Caribzone News Round-up for Weekending January 23rd, 2016

JA’s Health Minister Wants Women to Delay “Copulation” for Six Months

The Ministry of Health is urging Jamaican women to delay pregnancy for the next six to twelve months, given the possible connection between the Zika virus infection and the neurological condition, microcephaly.

At the same time, the ministry cautioned pregnant women to take extra precaution to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes.
The Zika virus is caused by bites from the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also carries the virus that causes dengue fever and chikungunya .

Microcephaly results in the underdevelopment of and abnormality in the shape of the head and brain of the foetus which conditions arise from infection during the first months of pregnancy. It has been reported that babies who develop microcephaly in the womb may not live to full term, may be born prematurely, may be still-born or may survive but with a life-long disability.

The most common symptoms of the Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (red eyes). Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting for several days to a week.

While Jamaica has not yet seen any recorded cases of the Zika virus, there have been confirmed cases in other countries in the Caribbean such as Haiti and Barbados as well as in South American countries such as Brazil, where the virus is suspected of causing over 3,500 babies to be born with brain damage.

American’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a travel alert for people, especially pregnant women, travelling to certain countries affected by the Zika virus.

According to Minister of Health Horace Dalley, although there is no absolute proof that the evidence from Brazil as well as information from the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and other technical partners, is strong enough for the ministry to take such a position, it is seeking to prevent any possible negative outcome to pregnant women.

Dalley also stated in a press advisory that the “virus is inching closer to Jamaica as several of our Caribbean neighbours have reported cases”.
The health minister said he was, therefore, calling on every citizen to play their part in taking the necessary steps to rid their communities of the Aedes aegypti mosquito which transmits the Zika virus.

Citizens, he said, should destroy mosquito breeding sites by looking for anything in and around their immediate environment that may collect water and either keep it covered, keep it dry or dispose of it.

Jamaicans were also urged to repair leaking pipes and outdoor faucets, cut their grass, trim shrubbery and clear roof gutters and eaves to prevent any water settlement. “Persons should also fill in and drain any low places in the yard where puddles are likely to form following rainfall,” the minister said.
For personal protection against mosquito bites, persons were also encouraged to use insect repellent containing DEET and wear long-sleeved clothing where possible.
The Ministry of Health, meanwhile, said it has heightened its alert and had increased its vector-control activities.


Prime Minister, Simpson-MIller, Gives Thumbs Up to Jamaica’s Economy

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has provided a comprehensive report of Jamaica’s economic strategy, which she says has ensured the very survival of the country.

The strategy, according to a news release from the Office of the Prime Minister, has involved disciplined and prudent debt management, and a programme of aggressive investment expansion as the nucleus of the growth agenda, while maintaining emphasis on the social sector including health and education.

The prime minister was delivering the keynote address at the Jamaica Stock Exchange Regional Investments & Capital Markets Conference 2016, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel on Monday.

The conference theme was: “Reaching Beyond Traditional Boundaries – Exploring and Partnering for Growth for all” and the prime minister presented on the topic: “The Growth Agenda – Moving Beyond Debt Management and Growing the Economy”

Prime Minister Simpson Miller stressed that the fact that the Government is now moving beyond debt management in no way underestimates the critical role of debt reduction in overall economic management and the growth agenda. She said while Jamaica’s debt history is well known, her Administration is rewriting the course of that history through new legislation and strategies to ensure effective management and lowering of the debt.

This was necessary, she said, to release the stranglehold which unsustainably high levels of debt had on the Jamaican economy for several decades.

Ensuring that the social agenda is not neglected, the prime minister said, called for major investments by the Government in social programmes for vulnerable groups, as well as in areas such as health and education. This included important expansions in the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).

She added that over the four years, allocations to the Ministry of Education for education, training and human resource development have consistently accounted for the largest share of the national budget after provisions for debt payments and public sector salaries. This amounted to $81 billion in the current fiscal year.

Likewise, she noted, the budget for the health sector for the current financial year, is also significant with a total investment of $51.9 billion, $8 billion more than the allocation for that sector in the 2014-2015 financial year.

The prime minister made it clear that the Government is now focused actively pursuing the growth agenda to ensure job creation, business expansion and accelerated economic growth.

“With the constraint on Government spending – the central strategy for achieving this, has been an aggressive programme of private sector-led investments,” Prime Minister Simpson Miller said.

These investments, the news release said, are targeted at the areas of physical infrastructure development, expansion of tourism, transformation of the energy sector, expansion in agriculture, and a significant increase in manufacturing activities.
She reminded the audience of local and international business persons and other professionals that a competitive and enabling business environment is essential to attract those vital investments required to support the country’s long-term goal of strong economic growth and sustained development.

