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Thursday, February 13, 2014

The cycle of fat and thin

Every four- five years, this small Caribbean country engages in a kind of ritual. Its called elections but really is an exercise in payback. I am not too sure that it can be changed primarily because the population are more and more helpless, more dependent, on people, much less the process. Its the same everywhere else, except in Dominica there has yet to be seen a period of concerted fat for the general population. What you have cycles of fat for those in power, cycles of thin for those out of it, and the cautious manouevring by the small groups of people who are wise enough to avoid picking a side so overtly as to leave themselves exposed. The rest are at the mercy of those who hold the cards. In that scenario, a man who builds you a house or fixes your road, is likely to be like Jesus the Messiah incarnate. Anyone can learn from this. I have for sure. One essential lesson is that money cannot buy you love, but it can buy a kind of realtime version of Facebook likes. The other key lesson is that its way easier to start fat and engage a natural diet through being outspoken and nuanced. Its way more difficult starting thin and starving to death on principle. The third is that church and morality are as close friends as rats and cats. Church is a mixture of a social club and insurance against hell. Anyway...I wish you the best of the next coming cycle.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Freedom of Nought

Its kind of ironic when you examine that the Caribbean which produces fluidity of movement and so many expressive individuals actually stamps down hard on free thinking. From economics, liberal thought, sexuality....you name it, conservatism reigns. And naturally there is a backlash. The overt and frankly hypocritical conservatism of our sexual landscape means that more people engage in experimenting with their sexuality than you can begin to imagine. Yes...even those people who pack the churches. In economics, its a hodge podge. Outside of Trinidad which is blessed with exploitable natural resource, the rest of the region has no defined productive economic approach. It is tourism, its offshore finance, its offshore ICT. We produce nothing, because we shot ourselves in the foot years ago by spitting in the face of Federation, even when Arthur Lewis provided a Nobel Prize backed economic approach model which he was willing to steward. All because a narrow group of people wanted to buy low and sell high across the region. And their political counterparts couldnt imagine devolving their power bases for a regional good. So here we are. Religious sexual freaks, capitalist socialists, and tourism depending foreigner skeptics. I am not sure what the way forward is, simply because wiser men than me have come and failed. But the answer surely has to lie in abandoning the ways that have gotten us into this mess, and not in rejecting free thinking.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Out of the box

The tourism direction Dominica is taking is extremely 'normal'.

Its also fighting an uphill battle which it shows little sign of winning. No doubt the reason is because tourism in itself is an extremely transient business, depending on a stability and income in a world when those two words are difficult to say in the same sentence.

I think we are at the stage where small countries like Dominica have to look towards getting people to move to the country, either as tax refugees from the first world, or as people looking for a superior quality of life. There is a greater economic theory surrounding this, but I'm not going to bore anyone who tries to read this.

Inward migration of economically self reliant citizens will aid in solving our biggest problem. A homogeneous and relatively closeted population with very little racial diversity.

All countries which develop do so because of an inward migration of intelligent people who have driven the development and economy of the recipient country. We have very little of this. It is the formula for innovation.

The problem is that both the current business community and the general political climate strongly protects the current status quo. And thats natural in some ways and counter productive in others. A new generation of 'citizens' with or without families, moving into Dominica, would radically 'up' both the income and IQ of the island.

As it is...unless we define a new taxation landscape and change an antiquated approach to inward migration (unbelievable but true), this country is going to continue to struggle to attract Foreign direct investment and ironically will struggle to protect its natural assets.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Discount

Since my return to the Caribbean I cant remember ever asking for a discount on anything. Sure, I will take a fair discount if offered but I usually believe that the price offered is the price the service or the product is being sold at. If I get it lower great, but I wont actively lobby for it. I wont go into a supermarket, look at an overpriced can of beans, and mentally calculate the margin from import (I worked in wholesale as my very first job after school). This is despite knowing its probably 3-400% margin on what its imported at. I am not obssessed with managing someone elses outcomes and risks.

Nope...I dont.

Yet, a supermarket man, an event owner, an insurance man, a telephone man, pretty much everyone who sells products and services they do not compromise cost on, and I never twist their arms on, see creative works as eminently negotiable and discountable. They will and have even approached employees behind the scenes to massage them to provide creative services at lower costs, of course directly.

As Daffy Duck would say its Deshpicable !

Its a common story whichever creative resources I speak to. The Caribbean has literally become a haven of intellectual theft. Barbados is one of the biggest leeching locations in the world, and countries like Dominica and Antigua routinely steal creative works, including music, photography and creative works, for reuse. Its an ideosyncracy which is odd when you consider the Caribbean has probably the greatest concentration of cultural and creative resources in the world.

A man will get 6 months in jail for stealing a bag of biscuits, but someone can take an ad, or a musical riff and reuse it without permission with a much greater 'theft' value and nothing is thought wrong. This is no watershed moment for me. The people who often decry the value of creative works usually cant do one even if you left them for a month with every possible tool and inspiration. And most people can upsell insurance and resell a can or beans or a bag of rice. I think we need to create a spoof campaign.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Finding Identity

I figure its best to end the year with a post and to regain some momentum for a busy 2013. Dominica continues to be an interesting mish mash of politics , personalities and superstitions.

As someone once remarked to me it is ironic that two of the most powerful influences on the people usually have no qualifications and almost no responsibility for their utterances and actions.

