The ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is heading towards a third-term victory in the next general elections in Barbados.

General elections are not due until 2018, but in today’s world with predictive text, my computer is feverish composing in the scientific knowledge that the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) cannot recover from its present path but will continue to cover over its internal wounds. Consequently, the public will see its body suffering several public breakouts that will be superficially bandaged by the party’s spin-doctors. Gangrene will set in and many of its limbs will be trimmed from its body; recovery will be long, slow, and painful with death possible.

Barbadians’ hope for an alternative via the Clement Payne Movement is unlikely since that group has failed to expand island wide and is largely City-based.

Consequently, the DLP’s victory is assured in an election that will have poor voter turn-out and Prime Minister Freundel Stuart will get a third term. Few people, if any one at all, would have consider Prime Minister Stuart a three-term Prime Minister.

After all, his party’s 2013 returned to power for a second term with a slim two-seat margin that was marked by cabinet Ministers suffering from serious outbreaks of verbal foot and mouth disease as Barbadians buckled under stiff economic measures including layoffs in the public sector that spill off into the private sector and  led to double digit unemployment. Matters were compounded when the financially-ailing taxpayers were slapped with a Municipal Solid Waste Tax.

Pundits and callers to talk shows lamented that these measures threatened to wipe out the middle class and expressed fear that Barbados would have been reduced to socio-economic conditions akin to those prevailing in the 1940’s conditions. These conditions, callers said, would breed high levels of crime. This is  an environment generally favouring an opposition party but instead the BLP squabbled itself into death.

As a result, no strong opposition parties contested against the ruling DLP in Barbados’ 2018 general elections. Instead, several weak splinter groups led by former front line members of the opposition BLP came forward but the electorate saw no strong alternative that it believed could confidently hold together and lead Barbados out of its socio-economic problems.  Voter turnout was therefore historically low and the DLP’s win record-breaking massive.

Pundits compared the once strong BLP’s internal problems with those of the DLP after the 1990’s economic downturn that saw the end of the then Erskine Sandiford’s government. However, they quickly noted that the Dees’ internal injuries were treated and sources of infection shaved off in time for recovery with only minor setbacks.

However, it must be noted that the split in the DLP occurred when the party introduced austerity measures that faced stiff and vocal protest from the electorate but the BLP’s problems began with party members sniffing possible victory at the polls and the opportunity to divide the spoils that come with winning. Here ends the predictive text.

Meanwhile today, the BLP is searching for effective tools of implosion while the DLP scramble for answers to the country’s economic woes.


Related articles:

BLP Split

BLP Conference ends with tears, walkouts. “Mottley’s ousting triggered the implosion of the BLP”

Anticipating Owen Arthur’s Address To The 72nd Annual Conference DLP Style

Taxes and Cuts


Is social media doing the job for us?

Social media has a lot of hype… it is new, knows  no  boundaries  and therefore cuts across racial, gender and geographical  lines with energy and confidence. What is the effect of this  creature that is moving like wild-fire in our lives.

Should we know? Do we want to know or are we too breathless trying to keep pace with its vertical  jumps as it forces the market to open new devices and platforms for its spread?

Are we too busy to care  as we  try  to  suck in all the information; view all the pictures and unravel all the data, it sends our way during its dizzy horizontal race across time lines and through man-made gates?

We, at Feminists Aliens are interrogating the role of social media in activism, especially as it relates to feminism and development. Our findings will be included in a paper to be presented at the University of the West Indies,  Institute for Gender and Development Studies 20th Anniversary Conference on “Continuities, Challenges and Transformations in Caribbean Gender Relations” to be held at the St. Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago, 6-8 November, 2013.

We invite you to join this quest, not as passive bystanders but as active participants for whom the research will be beneficial.  Share your opinions. Please completing the below questionnaire. It will take you one click to reach and seven minutes to complete.




Marva Cossy

Grasping for CARICOM flavour

Much has been written about Jamaican immigrant lawyer, Ronald Mason’s articles in which he railed against his country remaining as a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Mr. Mason pushed the focus onto the merits and demerits of the CARICOM especially its Single Market and Economy but while I will return to those substantive matters in coming posts, I feel compel to look at a matter, brought up by Mr. Mason which has attracted passing comment but not given significance given the weight of the others he’d exposed.

That matter is name-calling, stereotyping and labelling.  As black people, we protest public stereotyping and labelling such as Anne Coulter’s comments: “Aw come on people, a black woman flying a plane? You know she got that job through affirmative action.  … Oh come on don’t be coy. I know you’re all thinking it! I just have the courage to say what everyone on this plane is thinking. Am I right?”

As I read that with Mr. Mason’s comments lurking in the background, I couldn’t help but ask is Mr. Mason courageous and right?

In the relevant segment of his “Kick CARICOM to the Kerb” part one, Mason reminded me of a “good ole-fashioned cuss-out” among


Caricom-Flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

neighbours so I sensed his despair and frustration with Jamaica’s remaining ‘tight’ with its CARICOM neighbours … “the peoples who populate those islands 1,000 miles away,” and were not playing fair in the relationship.

Mason’s fumed about what he termed Trinidadians’ over-bearing, suffocating attitude and Bajans’ bombastic self-importance; but are those attitudes well-established and broad-based among those nationals that we can hail them deep-seated cultural traits? Do we ( I am a Bajan) as a matter of course extended such behaviour to our CARICOM brothers and sisters?

Unlike Mason, who said he had a “period of enforced residence with some of them at a particular North American university and … in Jamaica”, I have been educated at the University of the West Indies and as such experienced two rewarding and challenging periods immersed in a potpourri of Caribbean culture. We mixed, mingled, argued and shared during formal class, study groups and national weeks (where national organisations celebrated and showed-off their culture – food, dance, music national dress etc.).

