Showing posts from 2012

Tourism Challenges Continue

It has been a while since I said anything about the travel and tourism industry in the Caribbean.  The reason is relatively simple – not much has changed and at this juncture, it is unlikely that there will be any radical change in 2013.  Despite the importance of the sector to the region’s economy, for the most part, the English speaking region continues to demonstrate a lack of dynamism or innovation with regards to both its product and its destination marketing.  Spanish speaking destinations on the other hand, continue to demonstrate both and push ahead.
Southern Caribbean destinations tend to depend more on European visitors while northern Caribbean destinations tend to depend more on North American visitors.  In 2012, there was a 6% decline in UK visitors to the Caribbean region.  Brits make up most of the European visitor numbers to the southern Caribbean region.  Predictably, a December 17th 2012 press release by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), took the standard lin…

2013 Focus

It is common knowledge that when the coalition government came into power in 2010, the Security Intelligence Agency was given special focus.  As is the established pattern, Reshmi Ramnarine was put in charge not necessarily because of her technical competence and extensive experience but perhaps because she was considered trustworthy given her close relationship with the political elite.  What is not commonly discussed is that within the administration there were those who openly voiced concerns that the coalition government’s actions were systematically weakening the national security infrastructure.  I am reliably told these concerns were voiced and they were subsequently dismissed as it is common knowledge that the weakening of the national security infrastructure continued.  The most recent instalment in this ongoing saga is the $1 billion hole left by the apparently mishandled OPV deal.
In 2010 and 2011, there were sensational drug related headlines in Trinidad and Tobago.  Most…

A New Beginning

One of the most frequent criticisms I receive weekly is that I do not pay enough attention to politicians.  Many of us love seeing a writer give a politician or better yet, a political party, a good ‘beat down’.  I have said many times in the past and I will continue to say that politicians were not, are not and will never be; the source of any problem.  A population gets the government it deserves and if there is need for any focus, the focus should be on the ill-informed electorate who install into positions of trust, individuals who fail to live up to unrealistic expectations time and time again.  All too often we seem to forget that the great advances of mankind do not come from governments but from ordinary men and women.
My fellow fans of the HBO series ‘The Newsroom’ are probably saying in their minds that a similar comparison can be levied upon a media that competes to satisfy the needs of a Jersey Shore hungry audience rather than inform.  Left to the mainstream media and to…

Towards December 21st 2012

We are now within days of the December 21st date.  I first became aware of the apparent significance attached to this date in 2009 when I encountered the work of the late Dr Terrence McKenna, the American philosopher who popularized the notion of Timewave Zero.  Timewave Zero is a complex concept but underlying it, is the idea that time is cyclical.  For me the basic principle of there being wider / longer cycles of time indicated by planetary movement makes sense because we already calculate shorter cycles in the form of hours, days, certain religious observances, seasons, months and a year based on this principle.
Some observers point to the previous sensationalism around the year 2000 (Y2K) and suggest that this is a just another media fuelled public panic.  Engineer, Maurice Cotterell, who is credited by many as the guy who first brought the Mayan calendar into the mainstream in the late 80s and early 90s, tells the story of when he first tried to get his book on the subject publ…

Unconventional Energy

One of the bigger news items in the last month has been International Energy Agency forecast that the United States will pass Saudi Arabia as the world's biggest oil producer by the end of this decade -- and would achieve near energy independence by the 2030s.  I know that many have challenged this pronouncement and even the Agency that made this statement pointed to certain assumptions behind its analysis but it still a trend worth noting.  The key game changer is of course, the process known as ‘fracking’ which is forcing open rocks by injecting fluid into cracks.
Needless to say, the United States appears to be committed to a future where fossil fuels underlie its energy policy.  Interestingly, the US vision stands in stark contrast to the United Kingdom.  Here in the UK, the government intends to remake the country’s electricity market and inject some £110 billion into new energy infrastructure, particularly of the low carbon kind.
Energy rates here in the UK are about four t…

Standing Firm for Our Beliefs

I have always admired those amongst us who have had the courage to stand up for their beliefs.  Especially those who stand up for a belief that may at first be unpopular.  I admire those who stand up when they personally have nothing to gain from so doing.  A former neighbour once suggested that I avoid writing about political topics.  I obviously did not heed this advice as I believe part of the responsibility of any citizen in a vibrant democracy is to engage with the issues at hand.  Failure to engage with the issues is tantamount to a slap in the face of our forefathers who dreamed of the day when we would have the ‘voice’ we have today.
So most of the people I spend time with are passionate about some social / political / environmental / economic / spiritual issue.  They know that there is more to life than the regular self-gratifying distractions and pursuits.  I am lucky to encounter almost daily, people who are unafraid to face big questions and embrace big issues.  To me, th…

