Friday, April 12, 2024

NEW YORK NEW YORK: Picking fights with Lilliputians


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Grandmothers, particularly those of yesteryear, usually didn’t hesitate to give their offspring some valuable advice: when picking a fight, find someone your size.
The Bajan saying seemed to have escaped the Central Bank of Barbados which seems bent on having a quarrel with the country’s highly credible Barbados Statistical Services over unemployment figures. What’s astounding is that the battle is over a percentage point.
For as William Shakespeare would say, it’s much ado about nothing. Do we need such heat over such a relative minor adjustment in a rate? Definitely not!
In the end the Central Bank is coming out on the losing end, because it has forced people to ask why is it so concerned about a jobless rate that may or may not have risen to 11 per cent, instead of 12 per cent given by the Statistical Services.
After all, minor adjustments are routinely made to GDP (gross domestic product) rates and other data without a big song and dance being made about them. What’s crucial isn’t if the rate went up or down by one per cent but what we are doing to stop it from rising even more.
There are some things we know about the current storm in a teacup. The first is that unemployment has jumped.  
Another is that as a result some households are being forced to tighten their belt, several vehicles may soon be repossessed and hard times are in for many families. That’s the bottom line. Just as ominous: more Bajans may lose their jobs in the months ahead.
Here we have a large financial institution, which has a platform and ready access to the media attempting to raise questions about the credibility of data published by a relative small but professionally driven Government department that doesn’t have a reputation for juggling figures.
Our grandmothers would have warned the Central Bank that it didn’t need a sledgehammer to take on an ant.
What makes the whole thing so unfair and distasteful is that public service practice prevents the Statistical Service from answering the complaint in the same publicly aggressive manner as the bank launched its salvo.
Because the Statistical Service probably feels it can’t reply to the bank, we are justified in asking why the minister responsible for the Government department has allowed it to twist slowly in the wind without coming to its defence.
The professional civil servants in the department must feel aggrieved that their minister isn’t speaking up for them.
The minister’s silence is deafening.
Civil servants shouldn’t be made to suffer in silence in this fashion.
That brings us to another bit of grandmother folkore: what goes around comes around. For as the elderly would tell the Central Bank, if you sell all you have, you must buy all you want.
In other words don’t expect generosity in the face of mean-spirited actions.


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