not purely act of his own volition and more than a nudge from our powerful international 'partners' was applied.

The hurried placement of an obviously unprepared Andrew Holness to the post of prime minister had to have been just an academic exercise, as our partners must have known that the JLP was already damaged goods and could not win any election held in such a scenario. It could, therefore, be said that when the PNP won the December 2011 election, our international partners got the Administration it preferred to do business with -- the PNP.

But even more so, with no IMF agreement secured in the stage between 2009 to 2011, the IMF had more than assisted with the electoral demise of the JLP in 2011.

The Obama visit will boost Portia's rating

With Obama set to visit on April 9, it will be a big fillip to Jamaica in that it will say we are open to the world for business. I do not consider it far-fetched that it was that same CBC which engineered the Obama visit.

Locally, it will boost the political and electoral ratings of Simpson Miller and the PNP. By the politics of attrition (isn't it always so?), opinion polls published a few months ago had showed that the PNP was less popular than the JLP, and that Holness was more favoured in a reduced field than Simpson Miller.

Based on the quixotic actions of the Opposition Leader in chasing down constitutional duppies, and in failing to mend fences in a fractious JLP, it seems to me that he is convinced that those polls number are cast in cement.

The fact is, as much as many of those at the top of society are finding some reasons to be optimistic about the prospects for new investments, the decline of our dollar has brought about a general hardship among many of those in the middle, while large percentages of those at the bottom are moving around like economically deprived zombies.

When Obama touches down on Jamaican soil he will be visiting the land of Marley and the music that Obama once listened to. But his visit, as I said before, will be an endorsement of sorts, him saying that "You guys have problems but, in the larger scheme of things, I like the direction you're taking".

To the political diehard who fancies the PNP, when Obama arrives he will be here to speak with the 'big woman' in Jamaica House while the 'little boy' Andrew Holness will be forced into the role of innocent bystander. Matters at the top of the agenda must be our energy regime, the opening up of new markets and the possible solution to a shaky PetroCaribe deal with Venezuela.

Do we make a specific shift in loyalties, trade the deal at a discounted rate and ditch Venezuela who was there for us as a friend in need just because Obama has gifts to give? Point worth considering, although it has been the history of Jamaican governments that they do not switch loyalties with other developing countries even when leaned on by the US.

Andrew Holness and his path to political perdition

Ex-prime minister and perennial JLP Opposition Leader Eddie Seaga has a bit of advice for Andrew Holness. Take the court case of the pre-signed resignation letters all the way to the British Privy Council. Do it and enjoy many happy years in Opposition must be the signal implication.

There must come a time when one is in the process of chasing down rainbows when one must admit that there is no pot of gold at one end.

Holness was foisted on the nation, first by the exigencies of the time when Bruce Golding was having sleepless nights. Then when he was challenged by Audley Shaw, who I believed would have, on pure political terms, made a better foil for Simpson Miller -- he won by a plurality of JLP delegates. It must also be counted that he was the sitting JLP leader and prime minister when he made a bad call for an early election in 2011 when he had the option of going into the latter half of 2012 when the nation would have been celebrating 50 years of Independence and our athletes were set to once again conquer the world in the summer Olympics of that year.

It is worth asking: Was Andrew Holness 'ordered' to call an election by our powerful overseas 'partners'? If he was so ordered, it is useful to ask what were his options. Could he have said no when a potential 'Sword of Damocles' could be no re--engagement with the IMF? What would be the use of a government, any government of any colour in 2012, without an IMF agreement?

Having been challenged by Shaw and winning the internal election, Holness made the error of trying to be the second coming of Seaga by sidestepping those who had mouthed sentiments that were unflattering of him. He had the examples of the PNP at hand. He saw how Portia hugged up those who had challenged her. He must have known that, in a challenge, hot words will be the norm. He saw those words in the PNP and he saw the re-engagement and, he rejected that supreme moment of learning.

When he lost the initial court case he went to church and apologised. Then, in filing his appeal, he in essence threw out the apology. Now that he has lost the appeal, it is his belief that all in his party and farther afield must just forget all that went before, head to the trenches, and win the next elections on a canter.

