“Imagine the inconsistency of trying to secure economic growth and simultaneously closing down the businesses along Constant Spring Road, Hagley Park Road, Three Miles and around the Portia Simpson Miller Square. That is madness,” Phillips declared.

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips has expressed the view that businesses that have been negatively impacted by the ongoing road works along Hagley Park Road, in the vicinity of Portia Simpson Miller Square and along Constant Spring Road in St Andrew, could pursue legal action against the state for lost earnings. Phillips made the observation on Thursday as he made his contribution to the 2019-2020 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives. He accused the Andrew Holness administration of mismanagement of the major road works projects taking place across the country but in particular those taking place in the Corporate Area. “Quite frankly, I believe there is a case for legal action to be taken by many of those businesses against the state; some of them have gone out of operation,” Phillips stated. “…The problem is a lack of ministerial oversight and a lack of coordination as the contractors and some of the agencies seem to be a law unto themselves,” Phillips added. The Opposition Leader asserted that the level of inconvenience experienced by businesses and residents in and around the construction sites is inconsistent with the government’s stated growth agenda. “Imagine the inconsistency of trying to secure economic growth and simultaneously closing down the businesses along Constant Spring Road, Hagley Park Road, Three Miles and around the Portia Simpson Miller Square. That is madness,” Phillips declared. He noted that employees have been arriving at work tired and frustrated as a result of what he said was the “inept schedule” put in place by the implementing agency, the National Works Agency. Phillips argued that buses belonging to the state-owned Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) were unable to complete their routes because of the traffic piles, and he said the “daily dust on Constant Spring Road makes everyone sick. “And especially the asthmatics suffer.” Phillips further noted that: “gas stations have closed; businesses have had to relocate; doctors’ offices and other businesses have had to operate on an itinerant basis, and people operate with a cell phone out of their pocket because the telephones at their business places don’t operate.” Dr Phillips said too many people are faced with emergencies, including medical emergencies. “In this gridlock, nobody seems to care and you telling us that you heading in the right direction,” he said. By contrast, the opposition leader said there was no such dislocation when the Washington Boulevard was expanded to four lanes between Six Miles and Molynes Road, when Hope Road was upgraded to four lanes between Liguanea and King’s House, or when the Portmore toll road was constructed. Some of those works were carried out when Phillips was construction minister in a previous People’s National Party government.

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The idea of working from home is no longer novel or "exotic" as it was a decade or more ago, according to Peter Ryan, principal at Ryan Strategic Advisory. In fact, the front office and business process outsourcing (BPO) analyst stated that more companies have explored transitioning to the WAHA model. Additionally, whereas the work-at-home agent (WAHA) experience was limited to the United States, the model has spread to Europe, Australia, Latin America and the Caribbean. “I know that there have been experiments done in the past where brick-and-mortar operators have tried to identify who they saw as their best agents and then give these individuals the option of working from home,” Ryan explained, during a webinar chat with itelbpo’s Executive Chairman, Yoni Epstein. In the webinar, dubbed 'Digital is No Longer Futuristic — it's the Home-Based Agent', Ryan noted, "… outsourcers that had home-based agent capabilities were ranked incredibly high relative to their competition". He was referring to the 2018 Ryan Strategic Advisory Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey, in which over 350 enterprise contact centre decision-makers in the US, Canada, UK and Australia were polled. Epstein, for his part, explained that the increase in demand for virtual agents coincided with the need to cut costs in the post-recession era, resulting in the model becoming a more viable option for companies involved in outsourcing. “When we moved out of the 2007/2008 financial downturn, everybody looked at just saving costs,” he stated. “What we’ve seen some 10, 11 years later is that people still want to save money, but they want, obviously, value for that savings.” Describing WAHA as the “new frontier”, Espstein, who founded itelbpo in Jamaica in 2012, said the model allows companies to improve their operational efficiencies by balancing overhead costs with keeping staff hired. This is so because when compared with solely brick-mortar-operations, companies which have adopted the WAHA model do not need to bear operational expenses such as internet, utilities and security. In other words, the virtual agent model makes contact centre operations more scalable, which means that the number of agents can be adjusted to the demand for seasonal labour. Since acquiring United States-based Granada Corp just last year, itelbpo has increased employment in its WAHA operations, itel at-home, by 35 per cent. Virtual agents are hired from several different states in the US with varying academic and professional qualifications, including licences, certifications and bilingual capabilities, to serve a diversity of industries such as health care, insurance, retail and travel. Ryan believes that the quality of work from virtual agents is one of the key drivers of growth for the WAHA model. “One of the things that I find to be a true motivator for many enterprises is the quality of the labour force. The typical work at home agent is very different from the agent that would be working in a brick and mortar centre,” the BPO analyst stated. “For instance, we know that the typical home-based agent tends to be a homeowner, as opposed to a renter or potentially living with parents. We know that their level of education tends to be high school graduate generally speaking; there are many who have university degrees. They also tend to have much more work experience, which tends to make them a much more stable employee and you don’t necessarily run the same levels of attrition as you might when you’re working with bricks and mortar agents,” he continued. Epstein pointed out further that WAHA is not only beneficial to itelbpo, but itel at-home agents as well. Being a more flexible model than nearshore and onshore premised-based operations, virtual agents have the advantage of working split shifts or fewer days per week, while still fulfilling the minimum 40-hour work week, as well as saving time and money on commuting. However, Ryan noted that there are impediments to the growth of WAHA, in particular, “deliveries, doorbells and dogs” and data leakage. Responding to this point, Epstein said there are certain recruitment policies at itel at-home which must first be met before home-based agents are hired. “Some of the things that we ensure our agents have are that they are in a room, that they are by themselves, it’s locked off from the rest of the house and inside there’s that peace and quiet so that you don’t have those problems of delivery doorbells and dogs.” Secondly, computer security, efficiency and internet speed are tested remotely by itelbpo’s information technology (IT) team to ensure that agents’ devices are up to date. To take it a step further, once agents log on to the itel at-home virtual desktop integrator platform, the BPO takes control of the machine until the agent logs off the platform, thus limiting the incidence of information fraud and compromising data security. With IT security issues addressed, itelbpo has begun testing the model in The Bahamas. When asked if WAHA will be expanding throughout the Caribbean, Epstein replied that as long as services such as electric power and internet can be supplied on a consistent basis, the possibilities are endless.

