Can the JUTC be fixed? – A response to Jay

Over at Common Sense Jamaica, Jay has two posts up on fixing our government bus company, the Jamaican Urban Transit Company. However, looking at the suggestions from his first post reveals two problems. Here is a list of his suggestions from that post.

I would do the following :

  1. Employ a group of high school students  and University to go to the Gemba.
  2. Have the Phillip Paulwell provide them with tablets to be used for data collection.
  3. These folks will be stationed at the various depot’s in Kingston and Spanishtown used by the JUTC. They would also be placed at major transport center ie HWT, Downtown, Constant Spring etc as well as selected bus stops along every route serviced by the JUTC.
  4. Some would be placed on buses along every route travel by JUTC solely for data collection.

Data to be collected

  1. Average number of  paying passenger per bus on all routes.
  2. Category of paying passing ie students, elderly or regular.
  3. Average number of persons embarking and disembarking along the various routes.
  4. Average number of passengers during peak periods
  5. Category of paying passengers during peak periods
  6. Average number of passenger during off peak hrs.
  7. Category of paying passengers during off peak hrs
  8. Average wait time per bus stop.
  9. Average wait period at major bus centers (idle time)
  10. Run time of engine during ideal periods at bus stop.
  11. Average number of buses on various routes during peak periods
  12. Average number of buses on various routes during off peak periods.
  13. Average number of passenger who complete the entire journey ie from terminus to terminus.
  14. Average length of ride per passenger ie what distance does the average passenger travels.

Given what I have already seen JUTC can look at the following

  1. Get fleet of smaller buses like the Toyota Coasters or even  Toyota Hiace
  2. Run large buses during peak periods and where passenger loads are such that the bus will run at no less than 85% capacity.
  3. Run smaller buses on low volume routes and during peak periods on routes where it’s not economically viable to run the larger buses.
  4. Stop  running on some routes where the load factors are so low that you can never break even or make a profit.
  5. Divest these routes to smaller operates who in turn pay JUTC a fee to run on these routes.

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Aside from teh fact that having students with multi-thousand dollar tablets walking  around in standing room only buses is probably not a good  idea,  the same data can be collected using  pressure sensors, made from 50USD worth of parts  bought from DigiKey. Just create  about 6 graduations between “empty” and “full”, and you’re good to go.

This brings us to the second problem, which has to do with the second list. the one with the data to be collected by the students. Doesn’t the government already have this information? And even if they don’t have this information, couldn’t they just hire a consultant, or engineering firm with the requisite skills in queueing theory, traffic engineering, public transit administration and city planning? That’s the rub. They could fix the problems if they wanted to, but they do not. Instead they just the same old idiots so that they can eat a food.

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It seems that that the JUTC is just a dumping ground for party idiots. Peter Phillips fucked it up first back in the day with these big old buses bought for a high density/low volume transit system,when most of the day people come out often, and in small numbers – low density/high volume. Then you have Mike motherfucking Henry, who needs to rapatriate his ass back to Scotland or wherever the fuck he comes from.  And now we have Omar Davies, whose 90s record speaks for itself.  Its not hard to see why they can’t make a proper bus system – they’re too damn busy driving their air conditioned SUVs to understand their electorate.

The problem with Jay’s post, is that he has proposed a technical solution to a political problem. Everyone who has to endure the JUTC bus system including the rank and file who use its services , know what  is wrong with it. Their solutions are along the same line as Jay’s. What is needed is not so much a solution but a complete overhaul – Transport Ministers included. Not bus fare hikes that occur at more than three times the rate of increase of the Consumer Price Index (Cost of Living.) over the last ten years.

Dr. StrangeTax (or how I learnt to love the Laffer Curve)

Economics and Applied mathematics are not inherently difficult topics. In a lot of cases, they are merely an expression of some specific ideology in a symbolic form. One example of this, is the Laffer Curve.

Laffer_CurveThe point of the Laffer curve is to show the relationship between the amount of revenue a government collects at each point of a tax rate. A tax rate of zero percent obviously raises zero revenue, while a tax rate of 100 percent is what mathematical economists call “slavery”, and is usually avoided as a fiscal policy. The idea is to find the point on the curve  which revenue collection can be maximized.