It was never my belief that Holness was a parliamentary purist. I do not know at which stage he morphed from politician to constitutional scholar. I am not saying that a politician cannot appeal to a principled position while he is chasing down an election win, but one would assume that the time to joust at constitutional windmills is after one has solved the political problems in one's party. The road to his election victory has never and will never exist in the courts. Or it could be that he and our international 'partners' have struck a deal that he must do all in his powers to lose the next election.

Recently Holness took to entering the fray with Portia over what food poor people were eating. The lady who I had the telephone conversation was solidly middle class.

"Andrew must know that he should not go there with Portia. That is her turf, and if he goes there the voters he need will see him as coming out against them because in a war of words with Portia over poor people business Andrew cannot win."

I believe the time is ripe for Andrew to go back to church again. This time around he will have to fall on his knees and shed real tears, long and hard.

Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 7:53:38 AM

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Obama cannot fix Andrew and Portia


Sunday, April 12, 2015 33 Comments

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Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is warmly greeted by United States President Barack Obama on Thursday, April 9, 2015 (PHOTO: MICHAEL GORDON)

Sylvia is in her mid 50s and lost her husband to prostate cancer five years ago. "I don't know if it is that I am still mourning and missing him, but as I watched President Obama do his strut up the stairs of Air Force One, turned, smiled and waved at us as he headed back home, I began to cry. He was in Jamaica for only a short time, but he just captured my heart and stirred my admiration for his work."

It took 22 hours -- the time he spent on Jamaican soil -- for Obama to work his way into our systems and allow us to see the yawning gap that is the leadership deficit in Jamaica, especially where it matters most -- in politics.

In hosting the most powerful man on the planet for just about one rotation of the Earth, Jamaica was at its best. The Jamaica Defence and Constabulary forces were most professional in carrying out their duties and systemic bugbears, like another Riverton City conflagration, did not happen.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has pulled off a political coup that has ready-made value in her potential electoral rewards. I am quite certain that the Opposition leader, him being the political man first and foremost, must be weighing the electoral positives that could accrue to her and would hope that the Obama euphoria would wane mush sooner than later.

What is it about an international man that gets grown women swooning over him and acting like teenage throwbacks at a high-voltage rock concert? What makes up he who has men wishing that they could be a little better than they are at present? Is it the raw power he holds and the symbol cast in our own hue that we can see printed in his face which tells us that we are no longer wretched and incapable of attaining the socio-economic heights that exist in other parts of the world?

Humility in the exercise of power has long been conflated to a meaning giving it the true essence of power. I believe that it is overrated.

When President Obama stood among those dubbed future leaders at the UWI Mona Campus, and came across as just this cool dude who can advance intellect with the ease of barroom banter, that was not an exercise of humility.

All Obama was doing was exercising true intellect, a vast knowledge base, recognition of the common bond holding human societies together, and using his unique abilities to communicate the bugs and possible fixes that are available to us.

Although the world has seen rapid change in the last 50 years, the state of political leadership that has been coming out of the UWI have been little clones of the destructive leadership practised by the PNP and the JLP over that time. While the majority of the young people who related to Obama on a one-on-one basis last Thursday will not be entering the party political arena, we know that the next batch of political leaders in the next generation will come from UWI.

If all Obama meant to them was just another pep talk from another messiah on the world state, they will have been highly incorrect in reading what he was trying to convey. The State of the workplace has changed rapidly and training for a high-paid nine-to-five job no longer has the sweet flavour that it had two decades ago.

Many of the future leaders will be fleeing these shores for the sake of preserving their bodies and sanity. They will take their skills and entrepreneurial abilities to Obama's own country due to the great irony of the paucity of effective political leadership in Jamaica.

Our version of leadership

The quality of political leadership that is found in Prime Minister Simpson Miller and Opposition Leader Andrew Holness flows from different directions. Holness and another former PM Bruce Golding arose from the manufacturing faculty at the UWI specialising in producing the kind of people who would fit into the systemic fault line on the JLP landscape.

It could be that Holness and Golding once had high hopes for the full buildout of their transformative sides, but both would have to admit that they took the easier route in trying to fit within that system instead of trying to fix the system.

