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WILD COOT: Our jahiliyah

Harry Russell

WILD COOT: Our jahiliyah

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Over the years, we Barbadians have had a proud record. In education we have excelled, even exported our learning and teaching to many parts of the Caribbean. Latin, which is hardly taught now, was one of the subjects that was promoted in many schools outside of Barbados by our teachers. Our Queen Elizabeth Hospital has been a rescue to many a suffering patient from across the Caribbean and up to a few years ago, had enjoyed a fine reputation with proud staff.
Alas, now that we seem not to be led by the cream of the crop, our standards have fallen and we are experiencing our jahiliyah – our time of ignorance. And it will last too! Look at St Kitts and Nevis with the highest debt to gross domestic product. Dr Denzil Douglas will not allow a vote to take place, as his government only commands a five out of 11 support in the House of Assembly, for fear that a vote of confidence will go against him. This is now over a year that the stalemate existed. So there is precedence.
In Barbados, if a new election were called now, some of the sitting members stand to lose their pensions not having completed enough years. That would be a sad day. The fear is that having been tried and found wanting, the image might haunt them for life.
But Wild Coot, the Government might run out of money. The Central Bank might be embarrassed now to print more money lest it loses what little credibility it has left among central banks in the world and in the eyes of the IMF (International Monetary Fund). I believe that the IMF has not forgotten that little spat in Japan that pleased many Barbadians as they thought that the IMF should be put in its place. Not so! Remember what Capouchi told the Devil – you may come my way . . . son.
If a central bank stands up to a minister, it has the backing of central banks throughout the world. Look at what has just transpired in Nigeria. Central banks have the presumption of integrity. But Wild Coot, you were asking all along what were we doing in China. Somebody has just let the cat out of the bag. Maybe if we were not taking heed of proposals arising therefrom, it was not worth the expenditure in the past and perhaps neither in the future. The promised ambassador might just be a peewittler marking time.
This really is our jahiliyah, and no doubt it will frizzle for the next four years heedless of the damage it is causing to our collective image and the widening of the gap between rich and poor – you will see that those who have money will prosper as in every downturn.
Maybe Government is waiting for something to happen so that it can create a state of emergency. We note the attack on the Press, as if to silence it. We notice the warning to university lecturers. There is an unconfirmed rumour that preparations are in place for a clash with the public. We hear about cracking of skulls – something unprecedented in our modern times.
People say that we are living beyond our means. While that may be true of a few of us, until this lot and with a few exceptions, our Government balanced its budget and had some left over for capital projects. Indeed, we were able to offer free education and free hospital and drug care. That can’t be living above one’s means. Our problem started with the decisions of the 2008 victory coming in the face of a world recession. The Democratic Labour Party, with Clico and other debilitating factors staring at us, obstinately and tenaciously took the wrong course. Sadly our then leader is dead, but his disciples have not corrected the folly of his ways.
A lady called me and offered some advice. She said: “Wild Coot, stop hankering on the past. What are we to do now? Keep your tail between your legs and write poetry as the fellows are not listening. You see that even the unions seem neutered with promises.”
Harry Russell is a banker. Email [email protected]