Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Distinguished Public Lecture by Professor Trevor Munroe- November 29- UCCI

Since 2011, Professor Trevor Munroe, one of the Caribbean’s leading public scholars, has been Executive Director of Jamaica’s National Integrity Action Limited, a not for profit NGO dedicated to the building of integrity and the combat of corruption in Jamaica on a non-partisan basis. Prior to this he directed the National Integrity Action Forum a coalition of leaders of public sector anti-corruption agencies, a 2-year project launched in 2009 and supported by USAID. In 2012, Professor Munroe was appointed an individual member of Transparency International, the only such person from the Caribbean, one among 27 in the world.

As a scholar, he was promoted to Professor of Government and Politics at the UWI in 1998 and appointed founding Director of the Centre for Leadership and Governance in 2006. He had previously served as Head of the Mona Campus’ Department of Government.

Professor Munroe is the author or co-author of eight (8) books primarily on issues of Caribbean democratic governance. His 1972 book on Jamaican politics remains the authoritative work on Jamaica’s transition to Independence. He has written extensively on issues of corruption and governance, including authoring Transparency International’s National Integrity System country studies of Jamaica, the Caribbean and, most recently, the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Professor Munroe, a Jamaican Rhodes Scholar, who attained his doctorate at Oxford University, after 1st class honours degree at UWI, has received many academic awards, including the UWI Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence, The Mona Campus Principal’s Award for Research, the Honorary Doctorate in Social Sciences from Florida International University THE FIRST FROM THE English-speaking Caribbean and taken up Fulbright Fellowships at Harvard University in the United States. At the secondary level, he was educated at St George’s College where he excelled in academics, debating and track athletics.

Professor Munroe served as a Senator in the Jamaican Parliament between 1998 and 2007, championing integrity building measures and playing an active role on Parliamentary Committees dealing with corruption prevention. For many years, he served on the Executive ofJamaica’s private sector-led Think Tank and as a Director of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions, having himself co-founded the UAWU, one of Jamaica’s major trade unions. Dr Munroe has special expertise in building labour-management partnerships, having played a lead role in forging the accord between the trade unions and the trans-national corporations in the Bauxite Alumina sector in the late 1990s and led the team responsible for building trust amongst sector participants in the Partnership for Transformation chaired in 2011 by Jamaica’s Prime Minister.

Professor Munroe is currently an Honorary Visiting Professorial Fellow at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, UWI, and has served as Consultant to the World Bank, the Organization of American States, the Carter Centre, the United Nations DevelopmentProgramme, Transparency International, the USAID, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) amongst other international, regional and national organizations. He is currently a member of the Advisory Group on Global Political Finance established by the International Foundation of Electoral Systems. He was a founding director of Citizens Action for Fair and Free Elections and currently co-host of the morning programme, JAMAICA SPEAKS, on Newstalk 93fm.

He is married to Ingrid, President and CEO of Excel Insurance Brokers, of which he is Chairman. His two children, Tarik and Kinshasa, have Masters Degrees in human resource development. Professor Munroe is also the son of the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Dr. Huntley Munroe, Q.C and his late wife Muriel.

Professor Trevor Munroe
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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Shale offers freedom and security – but it could be a trap

Exploiting shale gas and oil entails greenhouse gas emissions that will far outstrip our ability to adapt to the climate change they will cause.

Wars are fought over energy. So vital is it to the economy that the few custodians of the world's oil and gas wealth have the power to determine global booms and recessions.

At last, it seems, a new source of energy might liberate us from this conflict – fossil fuels trapped within dense rock for millennia that we are now able to free, thanks to advances in engineering unthinkable a decade ago, and that are available in countries from Britain to Australia. But those same fossil fuels, much higher in carbon than their conventional counterparts, are likely to unleash runaway climate change that could put paid to any hopes of a low-cost – and low-risk – energy future.

Exploiting these new forms of energy – shale gas and oil entails greenhouse gas emissions that will far outstrip our ability to adapt to the climate change they will cause. But history shows we are unlikely to be able to leave any of these chaos-causing fuels unexploited. For most of the past 30 years, the main question for the US has been how to ensure enough energy to meet the economy's needs. The oil shocks of the 1970s showed the economy's vulnerability to foreign imports. Since then, the goal of "energy security" has been crucial.

One route has been to exploit biofuels, made from maize, a policy introduced by George W Bush. But these are expensive as they divert food sources into use as fuel. A far better bet for the US, barely thinkable during Bush's presidency, is shale gas, which is transforming the US economy.

The first companies into shale were independents, leaving the more staid multinationals in their wake. Mitchell Energy and Development, subsequently bought by Devon Energy, was credited with being the first major exploiter. Pioneer Natural Resources was another. But the multinationals, led by ExxonMobil, soon caught up.

In less than 10 years, the US has become one of the prime producers of gas. The price of gas plummeted to only $2 a unit this year. That compares with about $9-12 in Europe, and about $15 in Asia. The International Energy Agency in 2011 heralded "a global golden age of gas" and new estimates show that, by 2017, the US could be the world's biggest producer of oil and gas.

But the plunging price of gas in the US has caused its own problems. At such low output prices, developing shale gas reserves becomes much less economically attractive. "Some companies have had financial difficulties," says Steven Estes, partner at KPMG in Dallas. He points to Chesapeake Energy, one of the pioneers: "Companies that were heavily involved in shale gas exclusively have really taken a hit."

