Ronald Mason, GUEST COLUMNIST
It is risky to interpret current events and the state of affairs. It is doubly risky, almost foolhardy, to gaze into the future and read the signs. However, one can put it on the line and be prepared for the consequence.
The year 2014 is shaping up to mark a significant time. With it being the second year of the IMF extended fund facility with Jamaica, the effects will come into full force, for good or bad. We will address that in more detail herein. The local government elections will follow, and if the current JLP Opposition emerges victorious, the political landscape will be very agitated. Ah, the smell of power and its intoxicating effect upon a newly re-elected leader.
The Jamaican economy is weak and underperforming. Unemployment is high and tax collection is down. Government delays paying those it owes so as to cook the books to pass IMF tests. All this will continue unabated in 2014.
The NIR is down and will stay that way in the new year. The rate of the decline of the dollar will still be high, by at least eight per cent. The USA is our principal trading partner and its rate of inflation is two to three per cent per year. The margin is eight per cent. The value of our dollar will reflect this, thus an eight per cent decline in 2014.
There is no large foreign investment that will materialize in 2014. Even if the Chinese agree to their version of a logistics hub at the Goat Islands, the impact will not be felt next year. The only bright spark in the economy for 2014 will be the result of the rare-earth mineral pilot with the Japanese. It will prove beneficial.
The scourge of crime will still be unnecessarily high. We will get some version of DNA legislation, but the fighting as to how to create the database will delay implementation. There is supposed sanctity over privacy as it pertains to the body, and citizens will be whipped into a frenzy by trial lawyers practising at the criminal Bar and by all manner of bogeymen.
We as a nation must be prepared to make sacrifices for the greater national good. Give up the DNA sample, by way of the mouth cavity swab. I will volunteer to be first.
Here in Jamaica, crime is a lucrative industry and many persons have a stake in its continuation at current levels. Poor people cannot buy AK-47 bullets. They fire them for profit.
Education will remain in the current holding pattern of mediocrity, while the minister of education and the Jamaica Teachers' Association remain at loggerheads. They will both speak of the needs of the children, but pass the responsibility for their achievement over to the parents, society, peers, Church, whoever else, except the schools and teachers.
The JTA, with its 26,000 members, will continue to be 'big bout ya'. They will not allow a "mongrel dawg" to threaten their kingdom. Children will lose every which way in 2014. It may just be that an inspection of the same 302 schools in 2014 will find 55 acceptable, down from this year's 62.
The imposition of the smoking ban was, in general, a good thing. The good effects will be felt in 2014. This is very positive. There should be redirected spending in the country, and the financial dividends to be realised should lead to a better health-care system in 2014. It has been very obvious that fewer persons are smoking in public places, and the compromise regarding private homes and hotels will allow for even greater acceptance in the year 2014.
Sport is a very big item on our calendar each year. The World Cup will be staged in Brazil. The spectacle will capture, as it always does, the country's attention. Can Brazil, the host nation, take the cup? Can Messi come good for Argentina and be elevated beyond being a good club footballer? No. Will Spain repeat by being the most proficient with rare quality to be found among the 11? Yes. Spain should win in 2014.
The West Indies T20 will play under lights at Sabina Park in 2014. The quality will not be great, but passable. The major star on the international scene will not be here, but the spectacle at night will prove satisfying - just enough. Schoolboy soccer will still be strong. Wolmer's, JC, STETHS, Rusea's and St George's will feature. Go, Wolmer's, again to the top.
Industrial relations will be high on the list as we go forward with the flexible workweek legislation. It's been long in coming, but it's needed to go to the next stage of development.
Tourism and entertainment will continue to be highlighted: more room space being available and work progressing on the upgrade of the Ocho Rios pier and its surroundings.
Let me use this medium to congratulate Ms Tessanne Chin. Very well done. May she continue to carry the flag high and take along some of the other entertainers who need similar exposure.
May you all have a blessed Christmas and be granted your wishes. Let me thank you for having indulged me in 2013. Let us look forward to 2014 and do all we can to make Jamaica a better place to live, work and raise families.
Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney, mediator and talk-show host. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com