Friday, April 19, 2024

THE LOWDOWN – Unstable condits


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IT HAS been said that we would be no worse off, and would be equally well informed, if we let the weathermen predict the economy and let the economists predict the weather. If cockroaches leave buildings in Japan just before earthquakes, animals fled to safety before the 2005 tsunami while up to 300 000 humans died, Americans rely on groundhogs to tell them when winter will be over, and an octopus named Paul correctly predicted the outcome of every football match involving Germany in the last World Cup, then maybe we’re spending a lot of unnecessary money on so-called “experts”, especially economists.. Our business today is with the Barbados economy, the state thereof. “Barbados economy making strides” trumpeted a recent headline quoting our acting PM, while acknowledging there were “challenges”. In contrast, opposition leader Mia Mottley, no doubt eMascollated with her figures, painted a picture of gloom which would send the most optimistic groundhog scurrying back to his burrow.  Like calypsonian Chalkie, “I been in town too long”. Too many times have I heard that our economy is on its last, the treasury is empty, people are losing jobs and homes, and that keeping our sovereignty, culture and dignity is “no longer an option” – we must lower our mighty Barbados to the status of “parish” in the Caribbean.I can only speak for myself. But, since graduating in 1965, I have never at any time suffered for anything, couldn’t pay a bill or experienced “hard times”. For it requires but very little to live happily in Barbados.Furthermore, I specialised in agricultural economics. And realised early on that economics is at best intelligent guesswork. Mostly it is playing around with “models” and jargon in an attempt to impress those not versed in that field.Here is what Dr DeLisle Worrell, Central Bank governor, had to say: “Over the past four decades I have become increasingly dismayed as I have observed the economics profession being taken over by a generation of economists who have lost sight of the limitations of what they can know, with the help of the tools and techniques available to us. We write as though anything that we can set down in a theoretically “correct” specification of an equation has to be true, even when the evidence to the contrary is right before our eyes, and obvious to everybody who is not an economist.”Wuhloss! Economists have “lost sight of the limitations of what they can know”; they write as if their theoretically-reached prescriptions must be true even though it is “obvious to everyone who is not an economist” that they are not. Praise the Lord! Peoples, think: if economists could predict anything, would the world financial crisis have struck as unexpectedly as the Haiti earthquake? Would headlines not be screaming: “Sir Cow offers Mascoll (Jepter, Owen) two million per annum to become company’s economic adviser”? Anyhow, I am done with all the GDP, BOPD (Balance of payments deficit), ND (National Debt) and other economic indicators Mia has been trotting out. Here instead are a few of my own: “Standard and Courts” tell a much truer picture than Standard and Poor – if their trucks are going out loaded with fridges, washing machines and furniture, things aren’t that bad. Check the ChefKen Index – the numbers of ordinary working-class people who can afford to eat at Chefette and Kentucky. I like fast food, but it isn’t cheap. Cellphones, brand name clothes, bling bling tell the same story that gold teeth used to tell years ago: people got money to waste.Finally, there is OH (Opposition Histrionics). Whatever their faults, our politicians are patriotic. So, if any patriotic politician expected to be believed, and was not merely grandstanding, would he or she openly reveal that our economy is on the brink of disaster, knowing how this would influence potential investors and lending agencies? No way!Fellow Barbadians, if our PM is unwell and our economy faltering, let us all work together without fanfare to get it back on track.                                            And for a true take on the economy, let’s bring in David Best, meteorologist extraordinaire, who would no doubt tell us that “unstable conditions are affecting the area”.             


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