Wednesday, April 24, 2024

WILD COOT: Confidence the key


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Confidence, like the soul, never returns whence it has
once departed.

– Publius Syrus (a Latin writer brought to Italy
as a slave, 85-43 BC).

BARBADOS IS A LITTLE “PEENY” ISLAND with a few hundred people who are supposedly intelligent, but governed by politicians who seem to have lost their way. Since 2008 our Minister of Finance has presented at least ten different Budgets, all with worsening results.

For one reason or another, the political leaders do not seem to get the economy right. As a matter of fact, if two or three well-known citizens had a mind to get together and put up funds, the economic problems could be solved just like that. Doing this would be foolhardy if the economy would be left in the hands of the same politicians.

Debt problems! Two or three fellows could bring in the foreign exchange they have parked abroad and the debt problem would go away. Sell or lease out some of the family silver and the excess monthly salary bill for Government and the statutory corporations would be solved.

No pressure would be seen on the National Insurance Scheme, and the minister would not have to give questionable assurances. Some capital works would begin so that the unemployment rate would soften.

Once money is circulating, banks will not be afraid to start lending. There would be no fear of bad debts from loans and credit cards. There would be no need to “jook” out the eyes of customers to satisfy the balance sheet profit.

But no! The current political agenda is to retain power as long as possible, whatever the cost. The country now seems to have a reputation for being open to bribes. But unless decision-makers are prepared to live in another country, do they not know that any economic collapse will make conditions in our island unfit, even for politicians. If the few cents they own are devalued, what is the gain?

How can it help if the reason for the retaining of some of the family silver is the ability to place the party faithful in positions over which they have control, be they Government or statutory corporations? Indeed, most of the current ruling politicians are on the way to meet the grim reaper anyhow; so they should try to make life pleasant for the few remaining years left in this once paradise.

What is most interesting now is the fiasco at the directorship of the Central Bank of Barbados. Never mind that the Wild Coot is a “noskey”; some of his ramblings should have hit home.

While the Governor could have been bent on satisfying the requirements of the Minister of Finance for funds for settling of wages and bills, surely the members of the board had a wider responsibility. The Central Bank has a responsibility under the law, and the directors are not there to rubber-stamp what may be going on.

Besides, they are most qualified (I think) to see what is going on and to follow the bigger picture. Surely they had a responsibility to the Central Bank Act and should have put their foot down, or resigned. The whole lot should be fired. If the minister does not have the internal fortitude to do the firing, then our Prime Minister should do it.

Maybe the governor should be retained, as getting rid of him at this time would reflect badly on the country and especially the Minister of Finance. One would recall how the minister boasted that every Friday he and the governor huddled together and reviewed the foreign exchange dealings and availability. Since the Minister of Finance will not be fired, then the governor of the Central Bank should not be, as his comeuppance should coincide with the fate of the minister.

The Wild Coot is not certain about how much we are indebted to the government of Trinidad and Tobago, but it seems the Trinis have an inordinate amount of influence in the affairs of Barbados.

That is our fault, since selling them the Barbados Shipping & Trading Co. Ltd conglomerate and the two commercial banks compromised our independence. While we were happy to have a great deal of savings in the commercial banks, we did not have the sense to invest.

We are now faced with the prospects of drifting for another year, and only $424 million is in the coffers – here. This is a test of our resilience. Some hard and bold decisions have to be made. Our Government has not been on the level with information about our economy, and there is little hope this will change in the silly season.

The Wild Coot says hold strain. It is too late for third parties; review our investors; take back our banking, even if it will cause offence; and make bold hard decisions – if you got the guts.


 • Harry Russell is a banker. Email



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