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Beyond Price-Gouging: The Rip-off Society Part 1

Jun 30, 2022

Last Updated on July 2, 2022 10:48 pm by Editor

From time to time we hear charges of price-gouging levelled at the private sector in Barbados. As we have now come to expect, these charges are summarily dismissed by the private the sector representative agency and the matter vanishes from the radar in due course.

We spoke about matters of pricing and price gouging in an article entitled, “Pricing and the Reform of Barbadian Corporate Governance Part 1” available here.

Dante Speaks

The recent incarceration of a member of the legal fraternity for embezzlement of a client’s money tells us that price-gouging is only one of the many problems of greed and illusions of grandeur which we have in this country.

Our summary conclusion given all that we know and have experienced is that a lot more members of the rip-off society need to enjoy the hospitality of HMS Prison at Dodds or a USA jail for an extended period in the hope that such experiences will act as a deterrent as nuclear weapons did during the cold war.

The fact that we found it necessary to pass a Prevention of Corruption Act 2021 tells us that we have had a problem with greed in this country for quite some time.

Back then, some people – including former Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Kerrie Symmonds –  were not too happy with the Act because it was thought that it did not have the bite required to stamp out corruption which has been endemic in Barbados long before the spiked monster reached that stage.

His sentiments aside, no one in his right mind would ever expect to completely eradicate corruption from anywhere, least of all Barbados!

Politicians and lawyers – the two are virtually indistinguishable in Barbados- will never pass any legislation that will seriously inhibit their lifestyle and put a dent on white collar crime in this country. 

The current case of land theft for which there is an ongoing cry for justice is testimony to the existence of what scripture calls, “wickedness in high places”.

UNCAC

The reader needs to know that, despite passing the Corruption Act referred to above, this country has NOT thought it fit to move from being a mere signatory of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) to ratification, acceptance, approval and accession as have Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad, Jamaica and dozens of other countries.

According to the website of that charter, Barbados signed the convention on 10 December 2003. Not that we somehow expect that by ratifying, accepting etcetera the  UNCAC that any intrepid campaigns will be mounted against corruption by that body any time. Why? For the simple reason that it is as corrupt as any of the governments which constitute it. Pot calling the kettle black syndrome.

Top-notch

Our unravelling of the rip-off society begins just where you should expect: at the very top. Our proposition is that when it comes to value for money, Barbadians are being short-changed at the very top.

We are not here speaking about ordinary, “humdrum” corruption like nepotism, cronyism and bribery. Corruption is not acceptable at any level at all.

What we are talking about is a “price gouging” that revolves around the idea of value-for-money from our elected leaders. Call it VFS – value for services (rendered) if you like. The crux of the proposition is this:

If you treat the salaries paid to parliamentarians as the price for their services and compare those salaries to the value we get, we contend that therein we have a cell 3 value position where we have “low service for high price”.  This is our ad hoc adaptation to the value positioning grid we use so often in marketing strategy development.

Our beef is this. In return for the salaries paid the Prime Minister – and now in this dispensation, a salary for a Deputy Prime Minister – plus the usual ministers, ministers of state, permanent secretaries etcetera, we get in return an ever-increasing debt load for us, our children and great grandchildren to shoulder.

Rewards like housing, community parks and the like are merely the crumbs they stick in your mouths to keep you quiet. And you have come to look forward to the sugar-inducing taste of crumbs in your mouths while they suck away like newborn pups at the nipples of the economy!

Your Fault

Both parties have and will tell you again that it is your fault. It is your expectations, your high mindedness, your pride and lack of “industry” that have all of us in a bind.

And they are right, because neither you nor they can step off the merry-go-round of election promises, winning the election and extravagant borrowing followed by taxes etcetera.  It is Barbados’ most famous and undying ring game.  But it is not a funny game at all. It is deadly serious!

So the question is; what are you going to do about it?

The recent announcement that this government borrowed $800 million from the IMF is more than enough to make jaws hang loose. Judging by some of the comments on social media it has hit some people in the mouth, pun intended.  