Buju Banton performs at his Long Walk to Freedom concert on Sunday morning inside the National Stadium in Kingston. (PHOTOS: Marlon Reid)

It seemed as if time stood still inside the National Stadium on Saturday night. The king had returned to reclaim his throne and his adoring subjects paid homage as he displayed why he is rated as one of reggae music’s finest. After an almost decade length hiatus in prison, Buju Banton came back to the world of performing and it was as if he was never missing in action. The venue was jam packed and Buju did not disappoint in his almost two-hour set. The audience had mercy on him. He once again was able to rule his destiny and reminded all that only rasta can liberate the people. The Long Walk to Freedom was over. Dressed in all white, Buju Banton was at his optimum. Backed by his Til Shiloh band, the beloved artiste gave an awesome performance which lasted some 95 minutes after being introduced by veteran radio personality Elise Kelly. There was not a moment to rest. And he did have things to say. “They say I am a coke head. What are they talking about?” he said to loud cheers. Then there was the injection of Marcia Griffiths, Beres Hammond, Wayne Wonder and Gramps Morgan. The rise level rose several decibels as the audience showed their appreciation. The performance has proven that, whatever the case, Buju Banton deserves the right to be revered as one of Jamaica’s finest sons of the soil, even if he had blundered. Argument done. Before him, there was a memorable set from Chronixx, who set the tone for Banton to tear the house down with a blistering performance. Romain Virgo was also scintillating as was Delly Ranks, Ghost, Christopher Martin and a melodious LUST. Enough cannot be said about the talent and class of Agent Sasco. Once a student of Banton and mentored by the same man responsible for guiding Buju Banton, Donovan Germain, Agent Sasco has become an artiste that has defined himself as more than an also ran. Buju’s son Jahazeil has a bright future and should follow in his father’s footsteps once he remains focused. Wayne Marshall only did one song at the beginning of the proceedings but it was enough to stamp his class. Etana was very classy as usual and the National Stadium was not the wrong address for the thousands of fans who soaked up her riveting set. Cocoa Tea also delivered a strong set which included a cameo by teen star Koffee. The show was largely incident free apart from an overzealous fan who tried to get close to Banton after his set but was restrained by his security team.

Chronixx flashes his dreadlocks on stage during his performance at the Long Walk to Freedom concert, (PHOTO: Marlon Reid)

If the artistes who performed before him gave off their best, it was simply not good enough. Chronixx served up the perfect remedy and musical medication for the jam packed National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica at the Long Walk toFreedom concert. The Rastaman was awesome. He danced, pranced and belted out his hits with an unassuming ease that was easy on the ears and eyes. Jamaica smiled for him. The entire stadium lit up with lighters and cell phones as the leader of the Rasta intelligenstia proved that he is worthy of wearing the crown of the king of modern reggae. If there was a flaw in Chronixx’s performance, it would be that it was too short. However, the audience never seemed to mind. His set was short but sweet and very enlightening.

File photo of Portmore United fans and a player in a celebratory mood.

