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ON THE OTHER HAND – BAMP, casinos, CARICOM


Peter Laurie

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How can BAMP get it so wrong? How can doctors be so irresponsible as to strike over an indefensible issue? This is not trade unionism at its best defending the rights of workers; this is trade unionism at its worst rushing to the defence of unacceptable work practices. Unacceptable practices, however long they have been allowed to continue, can never constitute a right. This strike only gives all doctors a bad name. I was glad to see the junior doctors refused to associate themselves with the strike. That’s not hard to understand; they get the short end of the stick when some of their senior colleagues dump their responsibilities on them.The vast majority of consultants at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital do an excellent job and show responsibility to their public patients. But if some are failing to act responsibly they should be dealt with. Either let the QEH board do their job or let the consultants take over and give them full financial responsibility. CasinosCasinos in Barbados? About time! We can no longer afford to view the issue of casinos emotionally or from a narrow religious perspective. It’s time to use reason and common sense. Let’s face it. We already encourage the most addictive and insidious form of gambling in Barbados: lotteries, which are universally known as a voluntary tax on the poor. At least with horse racing you can follow the horse’s form, check out the trainers’ and jockeys’ records and talk to the railbirds at the Garrison. You’ll still lose, but you enjoy the illusion of being ahead of the game. Let’s not even talk about slot machines, appropriately known as one-armed bandits.And some of the very churches that oppose casinos indulge in their own gambling to raise money. Gambling may be stupid, but it’s not a sin.So why the big hullabaloo about casinos? Simple. Casinos typify the worst perception of gambling in the popular imagination: lurid images of booze-swilling, floozy-hugging high rollers, poor suckers throwing their life-savings away at roulette or blackjack, with gangsters and money-launderers hovering. There are many different regulatory regimes for casinos all over the world. Some are lax; some are stringent. There’s no reason why Barbados could not adopt a regulatory framework based on international “best practices” that would sharply distinguish it from other jurisdictions elsewhere. After all, we did it with the “offshore” financial sector. While other Caribbean jurisdictions became notorious for corruption and money laundering, Barbados remained relatively squeaky clean. This reputation, though producing fewer immediate profits, has served us best in the long run. Exactly the same could be done with casinos. We should create the best luxury casino in the Caribbean: a West Coast operation, located ideally on or near a golf course, with access restricted to those visitors or Barbadians staying in designated hotels and villas, golf club members, and first-class passengers on visiting cruise ships (we want to fleece the rich, not the poor). Moreover, the casino should be required to make a public offering to Barbadians of a significant amount of its shares.Such a casino would generate significant economic benefits.This is surely something the Social Partnership should undertake. CARICOMWell, Bouterse is back. Let’s see how CARICOM deals with this military thug and murderer, now reincarnated as the president of Suriname. It probably doesn’t matter. CARICOM has run out of ideas, enthusiasm and money, and is floundering. The last hope for CARICOM now is if some major regional entrepreneurs get together and develop innovative, genuine pan-Caribbean projects, go to governments and say we’re willing to invest large amounts but the governmental impediments are “a”, “b”, “c” to “z”. Will you remove them?If the politicians’ answer is no; or how much is in it for me? Or yes, but, as usual, do nothing; then CARICOM is finished.Amen. Peter Laurie is a retired diplomat and a commentator on social issues. Email [email protected]

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