Accordingly, she said, the Government has implemented reforms to address policy and structural deficiencies which hind competitiveness in the business environment. The success of these measures, she reminded, is evidenced by successive upward movements by Jamaica in the ease of doing business index published in the World Bank Doing Business Report for 2015 and 2016.

In the aggressive pursuit of investments, physical and economic infrastructure development has been the centerpiece of the Government investment strategy, Prime Minister Simpson Miller announced. One such investment is the North-South Highway which is on track for completion by March this year.

She listed the many tourism development projects recently completed, now under way or about to commence as evidence of the economic expansion and return of growth. The Hyatt Ziva/Zilara, Moon Palace, Marriott and Melia Braco hotels have all all opened their doors recently as part of what the Prime Minister said was a J$64 billion total investment in the tourism sector since her Administration took office in January 2012.

Other hotels, she said, are in the process of planning refurbishments, expansions or constructing new properties. This includes the Karisma Resort Group which is starting construction of its US$900 million mega development at Llandovery in St Ann this year; as well as the development of two new hotels in Trelawny, which Ocean By H-TEN, is also expected to start this year.

Further unfolding the Government’s growth strategy, the prime minister said her Administration’s active encouragement of investments in transhipment port facilities is a deliberate part of our growth agenda.

“The Port of Kingston development remains high on the growth agenda to capitalise on opportunities arising from global developments specifically the Panama Canal expansion,” she explained.

In response to opportunities in logistics to make room for additional cargo after the Panama Canal expansion is complete, the prime minister indicated, Kingston Wharves Limited has also embarked on an expansion plan involving investments of US$50 million.
The Government is also said to be pursuing connected opportunities in logistics through the establishment of Special Economic Zones.

“By later this year, for example, phase one of new manufacturing activities in the Spanish Town Special Economic Zone, is expected to be up and running,” the Prime Minister said, noting that Special Economic Zones will facilitate strategic investments that will serve as a catalyst for driving economic growth and facilitate linkages between global and domestic markets.

In all of this, a platform is also being provided for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises to participate in global supply-chain networks and overseas markets. Simpson Miller said her Government is focusing on a framework through which to continue supporting the development of the MSME sector as an avenue to stimulate growth. New initiatives include increased funding through the Development Bank of Jamaica in the amount of $4.1 billion for 2015/16.

In the investment push of the Government, the Business Process Outsourcing industry is already poised to be a game-changer with the prospect for significant job creation, she noted. The country, she said, has seen noteworthy growth in the industry with the introduction and expansion of several BPOs across Jamaica, including Xerox Commercial Solutions, Sutherland Global Services, Bioprist, Barnett Tech Park and IBEX, which relocated part of its operations from India to Jamaica.
Additional operating space is being built by the Factories Corporation of Jamaica in the Montego Bay Freezone and the Portmore Technology Park.

Another vital plank of the growth agenda as outlined by the Prime Minister, according to the OPM, is the reduction of energy costs to residential and industrial users, as well as the widening of Jamaica’s options for cheaper fuel from renewable energy sources. This initiative is being led actively by the Government through the Energy Sector Enterprise Team. Several private sector and Government led projects in this regard will come on stream this year, the prime minister announced.


Children Can Learn: JA’s Education Minister Has High Hope for  School Age Children

EDUCATION Minister Ronald Thwaites said an increase in the numeracy rate over the past five years should serve as an impetus for targets to be achieved in the education sector.

Thwaites, who was outlining achievements of his ministry at the HEART/NTA corporate offices in St Andrew on Friday, said with all the challenges surrounding the teaching and learning of mathematics, the continued increase is “significant”.

The numeracy rate moved from 49 per cent in 2011 to 67 per cent in 2015, and Minister Thwaites said all the personnel who over the last 15 years helped to boost the system since the ministry started setting targets for subjects need to be commended.

In the area of literacy, Thwaites said the country surpassed its literacy target of 85 per cent at grade four.

Meanwhile, the minister informed that the largest number of students recorded perfect scores in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), and there was a noticeable increase in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) mathematics passes.

He argued that the results are related to “gradual” improvement in early childhood education, where over the last four years the Government has doubled the number of trained teachers in the sector, along with other investments.

The minister said other improvements will be reflected at the higher levels of education when children receive quality education at the basic level.

He urged parents to register their children for the various examinations and to seek the ministry’s intervention where they need support, including financial. He emphasised that no child should be prevented from sitting the examinations when help can be provided.