And even before we could hit the upload button on this article, retired professor of economics at the UWI, Michael Howard came out against the government’s borrowing. The professor is bamboozled:

“I really do not know what timeline one could identify to pay back a debt of nearly $900 million. It baffles me really” Barbados Today 29-June-2022.

But, hello! That amount does not include the $115 million loan from China it signed in February this year,  2022 to improve roads in the east (Caribbean  Times) or the $200 million IDB loan to fight and recover from the pandemic (Barbados Today)! Let’s do the math: That is 900+115+200 or 1,215 million which is 1.215 billion dollars!

In other words, in the space one year this government has borrowed nearly one and a quarter billion dollars! I am not ashamed to say this makes me cry! 

Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn  has not only done us a disservice but insulted our intelligence by  justifying the latest loan in his disingenuous parliamentary monologue on the occasion of the loan’s approval in parliament. Take note that he has blamed you and your lifestyle (also known as “government services”) for the loan!

Non-Sequitur

Now we agree that there is no magic bullet solution to our economic situation but making it worse is beyond incompetence: it is financial treason. Therefore, to say we expect better value than this from our elected representatives is an understatement.

But the bar was set at this low point back in 2018 when, as a platform promise, the party in power proposed to take us to the IMF.   They made good on their promise and as they say, the rest is history.

Even if we had any qualms about that IMF move, the considered opinion of the “man-in-the street” was that we had had enough of the other party! In other words, damned if you do, damned if you don’t!

If the government’s solution to this country’s economic condition is to try to borrow its way out of debt – which is the tacit understanding we are supposed to have – then we are being short-changed, pun intended. It is a non sequitur.

As the adolescent persona, Vice President Kamala Harris would say, we have seen that “with our own two eyes” in the USA, arguably the world’s most powerful economy.  

There, the cycle of inflation and recession is progressing rapidly as we write, much to the infuriation of citizens of the country where for some, an impeachment of “the Biden” cannot come soon enough!

Of course, we know that the attempted breakdown of the US economy is all part of the moronic and diabolical Great Reset, “build-back-better” globalist agenda. But that is all conspiracy theory, naturally!

This is crunch time and Barbadians need to hear the alarm bells. If you have been listening carefully, you would have picked  up that the leader of this government is a self-confessed globalist.  Globalists do not see a  world in which you and I own anything or a world in which there is such a thing as national sovereignty.  

The WEF (World Economic Forum) is where you will find the concentration of globalists. Its motto, to which the IMF, Justin Trudeau and many other world leaders and organizations subscribe is, “You will own nothing and be happy about it”.  

Do not take our word for it. Google the WEF yourself and hear what its founder, Klaus Schwab and others of his ilk have to say.  

The Spiral

What is unfair is that those who are concerned enough to warn about this crisis of debt in Barbados will get the same “shitty end of the stick” (as our grandparents used to say) as those who are unmoved by it.

That is because, in the aftermath, you can be assured of increased taxes in one form or another, followed by the predictable increase in the cost of living.

On the private sector side, we would then expect some wage increases that would hopefully take care of the increased cost of living.  However, this is by no means a sure thing anymore given the repeated clarion calls for wage restraint that keep resounding of the walls of parliament and the boardrooms of the private sector.

On the public sector side, whereas in the past government would follow up any cost of living increases with increased pensions (during election periods, primarily) that is now going to be very difficult since the same IMF wants us to reform pensions, which being interpreted means, paying less pensions.

You do not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that as this cycle continues over the next five, ten, fifteen years there will be a downward spiral in our standard of living.

It is ironic that it is this same government that is asking Barbadians to learn about finance presumably with the intent of managing their debts better.

While that learning needs to take place, such advice and platitudes are designed to convince us – indirectly- that the government itself is being prudent with finances when in truth it is not.  

All of this may seem as a digression from our thesis but it is not. So let us restate it. 

What we do not and should not tolerate anymore is a value position where we are paying prime ministers, consultants and advisors whose only- or main – solution to our economic problems is to borrow money from the IMF, China and elsewhere in addition to formulating Sesame Street economic policies such as BERT.  That is not value for money. Therein lies the rip-off!


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By Editor

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