Tue | Aug 22, 2017

PNP’s 41% dollar devaluation

Published:Sunday | February 21, 2016 | 2:00 AM
Egerton Chang

I have not been following the news very closely. In fact, the news depresses me, especially now, elections and all. I have to get on with my life and I could do without the distraction.

Now, we have all (almost all) been feeling the pinch, wondering why living seems a little harder every day. It seems we have to be more and more frugal, tightening and tightening our belt. We have to cut back on both quality and quantity.

Most would be aware that the whole IMF exercise was to get us, collectively, to live within our means, which means devaluing the Jamaican dollar and reducing our standard of living. All this in order to make us competitive in a globalised world.

Therefore, we would be aware of the continuous devaluation of the J$ versus the US$. Not dramatically, but a steady 'drip, drip', a small, almost imperceptible, amount every week.

So, if you are like me, you would have some vague notion that over these last four to five years, the devaluation would be like 20-25-30%.

41% Devaluation

I was floored, however, in the realisation that the Jamaican dollar - and thus us - has been devalued by some 41% since the PNP took power in the election of December 29, 2011.

Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) statistics state:

12/29/2011 US$1.00 = J$86.61

2/12/2016 US$1.00 = J$121.81

It doesn't take a genius to know that we have been living beyond our means, what with the less than efficient use of the resources, especially the borrowed funds. Nevertheless, I had thought that a 20-25% reduction in real wages (standard of living) would have been enough to right the boat.

But with this belt-tightening approaching 45%, this is 'kinda' getting difficult. Wi belly can't band any tighter or for much longer.

SATTA JLP

This is not a call for a change of government. For, in my column, ''Satta' JLP, Obama, and Mark Shields', published October 26, 2014, I said:

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.

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.

Do you think the JLP should continue to 'satta' and hol' its corner?

Obama's Cuba

News flash!

President Barack Obama plans to visit Cuba on March 21-22 this year. Initially reported by ABC News on February 17, this historic visit will be the first since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

This momentous event will cement Cuba's place in the minds of Americans as a place to vacation. It follows immediately after another significant occasion.

Americans will now be able to travel to Cuba on commercial airlines. This, as a result of the US and Cuba signing a civil aviation agreement in Havana, on February 16.

Vox.com reports:

It's a huge breakthrough in President Barack Obama's push to normalise diplomatic relations between the two countries, but it's also an enormous opportunity for Americans who are now thinking of making Cuba their next vacation spot.

Check the Right Box

While it is still technically illegal to travel to Cuba as a tourist, Americans wishing to travel to Cuba now need only to check the right box on a visa form at the airport.

Resuming commercial flights removes a huge obstacle between Americans and tropical Cuban vacations.

Under the framework of the current deal, American airline providers will be able to fly to Havana up to 20 times per day. They can also operate up to 10 flights to each of Cuba's nine other international airports. According to NPR, that allows for as many as 110 flights bound for Cuba per day. That means the deal will allow for more than five times the number of flights currently being operated.

While charter flights now cost US$850 from New York and US$450 for a 45-minute flight from Miami, the cost of these regular commercial flights will be considerably less. And, without the cost of connecting flights.

So far, airlines, including American, Delta, Jet Blue, Southwest, and United, all plan to fly routes, most to multiple Cuban cities.

US officials hope to parcel out flights to different carriers by the summer. That would mean that if all goes as planned, the first flights will take off by the fall - just before Obama leaves office.

Or, in other words, before the next winter tourist season.

Along with the use of US credit and debit cards and with vastly improved infrastructure linking the US and Cuba for commercial telecommunications and Internet services, Jamaica, be warned! Cuba will once again become the playground of America's elite.

Which I warned in 'Warnings on TIA, strokes and Cuba', as long ago as July 18, 2010.

Shotgun Valentine

I was almost shot on Valentine's Day in 1972.

A popular account of Saint Valentine of Rome states that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden, by Empire Claudius, to marry. According to legend, during his imprisonment, he healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius.

On the day St Valentine was to be executed, he left her a note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. He signed it, 'Love from your Valentine.' That note laid the foundation of the custom of exchanging love notes on Valentine's Day.

Yes, I was almost shot in 1972, around Valentine's Day.

I had met this nice girl shortly before Independence Day of 1971. We met at the Chinese Public School, then at 30 North Street (even though she isn't Chinese and I wasn't going school there), and we got to liking.

She used to live with her grandparents on the Water Commission grounds on Marescaux Road in Kingston. Her grandfather (Mr Campbell), who was in his early 70s, was a sort of groundskeeper. He, who seemed to have worked there for an eternity, also took care of a few mules and horses. He had an old shotgun as well.

I sometimes entered the property through the bottom gate (still there but seems disused), opposite Wolmer's Girl's School, and drive to the little cottage that was virtually in the middle of the very large compound.

Other times, I used to park on the sidewalk at the extreme top of the property (opposite Caledonia Crescent) and walk through a pedestrian gate (still being used). That is where I entered late that February afternoon. (I recall the month as it was a little before the general election of February 29, 1972, which Michael Manley's PNP won by a landslide).

I cannot recall what triggered it, but I was 'forced' to leave rather hurriedly around dusk. Walking swiftly in the fading light, on reaching 40-50 yards away, I heard one shot ring out.

I decided that if I was still walking, I could not have been hit. Quickening my pace almost to that of an Olympic walker (deliberately not running - I still had a little pride), I made my way back to the top entrance a little over 150 yards away.

In the ensuing years, I never spoke much with her grandfather and never asked if he intended to shoot me or to just scare me.

In 1973, I married that young lady, Angela, in Montreal, Canada, and she became the mother of my first two wonderful children, Nadine and Warren. We subsequently divorced (but occasionally keep in touch though our children).

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