about the J.P.S. Co. cries of doom and gloom!

So ever since the Jamaica Public Service Co. Ltd. has been sounding off about its financial woes, a growing sense of dread has been overcoming me.  The latest wail is that the company will be out of cash by August.  Now I am not fretting for myself, for reasons which I will outline shortly.  But I am thinking about the few businesses plodding along in this extremely hostile context that is Jamaica today.  We already are burdened with the highest energy costs in the region, and if you layer uncertainty of supply atop burdensome expenses, well…you can see how this will end. Let’s go back to the JPS’s latest alarm: out of cash by August.  That is a holler for attention at the very least, but it must be some sort of call to action too.  What do they want?  Are they setting the stage to justify a rate hike? It is a fact that electricity usage has declined… Is this an index of economic growth/decline? Not sure. But for sure, ordinary citizens have really had no choice.  
We’ve had to become Electricity Nazis in our own homes, using energy efficient bulbs, patrolling for lights being on for no reason, forgoing use of the electric water heater, unplugging everything once we are out of the house and there are some like my household who are almost totally off the grid.  Yup. Some years ago, H had the foresight to begin to phase in the use of solar energy.  To be totally honest, it was the unreliability of service from the JPS that prompted this move.  The feeders in this area are old an unreliable and post-hurricane conditions were absolutely unbearable. But even though we would have light with or without JPS, as I said, I couldn’t help but worry about industry and therefore the state of the overall economy…the broader context within which I live and make a living. 
So I was talking with H tonight, rehashing the day’s events.  And he told me a story that lifted my spirits and gave me hope to press on.  He decided to use the services of an automobile AC technician along South Camp Road.  He only saw the sign, it was conveniently located (for him) and he only needed re-gassing…nothing complex.  So he turned in and saw a modified shipping container serving as a small admin and waiting area.  There was a steady stream of traffic in and out, including taxi men and commercial trucks, including trucks belonging to a well known haulage company.  He took comfort in that fact, and noted that the owner was the head technician, moving around briskly and quite business-like. But he had to wait.  H hates to wait.  But as he sat waiting he noticed that atop the modified container, sat 2 solar panels.  Wow!  H’s fine engineering mind sat up and started noting the technical details of this AC business set-up. What he figured out and later confirmed in conversation with Mr. AC was that the solar panels provided enough energy for Mr. AC to run his AC repair business.  
This simple entrepreneur had done his sums and determined that his competitiveness hinged on his ability to minimize his energy costs.  Hence his current independence from the unreliable supply characteristic of the JPS and his lower energy costs.  
H remarked that he is seeing more and more windmills on residences in St. Elizabeth too.  Think of the new Digicel building Downtown, Kingston.  Red Stripe recently announced plans to invest in their own energy plant.  I am hoping that as JPS and the Government of Jamaica continue to piss around and play games (WHERE IS THE ENERGY POLICY?) we the people will do the necessary and invest in alternative energy sources.  
And don’t gripe about the cost.  Plan. Start. Phase in the darned thing. Incremental improvement may be the way you have to do it.  Ain’t nothing wrong with that! So many people are comfortable borrowing money to buy a car, a liability that depreciates with every revolution of the tires.  Buy a small car for cash and invest in alternative energy instead, People! That is worthwhile debt.
So I have to believe that the entrepreneurial class will not roll over and die.  I have to believe that we will find a way to survive and thrive despite this Ineptocracy. (in-ep-toc’-ra-cy) – a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

about living in Jamaica today.

I may just have used up all my sulking points for 2012 today…I may even have a jump-start on 2013.  Here’s the thing: I work hard.  I consider myself to be a good mother.  I give of myself to these two endeavors.  When I’m at home my wants are simple: electricity, water, Internet and cable TV.  What?  Am I crazy?  Aren’t these “amenities” a given?  After all, it is the year 2012…
The main road near my house
Hurricane Sandy passed through about 3 weeks ago and we were left without electricity for 8 nights.  This in and of itself was uncomfortable enough, but it was the lack of responsiveness and dearth of credible information from the Jamaica Public Service Co. (JPS) that really, really got my goat. So I went to battle.  I called them…every day…multiple times per day.  I stalked their Twitter feed and their Face book page, making myself known at every opportunity.  I wrote to the press.  I wrote to one well known reporter.  I bitched using every medium I knew.  Service was restored on night 9, and on day 11, the Daily Gleaner published my submission on this issue to them.  I heard from the CEO and now I am on a first name basis with my Parish manager and I have a direct line to her should I have any issues in the future.  I am tired.