Obviously, people also grouped in familiar bunches, based on alma mater, parishes and country of origin but we had our regional mixing and at times we shared with a national from another country that which we did not share with our hometown friends. We took them to our houses on special occasions when they were away from their homes and families. We kick off our shoes at their apartments near campus. It was personal thing not a country-related one.

As mixed nationality groups, we enjoyed our friendships and yes, we sometimes fell out when bombastic, pompous, over-bearing and selfish attitudes got in the way. Those de-friended were Bajans, ‘Lucians’, Grenadians, Vincies, Jamaicans, Trinidadians, and so on. We also forgave each other and were tighter than before or were merely civil but we learned to respect and appreciate each other. It was and is a human thing not a national thing.

We argued over country differences related to all aspects of our culture (food, sports, dance-moves) as well as matters, including immigration and trade that is be-devilling our road to unity. We didn’t solve those issues but we recognised that we were making a difference through our interaction with each other; we continue to show and spread the benefits of our togetherness.

Many of us still ‘shout out” each other on Facebook, Skype or the traditional telephone; we follow each other progress and call one another with an urgent ‘must-do-now” favour knowing that years have passed but the kindness and love live on and will guarantee a positive response.

We’d teased Trinis about carrying the label of insatiable ‘party-lovers’ but we knew many who said ‘no’ to a good fete and instead opt to burn the midnight oil beating some books. We’d laughed with Jamaicans about being stereotyped as aggressive but argued passionately and in consonance that this label was fitted by white man’s history that painted the Maroons and the Caribs with an in-appropriate brush.  Instead we admired the Jamaicans’ creativity, their sense of adventure and will-power to overcome obstacles.

My lists could’ve be longer, but I think the picture has emerged that we learnt that people were individuals not items boxed and labelled by stereotypes. But I could’ve sharpen the focus of the picture by telling you of the many inter-Caribbean national couplings and marriages that resulted and then I could’ve  framed it by revealing that the accents of many among us very so influenced and transformed by our interaction that we teased each other about who had a “CARICOM accent”. Such was the experience at UWI.

Let me take it from the UWI plane, less it be seen as merely a student thing. Take my challenge and visit Barbados’ Fairchild Street Bus Terminal where the state-owned buses make their final passenger stop. I’ve nicknamed that meeting place the CSME; accents of all CARICOM flavours abound; CARICOM nationalities, perhaps with the exception of Haitians and Bahamians, eat, drink, argue, watch cricket and ply their wares, there. I’ve never heard any major discord based on nationality, there. Yes, they argue about who should make the West Indies cricket team and cite island biases for some decisions but they cheer and egg-on everyone dressed in the maroon.  Understanding and appreciating each other’s differences while embracing similarities grow unity in these environments.

We need to get our people from standing underneath their individual national flags and stereotyping and name calling others in the region? (Mason isn’t the only one with his type of mantra.) Part of the answer is getting CARICOM nationals to know more about each other; and to experience more of each others’ physical company as we did at UWI and as others are doing there now and at other meeting places.

Mason indirectly noted the “importance of geographic, cultural, interpersonal relationship among people” in building regional unity as he referred to the Eastern Caribbean. “Schooners and ferries bridge the islands in the east. They have a basis for this creature called CARICOM,” he said, a point which was well made and should be taken.

His articles, therefore, heavily underlined the need for greater communication within CARICOM, a point relevant even in this decade of speedy multi-faceted communication tools. In this communication mix, I believe that reasonably-price intra-CARICOM travel and communication is necessary, not only to increase trade amongst us in goods and services but also to improve our inter-personal relationships, which will engender trust, mutual respect and understanding.

Of course, that communication exercise will call into play the stony, thorny issues of immigrant and border officials’ stances as well as the role of LIAT, but we should never fear problems that are our own making. I will return to those matters in posts dedicated solely to them.


Passport_of_Suriname (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I believe non-verbal communication is also important and therefore just as I uphold the need for national symbols I long for regional ones.

I crave seeing our CARICOM flag fluttering at many strategic places throughout Barbados and the region. So you will understand why my heart is swelling after reading a recent CARICOM Secretariat advertisement of a CARICOM song competition that will give birth to an official CARICOM song to be played at CARICOM ceremonial occasions, nationally, regionally and internationallyI look forward to singing it was as much vibrancy, ownership and meaning as I do my national anthem or our cricket “Rally around the West Indies.”

Stimulate us with frankness

English: Central Bank of Barbados Building, Br...

