MINISTER HYLTON CAN CHANGE HIS THINKING

MINISTER HYLTON CAN CHANGE HIS THINKING.

I am rather mystified to see Anthony Hylton’s comments on local manufacturing, which as this writer indicates had been one of the largest contributors to GDP in the past. I have had the pleasure of being part of the JMA group in the 70’s and 80’s, and I thought then as I do now, that past Governments have been the greatest disincentive and hindrance to local manufacturing. At the time I recall Excise Tax was the most cruel, putting many industries out of business. I recall this spelled the end of our fine jewellery industry, with Government’s final tax increase to 137% of value.

Our competitor the Dominican Republic, had a much smaller business group in 1972, then as we departed from the market their Jewellery Industry soared.

Mr. Hylton is the Minister of Industry, who now says local manufacturing has no future. This is the Minister’s portfolio, his function in the political framework of the country, in which he says “has no future.”

Anthony Hylton is a victim of negative thinking, apparently ignorant of his responsibilities, and unaware of his potential. He takes his opinions to an editor’s forum, after economists at the University profess a similar opinion in the public media, in the presence of the Chairman of the task force promoting the logistics hub. This is the reason he should leave his position, and take his methodology elsewhere; Jamaica has no use for that kind of pessimism.

I like to be informed about concepts; like “’Global Supply Chain”.  What is that exactly? Where would we go to access one?

Can we create one to satisfy our needs? I recall being a purchasing agent for a well-known International Company which sourced goods all over the world, and it suggests to me that knowing your suppliers, your clients, organizing shipping and delivery, packaging, expediting payments, specifications, and other considerations, would be a requirement; but then most JMA manufacturers know their own market, and are able to put together their systems of supply and market.

Finally why would you think any import substitution of local products, local agro product, has no future? I believe if one has to start small, nothing is wrong with this. You need to build a sustaining volume, as you grow, and learn. Then increasing volume reduces unit cost, and employs more skills, and finally increases GDP.

I am always surprised to see the vast number of water products imported in bottles; though some are produced locally. Then there is cereal which can be produced locally, in which Trinidad is most active. Liquid detergents, at one time were mostly manufactured locally. But Colgate, Unilever, Johnson and Johnson, found local conditions difficult to manage.

At this time many products may be produced with local investment,  indeed many are being produced; especially packaged foods. Many Companies are succeeding in packaged snacks and biscuits.

All that is needed is support and encouragement from the supervisors of Industry and Commerce, and new product development by our scientific community, in research, standards, and productivity.

(523 words)

©Ramesh Sujanani

ANGER IN THE NATION OF JAMAICA

ANGER IN THE NATION
In recent months I have noted a definitive negative change in the mood of Jamaicans. I am not sure what has provoked it: It is not so much a rising sense of insecurity, but more a feeling of frustration and anger.
Possibly it is a consequence of poor economic management of the country. People earn less, borrow more, lose the value of their assets in foreign exchange changes, real estate holdings, pension values; on average we are getting poorer. All investment in the country has realized poor yields for businesses, farmers, and professionals. The costs related to education have soared. Universities, technical schools and other educational institutions find students I gather, but have little qualified teaching and management staff, and the quality of education is not up to an international standards.
On the other hand, Government taxation has reached astronomical proportions; persons are being taxed in every sphere and aspect of work life. GCT is now in every simple commodity that one needs, rich or poor, and at increased rates including energy of 17.5% ( please note approximations). In Britain taxation is just as high but there are incentives freely allowed to producers, and there exchange rates are more conducive to living. In Jamaica, many persons are starving, children and adults.
In addition, Government accounting of public funds paid over in taxation, in saving for a better life, in providing health care, and in infra-structure development is minimal. Our crime management is not as effective as it could be; our social services are depleted beyond any service whatsoever. We are in the hands of the Receiver (IMF), virtually bankrupt. An associate said recently that it is like giving someone $1000 to buy something at the shop; he returns $700, saying when asked, he lost track at the shop, and cannot account for the balance.
In much expenditure by Government the results give the same conclusion: ‘We are investigating’ where the missing funds have gone. Then there are no subsequent explanations, for years (remember FINSAC), and dollars paid out in auditor’s fees, and perhaps legal charges thereafter.
Where do we go from here? ‘’ Is there any balm left in Gilead? Are there no physicians? Who will take care of the poor and suffering.?”” Jeremiah’s call goes unanswered. Where are the solutions to come from, where are the answers?
In the past two years, many suggestions have been made to remedy the situation; some sensible and some frivolous. Perhaps some have been tried and some are in progress. But I see there is no organization in the approach of the suggestion. Committees have been formed, and have been dismissed, without any obvious conclusion formed and disseminated. There was a recent suggestion that the two parties align the most intelligent and acute minds of their supporters, including members of the public. Then put them to the job of improving our circumstances.
This should not be a paid committee: except for lunch and coffee where necessary, and must be assisted by professional trouble shooters in law enforcement, military training, and legal backgrounds. That is my opinion; perhaps that way we shall get a quick response. (524 words)©Ramesh Sujanani

