IT’S MY BUSINESS: Current ads reality check
Last week, we heard from a lot of luminaries on the state of the economy. Some were more hopeful than others. But I got my economic fix for the week not from them but from some of the ads appearing in THE NATION.
Dr Kenny Anthony wants his regional colleagues to fess up, to come clean, on the economy. “The tragedy of the times is that we are in throes of a major crisis like the Caribbean has never ever experienced before, but we are refusing to face the reality that confronts us and all of us are engaged in one form or another of self-denial.” (NATION, October 31, Page 1.)
The St Lucian prime minister was speaking at the UWI Cave Hill Campus last week, where he delivered a lecture on education.
However, the view from Jada Construction’s CEO was a bit more upbeat. On Page 4 of the same edition of THE NATION, Bjorn Bjerkhamn, who was speaking at the launch of a community improvement programme sponsored by his company, said things were still slower than usual but “within the last few months there has been an upsurge . . . . We are experiencing right now a lot more action than we were previously.”
He added that he was aware of “some projects coming down the road which would create employment.” Mr Bjerkhamn, through one or more of his companies, is said to be one of the six finalists in the “race” to buy Four Seasons.
Some even say his horse is not dark at all.
Meanwhile, Sir Charles Williams, one of the few local magnates who can generate a lead story by just telling you things he is thinking about and planning without going to the trouble of having a formal company launch or other such tiresome minutiae, told THE NATION that he was going back to the land.
In a story titled Agro Answer, appearing in the WEEKEND NATION of November 1 on Page 3, Sir Charles said he was ready to show his commitment to the country, one instance of this being a project using tunnel technology.
Check out the verbs: they are all “about” the future. “We are about to embark on growing in tunnels;” “We have already geared up Foursquare to start production;” “We are about to form the company”.
Last week, we also heard from Sir Frank Alleyne, who came out to dismiss a suggestion from UWI professor Dr Michael Howard that it would be better to start talking about a possible intervention with the IMF before it was too late.
This week, the company which closed Almond Resorts Inc., throwing hundreds of workers out of their jobs, and has just been given a golden handshake by the Barbados government with US$53 million attached for purchase of the Almond Village alone, is sponsoring a workshop to discuss how to get investment into this country gong again.
The topic is Re-Building Investor Confidence – The Way Forward.
One way I might suggest to do this is for massive conglomerates, which promise all sorts of great things when they were trying to get public support to take over companies, not to cut and run when the going gets tough. That might send a message to other investors that you have confidence in the country. In short, you would be helping to lead “the way forward”.
Of course, the real sense of consumer activity, or lack of it, is to be found in the advertising. Here are a few of the current deals out there:
Courts’ has a new store card which gives you “10 per cent off your first purchase”, promises “no more waiting for credit approval,” and “best of all, unlike credit cards, there’s no annual fee”.
The Barbados Public Workers’ Co-operative Credit Union, the country’s largest and most successful credit union, is offering vehicle loans “with no deposit down,” along with competitive rates as low as 7.5 per cent”.
RBC Royal Bank seems to be matching the credit union’s offer, with rates also “as low as 7.5 per cent,” and “$0 down payment”.
When car loan interest rates sound like mortgage rates, you know the consumers are staying home.
In my book, these ads say more about how key businesses are facing the reality of the economic situation here in Barbados than empty promises and lofty proposals coming from politicians and business magnates.
It is brutal and the worst is yet to come.
• Pat Hoyos is a publisher and business writer.