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Times of ‘milking a mice’

Al Gilkes

Times of ‘milking a mice’

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Have you ever heard the old Bajan saying about “milking a mice”?
It’s somewhat like the idiom “getting blood out of stone” but with a slight difference. For instance, getting blood out of stone in reference to somebody who owes you $100 means that your chances of getting back a single cent are all but zero.
On the other hand, milking a mice in that situation indicates that although the amount paid from what is owed is far from satisfactory, you still receive a little something until later.
Mentally, you can measure the amount of that little something by considering that you would probably get a pint of milk from a few squeezes on one tit of a cow while Lowdown Hoad would get the same from half of one of the two on a goat. However, you would take a whole day milking about 600 mice to produce that pint of milk.
Applied to something like the economy, the difference between milking a cow, milking a goat and milking a mice can be understood in the context of the strength of that economy firstly in good times, secondly in not so good times and lastly, in very bad times such as the current global recession.
A country like Barbados was used to relaxing on soft armchairs and milking gorged cows when construction was in total boom; unemployment was down in low single digits; hotels were refusing guests; agriculture was in constant bloom; commercial banks were more liquid than the Barbados Water Authority; foreign reserves were counted in billions; fiscal deficit was a forgotten term; more was given away in a single budget than Ophra Winfrey, Carlos Slim and Bill Gates do collectively in one year; wholesalers and retailers stored up profits in the tens of millions and so on.
However, the armchairs had to be replaced by hard wood stools in order to milk goats when the cows started looking like you could play marimba on their ribs and the milk in their udders turned from gushes to drizzles.
That was when private sector construction projects turned to bush, vine and grass; Government started building skyscrapers to maintain some level of employment; tourists turned to catching ZRs, eating fast food, drinking white rum and buying snacks in minimarts; $2 and $3 stores, sidewalk vendors, and popular, no frills, pay less retail outlets started suctioning in even “bougie” shoppers from brand name establishments.
Unfortunately, in hard times the day also dawns when conditions become so bleak that governments are forced to supplement taking the drizzle from the cow and the drops from the goat by milking mice. VAT increased but yielded less than before; people’s houses and land were put on the auction block for taxes they are no longer able to pay; tourist arrivals were up but spending way down; road construction was going around and around roundabouts;
Crop Over parties were stalled by overnight imposition of rust-encrusted legislation that now earns Fire Service $150 for a venue inspection and Town Planning the same for a certificate; and the list goes on.
Milking a mice is now the state of the game and rest assured that there is a whole farm of other forgotten mice currently being pulled from their hiding pages in legislation in order to be lined up and milked come August.

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