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THE HOYOS FILE: The angel who fell to Earth


Pat Hoyos

THE HOYOS FILE: The angel who fell to Earth

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Sometimes I think that if Barbados ever had a guardian angel it must have been Nick Cage.
Well, the angel played by arguably the best Worst Actor in the World in that strange movie City Of Angels.
In this movie, which is known as much for its soundtrack of great music as for its story and acting, guardian angel Nick is sent to watch over Meg Ryan, or at least the doctor she plays.
The resulting scenario comes to mind when I wonder what is happening to Barbados and conveniently provides me with a non-biblical metaphor.
It is about an angel who fell to earth. Took the dive in order to become human so he could be with the human woman he has fallen in love with.
Maybe our guardian angel fell in love with Barbados and jumped off the top of the Treasury Building one night. Maybe he or she is living somewhere on the west coast, guarding us no more.
See, in City Of Angels, when you take that dive you wake up human. You are no longer 800 years old, never changing in your looks. You will now live, love, age and die. In short, experience – not merely observe – the human condition.
This metaphorical guardian angel of ours is therefore unable to stop all these bad things from happening to us.
Like that exposé on our offshore sector broadcast recently on the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) television airwaves. The story version is titled Tax Avoidance: Canada-Barbados Tax Deal Loopholes Revealed and was posted on the CBC News website on October 4.
Our former guardian angel was not able to protect us from allowing ourselves to become possibly the only place in CARICOM which tried to act like it was part of CARICOM, only to now find itself punished for no longer being CARICOM-enough, when every single state in the Caribbean which has signed the Treaty of Chaguaramas is doing no more and possibly a lot less than we are to live in the spirit of regional integration.
Remember hassle-free travel? I do. We saw the result every morning and evening at every major bus stop on the island.
Our guardian angel’s leap of love has perhaps led us to accept the promises of a Government which was very good at making promises and bashing its opponents, but now is proving itself to have little or no clue as to how to govern, and so lurches from crisis to crisis, like a landlubber on a salty deck in the middle of a perfect storm.
Nick, why did you do it? Was Meg that beautiful? And unspoilt?
And then the coup de grace, the Bulgarian job.
You would think that, what with so many reports and cases of ATM conspiracies (yes, with Canada-based Bolivians involved in some of them), with the modus operandi so clearly illustrated in many articles and so forth, that our local banking industry would have paid more attention to a potential cash leak in their system.
I wonder what it would have cost to have equipped all those ATMs with the protection devices which would have made it less easy for such a massive clean-out in such a short time.
Why was it that only one bank, it seems, was not hit? Had RBC done something the others didn’t? Apparently RBC customers were only exposed if they used other ATMs in the CARIFS network. (Now, don’t ask Horace Cobham that question. After all, he is the president of the Bankers Association, but he is also the top banker at RBC in Barbados. Awkward.)
Still, inquiring minds would like to know. Maybe we will hear more if and when the case goes to court.
As for the CBC (Canada) investigation, I would only suggest that two or three smart alecs do not a whole sector make. Our offshore sector, as the CBC story itself admits, operates legitimately, providing services, perhaps mainly, to Canadian companies. Here’s how they put it themselves:
“More than 1 000 Canadian companies, including giants like Petro-Canada and Loblaws, have legitimate offices there. Canadian banks are on almost every corner to serve all the Canadian companies.” (To which I would have added, “and the public with cash-leaking ATMs”.)
Here is how it defended its sorry little scenario about some restaurant owner seeking advice on hiding some of his Canadian-generated profits in Barbados by pretending he had earned them in a third country:
“CBC’s policy for hidden-camera journalism generally requires that we have credible information about wrongdoing before we film. However, when dealing with a secretive industry like this one, when the industry as a whole has come under critical scrutiny, the practice is to permit testing in this way, on a random basis.”
When did our offshore sector “as a whole” come under “critical scrutiny”?
The whole premise of the legitimate offshore sector, as practised by Barbados – which is losing ground to other jurisdictions, I might add – is so simple that even I understand it. It goes as follows: Company X, which is set up in Country A, earns profits overseas in Country B, which it sends to Country C (Barbados), where it pays a low tax and is then allowed to repatriate its profits to Country A because of a tax treaty.
This treaty, by the way, is no longer a one-way deal between Barbados and Canada, but has been extended to other countries as well (by Canada). So why are you picking on us?
Well, it’s all Nick Cage’s fault, you see.
But, there is another metaphor, one from the cowboy era, that may help us understand why.
Remember how every two-bit gunslinger would chase after the Wyatt Earps and Jesse Jameses of the day to get famous by being the one who brought them down?
For, despite our current hard times, our disconnected-from-reality administration, our budget deficits, our sinking credit rating, Barbados still has a strong brand in both the tourism and offshore sectors. Brands may go through hard times, but once established they are resilient.
Our brand is just a bit dated. In need of freshening up, and I don’t mean just in a cosmetic way. I mean in a serous, strategic way in both sectors.
Other islands are making their names, and more power to them, but once we get back on track it will be hard to stop us.
Did you ever think the cruise ship industry could have sunk (sorry) so low in people’s eyes? Maybe they got too cocky, thought they could keep cutting costs to make more profits on discounted rates, and the result has been half a dozen or more incidents which have shown, let’s put it this way, that there is a lot to be said for a land-based vacation.
So we can bounce back. It’s just that we need a new guardian angel to come along and take up the slack left by the one who fell in love with us and then fell to earth.
• Pat Hoyos is a long-standing journalist and publisher of the Broad Street Journal.

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