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NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE: Backwards into the future


PAT HOYOS

NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE: Backwards into  the future

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TODAY’S CONSUMER reminds me of that old image supplied by Canadian Futurist Marshall McLuhan, of the man driving a car in traffic, looking into his rear-view mirror and seeing a horse-drawn buggy. McLuhan said, “We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”

One commentator interpreted McLuhan as meaning that “Our futures are always experienced and frequently determined by a past that few of us fully acknowledge or understand.”

We, today’s consumers in Barbados, mostly work for foreigners, either directly or indirectly. Even if the clients or customers we serve are mainly locals, the money they spend with us originates overseas and is turned into Bajan dollars, through exports (tourism, services, manufactured goods), investments (in business and real estate), and foreign loans (to government). If this were not so, we would have long ago devalued our currency.

But in our financial rear-view mirror – in other words, how we would like to think about ourselves emotionally – we have substituted imports for local products, we support mainly locally-owned businesses, and our public companies have a solid base of local ownership.

And every time the real world intrudes on our financial rear-view mirror it hurts us emotionally. Probably without consciously realising we are doing it, we ache about the loss of our local public companies.

Every time somebody wants to start a fast-food franchise here, or import designer clothes, they are impeded by severe duties which are there to protect our manufacturers, who produce none of the specialty meats required by a chain like Subway, nor one stitch of the clothing today’s modern consumers need to live, work and compete in, save for a narrow range of office uniforms.

Our manufacturing rear-view mirror also sees us imaginatively producing a wide and tasty supply of beverages and foodstuffs, when in reality it is a tried-and-tested narrow range of products. As a result, we rely heavily on Trinidad and Tobago for imports of food and beverages, because T&T, as part of Caricom, does not have to pay those duties.

If somebody collected all the data I bet we would see that the main beneficiary of both our “local shareholding” policy, brilliantly enunciated by then prime minister Tom Adams in the early 1980s, and our “import substitution” policy is one country: T&T.

That Bank Holdings Ltd.’s majority stake will almost certainly end up in the hands of the world’s biggest brewing conglomerate, Anheuser-Busch Interbrew, is not hard to accept rationally by us modern Bajan consumers, as we are just looking for choice and good quality brands. But when seen through our emotional rear-view mirror, it is really just awful.

But the reason for this is simple: What the local consumer wanted was not shares in public companies. Barbados did not have enough wealth to capitalise large businesses to the level required, and still doesn’t.

Many years ago, Mount Gay Rum Distilleries Ltd became part of a global company, Remy Martin. It still employs many people here and recently bought out the rum distillery itself, which ironically was not part of the original purchase. The same happened with Cockspur Rum, which also went to an international company.

Paraphrasing McLuhan loosely (I never understood him too well) we are simply trying to solve present day financial problems by applying solutions from the past. We are, to quote

 the great man, “marching backwards into the future.”

Patrick Hoyos is a journalist and publisher specialising in business. Next week look out for Caswell Franklyn.

TODAY’S CONSUMER reminds me of that old image supplied by Canadian Futurist Marshall McLuhan, of the man driving a car in traffic, looking into his rear-view mirror and seeing a horse-drawn buggy. McLuhan said, “We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”

One commentator interpreted McLuhan as meaning that “Our futures are always experienced and frequently determined by a past that few of us fully acknowledge or understand.”

We, today’s consumers in Barbados, mostly work for foreigners, either directly or indirectly. Even if the clients or customers we serve are mainly locals, the money they spend with us originates overseas and is turned into Bajan dollars, through exports (tourism, services, manufactured goods), investments (in business and real estate), and foreign loans (to government). If this were not so, we would have long ago devalued our currency.

But in our financial rear-view mirror – in other words, how we would like to think about ourselves emotionally – we have substituted imports for local products, we support mainly locally-owned businesses, and our public companies have a solid base of local ownership.

And every time the real world intrudes on our financial rear-view mirror it hurts us emotionally. Probably without consciously realising we are doing it, we ache about the loss of our local public companies.

Every time somebody wants to start a fast-food franchise here, or import designer clothes, they are impeded by severe duties which are there to protect our manufacturers, who produce none of the specialty meats required by a chain like Subway, nor one stitch of the clothing today’s modern consumers need to live, work and compete in, save for a narrow range of office uniforms.

