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WILD COOT: Question of fairness


HARRY RUSSELL, [email protected]

WILD COOT: Question of fairness

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TWO ARTICLES FASCINATED ME on April 2 when I read the SUNDAY SUN and when I read the BUSINESS AUTHORITY on the Monday.

Adrian Green should be careful when he approaches such subjects as race in Barbados. Barbadians of the white, black or mixed races do not like to talk about race.

The Wild Coot saw the big difference in race relations with those in Jamaica and has kept far from the subject. But Mandela’s daughter might have been spot on when she was looking at the situation in Barbados as compared to its counterpart in South Africa.

Slavery in other countries did not seem to have the lasting social and psychological effect as it has had in the African slave trade to the Caribbean islands, and North and South America. That residual degradation has followed the black person throughout the world like some sort of cancer in the face of startling evidence of inequality.

If election to the highest office in the world’s greatest country has not eliminated the spectre of inferiority and the need to struggle for equality, there is little hope now that things will change in the future.

If persistent racial inequalities are sociological and not biologically based, then leaders who are not continuing to overtly and directly address these issues may be, as Ndilika Mandela puts it, “inadvertently or selfishly squandering the sacrifices of forefathers . . . . It must be a major part of the work of a black government of a majority black country.” Perhaps Barbados is satisfied with the status quo, so hush, Adrian Green, hush!

Most Barbadian-born Whites speak differently from Barbadian Blacks (even Blacks who come from St Lucy or St Philip). It was interesting to hear how closely the speaking of these Whites resembled Dr Honohan in his contribution at the Central Bank.

How come these Whites do not seem concerned about slave inferiority when they too, according to some historians, were condemned to slavery and indentured labour in Barbados by Oliver Cromwell? Mr Green may be able to give his views.

The other article came from that gentleman who writes under the Hoyos File. “Barbados’ energy sector should not become a game controlled by one player, and I hope for the sake of future investments into this country that the court rules in favour of all.”

Amen! Prior to this statement (and I am prepared to be corrected), he argued that a propensity to allow favouritism of any sort to influence our decisions, especially to the detriment of either a citizen or a potential investor, should not be seen as a characteristic of Barbados Government policy. Guilty or not guilty!

Both articles referred to seem to contain a common trend – fairness. Although a few white Barbadians are poor, the spread of wealth favours the minority white population, and this has been so without abating. The granting of oil rights to one player challenges the concept of fairness.

While on the one hand we seem prepared to live with the present disparity in wealth distribution between Whites and Blacks, the concept of fairness for oil operations has an effect on our dealings with fairness in doing business. Even if in our day-to-day behaviour we may not be politically fair, foreign investors look for this quality in dealing with us. Those foreign investors who do not, and prey on our weakness in Christian principles or lack thereof, may be called vultures that only perpetuate the sin and characteristics of slavery.

Ms Mandela, as far as the Wild Coot is concerned, asserts that with policymakers being black, there should be a concerted effort to rebalance the scale and by doing so, rebalance the perception of what is biological equal. But the Wild Coot goes back to Jacob and Esau. One stole the other’s pot of gold and got his birthright from Isaac – Genesis 25: 19-34. Must Esau continue to live with an inferior blessing?

We had a chance at rebalancing. Which institution can better do it than a commercial bank? We would not buy the Barbados National Bank shares. We sold our birthright for a dish of macaroni pie. We let foreign opinion persuade us that we do not need either a commercial or a development bank. So we closed the Development Bank instead of cleaning it up. Yet most of the countries around us have banks of all sorts owned by their government.

Look at Trinidad. It even owns banks that operate in other countries – two in Barbados. Then we shoot ourselves in the foot by firing the governor of the Central Bank instead of the Minister of Finance.

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

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