The solution has been to explore the same gas fields to look for another prize – shale oil. While the price of natural gas has plunged, oil has kept its value. Liquids too can be trapped in dense shale rocks. But some shale gas fields will easily yield oil, while others will not. The difference between the two is heralding a huge difference between gas and oil producers in the US. Estes says: "Companies that have oil to exploit as well as gas – including Exxon and Shell, which have made acquisitions – are in the best position." More


Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse

The first horseman was named al-Qaeda in Manhattan, and it came as a message on September 11, 2001: that our meddling in the Middle East had sown rage and funded madness. We had meddled because of imperial ambition and because of oil, the black gold that fueled most of our machines and our largest corporations and too many of our politicians. The second horseman came not quite four years later. It was named Katrina, and this one too delivered a warning.

Katrina’s message was that we needed to face the dangers we had turned our back on when the country became obsessed with terrorism: failing infrastructure, institutional rot, racial divides, and poverty. And larger than any of these was the climate -- the heating oceans breeding stronger storms, melting the ice and raising the sea level, breaking the patterns of the weather we had always had into sharp shards: burning and dying forests, floods, droughts, heat waves in January, freak blizzards, sudden oscillations, acidifying oceans.

The third horseman came in October of 2008: it was named Wall Street, and when that horseman stumbled and collapsed, we were reminded that it had always been a predator, and all that had changed was the scale -- of deregulation, of greed, of recklessness, of amorality about homes and lives being casually trashed to profit the already wealthy. And the fourth horseman has arrived on schedule.

We called it Sandy, and it came to tell us we should have listened harder when the first, second, and third disasters showed up. This storm’s name shouldn’t be Sandy -- though that means we’ve run through the alphabet all the way up to S this hurricane season, way past brutal Isaac in August -- it should be Climate Change. If each catastrophe came with a message, then this one’s was that global warming’s here, that the old rules don’t apply, and that not doing anything about it for the past 30 years is going to prove far, far more expensive than doing something would have been.

Bloomberg Businessweek just had the blunt cover headline, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”

That is, expensive for us, for human beings, for life on Earth, if not for the carbon profiteers, the ones who are, in a way, tied to all four of these apocalyptic visitors. A reasonable estimate I heard of the cost of this disaster was $30 billion, just a tiny bit more than Chevron’s profits last year (though it might go as high as $50 billion). Except that it’s coming out of the empty wallets of single mothers in Hoboken, New Jersey, and the pensions of the elderly, and the taxes of the rest of us. Disasters cost most of us terribly, in our hearts, in our hopes for the future, and in our ability to lead a decent life. They cost some corporations as well, while leading to ever-greater profits for others. It was in no small part for the benefit of the weapons-makers and oil producers that we propped up dictators and built military bases and earned the resentment of the Muslim world. It was for the benefit of oil and other carbon producers that we did nothing about climate change, and they actively toiled to prevent any such action.

If you wanted, you could even add a fifth horseman, a fifth disaster to our list, the blowout of the BP well in the Gulf of Mexico in the spring of 2010; cost-cutting on equipment ended 11 lives and contaminated a region dense with wildlife and fishing families and hundreds of thousands of others. It was as horrendous as the other four, but it took fewer lives directly and it should have but didn't produce political change. More


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Cayman Islands now have a Bill of Rights

(CNS): Finally, three years after the Cayman Islands 2009 Constitution was implemented, local people and residents at last have at least some human rights enshrined in local law.

Tuesday is the official commencement of the Bill of Rights, which among many other things protects people’s right to movement, thought, expression, assembly and equality before the law, as well as protections for the environment, one of many areas that could act as a barrier to government complying with the Bill. From today onwards, any Caymanian, and in some cases ex-pat, who believes their rights are being trampled upon can seek redress through the local courts.

Government will be officially commemorating the day at the National Gallery this evening, and Richard Coles, the chair of the Human Rights Commission, which so far has remained rather low key, said there were challenges ahead but the commission would continue to “promote, protect, and preserve human rights for the people of the Cayman Islands.”

Meanwhile, Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor said that ensuring that people’s rights are upheld would be a job for public officials who have a duty under the Constitution to ensure that all acts they carry out and decisions they make are “lawful, rational, proportionate and procedurally fair manner“, as set out in the Bill, which is the first schedule of the constitution.

“The 2009 Constitution gives you yet greater protection for your rights and freedoms and greater authority to defend them,” Taylor told the people of Cayman Tuesday. “Adherence to the Bill of Rights, Freedoms and Responsibilities will help us to become a stronger society where all being are equally valued, can participate fully and are treated with fairness, dignity and respect.”

Although a step forward and an improvement on the previous circumstances where Caymanians had to seek redress in the European Court of Human Rights, the enshrinement of a local Bill of Rights has still proved to be a controversial. For some, the bill has gone too far, whereas others believe it has not gone anywhere near far enough as a result of pressures from the church.

During the negotiations over the 2009 Constitution the Bill of Rights became bogged down in irrational arguments about gay marriage and devil worshippers, as well as more complicated and difficult arguments in relation to the rights of foreign nationals versus Caymanians. As an appeasement to religious fundamentalism and because of the significant number of non-Caymanian residents, Cayman’s Bill of Rights has ended up allowing discrimination in a number of areas and it separates locals from foreigners in various issues, such as taxation and education.

Nevertheless, there are for the first time certain rights enshrined in local law, and despite having three years to prepare, government may not be ready yet to fulfil the obligations it now has to its people. In a number of areas government may find itself falling foul very quickly of the new laws, not least because of a lack of funding in many areas of public life. More