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WILD COOT – The hope that was

Harry Russell

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AS A YOUNG boy growing up, from the age of eight years, I liked languages. Perhaps it is because my mother’s father went to Panama to build the canal, and when he came back, nobody could understand what he was saying. She started me with Latin and French, and later a gentleman from Oviedo, Spain, who spoke little English, and a beautiful lady from Grenada, taught me Spanish.Even when the world of tertiary education was open to me, and I was presented with an open choice: medicine, law or languages, I chose languages. At that time Sir Grantley Adams was the proposed Prime Minister of the West Indies Federation and I envisaged a life of diplomacy in South American countries and in Africa. This was not to be, and since I had to make a living, fortune smiled on me and Barclays Bank took me to its bosom. It was, and is, a good way of life, but I always hankered after languages.But my story is not the burden of this article. Whereas I was disappointed not to be a diplomat, something tells me that I was lucky. The fragmentation of the West Indies Federation has dealt a decisive and irreversible blow to the hopes of people in the Caribbean. Even though men like Errol Barrow and Eric Williams, to name two stalwarts, kept on dreaming, efforts like CARICOM have only been a placebo for the real thing. In fact, it is a shadow of what was expected.I have always maintained that there is perfect unity among Caribbean people from Hamilton to Paramaribo. The problem is the political will and the reluctance of politicians to see the big picture.The dilly-dallying has been going on for so long that political unity is now impossible. It became so as each year passed. The latest casualty was the Montego Bay fiasco. There we saw Trinidad, the greatest beneficiary of the Caribbean Market, the almost owner of Barbados, saying that the country will not be an ATM. I think that the new prime minister should wheel and come again.I warned in a previous article that dealing with CLICO in Barbados in an almost unilateral way was dangerous. The same goodwill that we enjoyed under former Prime Minister Patrick Manning and the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago may not be continuing. Right now CLICO is short of cash and Republic’s assets are not sacrosanct. Are we in a position to even offer to buy? What if . . . .? Now we see where self-reliance can lead to, as we watch country after country dig in and rely heavily on itself – India, China, Japan, Vietnam and Singapore, to name a few.Then our Central Bank Governor Dr Delisle Worrell laments the fact that we have so many currencies in a small economy. This is only natural if each country wishes to be a showpiece, and having regard to our developmental emergence. We have now reached the stage where one currency would be difficult to achieve. I believe that the Eastern Caribbean has gone, and is going, the right way.The time for one currency has passed and now is the time to “brek” and run. If Barbados can manage a current account credit in six years time [I doubt it], managing on our own would be a good thing. But we have to give up the silly notion of being a First World country. We might qualify for being a Second World country having graduated from Third World status.What little we have here in Barbados we should hold on to dearly, and for the time being, try to better. The recent “laisez-faire” approach by the Government to the pressing problem of economic direction does not augur well for the immediate future. The gloomy picture painted by the Central Bank Governor should prompt the present Government to appoint someone to lead the way. Do something, even if we have to resort to the saying, “in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”. • Harry Russell is a retired banker. He may be reached at [email protected]