Then 2 weeks after the passage of Sandy, our water in storage got dangerously low.  So I put on my boxing  gloves again, but this time the opponent was the National Water Commission (NWC).  I was already on a first name basis with the gentleman who trucks water in my area in times of shortage.  And I already had the mobile number for the Operations manager who is responsible for service delivery in my area. When your water supply depends on your being on a first name basis with “Ruddy”, you know you’re in trouble! After hounding them for 2 days straight, we got our tanks filled from a truck and pumping from the NWC source resumed the day after.  I am tired.
I live 15 minutes from the outskirts of what we call the corporate area.  It’s blissfully cool, green and very quiet.  I enjoy decompressing on my veranda.  
My Veranda
But there are moments when I feel as if I really live behind God’s back.  We are definitely NOT a priority when it comes to utility companies.  At least it feels that way.  We’ve been living here for 12 years and it feels increasingly difficult to survive here.  The (public) road leading down to my house is like a river bed.  The feeder that provides electricity to this area is totally unreliable and at the first smell of rain, the first roll of thunder, the first flash of lightening, there goes the electricity.  So we decided a few years ago to make ourselves independent of JPS.  Over the years, we have increased our capacity, and I have to admit, that our response this time around post storm was decidedly better than in previous years.  We were able to keep the ‘fridge running and we could iron and read and watch local TV.  But because we are still not where we plan to be, we still had to rationalize our use of power during the period we were without service from JPS and so comfort levels were not at all optimized.   As for water, we have capacity to store 1650 gal of water, but this is depleted after 2 weeks with no re-supply. 
Me in front of the water tank: Water is Life!
Post Sandy, it took two weeks for the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) to resume garbage collection.  Garbage receptacles from the bottom of the hill all the way up were overflowing.  I simply waited and hoped for the garbage truck to come.  I didn’t have the energy to do battle with that lot.
That’s to give you some context.  Let me continue my rant now. 

Then last week Friday evening, cable TV suddenly went.  Service was restored Monday evening.  I called.  I called again.  And still I called.  A whole weekend with only TVJ as entertainment comes as close as I can imagine to what hell must be like.  It is the lack of responsiveness and clear, credible info in the absence of product/service that really ticks me off!  I was told that the storm damaged their lines.  I was told that vandals had cut their lines.  Still don’t know what the real story is.  I am tired.

Then this Thursday night, we lost Internet service.  And land-line service.  We reported it to Lime.  They could not proffer a reason but diligently recorded the complaint.  And while watching news last night, my initial fears were confirmed: vandals had yet again stolen $5M worth of Lime cables from the area.  They aim to replace said cables and restore service by the end of next week.  This has happened twice in the past to the best of my knowledge, and the last time it happened, service was restored after 6 long weeks… and this only after I pressed a colleague of mine who had a direct line to the then president of C&W (now Lime) to intervene on my behalf.  I am tired.
And now today, Saturday…  I came home at 1pm after spending the morning at the Learning Center at my church helping out.  I collapsed into my bed and started watching re-runs of the Voice when the screen went blank.  Nothing.  Cable service once again interrupted.  It is now almost 9:30pm on Saturday night and I am forced to watch TVJ.  Hell all over again.  I was able to report the issue to the cable company before they closed for the weekend. Big deal.  Dunno if their cables have been stolen too.  Dunno when I’ll be able to watch some good TV again.  I am tired.
H says that the country is in decline…that what we are experiencing are the results of a society falling apart.  I can’t disagree with him.  Main thoroughfares have simply broken away: Mt. Ogle in Stony Hill, Dunrobin near Red Hills Road, Junction en route to St. Mary, Cassava Piece off Mannings Hill Road…a clear sign of neglect and decay.  
Bloomberg News says that Jamaica is perched on the edge of defaulting on our debt.  The few dollars that I have managed to save and invest in government paper are once again at risk.  The portfolio took a hit in the JDX scheme implemented a few years aback where we were asked to accept lower interest rates.  “Jamaica has been the poster boy for imminent default for years now, but they don’t default,” Segura said in a phone interview. “The country has a weak ability to pay but strong willingness to pay.” So how do I preserve the little that I have accumulated? Equities? Real estate? FX? I am tired. There are those who have worked hard, educated themselves and fine themselves under-employed or un-employed. I’m not going to go into the crime situation, the young and old begging at stop-lights, the steady decline of civility in terms of how we deal with each other in terms of tone and deed.  I am tired. 
Now I have to strategise if I am to continue to live up here: increase the capacity of the solar set-up, add at least another 1000 gal to the water in storage, investigate options for wireless Internet (and this is not as simple as it sounds as right now I can’t pick up Lime cellular signal at home) and just decide to read more and build a library of DVDs in lieu of watching cable TV.  I am tired.   
Perhaps when the weariness overtakes me I should simply transport myself in my mind to those perfect times when I am sitting on Negril’s white sand looking at the perfect sunset, perfect cocktail in hand.  Perhaps I should focus on the fact that my family is intact and in good health.  Perhaps I should focus on the fantastic Sunday dinners that we still have, and the love and laughter and music and banter that we still share.