The 2016 sitting of GSAT will be held on March 17 and 18, while the Grade Four Literacy and Numeracy tests will be held on June 28 and 29 in all primary schools. Candidates are to be registered at the nearest regional offices.
Minister Thwaites said the ministry is also open to assist students with the National Vocational Qualification of Jamaica (NVQ-J) and the City and Guilds examinations, who are unable to meet the January 15 deadline for registration due to unaffordability.

US Bolt Wants to Make it, “Three Times A Charm”

Having already achieved his legendary status, Usain Bolt could become an immortal if he achieves his goals of a third Olympic “triple triple” and lowering his 200m record, unbelievably, to under 19 seconds.

“I think that is a side note really because the aim is always to win the championship. But it’s one of my goals that I have had over the years to dip under 19 seconds,” said Bolt after collecting his sixth RJR National Sportsman of the Year award.

“So it would be great if I could accomplish that this season and if it’s in the Olympics, it would be greater,” said Bolt, who was dapperly dressed in his Brioni suit, the preferred choice of James Bond.

Bolt set the current 200m record of 19.19 seconds in 2009, shaving 0.11 off his own previous record of 19.30 from the previous year. Before Bolt, the record had been 19.32, set by Michael Johnson at the 1996 Olympics.

Joseph Patterson, Independent Election Candidate for St Elizabeth North Eastern, Is Giving the Government Advice

President and founder of the United Independents’ Congress (UIC), Joseph Patterson says Jamaicans should be allowed to vote on major issues such as retaining the Privy Council as the final appellate court and repealing of the buggery law.

“We believe that when there are core fundamental issues that come before the people it should always be put to a vote,” said Patterson who is seeking to represent the St Elizabeth North Eastern constituency as an independent candidate in the next general election. He was addressing reporters and editors at the

Speaking on the party’s national and foreign policies, he said Jamaica should not have a foreigner as a head of state and his party would be pushing for Jamaica to become a republic. He believed it was also unnecessary to have a head of state and a head of government.

“So we will be pushing for a combining of those two positions into one: having a democratically elected president who does not run under a party banner but runs independently and offers his or her views to the country and is elected on that basis,” Patterson said.

On the controversial call for the repeal of the buggery law by some groups, Patterson said it was the Jamaican citizens who needed to decide.

“As I have always said… it needs to be something that is put before the people. We need to have a good debate in the country whereby those who advocate for a certain lifestyle have a chance to clearly explain how they think that will benefit the country and those who are opposed to that lifestyle have a chance to clearly indicate why they oppose that position,” he explained.

Commenting on whether Jamaica should abandon the UK-based Privy Council as its final court of appeal, Patterson said the solution was “very simple. Once you get rid of The Queen as head of state and have a Jamaican head of state you would have dealt with that problem. We need to make sure that Jamaica is a sovereign nation,” he shared.

However, he questioned whether Jamaica could boast of being a sovereign state when it was currently operating under the dictates of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“After 53 years of being a so-called independent country, we now find ourselves where our policy makers, our legislators are actually acting on behalf of a foreign power in practically all the laws we have. Every new law that is introduced is one which is instigated, directed and required by a foreign power and my goodness we must not stand for that,” Patterson declared. “We need to say to ourselves enough is enough, we want our country back and we must understand what got us to where we are. A bad system of governance brought us here and we need a good system of governance to take us out of it.”

As it relates to Caricom, Patterson said he had always supported the position of National Hero and founder of the People’s National Party Norman Manley that there should be a Federation of Caribbean States.

“So if I had my way, I would be voting back then for a federation and I would vote now for federation. I believe the Caribbean people need to unite. We need to have one country, one set of resources, and become a powerful economic bloc in this area,” he said.
He noted, however, that Jamaica does not have the appetite for a federation now, hence the focus must be placed on uniting Jamaica. “If we unite as a country we can go out and help to unite the other countries and form a single, not just a market, but a nation of people because we are all related,” he said.

Patterson said he would definitely include Cuba and Guyana in that community because of the cultural connection, but pointed out that it would be up to individual countries to decide.

Guyana is already a member of Caricom.

“What I like about Cuba, while I despise communism, is they have stood the test of time against an aggressive power that has sought to prevent them from being who they wanted to be… I disagree with any international body or country trying to force another country to follow one path or another,” he said.

Patterson said his party intended to use various mediums to get his message out to the people, both those he is seeking to represent and the wider Jamaica. He noted that a core method of dissemination will be to connect with the people at the local level.
“As a result of that, from time to time we will be brought to the national fore like now,” he said, adding “In due time the message will be so powerful that we will hardly have to do anything. There will be people all over the place who want to share the message with others.”

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