Balcostics in China: The 12th China-LAC Business Summit

The 12th China-LAC business summit was held in Zhuhai China, from the 1st of November to the 3rd. Balcostics Research was among two Jamaican MSMEs selected by Connect Americas (an IDB branch) to participate in this, the 12th staging.

The conference was held in the Guangzhou province, in the city of Zhuhai – this is where the World’s longest (through the sea) bridge was recently opened. This bridge connects Hong Kong to Main Land China, and is approximately 55 Kilometers long. For context, Mandeville to Kingston is approximately 91 km.

Registration commenced from October 31st, this was followed by the opening ceremony on November 1st, where we met our Minister & Ambassador to China.   

Day 2 begun with matchmaking sessions, which were mostly organized prior via the Summit’s¬†website. MSMEs from LAC were paired with businesses & organizations¬†operating in China to explore possibilities for future trade in services or products.

After matchmaking sessions ended around midday, the exhibition hall was opened to the public.

Our third & final day ended¬†with an official tour of the new ‘China-LAC Economic & Trade Corporation Park’ – we also visited a temple ūüôā¬† ¬†

Overall, this was an eyeopening experience for us in so many ways. We’re truly grateful to Connect Americas’ & the IDB for this opportunity and we planted some seeds that we hope will bear fruit in the future.

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Want to learn more about our research services for individuals and companies: Click here

Trademark Surveys: Combining Research and Law

trademark-infringementTrademark confusion surveys bring together both of my passions ‚Äď research & law. In the world of Intellectual Property, many companies are now ensuring that their trademarks are not confused with competitors.

In recent years, the courts in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom have seen a drastic increase in the number of cases where surveys have been accepted in trademark infringement and passing off cases. The use of research in trademark litigation has become prevalent even in the Caribbean. Two years ago, Balcostics Limited concluded a confusion survey where respondents provided answers to different questions relating to their perception as to whether they believed two marks (shown on the questionnaire) were owned by the same or different companies. Respondents were then asked to explain why they made a particular selection and to state the name of the company (ies) they thought owned both marks and or each mark.

Ensuring that the survey is conducted in the perfect environment is key when conducting a survey for use in litigation proceedings because trademark surveys often determine the outcome of trademark litigation. Courts look to specific indicia of reliability regarding how a trademark survey was conducted and performed. These indicia include:

  • Whether a sufficient number of individuals were surveyed,
  • Whether specific controls were created to measure if any portion of the survey was confusing in itself,
  • Whether the questions were leading or followed a proper format, and
  • If a specific percentage of survey respondents were called to verify the accuracy of their answers. A substantial amount of case law exists which provides insight into how to conduct and prepare a trademark survey that will be admissible in court.

5 Key Points in Conducting a Confusion Survey:

1.Ensure that the proper universe is selected. You have to ensure that the types of consumers questioned in the survey are from the proper universe. Identification and selection of a proper universe are recognized as critical elements in a survey. It makes no sense to interview the wrong persons as your results will be irrelevant.

2. Persons conducting the survey are recognized experts. The careful hiring of a trademark expert is one of the most important decisions made during a trademark dispute. Well… *cough* that is where Balcostics Research comes in.

3. The sample design, questionnaire and interviewing should be in accordance with generally accepted standards of research procedure and statistics.

4. Sample design and interviews are conducted independently of the Attorneys in the matter.

5. Interviewers trained in the field have no knowledge of the litigation or purposes for which survey is being used. This point was discussed in the case of TOYS ‚ÄúR‚ÄĚ US, INC., Plaintiff,v.CANARSIE KIDDIE SHOP, INC.,[1983]

 

Written by: Abi-Gaye White-Thomas (Mrs.)
Attorney-at-Law and Researcher
law@balcostics.com

 

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

 

Fish Sanctuaries: Ensuring Jamaica’s Future Fish Supply

Recently we concluded a survey among fisherfolks across seven (7) fish sanctuaries (Bluefields, Salt Harbour, Galleon Harbour, Three Bays, Boscobel, Oracabessa and Galleon St. Elizabeth) in Jamaica.

What is a Fish Sanctuary? 

A Fish Sanctuary is a coastal area where no fishing is allowed so that fish (and other sea life) have a sea haven to breed and grow to increase the fish stock and keep it healthy.

Here are some highlights from our visits:

 

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

 

Why smart statistics are the key to fighting crime

When she became the attorney general of New Jersey in 2007, Anne Milgram quickly discovered a few startling facts: not only did her team not really know who they were putting in jail, but they had no way of understanding if their decisions were actually making the public safer. And so began her ongoing, inspirational quest to bring data analytics and statistical analysis to the US criminal justice system.

 

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

 

‚ÄúThou shalt not be black‚ÄĚ: Christianity & the distribution of power

Within the Caribbean, and more specifically the Jamaican context, the failure to acknowledge religion as a significant factor in the distribution of power, opportunities and status still exists. And although such failure is evident among all sections of the Jamaican society, the group that has lost and continues to lose the most is the lower class African group.

In order to understand the role religion‚ÄĒmore specifically Christianity‚ÄĒhas played in the subjugation of blacks in Jamaica from slavery till present, one has to understand the historical, political, socio-cultural and economic factors.