English: Central Bank of Barbados Building, Bridgetown, St. Michael, Barbados. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Barbados is the one of the few countries in the world where the population will barely murmur when a political party implements a policy that it condemned a few weeks earlier. Perhaps this speaks to our docile nature but I believe it is either an indication of the very low premium we put on trust and accountability from our politicians or it relates to our hunger for material benefits dispensed by politicians. We’re afraid to offend.
I’ve reached that conclusion following the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) introduction of a Bds. $355 million stimulus package in its March 18 Estimates of Government Expenditure and Revenue for 2013-14 fiscal year. Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler said government anticipates that this new stimulus package and the Bds. $300 million from traditional estimates will provide an injection of Bds.$600 million in capital works spending that will improve the local economy and create at least 1,000 new jobs.
I like that, jobs and economic improvement but that does not close my mind to the wider issue or calm my worrying concerns!!! FOUR short weeks ago earlier, during the general elections campaign the DLP cautioned us, voters, against supporting the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) pointing out that their proposed $45 million stimulus spelt destruction to our small import-dependent economy.
In fact on February 7th Minister of Agriculture Dr. David Estwick speaking at the height of the General Elections campaign said if BLP’s stimulus policies were “ever adopted, it could lead to a devaluation of the Barbados dollar.”
“If you allow Owen Arthur (the then opposition leader) to practice the policies of stimulus we will have a balance of payments crisis. The IMF’s first prescription is devaluation, and its second is sending home people,” Dr. Estwick warned.
In addition, I’d read where Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados Dr DeLisle Worrell said ‘unequivocally’ that government stimulus could not create sustainable growth in the economy. That was in January when the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) were promoting the need for a stimulus to increase consumer demand.
Dr. Worrell said there was no quick fix to Barbados’ sluggish economic performance adding that growth must be private sector led with the focus on improving competitiveness. He is not a politician but rather an objective voice and an experienced economist. I  trust his views on this plus Professor Michael Howard, who is well-known for his work in public finance called it ‘economic madness’. Therefore their views strengthen the weight of what the DLP was saying for many people not schooled in economics.
It is therefore reasonable and nationalistic to demand an explanation for the DLP’s ‘switch-mout” action and to get a comment from the Governor about the $600 million or at least the $355 million portion. Professor Howard has already spoken on the matter and has not wavered on his opinion but the Governor has so far steered clear of the issue.
The parliamentary opposition should be happy over a stimulus at least from the perspective that it gives them boasting rights for tabling the prescription.  They are unlikely to say much of the  DLP’s change-of-tune since jobs were mentioned and the sitting BLPites  will be wary of any comments that their opponents can twist to suggest they are against job creation.
But as citizens, Barbadians have to ask the DLP for a reasoned clarification about their policy switch; an explanation not tightly woven in a web of jargon. At least the administration should reconciled their reasons for vehemently decrying the opposition Barbados Labour Party’s small stimulus package yet introducing a package, at least eight times bigger. Is this bigger one less likely to trigger devaluation?
The dividing issues, I believe are the difference in the size, the BLP’s proposed Bds. $45 against the DLP’s $355 million; and the direction of this spending with the DLP targeting capital works against the BLP’s aim at diversification of the country’s health and education systems.  Perhaps, another question which could be asked is whether DLP post-election stance was influenced by some development in the world or country’s economy and financial position, though I doubt any significant shifts took place in that short time frame.
The situation, however, demands answers and when governments fail in this respect, people generally look to the fourth estate (the media) to present vigorous and focused interrogation of the topic. Our state-owned television station had a little morning chit-chat on the subject and I waited for some facts that would speak to a reconciliation of government’s before and after general elections’ position.
No direction came from that source except to say that we need to involved thinkers to come up with creative ideas. Cheese-on-bread!!! We have been engaging thinkers for decades. The country has files of suggestions and plans that if converted to digital would burst cyber-space. Moreover, government has already earmarked capital works and the DLP-proclaimed get-it-done minister, Michael Lashley is gearing up to start his Bds. $80 million road building programme in July. CBC promises to go a little deeper in another segment, so I have hope.
The Nation newspaper in its editorial  pointed at the divide by noting that “given the slow growth of the economy; a stimulus package seems desirable, though there will be contrary opinions as to the efficacy of the kind of stimulus proposed by the Government as opposed to the stimulus aimed more directly at putting money into the pockets of consumers, which more accords with the Opposition’s proposals.”
My DLP friends, who debate the subject using a hit and run mode, speak in similar vein by noting that BLP’s programme would encourage consumer spending and as we all know given the openness of our economy, this means imports and a drain on our foreign reserves. My follow-up question to them is whether Bds. $45 million will put a greater strain on the country’s scare foreign reserves than Bds. $600 directed at capital works. That is a question, not an opinion.
“More jobs, strong multiplier effect and increase capacity,” they answer and run.
But I am unease about the situation. At his swearing-in ceremony, (yes, that early) Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said: “We have to take some initiatives here which do not imperil our foreign exchange position but, at the same time, give a little life to what is going on locally at the business level and put consumers in a position where, by their spending, they can stimulate business activity and so on.”
“So these are priorities and of course fortuitously and fortunately we have the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure to be debated in two or three weeks time and during that debate the Minister of Finance and myself will be talking through some of those issues so that the country will be clear where it is we intend to go over the next few months.”
To me that was a broad hint of a stimulus package and suggests the DLP perhaps held the idea during the general elections campaign, so why wasn’t it revealed to the public? Why ridicule the opposition’s smaller packer when you could’ve hyped yours as of superior quality and quantity? In the reverse, if it is an afterthought, then are we to assume that the government’s package was or wasn’t rigourously analysed?  How many more similar change of plans can we expect?
Generally though, people are saying they are not concern neither are they surprised by things politicians do because everyone knows that general elections are about getting elected or re-elected depending on where you are sitting. They say campaigning has little or nothing to do with honestly-held beliefs and more to do with saying what the people what to hear in a believable way.
Therefore many like Pontius Pilate say they’ve washed their hands of this ‘switch-mout’ behaviour in a bid to keep their jobs or place in the winner’s crowd even if they have lingering concerns that this route could kill Barbados’ economy. For me, I have listened to recent Senate debates and if I’ve learnt only one thing from the government benches it is that the DLP administration is practicing the politics of explanation, so I am holding my breath waiting for a reasoned clarification on this stimulus package.
Let me emphasis, my point is not whether the stimulus is beneficial or not but I am looking at the wider issue. Were you upfront with Barbadians regarding this matter of stimulus? Has the devaluation threat disappeared?
Barbadians have seen and felt the effect of devaluation through the experiences of their friends and relatives in Jamaica and Guyana and as they do business in those countries which are large compared to Barbados and superior given their natural resources. These countries were into socio-economic despair as they fought to drag themselves out of what seems to be the sinking sands of currency devaluations under the International Monetary Fund’s thumb. Barbados, a tiny dot that slipperily depends mainly on tourism, cannot bear currency devaluation; it is so heavily dependent on imports, therefore the DLP general elections’ warning about devaluation was scary then and it remains scary.
If we are taking that risk in a ditch to make things better, tell us. What policies are you imposing to ensure that the country achieves the delicate balance or manageable imbalance between foreign exchange earnings and spending? That perhaps, is the true price tag of this stimulus package which may help us ‘buy jobs and economic growth’.

Government goods going private, or not …. tell us Dems and Bees

English: Old Barbados Transport Board bus BM32...

