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WILD COOT: The Boos submission

Harry Russell

WILD COOT: The Boos submission

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Peter Boos, Barbadian, fellow of Chartered Accountants, chairman emeritus at the prestigious accounting firm of Ernst & Young, and several more credentials, must be given some credit for speaking out at this time.
This is not the first time that Boos has articulated a difference with the way our country is being run “down”; with the way our political “leaders” and ministers have remained silent in the face of stormy winds buffeting our island. He has spoken out at the pillaging of the National Insurance Scheme. He expressly calls on all Barbadians to support him in voicing this disapproval of the present state.
His words have the backing of the international institutions that have called on the watchdogs of the country, the Central Bank and the Financial Services Commission, to stand up and speak out against the downward spiral of the economy. I believe that the members of Government do not understand figures. Our problems now hinge mainly on figures not so much on “economic strategy”. Figures constitute an exact science unlike economics.
Boos is a man who understands figures. I thought that he chose an appropriate audience at the Hilton. Now we need to see if his words will find fertile ground and get the private sector mobilised instead of them issuing stupid platitudes. Barbados has had a high rate of taxation.
The citizens, though grumbling, have tolerated it. They got in return free education up to tertiary level, sickness benefits and a safety net for the poor. Now all of this is in jeopardy. It is patently unfair for the minister of education to infer, nay voice in his inimitable style, that financing high education costs was a gift of the Government. We paid for it with VAT and other high taxes that pay his stipend too and have been frittered away by his Cabinet.
Fellow columnist Corey Worrell, a few weeks ago, mentioned the fear of speaking out and Bajans’ propensity to remain silent. Boos was addressing some of the movers and shakers here, and they must realise that even if they seek profit now from the meltdown, we are all in a sinking ship. His appeal to the Chamber of Commerce should be applauded, since the chamber has it in its hand to bring the situation to an impasse and throw its weight against the overindulgence being practised on the country.
One asks why? Who benefits? Are vultures circling?
The perpetrators seem impervious to reason from outside. The $4 billion in treasury bills and $2.5 billion in drawing rights cannot be good for the country. It is a hole to fill a hole with foreign exchange implications. After Sandals, do we have anything more to sell or give away?
Moody’s downgrades us and places us on a level with other countries with a similar profile. Some minister disputes this and contends that Canadian international businesses are chomping at the bit to start business here. Our Prime Minister, otherwise silent publicly, and with careful diplomatic language, calls the downgrade “rubbish”. Ryan Straughan, drawing our attention to the practical repercussions of this rubbish, spells out the cost of the $225 million loan now. The Credit Suisse foreign exchange support loan, because of our junk bond status made junkier even junkiest, will incur an increase in interest alone of US$3 375 000 per annum, enough to be given to Sir Hilary towards education or to ease the worries of Minister John Boyce.
What Boos is saying is that we have to stand up and say “enough is enough, the driver can’t drive”. David Comissiong is calling for fresh elections. In the United Kingdom, if a minister misreads figures and there are repercussions, he tables his resignation. Señor Clarke has called for a march – a protest.
Baffling questions. Did a minister sign the order for chicken wings importation? Can’t we also classify Mr James Paul’s contention about the downgrade as utter rubbish?
An old lady called me: “’E jes addin’ on uh tax pun uh tax, da is bare desperation.”
• Harry Russell is a banker. Email [email protected]