QUEEN”S SPEECH: TRACKING HUMAN SLAVERY

ERII SPEECH:   TRACKING HUMAN SLAVERY

Recently, I tried to incorporate the topic of Human Slavery and the efforts behind made to reduce human trafficking and servitude. The paper wasn’t large enough; there are just too many and too much places and sources, and plans.

A few months ago Queen Elizabeth in a speech to parliament in the UK, proposed a ‘Modern Slavery Bill’ that increased the maximum punishment to Life Imprisonment, which in the UK is the maximum for any crime; and one can conclude it will be applied to the earliest offender. But is this enough of a deterrent? Will it confound the criminals sufficiently for them to resist and reduce the frequency of their activities? For it seems to be that never before in the history of the world has human slavery been so much and so varied.

Never before, was trafficking of persons been so egregious that a Chinese female might be trafficked to Brazil. The illustration being that law enforcement in this area needs to be so international and so balanced that the laws of one country are applicable to all other states. One of the emphases of the bill is victim’s right to protection, support, services, advice and the certainty they need to re-build their careers and lives. This stipulation will be embedded into the ordinance created.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, commented that the proposed bill gives law enforcement the tools they need to accomplish the goal. “Modern Slavery is an appalling crime that damages too many lives. This Government intends to give Law Enforcement the tools necessary to stamp out the crime and its additive injuries, and to provide protection.”

The unusual aspect to this legislation is that an objection was made that the legislation left too many openings, and should be more direct to be effective. In other words, the relief clauses should be legally binding under the law.

In her proposal (EIIR), the small business enterprises would be made more transparent, so that the ownership and control of these companies would be available to authorities in money laundering, drug trafficking, and corrupt enterprises. It would also affect “shell companies” which front for the dishonest ones; adding that 70% of the larger false deals were handled by these ‘shell’ companies. It seems that some half a trillion pounds were lost in financial flows in 2010.

Then her Majesty added that investing funds through ‘financial trusts’ should be made more transparent, for all measures (quoted above) to succeed.

Her Majesty went on to say that she would be seeking an end to sexual violence against children, and pointed out that a conference on this subject would be presented by Foreign Secretary William Hague later this year. It is intended to bring together representatives of 128 foreign countries, the public and the media, to discuss strategic cooperation on the matter.

Finally, there was a further amendment to the bill which was confronted by “The English Protective of Prostitutes”, seeming to be an organization of courtesans. (A new one on me ).

Hundreds of women groups influenced by the above mentioned collective, including LBGTQ groups, suggested that the Swedish Law on prostitution be removed, as it had increased violent behaviour among the clients of the prostitutes.

In Sweden when an act of prostitution occurs, only the buyer (the man) is charged. The seller is not. “’Women against Rape” claims that the men are not accused of violence, so how can they be charged? The thought being, a full decriminalization of prostitution is what is necessary, although the resultant going around in circles confound the issue of charging for prostitution, and prevents any penalties from being levelled.

(611 words)

©Ramesh Sujanani, Nov 2014.

ELVIS LIVES AGAIN (DOC-1)

I happened to be in Montego Bay two weeks ago, when I received a call from my Music Broker Abe Casserly requesting that I come to Miami for a show, as an Elvis Presley look alike, for another performance.