Another example of a Laffer Curve

Obviously, this parabola is nothing more than a graphical illustration of the porridges that Goldilocks had to drink. Too hot, and no one has any money to pay taxes. Too cold, and government gets no revenue. We have to find the point where its just right.

Laughable Laffer

The problems with this should be fairly obvious at this point.

  • In a country with a progressive tax rate, you will need more than one Laffer curve. Sometimes, a lot depending on the demographic. This is a problem, because the Laffer curve was originally intended to help rich people.
  • There may be multiple peaks on the curve.
  • There may be other variables at play affecting tax collection. If they are quantifiable, you’re going to have to get out that Div, Grad and Curl. If they are unquantifiable, like say, a Kafkaesque bureaucracy that prevents people who want to pay from paying, well then, that’s another problem.

The first bullet point needs some more explaining. The Laffer Curve was formalized by one Arthur Laffer, one of the main proponents of Supply Side Economics. The thrust of his argument was that the tax rate that maximizes revenue was at a much lower level than previously believed: so low that current tax rates were above the level where revenue is maximized. So, what should be done was to lower the tax rate – for rich people.

Supply Side Economics defined

Previously, Supply Side Economics was called horse and sparrow economics. Why?

According to John Kenneth Galbraith, the theory dates back to the 1890s when it was called horse and sparrow theory — i.e., if you feed horses enough oats, it will pass through their digestive systems and their droppings will provide enough leftover oats to feed the sparrows.

It is now known as either Reaganomics, after its most popular promoter, or trickle-down economics,, based on the idea that  the rich will use the money saved from taxes to re-invest in the economy, instead of, you know, hiding it the Cayman Islands.

Suffice to say, the implementation has had some controversial results, especially under George W. Bush.

Bush cut taxes for the rich, eliminated the inheritance tax for wealthy people too stupid to consult with a financial planner, gave away bribes called tax incentive packages, sought and got an $800 billion bailout package (which he called $700 billion bailout), and paid for it all with a Chinese credit card.

During this same period, the dollar slipped against world markets, losing so much ground that some nations chose to no longer peg their currencies to the US dollar. Once at par with the euro, the US dollar lost a third of its value. When Bush junior entered office, the Canadian dollar was worth about 65¢. By January 2008, the Canadian dollar exceeded the value of the US dollar for the first time since 1976, although it has since receded to about 95¢, due in part to governmental intervention,and falling oil prices.

It’s also worth noting that N. Gregory Mankiw, who was at one point the chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, actually lists supply-siders in his introductory economics textbook under a section entitled “Charlatans and Cranks.”

However, like all economic policies, it has its place, but a problem occurs when you shift the tax burden from the rich to the middle and poorer classes.

Peter Phillips, you bloodclaat dunce

Jamaica is a nation of higglers. Not in occupation, but in thought. Our idea of wealth creation is a simultaneous exchange of good for money – it is present centered. W do not appreciate that over time assets – and this includes people can , well, appreciate. So we ignore the stock market, but get caught up in monthly payout Ponzi schemes like Cash Plus. And this is what Peter Phillips has essentially created with his policies – a national Ponzi scheme. The government has already squeezed all the taxes they can from Jamaican people. See that second Laffer curve? Let me show you again:

Growth, not maximum revenue

We are waaaayyyy on the right hand side of he Laffer Curve – meaning tax evasion and black market trading, but the cool thing about the above curve is that it focuses on growth maximization, not revenue collection. You keep collecting more and more taxes, you will reach a point where you can’t get anymore taxes, just like how a Ponzi scheme reaches a point where it can’t get bring in any more money to pay its investors.What you need to do is stop taxing middle and lower class people, fix the bureaucracy and fix our infrastructure,  if you want to get your our damn money. In other words, Supply Side economics for everybody.

