Notes From The Margin

March 28, 2008

David, We will have to disagree on the 100 days point!

We are great fans of Barbados Underground, we find their articles though provoking and well reasoned. We don’t always agree with them, but that’s what makes the blogosphere interesting. David served up an interesting article this week:Barbados Needs National Energy Policy, NOW we agree with the headline and the main point of the article, that in a global economic environment we need a realistic energy policy with a strong emphasis on renewable resources, however we will have to agree to disagree with his subsidiary point.

The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) pledged to Barbadians that within the first 100 days of assuming the reigns of government, it would roll-out several major initiatives. Our commonsense, which has been honed over the years through observation, tells us that the pledge was part of a gimmick which political parties are expected to engage at election time. It should be obvious that a political party in opposition is not equipped to deliver on promises made, simply because it is not in the obvious position of government to efficiently plan and allocate resources. The BU household continue to be amazed at the frenzy which is demonstrated by our educated public concerning trivial matters, whenever we have elections. Following the script to the letter, the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has reminded the government of its 100 day promise, we listened to Senator Liz Thompson doing so with her usual eloquence in the Senate yesterday.
We commented on the post, to the effect that the “100 Days” was a political gimmick that worked and that it was now fair game for the opposition to use to attack the government. We don’t think it’s the only reason why the DLP won (or even the main reason), but it was a central plank in their platform.
However our real reason goes deeper than that……
The “100 days” was a political gimmick that was packaged for consumption by the electorate. However read more deeply it was the DLP’s statement of “THIS IS WHERE OUR PRIORITIES ARE” and even if you did not believe they were capable of delivering it in the 100 days, (as we think most people with common sense felt) the idea of a time frame communicated that there was a real plan behind the statement.
An opposition party is not in the position of a ruling government in terms of access to information and allocation of resources, however they have a luxury that the Government does not:
Time.
An opposition has time to consult with stakeholders, time to sound out opinions, time to float ideas in informed circles, to create and construct a plan. They also have the unmitigated luxury of doing this in an environment where there is absolutely no pressure to implement. These two things, a sitting government does not have (As Dr. Estwick has found out with Greenland). In this case the DLP had 14 years to craft its agenda for governance.
We think that the Thompson administration should be accountable for its 100 day agenda. If it can’t be done in 100 days, when can we expect it? A year? two years? If the first orders of business are delayed what about the elements of your manifesto that were not in the first 100 days? We should not let it fall quietly by the wayside.
We agree that a discerning eye should be cast over the ABC Highway expansion project and it’s conduct, however we think that the level of scrutiny should be applied to this administration, the principle at stake is simply too important.
Until we hold our politicians accountable for their words and actions we will get the government we deserve.
Marginal

March 18, 2008

Welcome to the 5 year long election campaign!

When the dust settled on January 16th the two parties ended up being quite far apart on number of seats but actually quite close on total number of votes cast. With only an 8% difference in terms of total votes, it means that the current government is vulnerable to a 4% swing. This means that despite a comfortable majority in Parliament, the Thompson administration must politically plan from now with an eye to elections in 2013. It also means that the Mottley opposition is already keeping an eye on that year.

As a result of this we are likely to see Mr. Thompson trying to attack what has long been perceived as the BLP’s strongest point; it’s management of the economy. The BLP for it’s part will pick at every flaw in the government’s actions.

This leads to the  ludicrousness of things such as Government suddenly becoming skeptical about unemployment statistics despite never having said a word about it before or during the campaign. It certainly was not a part of their platform. They are not releasing those figures because it will reinformce the BLP’s perception of good governance.

For the BLP’s part, this whole “We don’t know why the government won’t work with our consultants” is laughable. They damn well know why and they would do the same if they were in office as well.

What it amounts to is that we are in for a five year long election campaign, with the cut and thrust of January continuing at a lower intensity until 2013

Strap yourselves in, it’s going to be a wild ride!

