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WILD COOT: Offset – brek!


Harry Russel

WILD COOT: Offset – brek!

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“Waiting and hoping that policies will change and we can get a piece of change in our pockets like the entertainers did.”
You would have thought that these words would be coming from a test on the block. They were.
He was a graduate from one of the polytechnic schools who had been searching for two years after graduating, looking for a job or an opportunity.
“Help me with a piece of land and I can turn it into the Garden of Eden,” he said to me. “The banks will not lend to me, and the Government has no money to lend.”
To the youth I said, “Well the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) set up the National Bank and the BLP sold it. The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) should now set up its bank to help you. And they can, despite the paucity of funds.”
Setting up a bank presents no magic. Even the Wild Coot can do it. Look at who runs banks. Today our banks are reluctant to lend either to entrepreneurs, bright and just out of school/college/university, or even to the Government. They say that the Government is over-borrowed and the school-leavers have no security. Notice that they prefer smaller profit until the economy picks up. They must be pitching marbles. Where is the local bank? Where are our savings? Look at their balance sheets.
The DLP Government has won the elections fair and square, but it may be a Pyrrhic victory if their intransigence perseveres. The message from 48.489 per cent of the people cannot be ignored, and remember that is why the people put it so. Snakes in the grass exist and people have peripatetic legs.
Talking about banking always makes me rueful when I reminisce. Recalling the days when bank managers were real managers and not information collectors, recalls a customer who was always on the borderline. It probably can be likened to the present impasse between the private sector and the Government. I specifically refer to who owes whom.
This customer was a contractor, building houses, roads etcetera. He was marginal, but trying. I took a chance with him on many occasions. My Head Office was keeping a close watch on me, so I had to be careful. Many times I knew that he deferred paying PAYE and National Insurance deductions in preference to his employees’ pay bill.
However this Friday in question I got a frantic telephone call. “Lord, they gine kill muh. Mas Harry, dey gine kill muh!”
It appears that when his cheque for his pay bill was earlier presented to the cashier it was refused, on my instructions.
“They got the trays of two front-end loaders and a back-hoe lined up ‘long side the office and revving the engines and I can’t get out. This is three weeks I en’t pay dem.”
Knowing the propensity for mendacity when customers are up against it. I said, “I’ll get back to you”.
I instructed one of my senior clerks to quietly motor over to the site to ascertain the veracity of the position. This he did surreptitiously and returned.
“Mr Russell, what he is saying is true. About 100 men and women are lined up behind the tractors and are shouting, “Push it down (expletive), push it down. We got families to feed.”
Here I was between the devil and the deep blue sea. On the one hand was my Head Office, on the other my customer and friend. On the third hand was a customer who had had copious warnings about the management of his business. A quick high-level conference with my accountant and my senior loans officer resulted in a decision. It’s either he or you. I left for the afternoon.
You think that the Barbados Labour Party would have left the Parliament Building?
We will miss reading you Peter.
• Harry Russell is a banker.

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