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WILD COOT: Sound of silence


Harry Russel

WILD COOT: Sound of silence

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People talking without speaking/ People hearing without listening. – Paul Simon And Art Garfunkel, The Sound Of Silence.
So far from my reading, only Shantal Munro Knight and one or two others have commented on a most important dereliction of duty as reported by a bold Auditor General Leigh Trotman.
It is to be noted that Mr Trotman did not deliver the bad news until after the Election, most likely to dispel any thought that it could have had an influence. What he pointed out is disgraceful in the extreme:
“Maybe if a true estimate can be made of funds not collected or not accounted for, the short change and overpayments; the shortcomings could go a long way in correcting Government’s Estimates shortfall and Budget requirements.”
Are not the ministers we pay, who “pompaset” daily, aware of the scandalous mess? Don’t we have any shame? And we are supposed to be 98 per cent literate and silent. Is the Auditor General blowing [hot] wind? If so, where is the answer? This is not the first time he has spoken out.
Look at the rumpus we are making about tiefing gold for cash. Exposing Government’s accounts to such unprofessional practices is tantamount to the same thing, maybe different players. Why no call-in discussion on the radio? Was such momentous news carried on CBC? It could have made a difference in the imposition of VAT.
Silence seems to reign regarding things like the National Insurance Fund’s accounts that affect everybody. And we make a big fuss about Spartacus, which is nobody’s business and has been going on all along. Are we not catching at shadows?
As an inspector of accounts, I am aware that the slightest weakness in a system has the propensity to expose it to skulduggery. The further in arrears the system is, the greater the capacity to tief (I say tief because it is the most appropriate word for what other people may call misappropriation).
The same society that we highlight is falling apart. While we used to say “da caan happen hey”, now we have to say, like Richard, the Duke of Gloucester: “When the fox hath once got in his nose, He’ll soon find means to make the body follow.” – 3 King Henry VI, Act IV, Scene 7.   
It has now reached a stage where our banks are crying out. You say good for them, they used to make too much profit. But that is not the real problem. Their bottom line is in a sling. Correcting the problem now is difficult.
Long ago I agitated against the drastic lowering of interest rates on savings from four or five per cent to two per cent. I have been berated mostly by businesses with overdrafts. But what about loans and mortgages that have fixed rates and still have to pay high rates, what about difficult loans that do not merit a reduction? Business for the banks is so slow that for a while they offer low rates for mortgages with strong competition among themselves – thus lowering their spread.
On the other hand, what about the vast number of savers who now find two per cent on savings and even on fixed deposits insufficient to meet their needs? What about banks that are looking for adequate return on liquid money that they do not want to risk now that their loan portfolios reflect the effects of three downgrades and junk-bond status?
The expected capital projects, if they start, will certainly help tradesmen and artisans looking for work, and that is good. People will earn, they will spend, and they will pay VAT, thus Government will be able to replenish its coffers. This is juvenile thinking.
The question is, are capital projects going to generate growth, and when. Are the measures going to help civil servants, and hotels and restaurants that represent about ten per cent of non-performing loans at most banks?
What are our two gentlemen who monitor our foreign exchange every Friday doing about the stimulus effect? Surely a $600 million stimulus will have a “lesser” effect on foreign exchange than a $90-million dollar one. Do the math! With one of the projects challenged, are the people fools? The silence continues.
• Harry Russell is a banker.

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