Rasta Jamaica

Rastafari, even as a movement steeped in Ethiopianism and Black Liberation, cannot eradicate the traces of black subjugation that has been woven into the fabric of Jamaican culture. ¬†If one asks you to close your eyes and think about Christ more often than not it is the ‚Äėstereotypical‚Äô image of a white man. An individual who perceives Christ in this way subconsciously separates himself from that Supreme Being by virtue of not having the ‚Äúimage and likeness‚ÄĚ of Christ.

In the end, one believes that a structural social movement approach similar to how Christianity was established in the Caribbean or a purely African doctrine devoid of all ideological similarities to Christianity, can be the only means of ‚Äėsalvation‚Äô for blacks in Jamaica.

Want to learn more about this paper, contact the author via email: steffon.campbell02@uwimona.edu.jm

Contributed by: Steffon R. K. Campbell

SteffonAssistant Lecturer/Coordinator, Western Jamaica Programme 
Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC)
Faculty of Humanities and Education
The University of the West Indies, Mona
Western Jamaica Campus

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

LIME shares continue recovery with 11.86% increase: JSE Winners & Losers

Trading activity on the JSE Main Market resulted in 19 Stocks crossing the trading floor of which 9 advanced (winners) , 5 declined (losers) and 5 traded firm (no movement in price).

A total of 4,711,325 units were exchanged valued at approximately $13,047,885.

Lime share price 2014

LIME was the volume leader with 3,778,521 units (80.20%) followed by Jamaica Money Market Brokers Limited 8.75% with 252,200 units (5.35%) and Mayberry Investments with 195,661 units (4.15%).

LIME also recorded the day’s highest gain, increasing 11.86% or $0.07 to end the day at $0.66; whilst Pulse Investments suffered the day’s greatest loss, falling 12.64% or $0.11 to close at $0.76.

The Winners (share price increased):

Companies

Closing  Price ($)

# of Shares Traded

Increase ( $)

Increase (%)

LIME

0.66

3,778,521

0.07

11.86%

Jamaica Stock Exchange Limited

2.00

7,482

0.2

11.11%

Mayberry Investments Ltd

2.00

195,661

0.1

5.26 %

Pan-Jamaican Investment Trust Ltd.

50.00

5,730

1.93

4.01 %

GraceKennedy Ltd.

59.95

101,500

0.79

1.34%

Seprod Limited

11.01

10,996

0.1

0.92 %

Sagicor Real Estate X Fund Limited

7.17

12,940

0.02

0.28%

Scotia Group Jamaica

20.59

63,862

0.05

0.24%

Carreras Limited

34.92

3,000

0.08

0.23%

The Losers (share price declined):

Companies

Closing  Price

($)

# of Shares Traded

Decrease

($)

Decrease (%)

Pulse Investments

0.76

106,700

-0.11

-12.64%

Caribbean Cement Company Ltd.

4.50

34,137

-0.17

-3.64%

Jamaica Money Market Brokers Limited 8.75%

3.01

252,200

-0.03

-0.99%

National Commercial Bank of Jamaica Ltd.

19.31

7,730

-0.09

-0.46%

Sagicor Group Jamaica Limited

9.06

79,275

-0.03

-0.33%

Written by:

Thereece StewartThereece Stewart BSc.

Thereece holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Banking and Finance from UWI. She is accredited by the UTech/JIM-School of Advance Management with a Certificate in Jamaican Securities.

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Is ICT the answer to get more young Jamaicans choosing agriculture as a career path?

Even though employment options and entrepreneurial opportunities are few in Jamaica, it seems as if many Jamaican youth would prefer not to pursue agriculture as a career.

lettuce-farmer

Aging Workforce

Data from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority [RADA] (2006) revealed that up to that time, the average age of registered farmers in Jamaica was 57.5 years old. The data also revealed that farmers between the ages of 16 to 25 only represented 3.2% of the total number of registered farmers in Jamaica, with most farmers being over 40 years old.

Why are young persons not choosing agriculture as a career?

The majority of youth surveyed have a poor perception of agriculture, many believe that a career in agriculture would cause them to have low income and social status.

The main reasons given by Jamaicans for agriculture not being a popular career choice among youths included:

  1. the perception that agriculture provided low financial returns;
  2. consisted of intense manual work (with limited benefits);
  3. involved limited/no application of technology,
  4. the perception that their peers would not be in favour of them pursuing careers in agriculture.

Agriculture Jamaica

Not enough Jamaican youth are choosing to pursue careers in agriculture

The in-depth interviews with the experts from the Ministry of Agriculture ( ‘Youth in Agriculture’ Programme and RADA); IICA; the Jamaica 4-H Clubs and ICT4D Jamaica corroborated the notion that not enough Jamaican youth are choosing to pursue careers in agriculture. Of greater concern was that agricultural schools [such as Ebony Park HEART Academy, College of Agriculture Science and Education (C.A.S.E.) etc.] are producing agricultural graduates but only a few are focusing on cultivating the land for farming. One of the main reasons highlighted for this shying away from fieldwork is that graduates do not want to do ‚Äėdirty‚Äô laborious work in the field, and that they abhor having to toil in the sun.

