Notes From The Margin

March 28, 2008

David, We will have to disagree on the 100 days point!

We are great fans of Barbados Underground, we find their articles though provoking and well reasoned. We don’t always agree with them, but that’s what makes the blogosphere interesting. David served up an interesting article this week:Barbados Needs National Energy Policy, NOW we agree with the headline and the main point of the article, that in a global economic environment we need a realistic energy policy with a strong emphasis on renewable resources, however we will have to agree to disagree with his subsidiary point.

The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) pledged to Barbadians that within the first 100 days of assuming the reigns of government, it would roll-out several major initiatives. Our commonsense, which has been honed over the years through observation, tells us that the pledge was part of a gimmick which political parties are expected to engage at election time. It should be obvious that a political party in opposition is not equipped to deliver on promises made, simply because it is not in the obvious position of government to efficiently plan and allocate resources. The BU household continue to be amazed at the frenzy which is demonstrated by our educated public concerning trivial matters, whenever we have elections. Following the script to the letter, the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has reminded the government of its 100 day promise, we listened to Senator Liz Thompson doing so with her usual eloquence in the Senate yesterday.
We commented on the post, to the effect that the “100 Days” was a political gimmick that worked and that it was now fair game for the opposition to use to attack the government. We don’t think it’s the only reason why the DLP won (or even the main reason), but it was a central plank in their platform.
However our real reason goes deeper than that……
The “100 days” was a political gimmick that was packaged for consumption by the electorate. However read more deeply it was the DLP’s statement of “THIS IS WHERE OUR PRIORITIES ARE” and even if you did not believe they were capable of delivering it in the 100 days, (as we think most people with common sense felt) the idea of a time frame communicated that there was a real plan behind the statement.
An opposition party is not in the position of a ruling government in terms of access to information and allocation of resources, however they have a luxury that the Government does not:
Time.
An opposition has time to consult with stakeholders, time to sound out opinions, time to float ideas in informed circles, to create and construct a plan. They also have the unmitigated luxury of doing this in an environment where there is absolutely no pressure to implement. These two things, a sitting government does not have (As Dr. Estwick has found out with Greenland). In this case the DLP had 14 years to craft its agenda for governance.
We think that the Thompson administration should be accountable for its 100 day agenda. If it can’t be done in 100 days, when can we expect it? A year? two years? If the first orders of business are delayed what about the elements of your manifesto that were not in the first 100 days? We should not let it fall quietly by the wayside.
We agree that a discerning eye should be cast over the ABC Highway expansion project and it’s conduct, however we think that the level of scrutiny should be applied to this administration, the principle at stake is simply too important.
Until we hold our politicians accountable for their words and actions we will get the government we deserve.
Marginal

Ghanaian Government Will Charter Plane To Fly Ghanaian’s Home!

Tracking a story out of Ghana this morning that the Government of Ghana will charter an aircraft to bring their countrymen home.

Government has committed over 12 million dollars to charter a plane to fly home about 50 stranded Ghanaians who travelled to Barbados last month in search of greener pastures. A Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Co-operation and NEPAD, Dr Charles Brempong-Yeboah, who disclosed this to the Ghana News Agency in Accra said ironically the Ghanaians have paid between GHc 4,000 and GHc10,000 each to travelling agents to get to Barbados for a two-week stay.

“The Ghanaians who got to that country with the hope of crossing over to the US, Canada and other developed countries for greener pastures have been captured on Barbados Television networks begging for alms.”

Originally 146 people, including 46 Nigerians were stranded in Barbados but some managed to cross over to Trinidad and Tobago. Dr. Brempong-Yeboah described the situation as very embarrassing to Ghana, explaining that, those Ghanaians could have stayed at home with the huge amounts of money they paid to the agents to do profitable business at home.

He stressed: “Any small businesses they had started in Ghana would have grown by now.”
This really should have been a great thing for both Barbados and Ghana, right now its just an embarrassment.
Marginal
Marginal

March 22, 2008

We are the middle class….