Marginal

March 12, 2008

Consultants – Another One Of Those Silly Games That Politicians Play

“Politicians Mekkin Mock Sport At We…..”
Mighty Gabby

We on the margin have watched with a degree of amusement at first Prime Minister David Thompson’s “House cleaning” followed by Former Prime Minister Arthur’s war path speech. Having listened to them both I can only come to the conclusion that our prime ministers both present and past are playing “mock sport” with us.

Let’s accept a few realities here…

1. Consultants are an accepted part of governance in the Caribbean, always have been and more than likely always will be. When running something as complex as a government, it is understandable that policymakers (whatever party they may belong to) may want to have independant advice to help them shape policy or to advise them politically, to write speeches etc.

2. Let’s also accept the fact that each policy maker is going to want to select their own consultants or advisors. Hence you cannot equate persons who fill this role with public servants. Like the directors of statutory boards etc. They SHOULD resign when the administration changes. It is not victimisation for the incoming administration to say that they want to take someone else’s advice.

So here we have PM Thompson, equating hiring consultants with squandermania, just to have to turn around and defend his appointment of “political advisor” Hartley Henry as being somehow different.

We also have former PM Arthur talking about going “on the warpath” over these people being dismissed. (They should have tendered their resignations already)

While we have serious concerns about Mr. Arthur saying that he “helped out” one of his speech writers who had lost his previous employment, we also recognise that Mr. Henry is unlikely ever to file consultant report that will be filed in the government filing system. The advice given by consultants at this level is more than likely to be held in the PM’s personal files and also likely to leave the office with the individual when he demits office.

So when you cut through all of the sound and fury that has surrounded this issue, there really isn’t that much substance here. Just politicians playing “holier than thou” and mekking mock sport as they play to the gallery.

Marginal

March 9, 2008

David Thompson Praises Owen Arthur- BFP Criticises David Thompson….Coincidence?

 

It was bound to happen sooner or later, BFP turned savage on David Thompson. (Just after Mr. Thompson praised his predecessor)  It would seem that BFP is discovering that politicians are politicians. (Particularly in Barbados)

The whole tale in three parts….

Nation News – Well Done!

BFP: Barbados Cabinet Ministers Free To Accept “Gifts” From Persons Wanting Government Approvals Or Contracts

(Note The BFP  article is published same day as the Nation Article)

Our take on the matter…(Published in June LAST YEAR) “Prime Minister Owen Arthur, and the Opposition Democratic Labour Party led by David Thompson, who was once the Minister of Finance, are virtual ideological twins”

What makes Barbados fortunate is that both Mr. Thompson and Mr. Arthur are quite good as politicians go, and while they may both talk left their actions are decidedly centrist. But anyone expecting fundamental change from either party is likely to be disappointed.

Marginal

February 28, 2008

Hartley Henry Tries To Blame BLP For Rihanna Tribute Mess Up

We REALLY hadn’t wanted to blog on the whole Rihanna/KB Kleen Fiasco, we had hoped that much like the whole “hairdo” controversy it would fade in to the general background noise of life in Barbados. However an op ed column by Government campaign strategist Hartley Henry has brought KB Kleen to Margin.

We really had no problem in how he started the column…

Owing to commitments abroad, I was not among the multitude, but I got a “blow by blow” account of the Independence Square megaevent. It is because I heard and understood clearly what transpired that I am calling on the critics to “ease up off KB Kleen“. I accept his unconditional apology.

Today, he stands ten feet taller in my sight.

So far we agree whole heartedly with him. Kevin Hinds has done the correct thing, clearly there was a screw up. Rather than trying to defend it he apologised unreservedly. We should accept it and move on.

However…

Then Mr. Henry goes on to attempt to build a case that Kevin Hinds is the end result of years of mismanagement of the cultural industries under the BLP.