Jamaica’s top agriculture graduates are migrating to other countries soon after graduating

A significant percentage of Jamaica‚Äôs top agriculture graduates are migrating to other countries soon after graduating. This is due in part to graduates succumbing to the allure of being paid substantial salaries overseas for their skills. Further, it was common to find that graduates view agriculture in Jamaica as a dying industry. This is why most feel motivated to migrate to countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, where they can benefit from lucrative opportunities in agriculture. The end result is that Jamaica suffers major ‚Äėbrain drain‚Äô when these ‚Äėbrighter‚Äô agriculture graduates opt to leave the country for ‚Äėgreener pastures‚Äô.

Link between ICT and Agriculture

ICT is defined as the combination of computer technology with communication technology to process, send, and receive information.

Youth involvement & ICT

ICT can be used as a tool to encourage more youth to pursue careers in agriculture. The idea here is to use ICT to share pertinent agricultural information with youth in new and exciting ways. Our research also revealed that youths see agriculture as a primitive occupation, which is labour intensive and out of touch with modern technology, while on the flip side, they view ICT as something that is cool, progressive and modern. It is evident that in order to use ICT as a mechanism for increasing youth involvement in agriculture, it will be important to show youth, a clear link between ICT and agriculture.

It is expected that more youth could be motivated to pursue agriculture, if for example, they saw where the Government was spending money to develop the agriculture sector in Jamaica:
  1. through the use of modern technology;
  2. through greater emphasis on agricultural training in the school curriculum;
  3. through the provision of farming lands to youth;
  4. through the provision of planting material and access to low interest loans or grants to set up their farms.

If the Government address these issues, it would be of great importance to properly sensitize youth about the opportunities that exist for involving them in the development of the agriculture industry. This is where ICT could play a critical role in sharing information with youths, thus starting the process of influencing them to choose careers in agriculture.

Most of the youth surveyed in this study believed that ICT could be used to develop strategies that serve to increase youth involvement in agriculture, by facilitating the dissemination of positive messages.

Thus we concluded that some Jamaican youths may be persuaded to choose agricultural careers, using ICT as an enabler. Given the growing fascination with ICT tools, such as the Internet and cell phones, we believe that the appeal of ICT as being cool and modern will help in the erosion of youth’s negative stereotypes about agriculture in Jamaica (especially as it relates to them viewing the agriculture industry as primitive).

Contributor: 

keron

Keron Morris is a Communication Professional with over twelve (12) years of experience in communication management, having expertise in all areas of communication theory and practice.

Keron holds a first degree with a double major in Media & Communication and Zoology from C.A.R.I.M.A.C. and Pure & Applied Sciences, U.W.I., Mona Campus, and a Master’s degree in Communication for Social and Behaviour Change from C.A.R.I.M.A.C., U.W.I., Mona Campus. Keron also has a Law degree from U.W.I., Cave Hill Campus, and is currently pursuing a Certificate of Legal Education at the Norman Manley Law School (Final Year).

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

How to fix Jamaica’s justice system in less than 5 years

On February 26 we published an article titled, “The ‚ÄėData Problem‚Äô hampering Jamaica‚Äôs Court¬†System“. Today, Donovan Ferguson examines possible solutions – over to Donovan:

I am of the view that now is the best possible time to correct this problem; here are my reasons for saying this:

1. Jamaica now has an advance telecommunication system. (3 Tier data centers, Fiber optic networks, 4G WIFI solutions).

2. Jamaica has numerous well trained, yet unemployed professionals, plus we have approximately six universities and other colleges that can aid with training.

3. A large diaspora estimated to be two million between North America and Europe, which would be more than willing and able to contribute financially if a comprehensive plan and implementation roadmap was developed.

Engage with Caribbean Diaspora

For example, the Government could create a program that all or part of its diaspora could contribute to a crime fighting and justice modernization fund and intern, contributors would receive a special 5% discount on the transaction fees and taxes of any future property purchases in Jamaica.¬† If 1 million contributors, donated $15 USD per month¬† = $15 million USD per month; or If 2 million contributors, donated $15 USD per month¬† = $30 million USD per month, in five years, Jamaica could easily have the most comprehensive and efficient justice and crime prevention system if we’re able to tap into the resources of our diaspora.This initiative will provide a¬†two-fold benefit.

Barriers to Caribbean diaspora engagement1. Monies raised from donations can be used to develop state of the art crime lab, modern police stations with the necessary equipment and competent professional personnel, an all Island video surveillance system, modern efficient Court facilities, and finally a first world witness protection system.

2. There are many philanthropic individuals and organizations that would be willing to partner with Jamaica in its quest to create a comprehensive and efficient justice and crime prevention system.

3. Install solar electric system and energy efficient LED in courts, police stations and Ministry of Justice facilities as a measure for reducing operating cost. 

4. Employ retired Scotland Yard, Canadian mounted police and Australian police officers to help train and mentor new Jamaican Police Officers.

5. Hire only College graduates with a bachelors degree or higher to work for the Ministry of justice and the police force.

