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WILD COOT: Not a cent more?


Harry Russell

WILD COOT: Not a cent more?

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By the time this column appears I would know if our Government is “mens” or “mices”.
Ridiculous!
If the Barbados National Bank (BNB) is such a cash cow, as you have been boasting, and as your latest figures show, why are you insisting on a below market price for the balance of shares? Is not the advertisement delineating six reasons to sell unsubstantial and inconsequential?
If I were the directors and staff, I would, when the dust settles, be requiring shares in Republic Bank Trinidad as an exchange.
I would not sell if I were the Government. I would take the dividends due on December 14 and annually.
Is it because the Government of Barbados is in a financial bind for salary payment that the BNB shares are thrown in our face?
Do you remember when we went to Trinidad and wanted to borrow US$200 million? The interest rate was close on 8 per cent when current rates were far less? I wrote an article entitled Et Tu, Yuh Brute.
Take it or leave it: “A pound of flesh to be cut and taken in what part of your body please me.”
I said then: “Now that the chips are down and we need the money, the dagger has been plunged.” Imagine that this was written on August 17, 2009! Bajans, wake up from your slumber like our leader!
But Wild Coot, isn’t that business? All’s fair in love and war – and business.
We cannot afford to nationalize the bank because we would have to pay a fair price and the assessed valuation of shares may be different. In any case nationalization is not what we do.
We may need the money to pay salaries (although the powers that be would not confirm that), and we cannot offer to buy back the bank shares, because we say that we do not have the money.
What I want to see is if, despite it all, we have the intestinal fortitude to say: “No!”
Much as our leaders say that we welcome the investment dollar of Trinidad, I have been warning that in business as in banking, we must choose our friends.
I remember as a lad of 22 being interviewed by the late George Money. His first words were: “Take off your dark glasses, I want to see your eyes.”
It was a lesson that I have never forgotten when interviewing customers. Don’t we see the eyes of Trinidadians, both businessmen and government?
Barbados is seen as a boastful little runt, “punching above its weight” and needing to be taken down a peg. Let us show them that this is a country with backbone. The relative success of Barbados has been the envy of our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean, and I should know. Some islands admire us and their eyes are friendly (remember Dominica and the BLP), but I question the motives of some Trinidad businessmen.
Our Government should not be interested in selling the balance of shares, compounding the original mistake, but rather in taking advantage of what profit is annually generated from the sweat of Barbadians who support the Republic Bank – still.
Now we know where loyalty should be placed, we know how to act. Now we know who our friends are!
Obviously this perceived attitude is not characteristic of the majority of Trinidadians, some of whom are close friends, and even relatives of the Wild Coot.
I say again, this is a test for the Government. Is it prepared to dig in its heels in the interest and pride of Barbadians? If I were the Barbados Labour Party I would not make this issue a preferred topic on my platform.
Imagine dismissing Dr Robinson’s suggestion outright! That means that there is no intention of reciprocating and allowing us into the Trinidad ambrosia.
Let me ask a few questions, despite what Harold is saying. Are we over a barrel in the month of January? I know that Dodds will come into play. What else? Are we overdue on a payment to Republic Bank for some loan or the other? Like Milton “on his blindness”, I fondly ask.
• Harry Russell is a banker.

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