Posted on

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Frustration at every turn

DR FRANCES CHANDLER, [email protected]

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Frustration at every turn

Social Share

A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE helped to balance last week’s frustrations. After I stopped on a country road to make a farm visit, a police vehicle pulled up alongside.

My first thoughts were “have my brake lights stopped working?”, “did I not signal I was stopping?” So I was pleasantly surprised when the officer asked if I was OK or was I having problems with my vehicle.

I breathed a sigh of relief and thought, “It’s good to know that some police officers see assisting and not only arresting as their role.”

Minister Sinckler was reported as saying that people don’t understand the structure of the public sector. Minister, we understand perfectly. We also know that the “structure” and its accompanying rules, lead to all kinds of inefficiencies and is badly in need of repair. Even the Estimates document to which you refer needs overhauling, since in its present form, it facilitates “hiding needles” in the voluminous haystack.

Regarding the public service, which is part of this “structure”, the regulatory bodies must understand that the present time wastage situation can’t continue. Fortunately, I’m in control of my time. What about those who have deadlines to meet and have limited lunch breaks to do business?

Long queue

I went to the Barbados Revenue Authority’s Pine Licensing Office to pay for a vehicle inspection. The queue extended outside the building, with a guard letting in a few people at a time. Having noticed that only one or two people were emerging every 15 minutes or so, I asked the guard how many cashiers there were. His answer was “two and a half”.

When I eventually made it through the door, I tried to deduce who was the half, but based on the pace at which they were all working I concluded they were all halves, making a total of one and half cashiers.

After a distressingly long wait, I had almost reached the cashier when we heard “the system down and won’t be back up this afternoon”. So much for modern technology! Apparently SLOW (sorry, FLOW) couldn’t be blamed this time – it was an internal problem.

The next day the system was still down so I went the following day to find the same situation. This time there were three “halves” on duty. Altogether, I spent almost three hours over the two days to pay Government $100.

Of course, Minister Kellman did say that potholes saved lives and mechanics agreed that potholes increased their business so maybe this is a ploy to encourage entrepreneurship since some people have resorted to paying others to wait in the queues to make payments.

Unfair banking practices continue to cause concern and frustration – especially since Government has “thrown us under the bus” and facilitated these practices as their “marketing strategy” for increasing sales of government paper. (I wonder how much government paper MPs are holding and if they have local bank accounts).

Not only are banks giving almost zero interest, they are eroding your principal with their continually increasing fees. We see frequent media reports of the large profits made by banks – at least three in recent times, while the Caribbean Credit Bureau has stated that Barbadians aren’t defaulting on their loans to any high degree. I assume that includes bank loans. Yet banks continue to harp on the high risk they face and the need to improve their bottom lines.

Both banks and Government have acted with “self-interest”. A former head of the Bankers Association, retired, and now able to speak freely, says the Central Bank may need to make an about-turn in the interest of local customers. He sees no reason why customers shouldn’t be guaranteed a decent interest rate.

Maybe, like Government, banks need to cut operating costs. Do they need the lavish buildings (which still don’t offer any comforts for the customers)? Must the CEOs live in such luxury? Maybe it was justified in the past when CEOs had authority and shouldered heavy responsibility, but now they’re little more than figureheads following instructions from head office.

Almost two months ago, a relative attempted to withdraw funds using a debit card. The card disappeared, no money was dispensed, yet the amount was deducted from their bank account. Imagine this problem can’t be solved locally but has to go to headquarters in Trinidad! “Quod erat demonstrandum.”

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