6. Review and modernize all existing laws. 

Contributed by: Donovan Ferguson.  BSTM, ACMT

Mr. Ferguson is a Jamaican who lives in the USA. He attends the  Western Governor’s University pursuing a MBA- IT management and working as a lead Apple Tech at Microelectronics.

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

The ‘Data Problem’ hampering Jamaica’s Court System

Recently I published a study examining the Jamaican Court System, the following areas were scrutinized:

  1. The Criminal Divisions of the Supreme and Resident Magistrate Courts
  2. The Gun Court
  3. The Family Court
  4. The Coroner’s Court

Jamaica Court systemMy research found that the Jamaican Court‚Äôs information management system is manual, heavily paper-based and inadequate to provide needed real-time data. The challenges that currently exist in data management continue to have serious implications for the efficacy, timeliness and¬†reliability of Jamaica’s Court system.

The biggest problems affecting the court system:

1. Lack of Physical Resources (Equipment)

  • General lack of equipment such as computers, surge protectors and no database management system in place at the Resident Magistrates Courts to capture statistical data.
  • Clerk of the Courts were not assigned individual computers, resulting in data being stored in books and court sheets.
  • Limited number of computers assigned to clerks, affecting their capacity to capture and store relevant data

2. Human Resources

  • The Jamaican Court System suffers from inadequate staffing; one (1) clerk is assigned to a court. This makes it difficult for the Clerk of Courts to collect data, while managing the court at the same time; especially, when the court is mentioning new or part heard cases.

3. Spatial Problems

  • The Jamaican Court System is hampered by the limited office space now available, many courts cannot accommodate any new furniture. The offices are overcrowded and documents are mainly stored in an unplanned fashion (any place available). The court offices need to be relocated and outfitted with modern furniture.

4. Training

  • The Jamaican Court System‚Äôs staff members need to be trained and sensitized to the importance of data capture and storage methods to national development.
  • The Resident Magistrate‚Äôs Court Staff members need to be trained in the use of the Judicial Management and Enforcement System (JEMS); which is the computer application used to store data in the Supreme Court of Jamaica

Download a copy of the paper (pdf): Click here

About Contributor:

horatio

Horatio Morgan is the author of ‚ÄúThe Jamaican Court System Statistics Project‚ÄĚ and is an Education Administrator and a certified Management Analyst interested in the areas of technical analysis, development of indicators and research. Organizational Analysis is one of his many passions and the need to incorporate research into the rubric of developing national governmental policies.

Horatio has worked in the Court System of Jamaica for the last 10 years in various capacities and particularly, functioned from 2010 as a Research Analyst. For further detail contact him at horatio.morgan@yahoo.com

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

 

Validate your business ideas with customer research: Tips

Most entrepreneurs should be familiar with the basics of Lean Start-up methodology:

  1. Start by searching for product/market fit.
  2. Get out of the building and talk to customers.
  3. Run a series of experiments to validate your ideas.
  4. Above all else, validate your thinking as early as possible: don’t spend millions of dollars building something before you have tested the ideas and concepts with customers.

Business-Idea

Many entrepreneurs find it hard to reach real customers. Getting feedback from co-founders, friends, small focus groups, user testing sessions and even existing customers can be very helpful to qualitatively understand how others view your offering. But many times the sample group that you can reach is too small and biased towards people that will be polite to you, or who have self-identified as liking your product.

Validate your business ideas using feedback from a representative sample of your target group – your potential customers. For even greater objectivity, start-ups can consider outsourcing their data gathering, collection and analysis.

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Correlation or Causation: The most common errors made in data analysis

The research field is prone to errors with significant consequences on generalizing results and interpreting statistical relationships.The following are some of the most common:

statistical errors

  1. Assuming you have a representative sample: This error is common especially in large data sets (big data). The results may look convincing, but the sample does not represent a true picture of the target population.
  2. Measurement errors: Assuming the data has been measured correctly.  Often we get more bad data than good data and you need to adjust for this.
  3. Correlation versus Causation  РThere is no statistical test to prove/ disprove whether two things are correlated versus whether one is causing the other to occur. Yet many researchers make this common error of assuming causality instead of correlation.
  4. Assuming that the data represents what you think it does: For example, not because a large proportion of prisoners are from¬†high school A, means it’s correct to conclude that¬†high school A¬†is responsible for producing criminals.
  5. Reliance on features that are destined to change. Some numbers are bound to be way off when circumstances change. Daily and weekly fluctuations are easy to notice, but predicting what will happen one year from now is a different story. No matter how well a research explains current and past results, predicting the future based on current information has many limitations.
  6. Not understanding the impact that algorithm (different statistical tests) choice have on final results.¬†Using different types of algorithms — say, random forest instead of logistic regression — may often have a significant impact on final results.

Can you think of any common errors you might want to add? Please share in the comments below

Home-Based Businesses,The Way Forward For Jamaica

Encouraging home-based businesses as a sector is a smart move in any economy, but for the Jamaican economy it is even more important as we pull out of this recession and into a period of recovery and growth.

home-business

The contribution of this sector to economies of developed countries around the world has been very significant. Both the Home-Based Institute and the Small Business Administration in the United States of America have shared statistics that can better help to inform us as to the home-based business opportunity market sector as a whole. The Home-Based Institutes believes that home-based businesses contributes approximately US$427 billion annually to the US economy, while generating 8500 job opportunities on a daily basis. At the same time the Small Business Administration is of the opinion that 53% of the small businesses located in America are home-based, with an average annual income of US$63,000 per year.