The Ministry of Culture and its offspring the National Cultural Foundation have been rudderless for close to two decades. Mediocrity abounded during a period when success was measured in terms of gate receipts and tourist arrivals.(edit)

Now here’s our problem with this…
An MC does not run or produce a show, whoever the producer of the Rihanna tribute was must bear the ultimate responsibility for EVERYTHING that happened at the event (good and bad). We know that WHATEVER the cultural environment of the past 14 years that there is a history of successful events of this type, so clearly the skill exist on island to produce “world class” shows. If the emcee was out of line, the producer or stage manager should have taken him in hand immediately and reigned him in.
Kevin Hinds has done the honorable thing, yes this was a screw up, he acknowleged it, apologised and let the matter rest. The producers of the show have stayed hidden in the background and left Kevin to twist in the wind. They should come forward and take responsibility for what happened on the night of the tribute, apologise and then we can all move on.
To have a government spin doctor attempt to shift that responsibility to a political opponent who had no involvement in the event is not only ridiculous, it’s insulting.
Mr. Henry should know better.
Marginal

February 27, 2008

Irish Airline Headquartering in Barbados?

 Mr. Leslie Buckley one of the main backers of the airline.

To follow on from our post Jamaica Drops The Ball – Irish Competition For LIAT – Coming Soon To Grantley Adams? We thought we’d provide some more background info that we were able to find online about the airline that might be headquartered in Barbados. The source of the story is an article in the Jamaica Gleaner. The excerpt below has been edited for conciseness.

Airone Ventures, has successfully raised US$30 million  so far from private investors to begin its operations.

It plans to operate a fleet of five new Boeing 737s in the first eight months, with the intention of expanding to eight aircraft in two years.

Airone has tapped Digicel for assistance, saying that it would be relying on the savvy mobile phone company for sales support.

The airline principals envisage Airone becoming the largest regional carrier under plans to to add routes to the wider Caribbean and Central American markets.

The company says it will be positioning itself as a low-cost carrier.

“We are here to establish a headquarters and a home from which we will grow to over 25 planes spread over 7 bases within the Caribbean and the Americas,” the company said in its business plan.

BJM Nominees and Buckley have been named as the main shareholders of the company, with the remaining 22 per cent being made up of promoters and cash investors.

This new entity, which is comprised of interests with expertise in finance, telecommunications and aviation, plans to break into the Jamaican market as a Low Cost Carrier (LCC) with the ethnic Diaspora and cost conscious tourists as its main target.

Airone is promising fares priced as low as 80 per cent below current fares offered by airlines flying to Jamaica and other Caribbean destinations.

The principals in their pitch for CAA approval, argued that the establishment of Airone in Jamaica would not only provide low cost travel to residents and foreigners alike, but it would also generate some 220 new skilled jobs in the first year of operation with 90 per cent of those positions to be filled locally.

It estimates that its operations would contribute 2.0 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product, and contribute a minimum of US$65 million in taxes to the Government, excluding those to be had from new employment and third party service providers.

Airone Ventures has set May 2008 to commence flights.

Irish Private Equity firm Quantum Investment Capital has also been publicly identified as an investor in the airline.

AirOne Ventures application for a license was denied by the CAA of Jamaica, the company had indicated that it would try it’s luck in Barbados (since then the company has been recruiting staff for a Barbados base of operations).

Marginal

February 26, 2008

Jamaica Drops The Ball – Irish Competition For LIAT – Coming Soon To Grantley Adams?

Back in July of 2007 we ran a post “Irish Competition For LIAT?” based on a very short column that appeared in the Irish press, since then we hadn’t thought much about it. We only connected the dots with the saga of the Low Cost Carrier AirOne quite recently. The AirOne story bumped along at the edge of our radar until this afternoon when we were investigating an unusual spike in interest in the above story.

The AirOne story begins back at the beginning of December last year in a Jamaica Gleaner story:

First low-cost Caribbean airline to be launched in Jamaica

A group of entrepreneurs has applied to the Jamaican government to create the first Caribbean low-cost airline. Group head representative Ian Burns said: “We have made a formal application to the Jamaican Civil Aviation Authority under the name of Airone Ventures Ltd, although this isn’t the name that we will be flying under. We have the potential to add one million tourist arrivals to Jamaica within five years, a huge boost to the tourism industry.” The airline will also seek to open new markets and new routes. It will service the Caribbean, the United States and Latin America.