English: Old Barbados Transport Board bus BM322 turning into Fairchild Street in Bridgetown Deutsch: Älterer Barbados Transport Board Bus BM322, der in die Fairdchild Street in Bridgetown einbiegt. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Photo of the Caribbean Broadcasting C...

English: Photo of the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in the area of The Pine, St. Michael in the country of Barbados. (c.a. November 2000) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Neither the Barbados Labour Party (Bees) nor the Democratic Labour Party (Dems) are frank or open about their privatisation plans, more particularly about their financing plans for some government provided services.”
I told Avram this after she came gushing excitedly: “I know you want to do your civic duty, give Caesar his vote and all that, so I’ve found a divide between the parties, privatisation. The Bees will privatise every entity that offers a service that can be paid for, while the Dems will continue with big government. So you have a choice.”
“Transport Board, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Sanitation Service, and Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation …, what you think?” she added. I was left in thoughts that were dominated by public finance theory mixed with the economic, financial, social and geographic realities of Barbados.
“My gut feeling is that neither party is currently being honest about their approach to privatisation or financing these entities. Barbadians fear such changes, even with respect to banking which is rightly a commercial business; we bemoaned the sale of the Barbados National Bank and emotionally spewed about ‘selling crown jewels, symbols of nationalism.’ So in this election season it is not surprising that both parties are relying on innuendo and referencing the past to make the other appear as the PP ‘privatising party”. I am not convinced by Bees or Dems on this issue.”I replied.
We decided to look at the Dems’ statements to see what we could gather. She’d found a site where blogger Caswell Franklin  provided the House of Assembly report of the First Session of the 1991 to 1996 period. In it the late Prime Minister David Thompson had laid out the Dems programme which included the creation of the Office of Privatisation in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs “to be a focal point of the privatisation programme.
Six methods of putting listed entities into private hands were detailed together with a list including one of ‘state-owned enterprises approved for privatisation. Under this, fell the Arawak Cement Company Ltd, Barbados National Oil Company Ltd, the Barbados Transport Board, Heywoods Holiday Resort and National Petroleum Corporation.
“I excuse them, though,” I said “that was 1991 and perhaps they were influenced by the recession…”
“Recession? But the Dems say worst economic recession the world has seen since the 1930  so that if you are trying to say that was part of their approach to recession, well…” Avram interjected.
“So … that was Thompson’s policy and he’s dead,” I said.
“Errol Barrow died longer than him and they still spouting his philosophy; but more importantly technically this is still Thompson’s mandate,” I answered. She said she had also remembered hearing Prime Minister Freundel Stuart saying he was carrying on Thompson’s policies but we couldn’t find the reference online so we let that one slide.
We also read of Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s comment that he was looking into various options for financing several of these entities but at meeting during this current election campaign he said:
“I never said we were going to privatise anything, but any responsible government examines all of the options, and we examined the options … and the Democratic Labour Party decided that we were not going to privatise those entities.”
Avram laughed, she questioned Sinckler’s attitude to university education. “How will he treat financing the university, people dismiss this issue because they feel university people are highly education and they seem to forget these people come from the masses. I agree with you, there is a lot of hemming and hawing on this financing issue.”
“But what should I make of Minister of Health Donville Inniss’ comments against that background?” I asked her.
We read online where Mr. Inniss said Barbados was continuing to grapple with “the issue of financing health care” and this was among a whole range of complex issues that was confronting the sector, and he believed that Parliament should have a very robust debate on the matter.
Mr. Inniss also said “Here in Barbados, I have recently requested a report based on actuarial studies to determine an adequate level of financing for our health system and the most appropriate mechanisms for financing. This of course must be preceded by agreement on the basket of services which the state is willing to provide to all of its citizens.”
God knows what will be in that basket and he never hinted so what does that mean. I argued to Avram that all I could gather is that all citizens will have to have some type of insurance to get the best care.
Our search continued to where he said:”The financing of health care systems in the Caribbean is [done] primarily via the State. This mechanism perhaps is best suited to ensure equity and affordability for all. However, it also places our health systems at the mercy of the Consolidated Fund and its cash management policies. There is no Caribbean state that has ever, or will ever, boast of an adequate supply of state funds to meet all of the health care challenges of our citizens – certainly not with the current financing policies being utilised.”
In addition, the Barbados Government Information Service reported that ‘while noting that he (Mr. Inniss) often heard West Indians saying they paid their taxes and, therefore, should get the latest and best in health services immediately, that was not always the reality. “…Taxes collected are used to fund the entire public sector. Sometimes the health sector for its commitments has to stand in line behind salaries, pensions and debt servicing. This emphasises the need for health care financing to be addressed up front within the context of public financing in the region,” the Health Minister stressed.

English: The Queen Elizabeth Hospital at Marti...

