Friday, April 19, 2024

My friend Charlie


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I HAVE A CHILDHOOD FRIEND named Charlie, and every now and then a fellow named Tony does sit down and interview him. Just the other day, Tony reproduced some pearls of wisdom emanating from Charlie. I could not help but wonder how Charlie has so effectively analyzed the ills of Barbados with so few words at his age. It reminded me of his skill with the violin.
I quote: “In 2008-2009 interest on debt was 15 per cent of (Government) revenue. In 2011-2012 it was 21 per cent of revenue. In the calendar year 2012 it is estimated at 25 per cent of total revenue. In other words, interest payments on debt consume an ever-increasing [percentage] of each dollar of revenue (less available for social programmes – my words).
“For calendar years 2011 and 2012 interest payments on the debt were 3.5 and 5.1 times larger than the surplus on the primary balance. (Primary balance is the balance on revenue before including interest payments).
“So how is Barbados going to deal with a deteriorating debt-servicing problem?” And I add, even if the world economy improves.
Charlie, muh boy, well spoken! His words appear in the February 3 SUNDAY SUN, Page 31A.
Funny enough, my friend Charlie is an economist who understands these things. The Wild Coot himself finds that he and most Barbadians are in a similar position. Debt interest and payment is more than revenue surplus. Sumptin wong!
The Wild Coot has been hammering away, in the face of accusations of repetition, in almost every article about the deteriorating debt position without growth and apparent indifference to the junk-bond status that has not triggered any alarm with our erstwhile Prime Minister, Minister of Finance or our Governor of the Central Bank.
One would have thought that these gentlemen would be worried. Instead, an old lady called me and told me that the minister was taking my name in vain on the platform. Hoh Hoy! Nothing personal, sir! Only pointing you in the right direction, unlike others. Do you want my credentials?
There is only one solution. In the face of the high debt owed to everybody, a change of tactics must be made. That change must come after the election if perchance the Government succeeds. Then all the long talk about a society may be dropped.
My worry is whether or not the present drifting will continue in this unlikely event. I believe that a change of government is necessary. If we can’t ride a horse, we ride a cow. In this Lenten season, Jesus rode a jackass!
Let us go back to friend Charlie: “Too much effort and expertise is developed to making the situation seem less threatening than it is.”
The Wild Coot adds: “The position of the Central Bank is not supposed to be a prop for the Government but the watchdog of the people.” Amen!
The coming election is vital for right-thinking Barbadians to make a choice between those who apparently do not understand the economic crisis that faces us and those in the Opposition who may be better equipped to understand what lies ahead and may have the testae to deal with it.
Barbadians therefore must choose between the failure of those who claim that Barbados is not only an economy but also a society and continue to plunge the economy into a deep hole, and those who project that without an economy we have no society, only robbery and chaos.
Somebody said that unemployment among the youth was running at 25 per cent; well unlike the people in Greece who are creating chaos, our youth seem to be on a rampage of snatching gold for money, cellphones, bicycles, indiscriminate theft and anything else to make a living.
And so, the case of representation now has become a certiorari to be tried on February 21.
A lady friend of mine called me to say that civil servants are not so civil nowadays and instead of carrying out direct orders from the politicians, they are waiting to see who will eventually be responsible for giving orders.
• Harry Russell is a banker. Email


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