White Collar Criminals

Conrad Black has been touting his most recent book here in the UK.  It is a book in which he is understandably critical of the US Justice System.  To those that do not know, Conrad Moffat Black, Baron Black of Crossharbour, PC, OC, KCSG is a Canadian-born member of the House of Lords, an historian, a columnist and publisher, who was for a time the third-largest newspaper magnate in the world.  Black was also released from US prison in May this year after serving time for mail fraud and obstruction of justice. 
BP has also recently been levied a US$4.5 billion criminal fine for the Deep Water Horizon disaster.  This is the largest criminal fine in US corporate history as BP pled guilty to 11 criminal counts.  Furthermore, certain employees can still be charged.  So surreal to see the mighty BP humbled like this and there were even rumours that BP HQ was considering selling off its assets in Trinidad and Tobago to help pay for these fines.  But that is one thing about the very US Justi…

Politics and Race

The US Presidential campaign was vicious as both candidates embraced negative campaigning but this is not new.  In an online forum that I frequent, a friend referenced a September 24, 1864 issue of Harper's magazine in which the derogatory terms apparently applied to Abraham Lincoln in previous months were listed.   These include: Filthy Story-Teller, Despot, Liar, Thief, Braggart, Buffoon, Usurper, Fiend, and Butcher.  Like Obama, Lincoln went on to win a second term despite being so vilified and his Presidency is remembered for doing much to advance the cause of equality.  
A recent LA Times article by Sandy Banks was one that reminded me of the sensitivity that continues to surround issues of race.  "I've never been able to completely shed the sense of 'them' and 'us,' " wrote a white Obama supporter who grew up in a rural area "where there were no black people at all." The voter went on to say that "I'm embarrassed to admit tha…

Sandy’s Impact

The super storm called Sandy is yet another reminder that weather is not always predictable and that climate change is not fully understood.  Mainstream academics appear to be struggling to understand what is happening with our weather.  As I mentioned back in August, data issued by the UK Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit earlier this year, clearly shows that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997.  In other words, for the past 15 years, the global temperature has actually been cooling, NOT warming and climatological models are having difficulty reconciling actual weather patterns with predictions.    
Dr Nicola Scafetta, of Duke University in North Carolina, argued that “If temperatures continue to stay flat or start to cool again, the divergence between the models and recorded data will eventually become so great that the whole scientific community will question the current theories.”  Furthermore, he is among those that question the…

The Rich and the Poor

Some weeks back, a fellow St Mary’s College Old Boy created a group on Whatsapp for some of those who were in our year group.  For those who do not know, Whatsapp is an Instant Messaging application for your phone.  Anyway, one of the big topics in the group has been around the shrinking middle-class and the perception, rightly or wrongly, that those who have, care little about those who do not have.

There is little doubt that this is perhaps one of the bigger debates facing our generation.  After decades of progress in reducing social inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean, there is concern that it is on the increase again.  Statistically speaking the Gini coefficients (economic measure of social inequality within a nation) does suggest that inequality is on the increase in the US and the UK.
In the United States, the plight of the middle class has been the subject of much focus during the Presidential election.  Documentaries like David Guggenheim’s Waiting for Superman and…

Living in an Era of Great Change

Last Friday night, I was on the 7.30pm train from London to Edinburgh.  After a few minutes, I ended up chatting with a Beijing businessman who was touring the UK with his daughter.  He spoke excellent English. 
As our conversation evolved, we began to touch on two of my favourite subjects these days - politics and economics.  In just a couple weeks or so, China will get a new President as the Communist Party holds its once-a-decade power transition Congress when Xi Jinping is expected to be selected as the country's next leader.  The transition has been made messy thanks to the political scandal triggered by the death of the British businessman Neil Heywood in the Chinese city of Chongqing nearly a year ago.
My new friend was not too keen to speak about the Neil Heywood affair but he is of the view that China is at a cross road.  Rather than continue along the same path, there are many who believe that it is time to slow down its pace of reform and immerse itself in another cult…

Battle Against Inequality

Like many of us, I watched the Vice Presidential candidate debate with interest.  Yes the two candidates represented two very distinct viewpoints but they are not as diametrically opposed as one may at first assume.  Most importantly, they agree that the US middle class is under pressure and that something needs to be done.  I agree that this is where the focus needs to be but not just for the US but for other areas of the world including the UK and the Caribbean as well.
I remember sitting in a graduate ‘development economics’ class back in the late nineties here in the UK as we evaluated levels of economic inequality using Gini coefficients.  These ratios measure the extent to which income is unevenly distributed within any given country.  My lecturer pointed out that inequality was greatest in Latin America and that this inequality was at least partly responsible for their high crime levels, poor overall economic performance and other socio-economic challenges.  Ironically things …

Obama’s Great Debate

This week’s Economist reported on an unscientific poll of hundreds of academic and business economists.  There were asked which U.S. Presidential candidate had the better economic plan.  By a very large margin, the respondents preferred President Obama’s economic plan.  Not only that, they credit him with having a better grasp of economics, and think him more likely to appoint a good economic team.  Finally, the respondents do not hold the disappointing recovery against Obama as over half of them rated his performance as good or very good.  This compares favourably to the 5% who said the same about George W Bush about 4 years ago when this same poll was last conducted by the magazine.

So it is against this background that I was thinking about his performance in the first debate.  Critics say that he may be charming but that he was never a great debater.  It is unfair to compare him to John McCain who was awful but Hillary Clinton ran rings around him as they both sought the Democrati…