This information is very useful to us as a country. When we examine the problems the country is faced with: our spiralling debt, our high crime rate, problems with urbanization and lack of productivity as well as our number one problem of unemployment, Home-Based Businesses could really be the way forward for the our economy.

It is easy for us to dismiss the thought of encouraging home-based businesses as a sector, because to many, home-based businesses are just small meaningless start-ups that will not last. The technological, environmental, demographic and financial changes of the last ten years have been significant and have taught us that the only constant in life is change.  We are now seeing where home-based businesses are having a higher success rate of surviving beyond three (3) years compared to traditional small businesses.

Smart entrepreneurs have recognized the impact of taking their businesses home and going virtual. This move has helped them overcome some of the reasons why small businesses fail, as so eloquently expressed by Dr. Ken Carter, senior lecturer of the West Indies at the time in his 1987 study on ‚ÄúFactors that caused business failures in Jamaica.‚ÄĚ

Advantages of operating a Home-Based Business

The advantages of operating a Home- Based Business include:

  1. Lower operating cost, increased productivity.
  2. Flexible working hours, freedom administrative control.
  3. Location, reduction of stress, more time with family.
  4. The electronic office, greater individual earning potential.
  5. Better work-life balance

Large corporations have also used this concept to increase their productivity, with different companies registering increases in productivity between 10 and 35% among their employees who work from home. Yes, the home-based business concept is for large organisations too. According to a December 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review Magazine, IBM has 40% of their staff working from home on any given day.   Great softwares from companies like NesterSoft, producers of the Worktime  (a project and time management software), an employer can track the hours that an employee spend on different task and help them manage their time more efficiently.

Employees who reside in Portmore St. Catherine are prime candidates for such a pilot project. Here an employer can increase the productivity and morale of his/her employees who lives in this municipality. If a Portmore resident should check the hours spent sometimes in traffic during his/her commute to and from work, one would see the amount of productive time wasted on a daily basis. Jamaica can no longer afford this. Some of these very tasks can be done remotely. With a properly working computer, reliable internet service and the right softwares etc, employees could work from home.

This is a win-win situation for all the stakeholders (employers, employees and the government) involved.

  1. Companies will benefit from less sick and personal leave taken, lower turnover, which cuts hiring and training cost; reduced office and parking space needs; and increased employee productivity and morale.
  2. Motivated and responsible Employees usually put in more work hours because they have more time by not sitting in traffic or because they have fewer distractions. Also working from home can help create more jobs for the disabled and persons who live in rural communities.
  3. While for the country, more productivity means more earnings, thus more taxes.

I could continue with numerous statistics from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S Census, Office of Advocacy Small Business Administration and many more institutions around the world, to support the call for more emphasis to be placed on developing a home-based business sector, that could address Jamaica’s problems, but first our mindset must change. One of the largest obstacles in introducing/promoting this concept to Jamaica is that it requires a paradigm shift in businesses, employees and policy-makers. A paradigm shift that will see more of our over 2000 university graduates per year, young people engaged in crime and our well experienced retirees start their own home-based businesses.

In conclusion, the promotion of telecommuting/home based businesses presents an interesting and exciting prospect for individuals, corporations, government and the local economy as a whole. Not only will employment be increased, but productivity, economic and social benefits will abound to the larger Jamaican society.

By Strategic Consultant Denver Brown PMP. You can follow him atwww.train4empowerment.com

Jamaica’s biggest problems are opportunities

Recently I read a post on LinkedIn titled “We need our brightest people working on our biggest problem “. The post was written by Bill Gates, who made reference to his foundation and their fight to eradicate polio and other global diseases .

Brightest Minds

Problems are opportunities disguised! Living in Jamaica, we can all relate to problems/ issues that militate against our productivity & efficiency. Depending on your perspective, Jamaica’s¬†problems present opportunities for us¬†to make a difference – while making a profit.

The main problem areas

1.High Unemployment & Low Production¬†– opportunities for reducing unemployment & increasing production of goods & services are available in several emerging industries. Areas such as ‘medical marijuana’, ‘health tourism’, ‘sports tourism’, ‘Business process outsourcing’, ‘music production’, ‘Art & craft’ are showing great potential. Jamaica’s highly skilled, yet largely unemployed labour force is providing the¬†impetus for greater investment (outsourcing – business processing, research, animation, graphics design, web development etc.).

2. Education РEducation that creates producers not consumers. Education related to independent thinking, business & personal development, cash flow, personal finances and health is a great area of opportunity.

