Tuesday, April 16, 2024

IT’S MY BUSINESS: Good cop, bad cop, Robocop


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Have you noticed how quiet things have gotten around here?
After an economic summer which moved from warnings of bad weather on the horizon (in late June), put on ice by Crop Over (mid-July to early August), to the notice that the hurricane was about to hit (Budget Speech, mid-August) and the resulting storm of protest that greeted the first winds of economic downsizing (late August to early September), we are once more calmly drifting along – toward our fiscal Niagara Falls.
This was achieved by the sudden arrival of the Prime Minister, in the role of Good Cop, who had perhaps listened to the Budget speech wearing earplugs. It turned out that all of the measures clearly spelled out by the Minister of Finance, the Bad Cop, and voted for by all of the MPs including the Prime Minister on the Government side, were really only suggestions going forward.
In fact, it also turned out that the ministerial traffic policemen were taking it all much too literally and actually carrying out the policies enunciated in the Budget speech.
The Good Cop put a stop to all this fiscal zealousness. Chill pills were distributed all around and the administration has returned to its torpor.
Except for Robocop, the Minister of Commerce.
This minister plays his role as if it had been written by the very top scriptwriters – he is smooth and articulate, always with something positive to say, evinces a can-do attitude and is full of boundless energy. But the Robocop of Bajan politics finds himself somewhere in the No Man’s Land that lies between Bad Cop and Good Cop policies and announcements. Therefore, it always remains to be seen whether his plans or policies will come to fruition.
With the initial measures put in the deep freeze, I wonder how much progress is being made on reducing Government spending, which we were told was now fundamental to saving the economy. Is anybody saying? I haven’t heard. But like most Barbadians, I think I have stopped listening. Like most of my countrymen, I have decided to narrow my focus on staying alive in an economy which on one day we are told is going to hell, and then on the next does not need the dramatic intervention proposed.
Remember that I am not talking about the Opposition here. This blowing hot and cold is all coming from within the administration itself.
I am used to watching the “good cop-bad cop” routine play out on episodes of Law & Order. If you are unfamiliar with it, imagine that you have been picked up on suspicion of doing something heinous. The first cop, the bad one, comes in and tells you that your are going down, they have all the evidence, your fingerprints are everywhere, and issues threats designed to make you want to give up the ghost and just confess.
Then he goes outside and the good cop comes in. He offers you a cigarette. Some coffee, maybe. Shows you a photo of you in the good times. Talks about those good times. In short, he dials back the drama, takes the tension out of the air.
As this scenario is repeated several times, you start to wonder if it would be better to make a deal with the good cop, as you might get more of a break than dealing with that terrible other fellow who is already predicting what day your execution will be, far less whether you will even be found guilty.
In your mental turmoil and your need to feel safe and secure, you can often forget that those two cops are working on the same team and comparing notes, planning their strategies together.
In the case of Barbados, we must wonder just how serious the economic position is. Is it as bad as we were led to believe by the Bad Cop? Why would it not be, since the whole “police department” has published a document (the Medium-Term Growth and Development Strategy) which says what drastic steps we must take in order to survive economically? You know, cut $300 million from the Budget, merge or shut down poorly performing statutory corporations, and much more.
But the Government has left it so late that the measures needed are much more dire than they would have been even last year or the year before.
I think the Good Cop weighed in because he saw how the policies of the Bad Cop stirred up the country, but remember, they are both on the same team, and our economic problems are not going anywhere. It’s just that Good Cop has started to show us a few nostalgic pictures of the way we were and temporarily put the Bad Cop’s policies on a much slower trajectory.
So in the meantime, we get to envision the rosy future conjured up by Robocop, who maybe doesn’t realize he is in a movie all his own.
• Pat Hoyos is a publisher and business writer.


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