Portia completely sidestepped the UWI and dived headlong into street politics. Her path to the very top of political leadership was predicated on the basis that she understood the politics of 'cluster', where she, the mother hen would have a sacred duty to herself and the tribe to protect and make her grace felt in reproducing new tribe members.

As I listened to Obama answering well-designed questions from his audience, there were buzzwords in his mouth that should have meaning to our present set of political leaders.

In speaking to the matter of writing off foreign debt and the track that led to the IMF Obama mentioned the term fiscal mismanagement.

When he spoke of the miracle of Singapore, he mentioned "investing in their people" and an "educated workforce". When he spoke about growth and attracting investment, the word also mentioned was corruption. He also spoke about political leaders spiriting away funds in Swiss bank accounts and the people being made to pay for this corrupt practices.

As hospitable as we were to Obama as he overnighted in Jamaica, he himself was the gracious guest, as he did not stoop to the low level of making any pointed criticisms of our leaders. If we believe that he came to tell us that all was well, and that we should have a nice day, we may have missed the point.

He was very aware that, like his colleagues in the party of no, the GOP, in Jamaica there is more gridlock in our refusal to develop our people than there is in the parliamentary system in Jamaica.

The bright young lady who asked him the last question about a possible debt forgiveness could have had a chance to pose the question differently. She could have asked: "Mr President, our most recent interaction with the IMF which has seen our economy operating without any space for increased spending on early childhood development, training, etc. This came as a result of financial impropriety in the financial centre on Wall Street. With that being the case, do you believe that US influence on major lending agencies like the IMF could be better used to fashion loan agreements that have a space for development funds?"

But even that question creates its own minefield. We have been to the IMF in the past without there being a global meltdown or recession. Remember the term he used: fiscal mismanagement That is us in this country engaged in major and systemic stupidity to maintain the same level of consumption which led us to the IMF.

The politics of Andrew Holness and Portia Simpson Miller may walk on different sides of the street but in many ways it has the same result. The politics of distrust and underdevelopment and a wholesale view that large swathes of our people are only needed for votes at election time.

I am troubled, though, by some of the stances portrayed by some of our future leaders, especially where it relates to social media. Too many of them are promoting themselves, not for their business pursuits or professions, but purely in an orgy of self love. I expect that those are the ones who will be entering the political arena in a few years' time.

Will an alert Portia take advantage of Holness's political droop?

It is accepted that every moment in the life of a politician is consumed with taking political power of maintaining it.

The Prime Minister is an on obvious high after hosting President Obama in 'big up' fashion. The euphoria will not last forever, and an updated voters' list will not be ready before mid-year.

Although the open tensions in the JLP have died down somewhat, the party on a roll now is the PNP, which has seen its leader basking in the glow and the afterglow of Obama.

Although Obama has shown up the Jamaican leadership deficits, the main element that the PNP will be seeking to explore is how to build on the Obama visit association and use it to the PNP's advantage.

There is still that simmering at the community and divisional level within JLP, where political readiness and funding may be a big problem in trying to move the party towards elections. It won't be made any easier by the iron wall of unity which now exists in the PNP. That party must definitely have the electoral advantage over the next few months.

"Mi wish Portia coulda stan up and talk to Jamaican students like how Obama do it," said someone to a friend of mine.

One man in his 60s said to me on Thursday evening: "Di only leader wi have now who could talk like that is Bruce Golding. But he is comfortable where he is."

"So, what about Andrew Holness?' I asked him. "He is bright and could answer some of those questions posed to Obama."

"Yes, I agree with you, but nobody is interested in hearing what he has to say."

Posted: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 8:28:57 AM

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Will this be Minister Hylton's great blunder or his 'buss'?



Sunday, April 19, 2015 26 Comments

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Greater Goat Island, the centre of much controversy as the proposed site of Jamaica’s logistics hub.

TO know Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton is to take a peep into every inner-city community and focus on 'a likkle youtman' on a corner constantly belting out his deejay lyrics as he listens through earplugs to his self-recorded likely hits.

That young man has been in and out of various studios with his lyrics and rhythms and he is certain that he will one day 'buss', meaning he will be considered good enough to burst out on the national scene and appear on one of the big shows, after attracting a promoter and then, with talent and resourcefulness, a producer, the recording of an album, a TV interview, a big contract, a foreign gig, money, a flashy car, and pretty girls to help him get rid of his money faster than he can make it.

