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JAMAICA NEWSWEEKLY For the week ending September 8th, 2006

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Stakeholders in the livestock industry are sustaining losses of up to $80 million annually due to praedial larceny. As a result, they are asking the government to make it mandatory to obtain a permit for anyone wanting to slaughter an animal. The permit would need to be secured from police and public health officials. The industry also is suggesting a central clearing house be established and a modern abattoir be constructed in every major town to streamline the process of slaughtering animals. A proposal has been submitted to the Minister of Agriculture and Lands. Farmers feel the government is not doing enough to address the theft problem. One farmer reports that so far this year 11 cattle have been stolen from his farm alone. The industry maintains that the theft is being committed by professional butchers. It is also stressed that the penalties are not stringent enough to act as a deterrent.

Opposition leader Bruce Golding is challenging Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to a series of debates ahead of the upcoming general election, despite his status as the underdog. Golding says he would welcome having a once per week debate. Simpson Miller alerted party officials this weekend to prepare themselves for a general election. The debate might be presented if a privately-funded effort to put on the debates is accepted by the two major political parties. Both have acknowledged receiving an invitation from the National Debate Commission to participate in pre-election debates. Golding appears unfazed by recent poll results that are unfavorable to his party.

High schools across the island are due millions of dollars in fees from parents who say they cannot afford to pay. More than 60 percent of the approximately 20,000 students in the schools either paid a part of the fee or none at all between 2002 and 2004. Polls say that a fifth of Jamaican parents say they cannot afford to send their children to school during the academic year that begins tomorrow. Under the government’s cost-sharing program, parents are required to pay 50 percent of their children’s school fee, with the state paying the remaining half. During the 2004 school year, more than 41,000 of the 200,000 students had unpaid fees. The chief education officer reports that deep rural areas and certain inner-city communities recorded the lowest levels of compliance.

The Minister of Education and Youth apologized last night for the government’s tardiness in supplying textbooks to the island’s primary and all-age schools. The minister televised an address last night and told the audience the delay was caused by the printer’s failure to get the shipment of primary textbooks from overseas in time for early distribution. The books are now on the wharf and will be delivered with minimal delay. The government spent a little less than $900 million on primary and secondary school textbooks. Students and teachers were urged to make this a productive school year. Also announced was the launch of a Student Empowerment Program aimed at students whose low academic performance at ninth grade level prevents them from being placed in high schools. Under the new program, students who fail to attain the required score will be brought to a functional level before being reintegrated into the secondary school program.

A forensic audit investigating the US $41 million cost overrun at the controversial Sandals Whitehouse project in Westmoreland has been completed, and concludes that the project delivered value for the money spent. Information Minister Colin Campbell told journalists yesterday that the auditors are of the opinion that the resort is of the highest quality and that it was a valuable asset to the south coast development program as well as the overall tourist industry of the island. The report makes clear that the original cost of the project (US $60 million) was inadequate for the kind of hotel that was to be constructed. The original budget for the hotel was about US $86 million based on the Beaches Negril concept, but it was determined that cost was too high and was reduced. To date the hotel has experienced record occupancy rates, which if continue, will enable the hotel to service its debt without impact to the shareholders.

Striking lecturers at the University of Technology left classes in limbo yesterday, but could return to work today if they accept Finance Minister Dr. Omar Davies’ offer to meet with them. Davies informed the teachers he would meet with them only if they called off the strike. The lecturers are expected to meet this morning to decide if they will accept the offer. More than 400 lecturers went on strike yesterday, triggering the suspension classes in every area at the institution. Educators pressed the government to respond to their demands for retroactive play they claim was owed to them. They are demanding the government provide the staff with a schedule outlining how and when they would receive their retroactive pay. The issue goes back to 2002 when the university conducted a review of administration and technical staff pay packages and made adjustments in certain areas. The review created inconsistencies between the packages for selected administrative and technical jobs and academic posts.

Central and eastern parishes were inundated with heavy rains yesterday, resulting in flooding in sections of the Corporate Area. Backed up traffic caused chaos as miles of motorists were stranded after their cars stalled in the flood waters. Motorists had to vacate their vehicles and wade through knee-deep water, while some stayed in the water and tried to restart their cars. The rains caused a work stoppage on the east-bound lane on the Mandela Highway, but there was no major flooding there. In Spanish Town, things went smoothly except for some stranded commuters left behind when operators of most public passenger vehicles withdrew their services due to the weather. The rains were reportedly heavy convection showers triggered by heat.

Jamaica’s ailing nursing sector is set to receive a boost from a $155 million investment at the Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Manchester. Michael Lee Chin, chairman of AIC Fund Management and the National Commercial Bank, unveiled plans to build a state-of-the-art nursing school on the NCU campus. It will be situated on a 21,000 square foot property across the road from the main campus. Construction is expected to begin within the next three months, with completion expected in about 15 months. The school will have the capacity for 800 nursing students and it is projected that within the next two years will graduate at least 250 nurses. That number would significantly ease the burden of the nursing shortage in Jamaica.

Last year’s winners, Melbourne, will battle Kensington today for the right to be named all-island one-day champions. The Capital & Credit final is set for Chedwin Park this morning. Both teams have dominated their semi-final clashes, so today’s final is expected to be a close match. Melbourne beat St. Elizabeth and Kensington overtook St. Catherine CC, the League and Challenge Champions. At least six current and former West Indies players will be on hand. Wavell Hinds, David Bernard, Robert Haynes and Daren Powell of Kensington, along with Carlton Baugh, Donovan Pagon and Marlon Samuels of Melbourne. Topping off the list are Maurice Kepple of Kensington, Nikita Miller and Ray Stewart of Melbourne, and three players who have several Jamaica caps.

Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell completed a perfect Golden League season and staked his share of the jackpot. Powell ran 9.86 seconds in the 100 meters at the International StadionFest meeting, enough to give the world-record holder a sixth win out of six in the series. American Jeremy Wariner matched his 400 meter world and Olympic record, coming in at 44.26 seconds. He, too, staked his claim to a share of the jackpot, along with Sanya Richards, who won the women’s 400 in 49.81 seconds. Provided these winners appear at the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart next weekend, they will share the $500,000 prize equally.

A goal in the 42nd minute gave Canada a 1-0 win over Jamaica in their international friendly at the Claude Robillard Complex in Montreal. Canada, playing their first game there in 11 years, turned in a plodding performance that did the job and gave them the win. The team improved their record with the Reggae Boyz to six wins, five draws and one defeat dating back to 1985. The home team scored the winner when Rob Friend rose high to take home a right-sided cross minutes before half time. Jamaica lacked energy and illustrated that several changes will have to be made for the return game on October 8th in Kingston.

Former national sprint champion Dwight Thomas has been forced to sever all ties with track and field coach Trevor Graham. The change was required because Graham, who is currently investigation for doping violations, has been barred from Olympic Committee training sites because at least six of the athletes he has coached have returned positive tests. Officials from the Golden League barred athletes linked to the coach from their event. Graham has denied providing banned substances to his athletes. Thomas, the 1998 World Junior 100m bronze medalist is currently training on his own but will soon join a new camp. Thomas says he has a new coach but is not ready to disclose the identity of the coach yet.

The weekly news is compilation of new articles from top Caribbean and Jamaican news sources.

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Written by Staff Writer