737-300 Aircraft Similar To What is Mentioned In Article

…. Speaking with Caribbean Business Report last night, Burns said: “We will be providing non-stop airlinks to the Caribbean, the United States and Latin America and will be using Boeing 737-300 aircraft. The idea is to develop Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport as an international hub for the Caribbean.

 

Sounds like great news for the Jamaican government to us doesn’t it? We could hardly believe what we found next in the Jamaican Gleaner

 

Low-cost air carrier denied J’can licence

Irish firm told to wait as Air J divestment a priority

The Government has, for the time being, rejected Caribbean low-cost carrier Airone’s formal application to the Civil Aviation Authority for a licence to operate in Jamaica.

…However, last Thursday, the minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance, Don Wehby, and a team of Government officials took the decision not to grant the new airline a licence now, essentially because the Government is in the process of divesting the loss-making Air Jamaica and it was felt that a decision to grant another carrier a licence at this time would adversely effect the divestment of the national carrier.

“We met with representatives of Airone last week and we regrettably were unable to grant the carrier a licence at this point in time,” Wehby told the Sunday Observer last night. “The divestment of Air Jamaica is our foremost priority, and the Government feels that it would not put it in a good light if it were to grant a carrier a licence to compete directly with Air Jamaica. In fact, to grant a licence at this time will not add value to Air Jamaica, and we would be seen as not negotiating in good faith. Our decision does not constitute an outright rejection of Airone. It is just a question of timing.”

 

Understandably the investors are pissed. However the great thing about airplanes is that they can move, so what happens next?

 

Last night, Buckley, one of Airone’s lead principals, told the Sunday Observer from Hong Kong, “We want to offer Caribbean people a low-cost carrier that will service the tourism industry and the Diaspora.

We want to grow new routes and help tourism thrive. There must be a way in which we can all survive together – that is, Air Jamaica remains the national carrier and goes from strength to strength and we are granted a licence. If we are unsuccessful in Jamaica we will set up operations in Barbados. If Air Jamaica is not divested in 12 months’ time, then Jamaica would have missed out on having an affordable, reliable carrier that would have been a boon to the tourism industry and Jamaicans living around the world.”

 

Now note the time frames here, NFTM reported what at that point was little more than a rumour about 6 months before AirOne was applying for a license. It is obvious that these investors are not letting the grass grow under their feet on this. A little more digging on our part revealed the following page on the website www.caribbeanjobs.com. We can only assume that the license has been granted.

As the first Caribbean Low Fares airline, Airone plans to become the largest airline in the region developing bases by combining bold deal making along with the quick rollout of new exciting routes from our base in Barbados. (our emphasis)

Using efficient aircraft and dedicated staff, Airone will provide unbeatable low fares, superior reliability, innovative products and services and a better choice of non-stop routes. We strive to continuously reduce costs in order to continually drive down the price of our low fares for our customers.

Airone is currently building its workforce and will employ over 200 people over the coming months. We are looking for bright, dynamic and energetic individuals with the ability to work in a flexible and fast paced environment. We have many opportunities for a wide variety of areas in this exciting new low fares airline!

Accompanying the post are vacancies for a number of management positions with the new airline.

As it happens the AirOne application would have come at a time where there was growing dissatisfaction with the current aviation agreements in Barbados. LIAT is the Worlds Most Expensive Low Cost Carrier, and BWIA/Caribbean Airlines unceremoniously pulled up stakes last year and removed a significant portion of the island’s airlift. Our sources in the aviation sector tell us that although Barbados is further away from the North American market than Jamaica, it is actually better suited geographically as a hub as it is very centrally located between Europe, South America, North America, Africa and the Eastern Caribbean. They also tell us that Grantley Adams has recently expanded it’s parking apron to facilitate the Cruise Ship passengers and hence capacity at the airport is not a problem.

Now Jamaica can hardly accuse Barbados of “stealing” this investor who went first to the Jamaican government to be turned down cold. However in this case it would appear that Jamaica’s loss is Barbados’ gain.

We on the margin will continue to follow this story.