The main difference between Minister Hylton and that feisty, young deejay is that the deejay has a catalogue of songs, while Hylton has been locked into a one-dimensional world with only one song on his lips -- Logistics Hub. Another difference is, until the young man can make that big one out of 10,000 score, he has to do something -- work on a construction site, sell some weed, do some cheap bushing work for a politically connected contractor to keep his body and soul intact.

A visit to sections of Minister Hylton's constituency, like parts of Washington Gardens and Waterhouse, is truly indicative of a one-dimensional minister and representative. The roads are in an appalling state or, to be true to the times, they are in a pre-Obama visit condition.

For the last three years Minister Hylton has been a true believer in the buildout of Jamaica's logistics hub, that complex process of transporting and manufacturing goods and services in and out of the country and interfacing with the wider international trading and manufacturing nodes; shipping, a dry dock, power plants, the creation of industrial and economic zones, new feeder cities. In his mind, he saw the creation of a new Jamaica in the logistics hub.

Many individuals, like me, have harshly criticised him for foot-dragging, even though we know that he has surrounded himself with quite capable technocrats, some of whom may have already grown frustrated by the quicksand that is politics.

I was initially a firm believer in the logistics hub, but after a while I grew frustrated at the talk, talk, talk, even though I had to bear in mind that maybe all that talk meant is that the minister was aping his boss, the prime minister, who was constantly working, working, working.

And now for the good news! Last Wednesday the minister stepped out of his generalised phase and actually attached names to the beginning of our country's economic nirvana.

He told us that, come tomorrow, he would be signing an MOU with a German/Austrian firm, Krauck Systems and New York-based Anchor Financial Group LLC that will lead to more than US$5 billion investments in the Logistics Hub. What is there not to smile about, laugh, break out the wine, and keep an endless party?

Krauck Systems? Anchor Finance Group LLC? The globe is a large place, but how come no one in Jamaica has ever heard of them? On the morning of Thursday last Nationwide News Networks did a scathing critique of the matter by focusing on the websites of these names. I expected that, based on the harsh criticisms, someone, anyone, from Minister Hylton's ministry would intervene to correct the 'misinformation'. I awaited the evening programme. Still no intervention.

In a highly interconnected world made easier by the Internet, the first peek into the bona fides of a company is its website. I scoured the website of Krauck and immediately I saw a red flag waving.

The website is quite impressive, but it has one little thing missing. We were previously told via the press release from the minister that "Krauck Systems is a world-class construction manager, capable of engaging highly qualified and experienced contractors, as well as employing an integrated approach as project developer, financier and operator to coordinate specific elements of the hub. The MOU will determine the way forward." Unbelievingly the website for such a 'world-class construction manager' does not show a single project done, and the dates involved. And, although we were told that Anchor (not the butter) would be the financiers, the release from Minister Hylton also gave Krauck the 'financier' description.

The website is quite liberal in its words and description of the company's abilities and shows a number of photographs of impressive-looking buildings that I assumed were completed projects. There were no leads to what the pictures represented.

Since the minister said that Krauck did 'financier' work I decided to send off an e-mail to an individual on the Krauck website who had 'investments' beside his name. At 5:44 pm on Thursday I sent the following:

"Dear Mr Richard Lukaj, I am a Jamaican journalist who has been writing two weekly columns for the Jamaica Observer since 1996.

"It was just recently announced by our minister of industry, investment and commerce that your company, Krauck Systems, will be project managers for the first phase of the buildout of Jamaica's logistics hub.

"It was also reported that a company called Anchor Financial Group LLC will be handling the financing.

"The problem many are having is that no place on your website does it indicate any project that your company has handled; only the names of some well-known companies.

"Would you please provide me with a list of your latest projects in which you have been involved so that I can have a better idea of your reputation in this area."

The e-mail immediately bounced. I checked and rechecked to ensure that the e-mail was as listed on the website.