Traveling that morning with the sun barely rising in the sky, I thought about all those events in my life that made me like Elvis. When his music first came out, I went with my parents to see a show in Los Angeles. I was amazed: the man looked like me, I sung like him, but his gyrations were nothing like anything I had ever done.

In spite of the opposition, I persuaded Dad to pay for the extra guitar lessons, not knowing where all of this was taking me. I grew my hair and let it hang over my face, and practiced singing like Elvis in my girl’s Michelle’s garage. I had help in the form of a small group we had formed, Michelle, a few instruments, calling ourselves “Ron and The Mystics”.

We made a few dollars playing around at some of the local clubs and around the Bay area, especially when I did my Elvis impersonations, singing everything from “Don’t be Cruel” to “Love me Tender”’, plus the usual tourist essentials, Brown Skin Gal, Don’t touch me tomato, and so forth.

We wrote and arranged our own music and in this Michelle gave a lot of help, as she played piano, and learnt sheet music. At an audition we played, we sung some Elvis, and some of our own music. Abe my agent always said to me: “Your music swings good; but your lyrics are no good. A song without lyric is a poem without a rhyme, a message without a meaning, a lover without desire.

Your Elvis pieces are good though, and I have a proposition for you. The King of Rock is not around, and I need a substitute; will you consider doing Elvis Impersonations at various events? If so, I can give you guys some steady work!” I talked it over with the group and we agreed, though some overseas travel would be involved.

Over the next five years, we played making good money. I enjoyed being the other ‘’Elvis”’.  I remember one day on stage in Baton Rouge, a young boy asked his Dad, “Is that really Elvis? He sounds just like him.”’ My heart swelled with pride. By then I had learned to gyrate like the King and looking at a recording on film, I could scarcely tell the difference.

I sent all my money home and Mom put it away in safe keeping, so I was not short of cash. Then two things happened. One, Michelle upped and married Steve, our drummer, and they both left the group. Then, I happened to see a contract that Abe had made for us, and we were getting around 25% of the profit. I was being slowly robbed.

Abe and I did not hit it so well after that. I deliberately let him down after that and told him why. He looked for another Impersonator, and found Tony. I then realized there were dozens of Elvis Impersonators all over, and the King was dead. The time had come to be my own person, as good as Elvis, if I could make the right musical ballads.

I tried for another four years on my own, only surviving by occasional benefits I received from playing the “King”. My music was almost good but a miss is as good as a mile.

American Airlines touched in Memphis around 2.30pm, and I was tired. I headed to the hotel to find Abe waiting for me there. He took one look at me and shook his head. He gave me a copy of the program, asked me to get some rest, saying he would pick me up just before 8 PM that evening, and we would head for the Concert Hall. I fell asleep, and could only look at the program on my way to the show just after eight when Abe returned.

Looking at the group of people in that audience, reality struck me. These people were older than I’ve seen before, in their 50’s, 60’s, where had the time flown? I gave my best Elvis, and for the 45 minutes I ran through “Hound Dog” to “Blue Hawaii’ I had them rocking and rolling in the aisles. There was one young intense looking woman near the front enjoying the show, but looking at me rather intently. I slipped my own CD during the intermission heading for the dressing room. After I rested and reviewed my score for the next half, there was a knock on my door: I expected Abe, but just this young woman appeared, not looking that young, not so intense having removed her glasses, and quite attractive. “I would like to see you later, its important,” she said, handing me a card. ” By the way who sings that CD now playing?”

I stammered, “That’s mine, do you like it?”

“Let’s talk after the show,” was the command I received.

I ran through the rest of the show uneventfully, and Abe came by to deliver some cash. That was OK, I told him, and he replied, “Tomorrow night, same time same place, and don’t be late!” I looked at the wad of bills; the most I had earned in a long time, and consented. I went back to my room and looked at the card, and realized that the woman was a writer and a talent scout for a famous Motion Picture Company. This was a surprise.

Millicent was her name as I found out when we had drinks at the Cascade Bar, a nice lounge near a large Marriott. “I have a song, she said, the lyrics are great, but I need a musician and a good singer. I think you are the man; it has to be a man, Mr. Castell”. “Call me Ron please,” I replied; “though Elvis sounds better, I said with a chuckle.”