English: The Queen Elizabeth Hospital at Martindale’s Road, Bridgetown, St. Michael. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I also recalled him saying: “I have directed the QEH (Queen Elizabeth Hospital) to move with a sense of urgency to institute a policy whereby victims of vehicular accidents who are treated in the QEH will be charged for all services rendered by the QEH. It is expected that those responsible for such accidents and their insurers will find this to be a fair policy and will not delay in settling such claims.” A similar policy for violent crime was to be instituted, he said.
“What did I tell you about insurance,” I asked her.
We continued to discuss where the minister of health was going with this talk.
His comments ring with an international perspective where people are asked for insurance policies to use health care, there is limited access for those without and this policy works against those who can afford.
Asking insurance companies to pay, may seem fair but without a frank statement on this, how will voters get an inkling about the possible direction of the Minister. Such a statement will not be forthcoming in this present environment.
The Bees seem a little more forthcoming on the privatisation issue but fear abound.
According to Mr. Sinckler, the BLP leader Owen Arthur announced to the Chamber of Commerce that the Government should carry privatisation to its farthest point.
“That means that you are doing it, “That means that you are doing it, you are not considering it …, and he identified CBC, and Transport Board and he went down the line and he even mentioned that he was going to privatise education by giving people tax credits (after) charging them up front … to pay for university education and health care.”
Avram say Arthur would have to tell her what is his farthest point because it indicates that he will limited to some stage, perhaps dictated by common sense and good judgement. I don’t know, I answered.
I told Avram that I am not against privatisation but I have strong views about which entities should go into private hands. I would hate to see the Sanitation Service, Transport Board or Barbados Water Authority up for sale even though I know that as government-owned entities we are perhaps paying more for these services than we would if they were privately owned.
The Sanitation Service already has pockets of privatisation. In order to get the type of service they want, householders (in special and limited circumstances) and businesses are already using private contractors in this sector.
The health system also has many element of privatisation, even emergency services are carried out at some clinics and those who can afford speak proudly of accessing such services.
The Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation can go anytime for me. Alternatively  licences could be issued givingCBC competition but in that case taxpayers may end up paying for a poorly competing enterprise. So set it free. In this digital age what would a government want with CBC?
Avram said it provided government-oriented public service announcements. I asked mischievously, if she meant the ruling political parties dictates.
But seriously, the Barbados government Information Service currently produces several governments’ public service programmes and I believe CBC is paid for airing them. Perhaps it is now a book entry, but taxpayers are paying directly or indirectly so what would happen in a privatised situation. We (the government) would pay CBC or whichever channel we feel like paying, I told her. But our conversation was not about my views on privatisation which I will discuss some other time. It was about voting and privatisation and I am not convinced that we are getting full exposure.

United States may strong hold Antigua

The probability is high that the United States will stop companies in the hi-tech industries that have US connections from investing in Antigua & Barbuda or use some other tool of economic aggression against Antigua. This is my fear but fear should not cause a country to buckle, it is only through courage and sacrifice that battles are won.

I have no proof of what will be the US’s action but I believe economic aggression is possible after analysing the tone of the Washington’s recent comment about Antigua within the analogous framework of the US’ dealing with Cuba when that Caribbean nation refused to behave according to the US dictates, that is accept western-style democracy.

Washington enacted the economically aggressive Helms-Burton Act which had the potential to derail the then President Fidel Castro’s efforts to attract foreign investors to help revive his country’s faltering economy. Whether you like Cuba’s ideology or not, the lesson to all is that Cuba did not buckle under the Helms-Burton weight but remained resolute in its conviction that its style of governing was the right one.

The Helms-Burton Act was signed in 1999 under Democratic President Bill Clinton. Now in 2013 with another Democratic President Barack Obama at the helm, Antigua & Barbuda, a smaller Caribbean country is ignoring the US wishes and is ready to impose sanctions against US intellectual property (IP) to recoup $21 million annually in losses that resulting from the US’ closure of its online-gambling market. Antigua & Barbuda was granted approval last week by the World trade Organisation (WTO) to suspend US intellectual property claims, allowing Antigua to sell movies, music, games and software while ignoring US copyright and trademark claims. But this has riled up US trade officials and sections of its entertainment industry are suggesting that the US use economic mechanisms as leverage to get Antigua to reverse its plan.

But Antigua isn’t doing anything wrong. It is doing what the United States does all over the world and sometimes for stated national reasons which only a microscope can reveal.

Antigua is only defending its national interest and like any other country would do, it is using the weapons most capable of achieving success. High Commissioner to London Carl Roberts said “(Antigua has) followed the rules and procedures of the WTO to the letter. Our little country is doing precisely what it has earned the right to do under international agreements.”

From the outset, the small Caribbean island was doing just that. First it used an opportunity under the WTO-administered General Agreement in Trade of Services (GATS) to host internet gambling casinos that targeted US consumers. In 2003, after the US closed them down, Antigua took the case to the WTO, which obligated Washington to reopen that market. The US refused, arguing that it had unintentionally committed to opening that market to cross-border trade but that internet gambling ran counter to its domestic policies on public morals and public order.

The WTO judged that St. John’s suffered US$21 million annually in losses from the closure and could use trade barriers to collect the sum. Finding an appropriate method for a small open economy to use against an economic giant, such as the United States, that does not comply with a WTO ruling is problematic.

In fact, large industrialised WTO members are unlikely to be negatively affected by the suspension of the trade concessions in goods and services implemented against them by smaller less developed countries. It is more likely the said retaliatory measures will backfire and significantly harm the economy of the developing country. Therefore, such suspensions were not seen as effective in getting developed countries to comply with rulings made against them that favoured developing countries.

This thinking is applicable in the case of Antigua versus the US. The US is the main source of imports into that small economy (33 per cent in 2011) as well as the leading destination for its exports (39.8 per cent in 2011). On the other hand, Antigua is not ranked among the top ten of US import sources or export destinations, its contribution to the US’ exports and imports is minuscule. Therefore if St. John’s places trade barriers to imports of goods and services from the US, the availability of essentials could become uncertain or non-existent to the detriment of Antigua and prices are likely to rise significantly.

“For many developing countries, suspension of concessions in (Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) TRIPS or (General Agreement on Trade in Services) GATS may represent a valuable alternative option when it is not practical or effective for them to rely on standard retaliation. This is often the case due to the unbalanced nature of trading relations and the asymmetry in economic power.”

As in the case with Ecuador versus the EU, the WTO therefore allowed TRIPS cross-retaliation in the Antigua/US case. Those are the rules and Antigua followed them.

Yet Washington’s spokeswoman Nkenge Harmon issues a warning.

If Antigua does proceed with the unprecedented plan for its government to authorize the theft of intellectual property; it would only serve to hurt Antigua’s own interests,” she said.

Government-authorised piracy would undermine chances for a settlement.  It also would serve as a major impediment to foreign investment in the Antiguan economy, particularly in high-tech industries.”

