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WILD COOT: Anthropomorphic bank?


Harry Russell

WILD COOT: Anthropomorphic bank?

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Even the Greek gods, Zeus and those fellows, were not distant, inaccessible beings. Men could approach them easily, see them, hear them or even touch them. Zeus, even though wedded to Hera, had relations on the side with many a comely nymph, thus showing his willingness to be down to earth. (Properties adopted by us Barbadian men.)

We cannot say this of our Central Bank and the expensive occupiers of the edifice that Sir Courtney Blackman conceptualised. In fact, under Sir Courtney, Barbadians were mollycoddled, as it was always the duty, as in other countries, of the minister of finance to update the country on the state of affairs. So under Sir Courtney the anthropomorphic face of the Central bank was exposed and open to media scrutiny. Now the gods on the mountain seem to have retreated to their Olympian abode and restricted their participation to dispensing thunder and rain on us mortals. Did I say dispensing? Why the new offer of help? What are the commercial banks doing?

Commercial banks charge us usurious credit card rates. We wait in line for hours to get desultory service. While there is a national call for help to kick-start entrepreneurial projects and small enterprises, the banks join the gods in quaffing caviar at the expense of the foolish virgins that account for the $8.9 billion saved. The Central Bank will not intervene with the credit card rate and the ubiquitous fees because the Government is enjoying cheap treasury bills and bonds money from the banks that are obligated to invest over 20 per cent of the $8.9 billion with it. Oh Bajans, wake up! The middle class struggles in a downward slide to stay alive; the poor cry out every day as the noose tightens. Barbadians, once the pride of the Caribbean, hold our heads now in shame as we grapple with the mountain of debt that seems like the earth on Atlas’ back.   

Maybe the Central Bank is saying: “I get licks every year, and it is not my duty anyway. I done wid dat. I am not going to face the public when I only have to present statistics. Give the people some hope, say that we will have two per cent growth.”

For the sake of argument, let us refer to the Ministry of Finance as Hera, the wife of Zeus. Zeus won her love by first changing himself into a cuckoo in a rainstorm seeking shelter under her dress. (Many men do the same thing all the time.) Hera felt sorry for the poor bird, as women are wont to do, as she covered it with her dress. Then Zeus turned himself into the real Macoy. Now Zeus and Hera are married. Homer tells us that as he clasped his wife, teeming earth beneath them caused to spring the tender grass. But in the case of this anthropomorphic union here in Barbados, all that we have is a helpless, limping sugar industry and the island covered with bush.

Is our Central Bank graced with anthropomorphism? Does it have a human face? If you say that the Central Bank should guide the Government in its plans for Barbados and we can see no forward movement these last tenuous years, then either the advices are falling on deaf ears or advices are not worth what Paddy shot at.

Meanwhile, here on terra firma commercial banks chalk up losses but boast about the stability of their Tier I and Tier II capitalisation and international connections, as if that can create jobs or pay mounting debts. The Wild Coot knows that when banking was banking, the managers of banks were mandated to trek into the highways and hedges and search for business. Today branches of banks are generally policed by storekeepers. The decision-makers are faceless people who sit in front of a computer and have no interface with the all-important customer. Banks say that this is a cost-saving exercise, just like the manning of seven cashier stations by a mere two or three cashiers. Furthermore, these cashiers are slowed by the amount of information they are obliged to input for each transaction into the computer. A cost-saving device.

A fellow told the Wild Coot that he went into a bank with which he had been dealing for 40 years to seek a small loan. One of the requirements that he was to supply was a service bill confirming his address, an address to which the bank had posted statements and letters for 40 years. We are not ready yet.

Are we relying on Sandals to pull our chestnut out of the $174 million fire?

• Harry Russell is a banker. Email [email protected]

 

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