She smiled. “I think Elvis Castell is a very good name. You could try that for the stage.”

She gave me some music on a sheet, had me look over it briefly, commenting that she liked the lyric but the music did not fit. She left me there after paying the bill. I shrugged and headed back to the Hotel. I slept like a log waking up at nine am, hearing room service knocking at the door. I forgot I had ordered breakfast the night before. I ate; showered, put on some clothes, sat down and looked at the song, which was titled “SHE.” Clearly, that’s why they wanted a man to sing that piece, the gender would be accurate.

That morning and way into the afternoon, dazzled by the beauty of the lyrics, I created the melody and composition and sang it into my small portable deck. It was a lovely song; one if I did properly would put me in front of the crowd. I looked up her phone number and called her over, to my room, and singing only the best that I knew how, sang the song to her, loving the song and falling in love with the woman with every bar of music, strumming it on my guitar while I sang:

“She, may be the face I can’t forget, the trace of pleasure or regret, May be my treasure, or the price I have to pay; She may be the song that someone sings, May be the chilling autumn rains, May be a hundred different things, within the measure of a day.”

What more is there to tell? Millie loved the music and lyric, and so did I: And so did many an audience. It made us wealthy, as well as other songs Millie and I wrote. It made a life for us.

Yes, Elvis taught me how to sing, but every man needs to build his own life, and sing his own song.

(Author’s Note: The song “She” is on the Soundtrack of Notting Hill, the Motion Picture, sung by Elvis Costello.)

(1371 words)

©Ramesh Sujanani

November 2014

BANK INEFFICIENCIES UNRESOLVED

BANK COMPLAINTS  UNRESOLVED

Many complaints on Bank Services have been made this year without satisfactory resolution. Yet charges and costs using the services have increased, irrespective.

I obtained some cash from a Bank ATM a few days ago, and was charged an extra 4.00 USD ($450)  with no reason declared, except the machine signalled that it required permission to allow the charge  to which I agreed; so it is this incident that touched the chords of my memory.

The first item I rechecked were facilities and amenities available to customers. As I expected, the additional rest rooms and other amenities which were deficient as pointed out in previous correspondence were still not installed in existing branches; yet the branches that would take up the excess persons remained closed. Perhaps the only Banks that could accommodate clients are the newer branches, NCB Constant Spring, and the new BNS Centre in Montego Bay, yet to start construction. I do believe NCB HWT branch is adequately serviced.

I realize in 1969 onwards  one of the growing Middle Eastern nations realized they were not being served properly by their banks (thereafter many other banks worldwide found it as well). For reducing costs the Banks decided to close their rural branches, and recommended to clients that they be served closer to the nearest city branches. Accounts were closed and moved without further reference to customers to city branches (nearest Cities), similar to what has happened in Jamaica.

I suppose this would have emerged as a final solution, except that rural farmers became larger, schools and colleges relocated to new districts and there was an immediate need for more rural and distant branches. New factory and commercial space were also placed rurally, though the charges for main branch and distant branch (of the same bank) differed; and a study concluded by a well-known statistician show that several banks discriminate in the way they treat home branches versus rural branches, and uniformity in banking policy did not survive.

The study further points out that charges for cash deposits also varied in much the same way. ‘H” Bank for instance, allowed one each cash deposit per month; “S” Bank capped the number of free transactions to five per month, making a deposit charge thereafter. “P” Bank places restrictions on the number of transactions in a distant branch, and differentiates charges made at a cash machine within a home branch and charges on a cash machine at a distant bank.

The study is known as “The Myth of Any-Branch Banking,” and recommends that such disparity be referred to the Central Bank to ensure that bank clients are treated fairly at all locations and without discrimination.

To conclude,  1. The branch network improved in all areas, main and distant branches. 2. There was marked improvement in financial and banking services when it was taken to people.3. Banks were more professional when they became less susceptible to promotional incentives.

Eighty five per cent of the Banking Sector was nationalized, and after 28 years, growth was 800 per cent, and the rural farmers who were being exploited by money lenders and agencies had a viable alternative to access funds;, and there were significant savings in Bank costs especially lending to rural and MSME sectors.

(545 words.)

©Ramesh Sujanani