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WILD COOT: Slap in the face

Harry Russell

WILD COOT: Slap in the face

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“Wild Coot, you is a idiot or what! How you can endorse the use of National Insurance money for the Four Seasons in your last article? That money is insurance contributions subscribed by people in the country for the Government to manage. It is for when they are sick, out of work, or too old to work.
“That is why we chose men of integrity to oversee them. You is a banker and you should know better. If the [National Insurance] board in its collective wisdom at first rejected the invitation to invest by Mr Persaud, the decent thing was for the board not to allow itself to be persuaded, and should have resigned; after all, it is not a rubber stamp.” This was a regular caller, a female blackguard.
“You, being a banker, should know that an investment must have credible hopes of returns and that that is one of the criteria of National Insurance investments. Now we getting all sorts of obeah expectations coming from people who should know better.
“Do these people have a commitment from future tourists to stay in the hotel and to spend US dollars? The thing could be positioning itself for diarrhoea – like in Nevis.
“Are you, Wild Coot, supporting the move because you expect to get a pick somewhere; like on the board of the new watchdog organization with Doctor Frank? I don’t think so! I believe that you are so fed up with the rumours that National Insurance money is going to support institutions and to pay salaries, that you say, ‘If the minister want the National Insurance funds, let him have them. It will reflect now on the board and the Minister of Finance when it gets sour’.
“According to what I hear, the minister is in an impregnable position, because if he goes, all go. Don’t quote me.
“But I am not sure that involving the Inter-American Development Bank is a wise move. The project is not a Government-guaranteed borrowing; if there is a default, ‘cat gnam yuh suppa’. The country would not be able to borrow from the IDB again.
“The whole thing is a sorry mess. What was initially supposed to be a private sector operation is now practically a white elephant with Mr Persaud at the head searching for fodder and hay. The Government gave a guarantee already for $50 million to pay contractors, local lawyer and others who may be still being paid.
“So when all is said and done, when the hotel is finally built, what is the pecking order for repayment? Is not the National Insurance Scheme to be paid by expected US dollars after pay under the first guarantee and after the IDB get its share?
“It is all well and good for Mr Persaud to espouse on the gross domestic product (GDP) fluctuation and the fact that the Light & Power investors have to be paid in US dollars earned from tourism, but that it is not his business when National Insurance funds concern the future well-being of rising health bills.
“He does not say where the 15 per cent of the $120 million, plus the $60 million, plus whatever other finances raised will go. Fifteen per cent of over $180 million is $27 million. Is that for salaries?
“If it is, it is more than what the boss man says is needed to kick-start the operation.  
“There is too much unknown about the project. Since the NIS funds have to come into play, the whole of Barbados should have the unexpurgated version of the finance.
“So, Wild Coot, redeem yourself; that is, if I read you correctly.
“Like the Duke in As You Like It, I thought that you were enjoying the privacy of the Forest of Arden. Free from the envious courts.”
What could I say after this mouthful? I could only cover myself in sackcloth and ashes and escape into the wilderness to cogitate. All that I had been saying is that the minister has the ultimate power, for the time being.
If the board had resigned he would only have chosen other party “faithfuls”.