3. Health РObesity is an insidious problem, related in some ways to a lack of education and indiscipline. Hypertension along with other life style diseases posed a significant problem for our people. According to a World Bank study, 60% of Jamaicans aged 35 to 54 were either overweight or obese. This same study also found that approximately 70% of Jamaican women were overweight, 80% of whom were in the 35-54 age group. Several drugs & medications are prescribed for mitigating the impact of these illnesses but the opportunity for entrepreneurs lie in the prevention of these alignments (Prevention better than cure). A few local companies have started exploiting the business of keeping people healthy & fit, but we still have a far way to go Рmore opportunities to exploit

4. Energy – we should continue to¬†strive for a solar energy future. As solar panels become cheaper (Solar panel prices down 80%), we¬†should start positioning our country to benefit fully from solar energy – more creative thinking is need to¬†provide affordable solar energy solutions to Jamaicans. Currently most Jamaicans don’t have the wherewithal to install solar energy solutions – what can we do to change this? There is also¬†potential to¬†create employment through conservation & environmentally friendly initiatives.

5. Lack of data for decision makers РThis area is under my purview and at Balcostics Ltd we provide research solutions that we hope will make information more affordable & accessible. Yet, we still have a far way to go Рmore opportunities abound in this field.

6. Inadequate water harvesting &¬†storage – this is evident from Jamaica’s annual island-wide drought problems. In short, the National Water Commission (NWC) needs a competitor!

7. Slow Justice¬†system – recently another US report criticized the sad state of Jamaica’s justice system. What if anything could new graduates & senior legal professionals who are unsatisfied with the status quo do to improve this situation? The ‘so called’ problem of ‘too many lawyers’ will hopefully provide the impetus needed to change the¬†Justice system for the better.

Therefore, which of these problems will you make your mission? Which of these areas can you make just a little better? Which of these issues are you passionate about?

Do you have any to add? Please share in the comments below

Written by:

Luwayne Thomas (Founder, Balcostics Ltd.)

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

 

Financial advice on starting a business in Jamaica

As we work ourselves out of our economic problems, Jamaicans who know how to “tek dem hand and mek fashion” will start new business ventures. Enterprising gardeners will provide services for lawn care on a more structured basis; electronic gurus will ply their trade on a greater structured basis by providing follow up service to the sale of equipment; freelancers from various disciplines will increase ¬†their trade¬† and other professional persons will put up their shingle.

Open for business Jamaica

This is not to say that these enterprises are not now functioning but the economic climate provides the opportunity for increase activities in the areas of individually controlled businesses. The development of individual enterprises and the competition that go with this explosion will undoubtedly lead to the formalizing of organization structures that in turn will make for growth in the micro, small and medium sized businesses (MSMBs).

Along with this explosion, the need for rudimentary financial information is necessary and to this end we have prepared the basic information below:

Current Assets¬†‚Äď Balances ¬†in the main statement of an entity which represent ¬†liquid cash and balance in savings and current account at the date of the statement, accounts receivables which are amounts owing by customers, marketable securities which are instruments like treasury bill and commercial paper, inventory which are the items available for sale, prepaid expenses which are amounts paid in advance such as insurance and deposits¬† on rent and electricity and all other assets that could be converted to cash easily. These items are called current if they are expected to change in value over the next twelve months.

Current liabilities¬†‚Äď A company‚Äôs debts or obligations that are due in near future usually within one year, and includes short term debts that must be paid within a year, accounts payable which is what you owe your suppliers of goods and service, accrued liabilities such as telephone bills, electricity, rent and accounting fees that you did not pay by the end of the period but must be paid promptly and other short-term debts.

Working Capital¬†‚Äď This is the value that the business has to work with to generate its sales and pay its bills in the short run. The working capital measures both company‚Äôs efficiency and its short term financial health. The value of the working capital calculated as Current Assets¬† – Current Liabilities.

 

If the current asset is greater than the current liability your working capital is positive and this is good for your business.

From the value point of view, Working Capital can be segregated into Gross Working Capital and Net Working Capital.

  • Gross Working Capital refers to the firm‚Äôs investment in current assets
  • Net Working Capital ¬†refers to the difference between current assets and current liabilities

A positive working capital means that the company is able to pay off its short term liabilities, whereas a negative working capital suggests that the company currently is unable to meet its short term liabilities.

From the point of view of time, Working Capital it is referred as permanent or temporary.

  • Permanent¬†–¬†Permanent working capital refers to the minimum level of investment in the current assets by the business at all times to carry out minimum level of activities.
  • Temporary¬†–¬†Temporary working capital also known as variable working capital refers to that part of total working capital, which is required by a business over and above permanent working capital.

Effective Working Capital Management

The individual owner of a business is accountable to determine and ensure the requirements of working capital in such a way that the amount of working capital available is neither too large nor too small for its requirement. Large amount of working capital would mean that the business has ideal funds.  On the other hand if there is inadequate working capital, then the business might run into risk of insolvency, and continued scarceness of adequate working capital can seriously challenge the financial viability and sustainability of the business.

Optimum Working Capital

There is no standard rule for an Optimum Working Capital. The working capital requirements vary from industry to industry. Traditionally, Current Ratio (Current Assets: Current Liabilities) of 1.5 to 3 is considered to be comfortable liquidity position. However, it should be remembered that optimum working capital can be determine only with the reference to a particular circumstances.