We were having a chat this afternoon about a Laugh it Off skit from this year’s prodution called “We are the middle class…” which while being very funny takes a very sharp aim at those members of the middle class who have “the big ride” but no money to put gas in it, or who have platinum credit cards (which are maxed out) or who drive soooves (SUV’s).

I was thinking that the middle class in Barbados is perhaps the most hated socio economic group in the islands social milieu. They are constantly pilloried by the “working class” for “forgetting where they came from”, by the “upper classes” for being “social climbers”, by Cave Hill academics as being “petite bourgeois”, by politicians as being somehow “not as bajan” as the “working” class. There is constantly the insinuation that somehow they ought to be ashamed of wanting to live in a nice house, in nice neighborhood and to drive a nice car, or that they did something illegal or immoral to achieve whatever they have.

This goes further, the tax structure in Barbados shields the poor (hell it even gives a reverse tax credit to the poor) and those in the “upper classes” have all sorts of advice from accountants on how to avoid (note I did NOT say evade) paying taxes. The result of this is that income tax in Barbados is paid by the poor sod who works as an employee for a salary (given the exemptions usually a supervisors salary or higher) in short income tax is paid by the middle class.

And no politician dares to be caught giving concessions to the middle class! The poor or “working” class are the politician’s stock in trade in getting the media spotlight. Concessions are given for investment by businesses “to promote growth in employment” but when was the last time you heard a politician crowing about how he was going to help out the guys in the middle?

 The thing is…..

when I think about the middle class people that I know, they are almost all diligent people who work damn hard for a living, they pay their taxes and follow the rules. They do without so that they have something to put away for the future. They are likely to live not just for their future but for their children’s future. They (in many cases) went to UWI in Cave Hill although some were fortunate enough to travel overseas to study (even if only to Jamaica or Trinidad).

Despite being most often accused of “forgetting where they come from” I’ve found that most of them are well aware of where they came from, but more often than not their focus is on “where they are going” and if you follow their lives and careers there is a steady progression towards that goal.

So rather than bashing the middle class, perhaps the next time you hear this type of conversation going on try to relate it to people that you know rather than some amorphous group, ask yourself who are the middle class?

You might be surprised to find out that WE are the middle class..

Marginal

March 21, 2008

As The Waves Subside, Reports Come In….

As the large waves subside, reports of damage are coming in from across the Caribbean. Thankfully in most cases it does not appear to be severe and at this point there is only one fatality being reported (in Barbados)

Here’s the story so far….

Barbados: One person drowned, damage to several boats. Harbour operations disrupted for the day. We passed the Harbour today and several cruise ships were docked so we can assume port operations are back to normal. In a couple of places along the west coast the sea has over run the coastal road depositing sand but no significant damage is reported.

Trinidad: Lifeguards were kept busy at Maracas and Las Cuevas beaches in the north of Trinidad, however beaches remained open and no significant damage was reported. Lifeguards made at least one rescue, however no drownings reported.

Tobago

Huge waves pounded Tobago beaches that were closed

Fishermen still ventured out and reported good fishing despite the high seas.
St. Lucia
In St. Lucia several hotels reported that water had entered areas of the hotel. Also fishing boats were taken to safe harbour….
British Virgin Islands.
There are reports of some flooding with debris on roads but no major damage seems to have been reported yet.
Cuba
Cuba appears to have been quite badly battered, with 800 people being evacuated from coastal areas, the waves did considerable damage.
Puerto Rico
There are reports of some coastal flooding and minor damage in some tourist areas.
Because of the Good Friday bank holiday, news reporting (particularly on the net) has been particularly lax today. We have yet to see much news coming out of the OECS so it is likely that tomorrow we will see fresh information. Notwithstanding that, it would appear that with the possible exception of Cuba (and the drowning in Barbados) there has not been any major damage as a result of the waves.
Marginal

March 20, 2008

One Fatality as Massive Waves Pound Barbados

 

As Barbados’ coasts received a pounding from huge waves generated by an atlantic storm, an elderly gentleman got into difficulty swimming and drowned today.