A frightening statement when one considers US hegemony -its political, economic and military resources compared with puny Antigua & Barbuda.  Already, as is  expected, the big voices in Intellectual Property (IP) industries are using their might to advise their government how to coerce Antigua in watering down its defence. .

Michael Schlesinger, a lawyer for the International Intellectual Property Alliance said “if Antigua moves forward, we will work to ensure that its eligibility to participate in any U.S. trade assistance or benefit is withdrawn.”

In similar vein, executive director for international intellectual property at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Gina Vetere, said that Antigua’s action will sour the business environment and reduce government revenues in the long term.

“Any action that endorses IP theft would not only undermine any chance at resolving the dispute, but also come at great expense to Antigua and Barbuda.”

IP theft? Piracy? These are questionable descriptions. Why then is imposition of tariff on goods as a trade sanction not theft of trading rights?”

Cross retaliation using IP is special and is perhaps the only way out for tiny country in battle with large countries. The strategy rests on reasons upheld by experts who’ve advised that the sector within an offending country that is best suited for the imposition of sanctions, is one that is either vulnerable or has enough political clout to pressure decision makers to be compliant with the law. St. John’s plan seems to parallel this notion and therefore may be intended at getting filmmakers and recording artists to pressure the US Congress to re-open the US market to Antigua’s on-line gambling operators.

Comments from Antigua’s officials seem in agreement with this view. For example, the country’s Minister of Finance, Harold Lovell, said that they were still prepared to talk with the US regarding an agreement that would respect the WTO decision. Though not explicitly stated, Lovell was referring to the initial WTO rule that the US re-open its on-line gambling  market, which Antigua estimated was worth over US$3.4 billion annually to its economy and was the country’s second largest employer.

Rather than allowing the restart of the remote gaming industry, the United States seems ready to drag this David & Goliath battle significantly longer than the ten years and will fight against Antigua’s imposition of sanctions. It has the financial, media and political resources to wage a bruising battle longer than having a remote gaming industry will be practical for Antigua.

General Counsel for the office of United States Trade Representative (USTR) Timothy Reif who said “… the US government, obliviously cannot allow any WTO decision to be distorted into a license for piracy,” is still talking about getting negotiations back on the right track but there seems to be a big divide between the two countries that augurs against a speedy settlement.

Reif described his government’s offer to Antigua as “a fairly wide ranging package of other kinds of steps that would allow Antigua to create as many as or more than jobs that they expected to lose as a result of the internet gaming decision.”

But the Antiguans don’t believe that the US made any important strides towards settlement. Its high commissioner to London Mr. Carl Roberts explained that “if you make offers and the offers are not accepted that means you have not touched the core of the problem.”

But the US will fight tough because more is at stake that is dangling from Antigua’s end. Antigua’s lead attorney Mark Mendel, warned that Antigua’s cross-retaliation plan could have broader repercussions.

“If we do something inventive that could pose a lot of problems for intellectual property holders. If we create that precedent, the consequences could be enormous.

“With Antigua, it’s $21 million. Maybe with China it’s going to be U.S. $21 billion. One of the messages we want to get across is that the WTO was sold to smaller countries as a level playing field and a way for them to expand the reach of commerce, subject to a set of rules that apply to everybody.”

The US will not be swayed by the desire for a level playing. It is accustomed to flexing hegemonic muscles and getting its way especially with small states. It will fight hard and is likely to use its power to Antigua in line even if it means following the advice of people in its entertainment industry who are suggesting the cutting off any trade assistance, aid or grant programme now extended to Antigua. This is a case for all CARICOM to watch and give Antigua its support. The Caribbean community/rum battle is heating up and lessons here will be instructive.

If the US is allowed to win this one because of its power and our ‘small-island’ fear of losing grants and assistance, the US will run us over on rum. If the US is allowed to use its power to crush Antigua & Barbuda on this one, we are lost in the WTO.


“The main obstacle developing countries will face to cross-retaliation in TRIPS is political. Industries reliant on IPRs are willing to invest heavily in government lobbying and media propaganda campaigns. Although IP is a creature of industrial policy, as are tariffs and services regulation, the IP-dependent industries have historically been able to persuade governments and media outlets that any interference with IPRs is equivalent to “theft”, implying criminal intent. Raising tariffs may equally interfere with the business interests of private operators by restricting market access, but private operators have not been able to equate increased tariffs with a “theft of trading rights”.  

Words of wisdom from Frederick M. Abbott, Florida State University College of Law (April 2009)

Related articles

The Long Arm of U.S. Law: The Helms-Burton Act (Anthony M. Solis – Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review)

Cuba and the Helms-Burton Act (House of Commons Library -Research Paper 98/114  14 December 1998)

EU claims US Gambling Laws are illegal

Cross-Retaliation in TRIPS and GATS: Options for Developing Countries by Frederick M. Abbott, Florida State University College of Law (International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development)

Antigua may ditch financial services sector (Antigua Observer)

DISPUTE SETTLEMENT: DISPUTE DS285  United States — Measures Affecting the Cross-Border Supply of Gambling and Betting Services  (World Trade Organisation)

US judge orders piracy test case  (BBC)

Vote for whom … Vote for what?

Voters in Barbados will choose a government on Thursday, February 21 but I don’t intent to vote.   I said so months ago and my friends behaved as if I was committing treason.

To vote or not to vote is a right I have to exercise, but when I made my declaration, my friend instantly shifted their heated debate about the performance and potential of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) – to the value of an ‘X’.  Six or seven of them against one, me! Unity was achieved as they tried to sell me the importance of vote.

They eloquently painted the road to enfranchisement taken by working class Barbadians; verbally re-enacting the 1940s struggle with as much drama as if they were present. They were delighted that I matched them with equal passion on the historical issues as well as the significance of having the right to vote. But they were disappointed that I was (and I am) resolute about my position not to vote.

