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WILD COOT: Not the Ombudsman


Harry Russel

WILD COOT: Not the Ombudsman

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I have nothing to do with it! I am not one of the elected. Stop calling me!
I was rather abrupt to the caller although she politely addressed me as Mr Wild Coot, Sir. However, I like a little gossip; so I listened.
She had just come from Miami and she was fretting. She wanted to know if the Members of Parliament – As, Bs, Cs and Ds – do not go shopping at the same supermarkets as the man in the street who represents the majority of voters. She wanted to know if Bajans stupid or what!
Apparently, the whole thing started when just before Christmas she went shopping for a lunch of 14 people.
The goods that she bought filled two large shopping trollies, top and bottom and the sides. The bill came to US$184 and change, that is $368 Bajan.
She was “bewsing” left, right and centre, and I had to calm her down. But I had to agree that if US$184 already had the store markup, plus taxes, the purchase price for the store must have been less. She estimated that the same groceries and household items in Barbados would have cost over $1 000.
This set me thinking. Why are things so expensive here? Is it because people say that stores keep warehouses abroad and in Barbados, and that at every stage profit must be earned? Did not some one of the fellows elected promise to look into this?
Since then we have heard nothing about it. Should he not be held accountable for it? After all, that is what we elected them for. That is why they are paid for doing a job that should not be a sinecure.
Small pension The poor soul was inconsolable. Having reached the age of 65 and having been sent home with a small pension, she asked me what was she supposed to do? She claimed that she voted for a person to represent her. She claimed that the representation of the poor man is questionable: not only in respect of food and household items, but also the role of the Central Bank in dealing with the banks.
“Banks are without a soul,” she claimed. I said “Amen”.
“We would be better off without the Central Bank,” she offered. “I get two per cent on my little savings while the banks use it and earn nine per cent or more. That is unfair and you, Mr Wild Coot, Sir, being a banker, ought to say something about it.”
I had to butt in there.
‘’Lady,” I said, “Central Bank plays a pivotal role in managing the Government’s affairs. It acts as banker to the banks, issues currency notes and generally collates things like how many tourists come to the island and so forth.”
“Well, does it not have a say in how the banks behave? Does it not oversee the banks? Are the banks ‘gorrillifants’? Or is the Central Bank frightened? I would go in there and tell the whole lot of them what to do with these rapacious banks.”
“Attagirl!” I exclaimed. “And while you are about it, go into the Ministry of Health and see if you can find out how much my medication will cost now? Find out if I will have to buy it plus duty now; if it will be part of the prohibited list for free prescriptions at designated pharmacies?
“Find out if I will be confined to generic medication? Also, find out if I will have to wait in a long line at polyclinics? Then come back and tell me, if I am alive, because I take six pieces of medication.”  
“You know, Mr Wild Coot, Sir, the upcoming election should have three candidates. The third candidate should be called Mr Costofliving. I predict that he would get over 70 per cent of the 8 000-odd votes at stake.”
They say that Barbadians are some of the most intelligent people on the planet. Her perspicacity was uncanny.
• Harry Russell is a retired banker. He may be reached at [email protected]

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