Our manufacturing rear-view mirror also sees us imaginatively producing a wide and tasty supply of beverages and foodstuffs, when in reality it is a tried-and-tested narrow range of products. As a result, we rely heavily on Trinidad and Tobago for imports of food and beverages, because T&T, as part of Caricom, does not have to pay those duties.

If somebody collected all the data I bet we would see that the main beneficiary of both our “local shareholding” policy, brilliantly enunciated by then prime minister Tom Adams in the early 1980s, and our “import substitution” policy is one country: T&T.

That Bank Holdings Ltd.’s majority stake will almost certainly end up in the hands of the world’s biggest brewing conglomerate, Anheuser-Busch Interbrew, is not hard to accept rationally by us modern Bajan consumers, as we are just looking for choice and good quality brands. But when seen through our emotional rear-view mirror, it is really just awful.

But the reason for this is simple: What the local consumer wanted was not shares in public companies. Barbados did not have enough wealth to capitalise large businesses to the level required, and still doesn’t.

Many years ago, Mount Gay Rum Distilleries Ltd became part of a global company, Remy Martin. It still employs many people here and recently bought out the rum distillery itself, which ironically was not part of the original purchase. The same happened with Cockspur Rum, which also went to an international company.

Paraphrasing McLuhan loosely (I never understood him too well) we are simply trying to solve present day financial problems by applying solutions from the past. We are, to quote

 the great man, “marching backwards into the future.”

Patrick Hoyos is a journalist and publisher specialising in business. Next week look out for Caswell Franklyn.

TODAY’S CONSUMER reminds me of that old image supplied by Canadian Futurist Marshall McLuhan, of the man driving a car in traffic, looking into his rear-view mirror and seeing a horse-drawn buggy. McLuhan said, “We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”

One commentator interpreted McLuhan as meaning that “Our futures are always experienced and frequently determined by a past that few of us fully acknowledge or understand.”

We, today’s consumers in Barbados, mostly work for foreigners, either directly or indirectly. Even if the clients or customers we serve are mainly locals, the money they spend with us originates overseas and is turned into Bajan dollars, through exports (tourism, services, manufactured goods), investments (in business and real estate), and foreign loans (to government). If this were not so, we would have long ago devalued our currency.

But in our financial rear-view mirror – in other words, how we would like to think about ourselves emotionally – we have substituted imports for local products, we support mainly locally-owned businesses, and our public companies have a solid base of local ownership.

And every time the real world intrudes on our financial rear-view mirror it hurts us emotionally. Probably without consciously realising we are doing it, we ache about the loss of our local public companies.

Every time somebody wants to start a fast-food franchise here, or import designer clothes, they are impeded by severe duties which are there to protect our manufacturers, who produce none of the specialty meats required by a chain like Subway, nor one stitch of the clothing today’s modern consumers need to live, work and compete in, save for a narrow range of office uniforms.

Our manufacturing rear-view mirror also sees us imaginatively producing a wide and tasty supply of beverages and foodstuffs, when in reality it is a tried-and-tested narrow range of products. As a result, we rely heavily on Trinidad and Tobago for imports of food and beverages, because T&T, as part of Caricom, does not have to pay those duties.

If somebody collected all the data I bet we would see that the main beneficiary of both our “local shareholding” policy, brilliantly enunciated by then prime minister Tom Adams in the early 1980s, and our “import substitution” policy is one country: T&T.

That Bank Holdings Ltd.’s majority stake will almost certainly end up in the hands of the world’s biggest brewing conglomerate, Anheuser-Busch Interbrew, is not hard to accept rationally by us modern Bajan consumers, as we are just looking for choice and good quality brands. But when seen through our emotional rear-view mirror, it is really just awful.

But the reason for this is simple: What the local consumer wanted was not shares in public companies. Barbados did not have enough wealth to capitalise large businesses to the level required, and still doesn’t.

Many years ago, Mount Gay Rum Distilleries Ltd became part of a global company, Remy Martin. It still employs many people here and recently bought out the rum distillery itself, which ironically was not part of the original purchase. The same happened with Cockspur Rum, which also went to an international company.

Paraphrasing McLuhan loosely (I never understood him too well) we are simply trying to solve present day financial problems by applying solutions from the past. We are, to quote

 the great man, “marching backwards into the future.”

Patrick Hoyos is a journalist and publisher specialising in business.

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