Troubling unknowns about Krauck Systems

At 5:52 pm on Thursday I sent an e-mail to the general offices of Krauck Systems:

"It has been recently announced that your company will be handling the project management on the first buildout of Jamaica's logistics hub.

"As your website does not list the latest or any projects in which you have been involved, as a columnist writing for the Jamaica Observer since 1996 I would appreciate if you could provide me with even a short list of projects you have completed.

"My telephone numbers are... This is of some urgency. Thanks."

At 5:58 I decided to be more pointed and attached names to the previous e-mail now forwarded. The names were N Spanos, I Bujari and S Kohlbecker.

At 11:17 pm I received an e-mail response from Mr Kohlbecker as follows:

"Dear Mr Wignall, Please find these references on the KS websites for a start:


"Best regards,

"S Kohlbecker"

This also did not assist me, as the references were to the same pictures on the website which gave absolutely no detailed information. I was seeking project names, date started, completed, project size in terms of money.

Probably realising that this was a bridge leading to no place, at 1:30 on Friday morning Mr Kohlbecker again e-mailed me with "additional references and detail".

The link took me to an impressive place: Krauck Systems - Extracts from our references - planning/project management/production/construction optimising.

It listed the following projects: a nursing home; a government building, a 'golf and resort Son Baco'; a 'golf and resort Palau'; a casino and resort Cardeniz Zypern; Casino and resort Luxor; a theatre in Berlin; Seimens Building administration; two architectural plans for something I can't quite make out in Frankfurt; two real estate architectural plans in Munchen, Potsdam centre -- plans again and a wide-shot photograph from quite far off; a hotel -- no name, no place; two city districts in Dusseldorf; The Fitness Company; Residential project Wurpes; office tower Frankfurt; Lufthansa aviation centre Frankfurt; hangar Frankfurt; shopping centre Berlin; shopping mall Dusseldorf; railway station Hannover; railway station Stuttgart; airport Frankfurt; shopping centre Craiova; TV studio Koln; shopping centre Flensburg; a palace in Oman; car production plans for Audi; car production plans for BMW; factory plans for ThyssenKrupp; factory plans for Linde Hamburg; plans again for Linde.

What personally troubles me is that most of the details on the link provided to me by Kohlbecker were accompanied by computer-generated pictures or actual pictures taken from far off. At no stage were the individual 'projects' linked to date begun, duration, and date completed. No money values were attached. Why was this so? Is that any way for a company to advertise itself?

Has Minister Hylton been pressured?

Jamaica is well-known for grand political announcements and letdowns. From my basic research, it seems that just as how the minister is seeking a 'buss', the very company which he has mentioned as key in project management is also seeking a 'buss' in this side of the world.

I expected the company to be more open if it is what it says it is. Minister Hylton must have been under a lot of pressure to come up with successes in the logistics hub to have mentioned two entities -- Krauck and Anchor Financial Group LLC -- that both appear to not be that open to transparency.

Anchor Financial Group LLC has a website to no place, and that is plainly embarrassing and most troubling.

We ought to remember that when bids were open for the sale of Jamaica Public Service (JPS) in the early 2000s one of the companies which had placed a bid was Enron. We all know what happened to Enron a few years later. We also know that Mirant bought the 80 per cent stake in JPS for US$200 million and six years later sold it for US$800 million. That was a whopper for Mirant.

In the world of the Internet, the first view of an organisation is its website. What I have seen so far is troubling. I know that as much as we like to boast that Jamaica is open for business, it is also a fact that, outside of tourism interests, we are not attracting enough A-list investors to give us that confidence that they can follow through from start to finish.

It is also a fact that too many of our people are intractable and violent criminality has taken on a new and most distressing direction. That is not a signal that our front door is open for business.

There will be some overseas investors who will want to take advantage of that great negative against us. At the same time, it could be that at times we have no other choice but to admit into the fold of overseas investors those who are not highly rated in the international community.

We badly need investments that will generate growth. At the same time, however, we do not need those who have generated their own troubling question signs.

If Minister Hylton -- who no longer speaks to me -- has more impressive information on Krauck and Anchor than we have, then certainly we would love to hear him make that public declaration with a 100 per cent degree of confidence.

For Jamaica's sake, we really want him to 'buss' and not blunder.

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