WILD COOT: Black dog for monkey?
THERE IS SOMETHING GOING ON for years in Barbados that is not wholesome, that is incestuous, that pervades the economic and social landscape that generally the Bajan has quietly accepted. Perhaps it dates back to the days of slavery; perhaps black people have not yet loosened the shackles of the auction block; perhaps that is why we still like pudding and souse – the leavings.
Even before the establishment of the stock exchange, Bajans were cautious about investing in the “white people’s businesses”. The stock exchange came. But it made little difference in investment attitude. Consider the difference when the Barbados National Bank (BNB) was established. The enthusiasm which the Barbados Savings Bank had experience spilled over into the BNB and the remittances sent surreptitiously from abroad through the diplomatic bag filled the coffers of the bank. However, when Mr Arthur thought of shares in the bank, there were few takers.
Barbadians were always suspicious of the things called shares, as they were associated with the plantocracy. You see how they will buy bonds and will save in the banks, but they will not support shares in companies dominated by the resultant boardrooms. They are now incestuous as the current boardrooms show.
It is instructive to see that this incestuous relationship is now unreservedly taken over by the Trinidadians with their oil money. But is the Bajan swapping black dog for monkey? Are they in any way better off than with incestuous Bajan ownership? Is there incestuous Trinidadian ownership? Are they any secret agreements, just as questions may be asked about the Cahill deal? Who are the real people in Trinidad who wish to take over the various companies? What is their agenda for Barbados? How do they see Barbados? Is it an ATM? The government of Trinidad virtually controls the banking sector. The banking sector is the engine of the economy. Is the foreign element more favourable towards entrepreneurship?
Mark you, when the incestuous ownership prevailed, most of the benefits stayed in Barbados and no broad horizons were sought, but with the advent of Trinidadians, has it made a difference?
The Wild Coot raised the alarm in the newspapers since the beginning of October. I had been advising people to get out before everything is locked down in legal battles. Should not ANSA McAL have been aware by however means that there was something binding attached to the expansion financing of BHL at Newton? If so, why does it want to get involved in a fight that apparently does not concern it? Big question. Even so, if the matter goes to the Fair Trading Commission, its ruling could be challenged by AMBEV in our High Court or abroad; then ensues a lengthy court case and you know how speedy justice is in Barbados. Who gains? This leaves shareholders in no man’s land, a position that most black shareholders have always been occupying. That is why I said that I feel sorry for small shareholders.
Some black shareholders have tried to see if they could get a share of the pie by investing in shares. However, the important controlling interest has always been in the hands of an incestuous lot. Besides, one does not think that they were making a good show of it as is demonstrated by the fact that interests from Trinidad have been consistently taking over leadership. We may well ask the question: What have those incestuous people done with the money gained from selling their stewardship? Was it not a stewardship held in trust for the people of Barbados who supported the businesses?
When you say one thing, you have to say another. Barbados is a small society and choosing directors is a difficult thing without the possible charge of incest. But how difficult? The brouhaha now in existence does not reflect well on Barbados. It is in the international arena and our slip is further exposed, not to mention doing business in Barbados and our worldwide negative credit rating. While our ministers have lauded the money coming from Trinidad, we note the many negatives of that country and fear the Greeks bearing gifts. So again I ask the question, are we swapping black dog for monkey?
A few days ago my fellow columnist Dick paid me a rising compliment. He said that the Wild Coot was going off half cock. That is certainly better than no cock at all and at my age, that is to be commended. Thanks! friend, why did God give the snail the capacity to be hermaphroditic? We see the same ability in flowers. It is a capacity that today would serve gays in good stead.
• Harry Russell is a banker. Email [email protected]