For elaborate discussion on your business prospects contact:

Robinson & Associates

Independent Contractor vs Employee: The Tax Question

Should you hire an Independent Contractor or Employee?  One is not an alternative to the other by the standards laid out by the revenue department. It is therefore crucial that business owners correctly determine whether an individual providing services is an independent contractor or an employee. The general rule is that someone is an independent contractor if the person providing compensation has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done. If however, the person paying has the right to not only control or direct the result of the work, but also what will be done and how it will be done, then the person supplying the service is an employee.

Tax Jamaica

If the supplier of the service is an employee then the businessperson has the statutory obligation to withhold income tax in the form of PAYEE, National Insurance (NI), Education Tax (Ed Tax) and National Housing Trust (NHT) contributions at the appropriate rates, and pay over the deductions withheld, along with the matching amounts for NI, Ed Tax, NHT and the appropriate amounts for HEART (Human Employment And Resource Training). If the supplier is an independent contractor then that person is responsible to write his /her own demand for tax and pay over the appropriate amounts so written in addition to filing estimated tax. Don’t be too excited about independent contracting just yet for you may just be liable to a minimum tax.

Many business persons who have employees as well as independent contractors do not understand the rules for preparing a tax return. Some business persons prefer to use their time to concentrate on their core business so they contact an independent tax preparer like A&N Robinson & Associates or the Tax Office to prepare their tax returns. Soon all persons will be required to file a tax return therefore whether you are an independent contractor or an employee, the cards presage that you too will soon be filing a tax return.

A business person cannot decide to convert his/her staff to independent contractors without first contemplating the general rule posited above. For if the TAJ (Tax Administration Jamaica) rules that a contract of service ostensibly with an employee, instead of a contract for service presumably with an independent contractor exists,  the business person will become liable for all statutory deductions associated with a contract of service or an employee status.

Contributor: Neville Robinson is a graduate of Mico and a Fellow Chartered Accountant in public practice with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica since 1985. Neville holds the B.Sc. honours degree in Management Studies and a Master’s degree in Accounting. Neville is a partner in the accounting firm A&N Robinson & Associates.

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

Are You Satisfied?

What is satisfaction? How do we ask questions about satisfaction? Is there a best approach?

Love customers

Here we present some tips and best practices for asking satisfaction questions in a survey.

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

Working and Enjoying Jamaica: Field Work

Working, researching and enjoying Jamaica – this has been our story in recent weeks. In our most recent exploration, we visited Dunn’s River Falls, completing our work, while basking in the ambiance of Jamaica’s natural environment.

Thanks to the Management and Staff of Dunn’s River for accommodating our Balcostics team.

See highlights from our visit below (click to view as slideshow):

In the Field: The Historic Falmouth Pier

See why we enjoy what we do! Our team had a wonderful time in Falmouth, see the highlights below (click on photos to view as slides):

ProjectRita Training Seminar

Project Rita is the code name of our new and exciting project. We will be researching to aid Jamaica’s environmental and cultural resources. We’ve been contracted by one of America’s top 5 environmental charities, but this is as much as we can say. Stay tune to learn more and follow us on this exciting research journey. Researching for a greater cause! See pictures from our training seminar below (Click on photos to view as slideshow):

Top 5 Posts in 2012: Balcostics’ Year in Review

2012 came with its fair share of challenges and triumphs. We take this opportunity to thank everyone for their encouragement and support. See below some stats on our website and what you our viewers found most interesting in 2012.

The following shows the ‘Top Five Posts‘ that got the most views in 2012:

  1. Top 10 Dancehall/Reggae Artistes on Social Media
  2. Winning Schools: Champs stats from 1910 – 2011
  3. Food for Thought: The Research behind eating Jamaican
  4. Exploiting Jamaica’s Hydroelectric Potential
  5. Is there a methodology for collecting Big Data?

Facebook, reddit, twitter & linkedin were among the top referral sources to balcostics.com.

how did they find balcosticsVisitors to balcostics.com came from across the world, 122 countries in total. The majority of visitors were from Jamaica, The United States & Canada.

Where balcostics visitors

Yes, there are opportunities in a depreciated Jamaican Dollar!

Public discussion surrounding the depreciating dollar have been one sided, looking only at the negatives associated with the decline. With the exception of Dr. Damian King (Senior Economist, UWI), I’m yet to see a different perspective on the implications.

Dr Damien King

Dr King views in summary:

Some Jamaicans (companies, individuals etc.) will lose from the depreciation in the dollar, while others will gain. Since both the winners and losers are Jamaicans operating in the economy, the country is not made worse off with a depreciated dollar.

¬†King went on to give an example, highlighting that Every purchase of foreign exchange is also a sale. Somebody is selling it. So if you have to pay me $150 for a US dollar, what you lose is exactly what I gain. You pay more, I get more. If the cost of haircuts suddenly rise to $1,500 a head, that is terrible for everyone else but it is great for barbers. The whole country is not worse off because barbers are part of the country. The identical thing is true for any other transaction, including US dollars.”