Politicians and Preachers.

Across the region the problem gets replicated though its magnified in certain jurisdictions and lessened in others. The pragmatism of life means most people put their heads down and just deal with daily life, but if you sit back and ponder the ridiculousness of it all, it really is 'something else'.

2012 has been a rebound year business wise personally though the economy in the Caribbean is still stagnated.

Dominica hasnt resolved what it wants to be. Is it a tourism destination ? Not yet. Dominicans have not yet considered what it is to be a service based economy. Is it an agricultural haven. No. The farmer is a dying breed and the status quo businesses are actually ushering in the death of agriculture by pushing more and more cheap imported goods on a market which values price above health and taste.

Is it a manufacturing locale ? No. The energy costs are too high and the red tape is still too thick. Ontop of that you have a serious issue with work ethic, which makes me remember John Dyson, former coach of West Indies, talking to the fact that West Indian cricketers resented being told what to do. So sometime in 2013, a serious discussion should start with understanding what the island is.

Creating managed expectations is a key part of life. Many people have decided by the age of 30 odd what they want to be. Life doesnt afford them much opportunity to keep on dithering about it. Dominica is in country terms still an infant, but that debate hasnt happened and we are a generation away from both a population and a statesman (or woman) who can take us there. In the meantime politicians and preachers will talk about changing the names of mountains and fixing the roads. Enjoy the Season.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A question of confilict

As part of the appreciation of getting older, one of the things we start to appreciate is how we all fit into a small society. For many Dominicans, the country has not changed. We live in a homogeneous country, a demographic of people who look and sound the same for a lifetime, at every level. Within that small society, it is easy to forget what really makes Dominica tick. Relationships, built from familial links, religion, and dependencies born from necessity shape a number of alliances. Friendships do not matter, and I say so earnestly as there are no friendship built dynasties or cultures in Dominica. People are not successful because they are friendly. In fact they suffer for it. A man is more likely to consult his side woman than his friend in matters of crisis. In fact, conflict has formed businesses, political parties and even churches in Dominica. Conflict is the lingua franca of the country. People ally themselves on who they dislike and not who they admire. Trying to start a discussion on the mutual admiration of someone is almost a lost cause in our society. But you can get appreciation and even find some love from mutual dislike. Within that context whenever someone queries the future of Dominica, it is relatively easy to pinpoint the potential. When you assess that from top to bottom there is a healthy dislike inherent to the way people deal with each other, masked with fake smiles, constant hugging and now facebook friending, then you start to understand the challenge. You can only unite the country through a common enemy and right now, Dominicans do not have one. Maybe I can play that role by stating some uncomfortable truths. No political party in the history of Dominica has engendered economic policy. You cannot differentiate economic policy differences between the Dame, Edision James and the current government. So what we are engaged in for the last 50 years of political life is a pissing contest in popularity. So what is the future of Dominica ? Hurricane David gave us a glimpse. When people were uniformly connected by the fact that we all had no roofs, no water and no electricity, people were genuinely concerned about each other and the collective responsibility for what should happen next actually existed. It was brief, but it was there. However we cannot generate this kind of scenario (neither would we want to). We have to recognise that a meritocracy is alien to our societies. The masses would revolt if they were not rewarded for their allegiances. In fact a meritocracy would literally bring down a government, funny to say. I suggest we invite more and more middle class qualified Haitians to be part of our administrative class. Nothing like a black, well educated foreigner to unite the country into working harder to repel the foreign hordes. If you think thats just hype, I will say, just watch.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Putting the fresh (and the smell) into food

I just completed a marathon of travelling which took in Caymans, Miami, Vienna, and New York.

I had to stay over in every one of those destinations and ate a proper meal in every one.

Then something came to mind.

How fresh is the food. I mean, its a pretty simple question. The answer though isnt quite as easy.

You see in Dominica, I go over to the market for my vegetables and ground provisions or I call Royal George for my beef or pork, Morne Anglais farms for my local chicken, and get my fish and shellfish from San Sauveur. I wont mention the wild game that we get ever now and then.

Usually I can eat meat or vegetables which has had low chemical exposure, within three to four days of being pulled from the ground or sea or being killed. And you can taste the difference.

Caymans was good for the fish. But everything else is shipped in and distributed. Miami...might be decent on seafood but its still not fresh unless you explicitly search I guess. Vienna...I couldnt taste the beef in the beef, and in New York, well lets just say I accept that I am going to eat some stuff that has served some punishment time.

The other odd thing is this. When you step into a supermarket in the US in particular, two things shout out. The sheer size of the vegetables and fruit, and the lack of any, and I mean any smells.

I mean when you walk into a food market in Dominica, you smell everything. Onions, thyme, mangoes, even carrots, and tomatoes. Its like an assault on your nose.

You walk into Western Beef or Pathmark or Publix and you could swear someone has clipped your nasal capacity. Even pineapples stare you in the face with a kind of 'yes I am a pineapple but you cant friggin smell me' look. A pineapple in Dominica quickly becomes a car fragrance if left in the car for any longer than 5-10 minutes.

The flavor of course is key. And fresh fruit, vegetables and meat taste great.

We may not have great restaurants or a vibrant foodie scene, but in reality Dominica is food heaven. You just have to learn to make it for yourself or lean on someone who can.