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WILD COOT: Shovelling smoke

HARRY RUSSELL, [email protected]

WILD COOT: Shovelling smoke

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IT IS NOT TO SAY that we in Barbados are devoid of brainpower; that we do not know the solution to our overwhelming troubles.

The WEEKEND NATION Editorial on Friday, November 25, proffered a possible excuse. “We know the parliamentary numbers don’t offer the Prime Minister much room to restock his Cabinet, but the least he could do at this time is reshuffle the deck.”

The NATION has it wrong. Reshuffle with what? How can you reshuffle when you have all spades? According to one writer, “shovelling smoke”, how can you reshuffle when you do not know there is need to reshuffle?

The basic problem is lack of money. It has been haunting us from day one of this administration. When you start wrong way forward, everything is downhill and the proponents of this administration find themselves floundering. The Central Bank that should be the North Star does not understand its role, but rather is bent on policies that have left the commercial banks free to destroy the main assets of the country – savings. They will not participate in any rebuilding now. I agree with them.

You talk about reshuffling. If you cannot reshuffle (and God knows that you do not recognise that a reshuffling must be done), the best thing is to be man (or woman) enough to return to the people and let them choose who should feature in the reshuffling. This should be done now before the cards get soaked up in the slime of sewage leakage.

With regards to brainpower, that we have. We have a short gentleman sitting by himself in the House who has been telling you that you are to a large extent implementing the suggestions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) without access to the funds entitlement that can be had through the IMF. You have a population (add Caribbean examples) that says devaluation will not solve anything, but rather catspraddle Barbados.

You have a Ministry of Finance that is bankrupt of policy and ideas, but is hell bent on driving in the night on the wrong side of the road without a licence, insurance or tail lights, with the Central Bank riding shotgun. Listen to the man. To paraphrase Dr Eric Williams, “when he talks, no damn dog bark”.

From long ago the Wild Coot told you that the G8 met in caucus and set aside for the IMF millions of dollars to assist countries that had nothing to do with the 2007 economic downturn. Since then the IMF has adopted a different policy towards countries like ours.

The Wild Coot knows that politicians are from a different breed, but it is time that our Prime Minister and his Cabinet recognise that the job is out of their competence and do the right thing now. After all, the ministers have already reached the required time to be entitled to their pension. The country’s problem is the lack of money and growth.  

It started with education, then health; a litany of complications followed; water, sewage, waste disposal, roads, international business, tourism giveaways, housing, debt non-payments, law and order, the justice system, transport and transportation. Every ministry has been polluted with inefficiency. Above all of this is a fight with the unions over a simple matter that could be solved with the stroke of a pen or a piece of plaster.

A fight that seems politically motivated. The unions have cooperated with the Government over the past ten years. There has been no real strike for wages despite the ever-increasing worsening of the draw on pockets for taxes and loss of entitlements. Look how the unions have been quiet as mice even when provoked.

Reshuffle what? Not one ministry stands out, except being worse than the other. Maybe the standard-bearer is the ministry of finance. Can it not see that there is a correlation between increased taxation and a dwindling of tax collection even when tax concessions are granted?

The good book says “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (St Mark 12:17). Remember that according to Shakespeare, Mark Anthony came not to praise Caesar, only to bury him. Like Brutus, let us now rid the landscape of the Caesar with the ballot of democracy.

Bravo called the president of the WIBC “a big idiot”. We need some of that language ’bout here.

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