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FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: I don’t understand

Dr Frances Chandler, [email protected]

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: I don’t understand

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I DON’T KNOW about anyone else, but the nonsense fed to us daily leaves me bewildered.

For instance, it was reported that “eight years after it was set up, and with more than $35 million in its account, Government’s Catastrophe Fund has not been able to assist a single Barbadian who suffered a disaster”. Why not? What prevented it?

Apparently the funds were to have provided financial aid to low-income earners and were to be managed by a special committee of the National Insurance Scheme.

Now we’re told that instead of assistance in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Tomas in 2010 coming from this fund, it was provided from Treasury Department funds, and furthermore, the necessary documentation to enable the treasury to be repaid from the Fund is predictably lacking.

Why wasn’t the fund accessed directly using the specified guidelines? Why was this convoluted method used?

By all reports, Minister Sinckler seems disturbed that there’s money lying down doing nothing and is eager to have the act repealed and let Cabinet decide what to do with the $35 million. Can we make a wild guess what that decision will be in light of the estimated increase in expenditure this year? Government’s appetite for funds seems insatiable. I suppose some would argue that this government itself is a catastrophe and therefore has grounds for using the funds as it sees fit.

But isn’t a Catastrophe Fund like an Insurance Fund, where you like to see money “lying down” and gaining interest so that it’s available when the big blow comes?

Then we have a teacher’s union complaining about correcting SBAs, reportedly saying the “SBA load is too much”. However, it seems as if money will automatically lighten the load. As far as I’m aware from hearing parents and others calling into the radio programmes, teachers already have large numbers of free periods and “no contact classes” – a term entirely new and puzzling to me.

Long gone are the days when teachers went home laden with books to correct, had no professional days and seem to have done good jobs. Nowadays, more and more seems to be demanded and less and less given. If “the load” is too heavy, then the solution would seem to be to hire additional people, not pay the complainers more.

If teachers have complaints about their appointments and so on, that’s a different matter altogether.

Of course, there are the weather presenters who, in the midst of a crippling drought, people without running water and dying crops, describe fair weather in glowing terms, as if rain would be a bother. Agreed, Barbados is more interested in tourism than agriculture, but even tourists need running water.

Another thing I don’t understand is why news reporters insist on quoting the public verbatim when interviewing them at scenes of accidents, crimes and other events. Wouldn’t it be more uplifting to correct the atrocious grammar?

Another thing I don’t understand is why banks keep sending customers surveys asking us to describe our experience during our latest visit to their bank. I’ve repeatedly had these via email and also by telephone. The telephone ones are conducted by trained robots who totally disregard what you say and continue to the next question even if it was made irrelevant by your answer to the previous one.

Wouldn’t it make more sense for CEOs to visit their banks now and then and witness the dissatisfaction of their customers for themselves, then correct the deficiencies? For instance, banks with eight teller stations which never use more than three or four even if the queue is through the door. All we’re asking is that we aren’t made to feel like refugees queuing for food vouchers whenever we visit our bank.

It may be claimed that transactions should be done online or at the ATM. But those of us who’ve had withdrawals made from our accounts when we’ve in fact deposited cheques, and those who’ve had money skimmed from their accounts by all manner of criminals will attest to the fact that it’s no simple matter retrieving these funds, so we shouldn’t be penalised for opting for face to face contact with staff.

Finally, Minister Sinckler, why continue saying that government has met all its commitments when the Barbadian public is owed millions in VAT and other refunds? Don’t we count?

Dr Frances Chandler is a former Independent senator. Email [email protected]