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WILD COOT – Read and understand

marciadottin, [email protected]

WILD COOT – Read and understand

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Clyde Mascoll is not my friend. I have met him twice in my three score and 12 years. But, I advise all union leaders to read and re-read his submission in last Thursday’s DAILY NATION on Page 10.
John Beale is not my friend. I can’t remember ever having met him, but read and re-read his comments in the same NATION edition on Page 3.
I often read Rickey Singh’s column for enlightenment on what is happening at the CARICOM level. Read his comments in the same newspaper. I do not know about goats, but Lowdown’s appeal to the dogs earns merit.
What I do know and can confirm after a career of nearly 49 years in banking, almost 31 of which were spent in copious boardrooms as director or chairman, is that John Beale must have sworn on the Bible or the Koran before making his comments.
Furthermore, it is the duty of the unions, to whom I am appealing, since the Central Bank seems to have developed amnesia or atrophy, to come to the fore and defend the people of Barbados. Unions must not only strike for more pay, but against unfair practices.
Open as the Barbados economy is, and as laissez faire as the Government wants to be, something has to be done about the banks, even if high international prices can be partly blamed for the escalation of food prices.
And you get directors of banks boasting about upward ticks (they biting) or super-profits or 20 per cent cover, and all that rubbish. While the shareholders who are almost all foreign get rich, the depositors who are Barbadians get screwed.
Banks can make profits by either increase in fees and interest spread or by the keen management of their loan portfolio in relation to their tax position. Exchange rates are controlled by the Central Bank but not the commission charges on exchange transactions.   
While it is true that the owners (main shareholders) of banks do not live in Barbados, but enjoy tourist-related facilities “once and away”, the viability of the island’s economy is seen only as a profit centre.
The thinking is that it is the responsibility of the Government to control the economy. In their boardrooms there is no room for sentiment. Therefore if push comes to shove, they can sell out at a whim.
Check Barclays Bank, even though it was said that the Caribbean was one of the most profitable centres in its operation at the end of the last century. I am a banker and still a director and am fully aware of the goings-on.
Like Clyde Mascoll, I feel that the 2008 taxation was the catalyst to our plunge into an unsustainable deficit that has loosen our moorings, and now we are adrift. I believe that it would take a united effort to re-anchor the ship.
Maybe if we could consolidate the various debts but lengthen the time, just like we do in the banks, thereby reducing the monthly/annual payments and interest, the sword of Damocles may be lifted.
As I have been preaching, if we manage to get the financial institutions to broaden their narrow profiles of lending (even with Government guarantees); if we get an inspector to patrol the supermarkets; if we get the anticipated big construction projects going so that people can work (not Pickering); if . . . .
Do you believe that our success in the past has been our problems? Do people see us as an “ATM”? They come in and make profit and give a dollar to the Salvation Army, or a playground to children, or free lottery winnings here and there.
Are we satisfied at jumping up at every reggae or jazz fête and spending whatever pittance we have?
Is there any merit in the past chairman’s appeal recently that CLICO’s proposal to the bank had sound financial reasoning?
Are we at the end of our tether?  
But I may be foolish.
Moliere the French playwright once said: “An erudite fool is a greater fool than an ignorant fool. (Un sot savant est sot plus qu’un sot ignorant).”
• Harry Russell is a banker.