Wed | Apr 26, 2017

Real wages plummet 17%, and remembering Aaron Matalon

Published:Sunday | March 15, 2015 | 3:00 AM
Egerton Chang

Sure, things are not hunky-dory. But could the JLP have done better? Slightly better? Given the fact that the role of the IMF was to get us to live within our means, meaning reducing the average standard of living by at least 20 per cent (my guesstimate), there had to be great 'sufferation'. Regardless of what the politicians, including Bredda Andrew and Sista P, have been telling us.

That's a quote from my column, ''Satta' JLP, Obama, and Mark Shields', published October 26, 2014. It continues:

"The PNP is better able to get away with making the people swallow the bitter medicine, and don't even mek up dem face. The JLP should just hol' its corner and 'satta' for a little longer if it knows what is good for it. Let the PNP continue to do the hard slog.

Wow! The LOOP News Service recently confirmed my guesstimate of the need to reduce "the average standard of living by at least 20 per cent (my guesstimate)".

Reporting the Bank of Jamaica's (BOJ) quarter ending December 2014, "Real wages have fallen by about 17 per cent over the last three years."

"The latest data published by the

BOJ showed that real wages - wages adjusted for price increases - have been declining since the December 2011 quarter.

"What's more, the central bank said that real wages are expected to continue to decline over the next four quarters, according to the latest quarterly monetary policy report."

Which, among other things, means that you don't have to be an economist or a rocket scientist to pick sense from nonsense.

And dem don't even mek up dem face!

 

AARON MATALON - A GIANT

 

I worked for the ICD Group of Companies from 1976-80.

Hired by Dennis Lee, the financial director at the time, I worked at the head office at 2-4 Harbour Street. I also had significant contact with Aaron Matalon, the chairman, who became like a mentor to this young 25-year-old. Over these four years, I grew to respect Mr Matalon deeply.

It was he who promoted me to the board of ICD before I had turned 27, along with Errol Powell and Oliver Brookes, who were not much older.

He also appointed me to the founding board of governors of the Institute of Management and Production (IMP).

The Institute of Management Sciences merged with IMP in 2002 to form UCC, the University College of the Caribbean.

Aaron Matalon was never afraid of promoting young minds and challenging them. He was also a very down-to-earth and caring person.

 

BULLY BEEF

 

In the economic meltdown of the late 1970s, when certain 'basic' items could not be imported (and one could not travel overseas with more than US$50 legally), corned beef was off the shelves for a considerable period.

Finally, in late 1978, a limited amount of corned beef was allowed to be imported. Facey Commodity (of which I was also privileged to be a director) received one of the first

shipments.

At a Facey board meeting, held in the ICD boardroom, Aaron entered with a broad grin on his face and with a plate of two tins of bully beef in one hand and hardough bread in the other. He said with delight, "Gentlemen, corned beef ... . Eat."

With more than 20 companies under the ICD umbrella, he seemed to take special pride in Homelectrix and Shopper's Fair, to which he paid

special attention.

 

HIS LEGACY

 

ICD Group website (icdgroup.net/portfolio/aaron-joseph-matalon/) has this on Mr Matalon:

"Aaron Matalon had to start working at 14 years of age because his father's business failure forced him to leave school and he was needed to help support the family financially during those hard times.

"While his brothers went to fight in the Second World War, Aaron supported the rest of the large family. He worked with his father at Matalon & Company until 1949.

"When his father died, he took over the role of patriarch and cared for his mother and younger siblings until they were able to manage on their own.

"Aaron's lack of formal education gave him respect for training and education and drove him to establish the Institute of Management and Production (IMP), which was the leading training institution for business for a number of years."

 

MEMORIAL SERVICE

 

Aaron Joseph Matalon died on April 4, 2009.

In 'Aaron Matalon lauded', May 18, 2009, Rasbert Turner, Gleaner writer, wrote about the memorial service held at the Jewish Synagogue:

"Former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson said Matalon had acute business acumen and did not allow distractions to trump his game plan.

""He was a martyr and would not back down from his beliefs, a man who believed in the closeness of family. Personally, I find this remarkable, since he was not from the plantocracy, but worked his way up,'' said Patterson.

"That ability to balance business and family responsibilities was emphasised by son, Joseph A. Matalon, who, while battling rivulets of tears, described his father as a man for all seasons whose passing had left a huge void.

""Dad would show us the value of hard work. As teenagers, the boys knew about industry and production. The girls would also come at holiday time (to work).

""He did not pay us enough, but by the time we were finished with the drinks, things would have been even," the son of the deceased said.

"Professor Rex Nettleford said the late businessman provided great inspiration.

"He helped to structure the Institute of Management and Production (now incorporated into the University College of the Caribbean) to help

persons to be better at business.""

He was president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA) 1953-57 and 1960-65, and sat on the board of numerous civic, business and charitable organisations.

 

PHILANTHROPIST

 

Matalon spearheaded the formation of the MultiCare Foundation and served as its chairman from its inception in 1993 until March 2008, when he was appointed chairman emeritus.

Aaron Matalon, a leading entrepreneur of the post-Independence period, was also a major patron of the arts and was the National Gallery's chairman from 1993 to 2002. In 1999, he and his wife, Marjorie, donated a collection of 218 works of art, the largest and arguably the most important donation to the Gallery.

Dr Aaron Joseph Matalon - nuff respect!

- Egerton M. Chang is a businessman. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and e_rider69@ hotmail.com.