I was accused of selling out those Barbadians of yesteryear who fought to gain that right to vote for themselves and future generations; I was chided for wasting the money tax payers spent on my 20 plus years of education; some of their ‘friendly’ criticisms are too harsh for public ears.

I am unmoved. What difference will my voting make? That is the question, I’ve asked myself countless times and I’ve searched my soul for an honest opinion. I’ve examined the parties and see no philosophical divide; no major difference in programmes; no vigour, all status quo.

My friends point to philosophical differences that I believe are so microscopic my naked eye is blind to them. I see two groups, of mostly men, who were shaped and influenced by the same economic and social circumstances, naturally giving them similar philosophical underpinnings. In fact, one political party was plucked from the other; the Democratic Labour Party, a breakaway faction from the Barbados Labour Party.

Their social programmes are similar with small variations on approaches but aims and intent are common. For example, one party is hailed as the architect of universal free education while the other note that the road to universal free education was paved by their approach to building schools to facilitate that development. Today, they both support free education up to university level, or did until recently, and neither has removed the social programmes implemented by the other. In fact, they have competed to see who can make programmes more socially appealing. For example, the summer school programme; one side charged a nominal fee for attendance, the other one removed the fees and added free lunches. Up the ante! So close are they in outlook that at times, they’ve wrangled over who had a promise in their campaign manifesto first.

But outside of their similarities, I wonder how much they can do to improve my country’s fortune within the framework of a globalised world. Globalisation and its supporting institutions dictate so many of our national actions that decision makers often speak about the lack of policy space. Where is the team with the courage and ability to formulate and carry out creative policies that will help us to manoeuvre within that tiny space?

If my decision revolves around voting merely to honour my foreparents’ efforts in a scenario of indiscernible choices, I will not vote.  If for me, the exercise is like pulling a name out of a hat to decide where to place my X, then my action is a mockery to those who fought for my enfranchisement and the taxpayers who foot my school bill.

Given my post, Britain’s attempt at a la carte European menu overtones the Caribbean , I believe the perspectives in this reblogged post will be helpful to my readers. It is well-written, thought-provoking and has some interesting lessons for us within CARICOM as we struggle which similar issues.

I especially note the discussion about immigrant. It gives a view on integration and immigration which we in CARICOM should consider; secondly it helps us to look at our people’s role in Britain as immigrants. I will consider some of the views and make a post soon.

Benjamin Studebaker

British Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to hold an in-out referendum on British membership of the European Union by 2017. This is a very bad idea. Here’s why.

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Rum Ready to Rumble or Run

“Today I brew,

tomorrow I bake,

financial stimulant is a national mistake.”

National Pledge of Small Isle.

Once upon a time a chief ruled a remote island called Small Isle.  He supported his country’s rum industry in thought, word and deed but those who wanted his throne thought his support was a great sin. They said it was a disgrace to see a leader hit a local grog, so his ‘pitching up’ became part of the daily gossip.  He didn’t care what they say. He was strong-willed and felt he was well liked.

One day he heard that a rum shop, Seaside Rum Hole, was in distress. He was told that the shop’s imminent downfall was linked to having too many owing customers on its frequent visitors’ list.

With hands in his pockets, he paced up and down the patio outside his office, analysing the critical factors. It was a peaceful evening but his mind was in turmoil as he weighed the options; rescue this shop and face ridicule from his detractors who would say preservation of rum was his motivation or let the shop go.

He exhaled for a moment, savouring the beauty that emerged as the departing sun generously painted a golden glow on the aquamarine waters glistening in the bay that partially framed the outer perimeter of his office. Nature was hinting a brighter tomorrow, it spoke of hope. In that fleeting moment he made his decision. The shop must be saved. I’ll ignore the nay-sayers, he told himself. But he had to convinced Small Islanders of its worth. He would describe the shop as an icon, part of the island’s culture heritage, he thought.

Seaside Rum Hole was a meeting place where politics, religion, love affairs and other people’s business were discussed with vigour and often colour by spirited multi-subject experts of all classes, colours, creeds and gender. Tourist ticked it as a ‘must-visit’ so the chief stressed its importance to the island’s number one foreign exchange earner.  According to folklore, this action influenced his opposers to nickname him Rumpelstiltskin.

Repelsteeltje (Rumpelstiltskin) in de Efteling.

Repelsteeltje (Rumpelstiltskin) in de Efteling. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It is an appellation befitted a man of his stature and goes well with his penchant to throw an expletive-filled tantrum,” one of their head honchos said.  Surprisingly, Rumpelstiltskin became fond of the name; even the shortened version, Rumpel, after all it was a stark reminder of one of his great loves.Despite his detractors’ efforts, Rumpel was happy, believing firmly that his status was growing positively in Small Isle as well as in neighbouring lands where he was officially regarded as first among chiefs.Many said his mind was as sharp as his tongue and they praised him for rescuing Small Isle. He’d come to the isle’s aid after those entrusted with its welfare were unable to deliver on their promises to its people and a powerful group of  faraway citizens had stepped in with a to-do-list and ‘or-else’ consequences that spelt destruction.Small Islanders had shivered.  They knew that it was serious business. Decades ago, a neighbouring island, richer and with more potential than theirs was helped by the same foreigners. Instead of getting better, economic and social conditions in that country worsened and the island still owed the foreigners and desperately needed their help.

So Small Islanders had banded together and walked up and down the streets fretting about their situation and their future. “We would like someone from among us to help get our country back on track,” they’d said.

Rumpelstiltskin had come forward saying, “I can do it” and he was given three tries. To this day, he swears that he produced the goal on each occasion, perhaps he did because Small Islanders rewarded him three of the times he sought their approval.

When the fourth time dawned, his eyes were on the ultimate prize. It had eluded others before him.

Illustration of Rumpelstiltskin from Household...

“I am insuperable, I am invincible,” he boasted, “I have the formula; I saved this economy, which the world called a straw economy. I spun that straw into gold; the world now ranks it top among others in its weight class. It is even stronger than some bigger. This baby is mine. The prize is mine.”

