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Fair weather friends


Harry Russell

Fair weather friends

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From the time that the Caribbean Court of Appeal was not used by Trinidad although the government had agreed to it and to site it in Port of Spain, I had a funny feeling.
From the time that Barbados Shipping & Trading was bought, gutted and split up with major parts thrown one side, I had another funny feeling.
From the time I found out that Arawak cement was retailed cheaper in other islands – despite the cost of transportation – than in Barbados where it is manufactured, I had another funny feeling.
From the time I realized that we had to go up in the “hikkies”, all up in England, to fight for our sea rights and protect possible avenues to oil, I got a weakness in the knees.
From the time Mr Owen Arthur sold Barbados National Bank shares to CLICO’s offspring, I was terrified and that horrible feeling has not left me yet.
I am sorry that I had to leave the staff whom I entreated to join the original Barbados Savings Bank and who are now having a hard time. Again, that funny feeling developed in my head.
Now even my bones are starting to vibrate as I see how Barbados National Bank has started to “Trinidadize” the bank by incorporating what is a low- and middle-income house provider into its general fold.
Will this be another Almond? Will we see “bold moves” leading to high profits for the short term and general atrophy afterwards, or shall we see a cheap auction sale for Almond to the detriment of shareholders?
Have we in Barbados drunk from one of the streams of Hades and have the effects of Lethe rendered us forgetful now in this hour of need? Are we stupid or what? We are like the mythological Tantalus reaching for the berried branch from the famous automatic teller machine but never grasping it.
Then let us look at the “pucketary” that CLICO has put us in – $360 million in maturing annuities need to be paid in order to appease 30 000 potential voters who have all qualified for adult suffrage.
This is at a time when our Government cannot find money to pay Mr Al Barrack, help out REDjet, reduce the value added tax as promised, or even to help out the Queen Elizabeth Hospital or even . . . .
CLICO is dragging us into the mire and people who have to make a decision find it difficult to face up to the issue.
I feel sorry for those who have to find a way out. So far we are not even talking about how much we have to pay the Deloitte judicial managers (they are certainly not working for buttons).
I would like to be a fly under the table at the meeting between the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and our Prime Minister (not on the wall where I may be swatted).
I would not like to be in his shoes. What is he going to tell those people “dem”? That it was CLICO’s fault? Or that we allowed Trinidad, with its grandiose ideas, to lead us down Constitution River?   
Trinidad seems to be a fair weather friend. And although we go down there and enjoy Carnival, never mind they do not acknowledge our calypsonians; although we go down there to buy the sweetest pans; although we go down there to get sweet women (the sweetest are in Jamaica, they say, maybe that is why we search them to see if we can discover the source of their sweetness); that cannot compensate for the misery they have left us in with CLICO.
As far as the Central Bank of Trinidad is concerned, we have been cut adrift. This aspect of things has been compounded by the foolish belief that CLICO in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean is totally independent of oil-rich Trinidad.
Like Horatius on the Tiber, I seem to be standing alone. This reminds me of the poem Casabianca about the boy on the burning deck.
The poem by Felicia Dorothea Hemans tells of a young boy, Casabianca, who remained and perished at his post on the ship Orient. Read it!
“When all but he had fled.”   
• Harry Russell is a banker. Email [email protected] 

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