Chinese

Can we follow the Chinese? China has come under pressure from the United States (US), for supposedly manipulating their currency¬†to gain unfair trade advantages – it is widely agreed¬†that the Chinese dollar (Yuan) is undervalued. The argument is that the Chinese keep their dollar undervalued so their goods and services will remain ‘cheap’ and competitive in foreign markets. An undervalued currency also allows for lower cost labour which has resulted in some major US companies moving their manufacturing to factories in China (e.g. Apple & Nike) – outsourcing.

This Chinese example, presents a model for Jamaica. We need to increase production of goods and services and use the depreciated dollar as our competitive advantage. We’re unlikely to compete with China’s manufacturing prowess but services (BPO, Tourism,¬†etc.) could provide superfluous returns.

Outsourcing to Jamaica:¬†As I write, Sutherland International (a US base outsourcing company) is looking to launch its operations on the UWI Mona campus. This venture is expected to see over 13,000 students and other professionals being employed full-time and part-time.¬†A depreciated Jamaican dollar is as much a ‘problem’ as it is an ‘opportunity‘. It is an opportunity for us to embrace a more modern approach in participating in the global world and improving our competitiveness.

Some Opportunities:

  1. A cheaper Jamaican dollar will attract more investors who are looking to take advantage of Jamaica’s educated, yet highly unemployed labor force.
  2. Increase tourist visitors – It will be cheaper for tourists to visit Jamaica and as such more will come (The Land of Usain Bolt & Bob Marley)
  3. We will import less (due to a depreciated dollar) and hopefully increase local production
  4. Local goods & services will become more competitive in foreign markets Рlocally produced goods/ services will become cheaper.

Tourism Jamaica

Jamaica’s tourism industry (one of our main foreign exchange earners) could also benefit significantly from a depreciated dollar, especially with the expected tax hike for US consumers – what has been termed the¬†Fiscal Cliff. Tax increase will reduce disposable income of US¬†consumers and¬†since tourism is classified as a luxury it will likely be first on consumers ‘cut-back-list’. A depreciated dollar could help Jamaica offset any repercussions to the industry in the event that the US Fiscal Cliff is realized.

Looking at Solutions:

We need to embrace the opportunities associated with a depreciating dollar and look to increase production, exports and services offered globally.

I welcome your thoughts.

Luwayne

 

About the author:
Luwayne Thomas Bsc., Msc.
Founder @balcostics

Follow on twitter: @LuwayneThomas

 

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

 

SMEs & Market Research

Many Jamaican entrepreneurs (or entrepreneurs to be) ¬†have asked/ or is still asking themselves’ the above question – is market research needed for my new idea?

We’ve found some external insights on the topic, which we hope will provide additional clarity.

 

Galleon (9)

Question as answered by Amy Shropshire on Quora:

Most of the mistakes I’ve seen businesses of any size make have been due to the¬†thinking¬†they know the market place rather than taking the time to actually find out.

For the past 15 years, I’ve been advising clients in the nonprofit and start up world. What I love about them is their eagerness to get going, get their product or service into the hands of their market, and see their dreams come true. The challenge comes when I ask them questions about their market and they can’t answer them. They know all about them, and nothing about their consumers. They expect to put their product out there, do “marketing,” and make millions.

I eventually created a workshop called “No One Cares About You.” where I explained that deep down, consumers don’t really care about you. They care about how you’re going to solve their problem/need/want/desire/etc. And that’s what market research tells you how to do.

I disagree with what Shashank PS says about a completely new product being unlikely benefited from market research. This is where research will benefit you the most – Who exactly is your market? Does the market even want your product/service? Does it fill a need they have? If they don’t know they need it, how can you convince them they do? What channels do they like to be reached on. How much would they be willing to pay? The questions are endless.

I find that most people want to find a way to skip the market research part because its seen as boring. They want to jump right into the fun stuff! But let me finish by saying that the better you know every facet of your market, the more they will want to know you. =)

Question as answered by Matt Bertuzzi on Quora:

There are compelling arguments here for both sides. I have 2 quick thoughts:

1) Market research can hugely beneficial – not unlike learning about the structure of the face and effects of physics. Market interactions are like getting punched in the mouth 1st hand. Imho, you learn more from the 1st and know more from the 2nd.

2) I had no idea I wanted 1k songs in my pocket until I heard Steve Jobs tell me I could have it. Similarly, I might have scoffed at the idea/concept of Twitter in a conference room. But after week 1 using it, I was hooked.

Just my $.02.

See more interesting answers to this question here

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

How are Students Using Smartphones? Infographics

This infographics seeks to answer the following questions:

  1. How are students using their smartphones in college/ University?
  2. Which is the most popular smartphone being used (USA)?
  3. Where are smartphones mostly used?

Be sure to leave a comment on how you use your smartphone – has it made you more productive?

Students & Mobile Technology

The Five Hottest Occupations in Jamaica

Where are you mostly likely to be employed in Jamaica? Which occupations do employers seek most? The following infographics highlight the five hottest occupations in Jamaica, based on demand (advertisement in the Jamaica Observer & Gleaner) from employers:

Five Hottest Occupations in Jamaica

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

 

How University Students Use Technology in the Learning Process

How has university students used technology to assist/ aid their study? This infographics shed some light on this phenomenon. Review and share your experience with us.