Portmore United captured the preliminary stage of the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) on Sunday when they hammered Montego Bay United 5-1 at Wespow Park to win the $1m prize for the second straight year. With one round of matches remaining before the competition moves into the second phase, Portmore are on 63 points, with second-place Waterhouse on 59. Therefore, with a maximum of three points to earn for their final match, Waterhouse cannot catch Portmore. Portmore’s win was achieved through a brace from Lamar Walker in the 23rd and 56th minutes, and single strikes from Andre Lewis in the 14th, Roshane Sharpe in the 81st and Cleon Pryce in the 83rd minute. Nevaun Turner scored for Montego Bay in the 71st minute. The loss almost certainly relegated Montego Bay from the league for next season. With the bottom two teams to be relegated, Montego Bay are in 11th position in the 12-team competition. Montego Bay are on 30 points and can only join Dunbeholden on 33 points. They, however, have a goal difference of negative 23 to Dunbeholden's negative seven. For Montego Bay to remain in the league, they will therefore have to overcome a goal difference deficit of 16. Waterhouse kept themselves in the hunt to join Portmore as the two teams that earn automatic qualification to the semi-finals of the competition, by defeating Tivoli Gardens 4-2 at Edward Seaga Sports Complex. Kenry Howell in the fourth and 53rd, an own goal from Barrington Pryce in the seventh, and Andre Fletcher in the 79th minute, provided Waterhouse with the win, as Tivoli responded through veteran Jermaine Johnson in the 15th and Colorado Murray in the 61st. Tivoli ended the match with 10 men, as Howard Morris received a second yellow card in the 59th minute, and was ejected from the contest. The loss by Tivoli finalised the top six teams in the second round. At the end of the preliminary stage, the top six teams move into the next phase of the competition, with the top two automatically advancing to the semi-finals, and the other four meeting in a playoff. Third place will meet sixth and fourth meet fifth. Portmore and Waterhouse will continue in the competition along with Mount Pleasant Football Academy, Cavalier, Arnett Gardens and UWI, who are on 57, 51, 46 and 45 points respectively. Tivoli are in seventh position on 39 points. UWI solidified their place in the top six with a 2-0 victory over Dunbeholden, with goals from Stephen Barnett in the 73rd and Ryan Miller 10 minutes later. The win enabled UWI to also leap ahead of Arnett Gardens, who were defeated 1-0 by Mount Pleasant, with Ronaldo Rodney scoring the lone goal in the 39th minute. Meanwhile, Humble Lion and Harbour View earned the single point they needed to carry them to the safety of remaining in the league, by both drawing 1-1 with Cavalier and Reno, respectively. At Effortville Community Centre, visitors Cavalier took the lead in the 56th minute through Alex Marshall, with Lavaughn Williams scoring from the penalty spot in the 62nd minute to equalise, while at Harbour View Mini Stadium, Timar Lewis gave the host the lead in the 66th minute, with Renario Downswell equalising for Reno in the 73rd. Harbour View had Odaine Samuels ejected in the 74th minute after picking up his second yellow card. With the point, both Humble Lion and Harbour View moved to 35 points, while Reno were already condemned to relegation from next season’s competition.

Brandon King slammed a second first-class hundred, but it failed to ignite the Jamaica Scorpions second innings batting, and Trinidad & Tobago Red Force completed a season sweep over them to bring the curtain down on the 2018-19 West Indies Championship with an 85-run victory on Sunday. King lit up an otherwise mundane final day of the rescheduled first round match at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy with an impressive 133, but the Scorpions, chasing 338 for victory, were bowled out for 252 in their second innings inside the first hour after tea. King struck 18 fours and four sixes from 119 balls in three hours at the crease and was one of only two Scorpions batsmen to pass 20, as he dominated half-century stands with his captain Paul Palmer and Kennar Lewis which brought some respectability to the batting. Rookie WINDIES opener John Campbell made 25, but King held the innings together, as he put on 75 for the fifth wicket Lewis and 57 for the seventh wicket with Lewis before he fell to veteran leg-spinner Imran Khan, whose 3-48 from 13 overs made him the pick of the Red Force bowlers. Familiarity bred success for Jamaica-born, Red Force fast-medium bowler Odean Smith, as he supported Khan in the demolition of the Scorpions’ batting with 3-56 from 15 overs. The result meant that Red Force gained 21.8 points to end in fourth place in the Championship on 112.4 and Scorpions collected 8.6 to finish fifth on 97.2. Earlier, starting the day on 282 for nine, Red Force were bowled out inside the first half-hour for 295 in their second innings. West Indies international Jason Mohammed remained not out on 110, but Windiesstrike bowler Shannon Gabriel, his overnight partner, gave a return catch to Scorpions first innings bowling hero Nicholson Gordon to bring the innings to a close, after they frustrated the visitors by extending their last wicket stand to 38. Gordon ended with 2-55 from 14.4 overs to follow his first innings seven-wicket haul, but Mohammed pipped him for the Player-of-the-Match prize. Final scores in the game: Trinidad and Tobago Red Force 389 & 295; Jamaica Scorpions 347 & 252. Guyana Jaguars were confirmed as winners championship for a fifth-straight year on Thursday.