He and his followers bragged excessively and arrogantly. What should have been kept private came out in the open. Their detractors revealed all the information they had gathered to Small Islanders, who were deciding on the right person to  sit on throne.

Rumpelstiltskin was punished for his mouth.  He lost the ultimate prize and Small Islanders forced him to change seats with his opponents. Even in his household, another head was emerging.  The islanders laughed and they wuk-kup to a new calypso by Snatch-a-rat with the chorus:

” He throw way de baby, bath water too.

Nipple and spoon left fuh he to use.”


 Everytime he heard it, Rumpel raged, “these changes are not right for my family or Small Isle.  I still have the formula.” He fumed and stomped so much that those around him felt the boiling point of his fury. Everyone rushed out of his way but as usual Sally’s dominant personality superseded her common sense. She stood in his path and a burst of his furious flames hit her at full force.

As family doctors were summons to treat her third degree burns, Small Islanders said: “Rumpel’s house is burning to the ground, he will self-destruct.”  His applauding opponents fanned the flames crying, “He has gone further than his namesake. He will not only tear himself in two,  he will tear his house down.”

Their predictions would have become reality, were it not for the elders. They counselled among themselves and developed an adhesive fix that was skillfully applied to cement Rumpel’s house until the cracks were invisible and the household was no longer considered a motley crew.

From that day everyone in Rumpel’s household, even Sally who was permanently scarred, wore red the colour of love when they went out in public and each time they spoke they begun by saying: “we are a united family, we share one common goal.”

Suspicious Small Islanders were wary of the quick fix and questioned if the house was properly repaired or botched by hurricane-season carpenters. They are still waiting for an answer.

Meanwhile, with a new chief  at the helm, Small Islanders were strongly entrenched in their view that local rum wasn’t good enough for their palates. How could it be, when they lived in country with a large and growing educated middle class? To match their ‘high’ status, many Small Islanders accentuated their champagne taste financing it with dwindling mauby pockets.

Everything looked prosperous on the surface; school children ate freely in the summer and rode buses even more freely all year round; adults danced and celebrated wantonly; the good, those gone bad and the always ugly were ambassadors for that land whose national pledge was changed to “today I brew, tomorrow I bake, financial stimulant is a national mistake.” The pledge was a parody directed at Rumpelstiltskin whose new mantra was ‘stimulate, stimulate.’

Sitting in their new seats, the rein-holders were happily rising; their fat, shiny cheeks and growing stomachs bore the evidence.  Nobody in Small Isle wanted to be involved with rum. They rid themselves of the sugar lands, planting plenty houses instead and beating their chests as they forgot the connection between sugar, molasses, rum and earning greenbacks.

Soon they began to feel the strain of living above their means. In private, they called their country’s problem a fiscal deficit and a balance of payments worry but they ridiculed any doctor who gave a gloomy prognosis.

“Fret not thyself because of doomsday economists … for their theories shall soon be cut down like the grass and wither. Trust in us, whom you have chosen to reign in this fair land and you shall be fed,”  said the leader.

Flare Maddox, a puffy reinsman, who sat next to the leader rose in support. In his usual gossipy tone, Maddox began: “I have a document here,  if I reveal its contents a lot of talkers on the other side will become sleepers but this is not the time or place.”

His stomach pushed against the microphone on the desk muffling his voice, so he stepped a few feet back and continued in gladiatorial style: “What I can tell you, though, is that our economic malady resulted from a virus we caught from communicating with foreign lands. I don’t have the antidote, the self-acclaimed guru over there don’t have it either; the change in economic  health must come from overseas.”

But as the months rolled by, the financial troubles weighed heavier on Small Isle’s businesses and people; employment was becoming scare;  the people were becoming restless and the rulers were becoming perplexed.

The helms men and women convened an urgent special meeting to flesh out the critical issues. As they sat wriggling uncomfortably in their seats, Maddox spied their once well matured rum industry sliding into the distance.  Call all wise men in the country, he begged.

Everyone with foresight was summoned to the big house and asked to present findings about rum’s likely desertion.  “Rum is being wooed away by a large united land,” the head expert said tapping into his laptop.

“See here! A large land is ‘bigging up rum’ in THOUGHT (conceiving tax policies to improve rum’s growth and good name), WORD (making those policies law), and DEED (giving rum producers subsidies, building rum factories, advertising their rum as the greatest and, yes, drinking it),” he said skipping from one internet tab to another.

As is their culture, Small Islanders – governors and subjects – then recognised their product’s worth. “We are on the rum side, it was ours first and we will fight for it,” the leading Small Islander declared. He stood tall and waxing classically in a tongue unused by the common man, he delivered a half an hour address before turning over the proceedings to his interpreter, Eager. In his trademark clipped manner, Eager then told Small Islanders that the leader had given rum the service medal of approval and he’d encouraged all to take a drink.

Boysie was sitting in Rusty Roy’s shop watching the speech on television. He was there alone. The other regulars were now unemployed and hiding from the big debts they had racked up at Rusty Roy. Roy wasn’t watching TV either; like many other Small Islanders, he was permanently turned off by Channel 642’s diet of political speeches and governing party talk shows disguised as education and entertainment.

Boysie was happy to be alone, especially at moment when rum was approved. He got up and peeped around the corner making sure no one was coming. Then he called out to Roy, ” hand me a bottle of black over-proof rum.”

He poured out a glass full, leaned back his head and threw the rum into his mouth, swallowing all in one big noisy gulp. “Aaahhh, down de hatch”, he said smacking his lips afterwards. “The man ready to ring the bell, so he let loose de rum to go wid de corn beef and biscuits.”

The End.

(P.S. This is Chapter One from my bestseller, Ready to Rum. My Hollywood contract does not allow for the rest of the book to be published here. Watch for the full movie opening soon at an outdoor mobile cinema near you. I’m running …)

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