Marginal

February 22, 2008

Rihanna Named Youth & Cultural Ambassador

We on the Margin have long called for some form of national recognition for Rihanna. So we were thrilled to hear last night that she was named Youth Cultural Ambassador for Barbados. The (largely ceremonial) title has been bestowed once before on Barbados’ Olympic Bronze Medal winner Obadele Thompson. As part of the ceremonies Rihanna was also given “a piece of the rock” in the exclusive Apes Hill Golf Resort area, so that in Prime Minister Thompson’s words “Barbados will always be home”.

 

The proclamation read….

The proclamation, read by Minister of Culture Steve Blackett, said:

* “Whereas the Government and the people of Barbados truly acknowledge and celebrate the remarkable achievements of Robyn Rihanna Fenty;

* “And whereas such an accomplishment has brought significant honour and deserving recognition not only to Rihanna but also to her beloved country and has elevated Barbados to the forefront of the entertainment world;

* “And whereas this phenomenal success has come at so tender an age evoking invaluable inspiration and motivation to youth everywhere;

* “And whereas all Barbados stands proud in the face of this honour and gives full support to Rihanna on her continuing path;

“Be it now proclaimed in Bridgetown, Barbados . . .that the Government of Barbados designates Robyn Rihanna Fenty an honorary Youth
and Cultural Ambassador of this country.”

 

We on the Margin congratulate Rihanna (once again) and tip our hat to PM Thompson for bestowing this national honour.

Marginal

February 20, 2008

Strike off – What Happens Now?

Now that the BWU has climbed down from the threat of a National Strike, what has changed? Minister of state in the Ministry of Labour is setting up a mediation panel to review that matter. However we on the Margin hold out little hope for this. Both employers in this issue have been very firm in not wanting to rehire the workers, given the Union’s climbdown from the national strike, it seems unlikely that they are going to budge from their positions at this point. The union may well be forced to seek a deal for the best severance package available.

At the core of the Sandy Lane issue there seems to be a fundamental point on the legitimacy of the use of wildcat strikes. On Brass Tacks today noted HR consultant Elsworth Young seemed to suggest that wildcat strikes are a part of IR practice in Barbados. This would seem to be reflected by Sir Leroy Trottman’s views given earlier

The employers on their part seem to be taking the view that a collective agreement spells out procedures for handling grievances, and is binding on both parties, hence why should they accept conduct that is clearly outside of the scope of the agreement?
We on the Margin cannot help but feel that this entire incident is an example of how the system of volunteerism is becoming outdated as the Barbados industrial relations environment becomes more complex. Perhaps it is time to consider other options. One thing is clear… given the entrenched nature of the positions and the peculiarities of the entities involved, it seems that this is unlikely to end well for the workers in question.
Marginal

Getting Ready For Rihanna!

Filed under: airport,Barbados,Barbados Media,Capitalism,David Thompson,Government,Media,Rihanna — notesfromthemargin @ 9:47 pm

All appears to be ready for the arrival of Barbados’ new Grammy winning artist Rihanna, who will be returning home to be feted by her country at a free concert that will host top local artists.

Rihanna will be met on arrival at the Grantley Adams International Airport by a delegation that includes Prime Minister David Thompson, members of his Cabinet as well as the principals of the Charles F Broome and Combermere Schools, which she attended.

There will also be a cultural performance at the airport featuring schools and cultural groups.

The singer, who wont a Grammy for her tune “Umbrella”, will be the guest of honour at a free concert at Independence Square in the heart of the capital to titled “Believe – a Tribute to Rihanna” and featuring a host of local artistes including Shontelle, Edwin, Livvi Frank, Lil’ Rick, Arturo Tappin, Kid Site and calypso monarch Red Plastic Bag.

Reports from outside of Barbados indicate that the singer is looking forward to returning home and is “thrilled”

Rihanna is flying back to Barbados tomorrow. Her home country is extremely proud of her success.

Rihanna told The Sun: “They’re doing a tribute for me the day after The Brits. I fly straight out.

“I miss everything about the place. Whenever I return I never want to leave.”

PM David Thompson is scheduled to make a brief speech and will present the singer with what has been officially termed as a “national gift”. I guess we will have to wait to see what that is.

The concert is being covered by BET .

 

Marginal.

 

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