Thursday, April 18, 2024

Bajans to choose


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THE LONG-AWAITED and unique occasion for Barbados to give a passing grade or a failure to the past Government has come. Our Prime Minister has eventually silenced all speculation and declared that we shall go to the polls on February 21 during the holy season of Lent, the day that he had planned years ago.
It is unlikely that anything new will emerge during the next three weeks, as all that has been said or should be said has already been said both by the Bees and the Dees and David.
In fact, if voting were to take place tomorrow, people would be no better off in terms of information or disinformation, guiding them as to what may truly happen for the next five years. All we have before us is the record of the Barbados Labour Party during their three terms as Government and the Democratic Labour Party in its one term.
One signal has been given to us. The campaigning will be reverend, and temperate language will prevail . . . . That may be why the Lenten season has been chosen. Or is it some more sinister thinking – if anybody resorts to cursing, busing or making obscene and pejorative references to the financial affairs or pedagogy or pedigree of another candidate or the Wild Coot, they will not get an X? Better behaviour must ensue than even in the House of Parliament. Or will we have confessions for the sins of the past?
On the other hand, there will be a lot at stake! Forget the burning issues of joblessness and high cost of living. This is the time people will be looking for holes. Given that on the dissolution of Parliament salaries cease and for many, pension is a distant pot of gold. For those few, the ensuing battle will be fought with no holds barred.
With respect to the economy, the real issue is: has Barbados responded correctly to the crisis? The Government will argue that it has done its best to maintain jobs in the public sector. The Opposition will argue that that has been done at the expense of the private sector and jobs; that it has been done at the expense of growth that is the purview of the private sector.
It will make the salient point that even with the increase in value added tax the take is smaller, a sure sign that the increase was a mistake, especially in the areas of water and electricity. The Opposition will point to the iniquitous debt to gross domestic product and question the way back, given the continuous failure of the Medium Term Fiscal Strategy.
The problem for the Government is that it has shown that its way of handling the economy has made the situation worse as the Opposition will point to the many cash-strapped institutions and the on-budget and off-budget borrowings. All of which only contribute to a worse off situation.
The Government will say, “Those guys will engage in mass layoffs as soon as they get the Government.”
The Opposition will ask: “If those people get back into power, where will the money come from to continue the downward slide?”
Meanwhile in homes, boardrooms and private clubs, people will be asking why we have banks. Questions will be asked why the banks cannot help out. When questioned about this, the Wild Coot responded with a profound statement: “Banks operate on confidence.”
If you have no confidence in the economy, junk bonds, debts or for whatever reason, they will not lend either by way of loans to the private sector or treasuries and debentures/ bonds to the Government. Newly arrived banks need to tread carefully, even with deep pockets. The savings are already divided.
By the way, the Wild Coot’s book The Diary Of A Randy Old Coot, can now be downloaded from Amazon. A lady friend of mine had to be helped into bed, having missed breakfast, lunch and dinner. She could not put down the book.
• Harry Russell is a banker. Email

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