He even looks like a fucking retard
He even looks like a fucking retard

Phillips and company seem to believe that only way to maximize growth and tax revenue is through more and more taxation. But anyone with half a brain should be able to realize that doubling taxes will not double tax revenue. That is like having nine women pregnant for one month to get a baby faster. The Laffer curve is a parabola, not a straight line, and is merely a mathematical model of common sense. Perhaps if Dr. Phillips paid attention to the policies of previous administrations, he would realize that the Laffer Curve is no laughing matter.

We are all PNP (Personal National Party) members now!!

Veritas has posted about Jamaica’s infatuation with the People’s National Party,  The post, not surprisingly is with regards to the Estimates of Expenditure of the 2012 to 2013 budget.

 Of particular concern is the $19.4 billion tax package outlined by the Minister. Taking careful aim, Phillips applied the GCT to everything from milk, to crackers, to saltfish, even patties – while lowering the overall rate of the GCT by 1%. The tax on electricity, which was to have been abolished as promised by the PM herself, was expanded; printed material, the telecoms sector, the tourism sector – all taxed. Coupled with this massive tax package was a public sector wage freeze. The stage seemed set for riots and demonstrations, as was the case in 2009, when then Minister Shaw outlined a similar tax package. Instead, there has been little more than murmurings of discontent at the tax burden and a quiet acceptance of the wage freeze by public sector groups. I was stunned. What was so different when Shaw had proposed these measures? All hell had broken loose then, why not now? And then it hit me, this is PNP country. Jamaica is in bed with the PNP, and like an abused spouse, we silently bear the beatings, because surely Mama P loves us, a dats why she beat wi.

So a politician lied. Why is Veritas surprised?  He is surprised because the country has given up. When the Greeks got screwed over, they knew what to do. From Chris Hedges:

Here’s to the Greeks. They know what to do when corporations pillage and loot their country. They know what to do when Goldman Sachs and international bankers collude with their power elite to falsify economic data and then make billions betting that the Greek economy will collapse. They know what to do when they are told their pensions, benefits and jobs have to be cut to pay corporate banks, which screwed them in the first place. Call a general strike. Riot. Shut down the city centers. Toss the bastards out. Do not be afraid of the language of class warfare—the rich versus the poor, the oligarchs versus the citizens, the capitalists versus the proletariat. The Greeks, unlike most of us, get it.

Fuck with the Greeks, and they’ll get all Spartan on you ass.

But there is something that doesn’t sit well with me when I read Veritas’ article. The idea that Jamaica was PNP country only makes sense if a majority of the Jamaican population votes for the PNP. And with a voter turnout at the general election of 53% and a local government voter turnout of 34.5% I think its safe to say that the majority of Jamaicans aren’t really concerned about the political process. Hell, I ‘d put forth that the majority of Jamaican people really don’t care much about anything.

Well, there is something Jamaican’s do care about. Themselves. Everybody is an individual now, just compare Michael Manley back in 1972 with the 1988 version. When the Berlin Wall came down, and American consumer capitalism and Mont Pelerin style neoliberal governance came to dominate the Western world, all hope for a democratic socialist utopia got dashed and scattered like a boardhouse after Hurricane Gilbert. A simple glance at the number of scandals that the PNP took part in during from 1988 to 2001 will show that they have gone from being a socialist party to a kleptocratic, Machiavellian, political machine.

But doesn’t that describe all Jamaicans at this point? A non-ideological herd, struggling apart, yet alone together Go to any verandah, street corner, university or workplace and ask Jamaican people what they believe. Blackness, socialism, capitalism and other ideologies aren’t even on the radar. What we have are a nation of people that believe… nothing. Want nothing. Hope nothing. Expect nothing. Dream nothing. Desire nothing. Lets use the old Olympic test. Here’s the defining image of 1968:

And here is 2008

High crime rate, police killings, skin bleaching and economic stagnation? Chinese workers committing suicide at Foxconn’s factories? Fuck all that , I’ll take a PUMA contract , thank you very much….

Things wont change until someone gives Jamaicans something worth believing in. Because just like the PNP,  we sure don’t seem to believe in each other, even though every man believes in himself.