Noel Austin, who accompanied the elderly man to the beach this morning admitted there were red flags on the beach when they arrived, indicating danger and that swimming was therefore not advised. He said they still ventured into the water, but he emerged after realising the waters were too rough. Unfortunately, Austin said, his friend dismissed his advice to do the same.

The best efforts of the Coast Guard and a lifeguard on duty to save the St. Michael man were in vain.

 The heavy seas also affected operations at the Barbados Port where three cruise ships were forced to abort attempts to berth at the deep water harbour for safety reasons. After discussions between the captains and the Harbourmaster it was decided that conditions were too rough to allow for the tendering of passengers to the shore.  The port was offloading one small cargo ship that had a perishable cargo, but indicated that it’ s operations as far as servicing ships would be curtailed for the day. (The port remains open for deliveries of cargo)

There are some reports of property damage in neigbouring St. Lucia however we are short on details.

It is anticipated that the swell will become more intense over Friday but that sea conditions should be back to normal by Saturday.

We will continue to follow this story as details come to hand.

Marginal.

Hello? Hello? Police Emergency Hotline Out of Order…

Buried in the middle of the paper today was a story that the Royal Barbados Police Force’s emergency hotline number was out of order…. yes it did ask people to call another number, no I can’t remember what it was, no I don’t think that someone having and emergency and requiring police assistance would be able to find the number.

Does anyone else think there’s something wrong with this?

Perhaps someone should define the meaning of the word “emergency” for the telephone company!

Marginal

March 19, 2008

Eastern Caribbean Braces For Dangerously Large Waves

Don't be like these guys, exercise some caution around big waves....

A deep low pressure centre that spawned tornadoes and thunderstorms across the US earlier this week is set to generate massive sea swells in the Caribbean over the next two or three days.

The Barbados and Saint Lucia Meteorological Offices yesterday issued weather forecasts indicating that “significant sea wave height” were expected over the Eastern Caribbean, starting today and continuing into tomorrow.

The Barbados Meteorological Office indicated that swells around four to five metres, or 12 to 16 feet, were expected over the coastal waters surrounding Barbados from late Wednesday/early Thursday.

Islands further north are projecting EVEN LARGER waves!

So concerned are officials that in Barbados and St. Lucia the National Disaster Management agencies (Department of Emergency Management in Barbados and National Emergency Management Organisation in St. Lucia) have quietly started to put contingency plans in place in the event that they need to take action.
In Puerto Rico ships are being temporarily relocated, and people are being cautioned….
U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jim Tunstall in San Juan:-

“This is not a storm that surfers and others that typically enjoy relatively heavy surf need to go out in”

 

We will keep abreast of this story as it develops…..

 

Marginal

A Suggestion on BOLT’s

Minister of Tranport, Works and International Transport John Boyce made a comment in the house yesterday about the Government’s potential use of Build Operate Lease Transfer (BOLT) arrangements in the future.

ANY FUTURE BOLT – Build Operate Lease and Transfer – arrangements that Government signs will be designed to bring economic benefits
to the country.

Minister of Transport, Works and International Transport John Boyce told the House of Assembly yesterday during debate on the 2008-2009 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure that BOLT arrangements were supposed to generate savings and not additional costs.

The previous administration made use of several of this type of arrangement. However the nature of the implementations often left questions on the transparency of the deals. This was noted in an IMF  report on Barbados.

The report makes a number of reccomendations with regard to this Public-Private Sector arrangement.

We on the margin would be much more reassured by the implementation of a legal framework to govern the use of BOLT’s and similar arrangements than simply Mr. Boyce’s statement of “Trust us”.
Marginal

Death Of A Visionary – Arthur C. Clarke 1917-2008

Filed under: Tribute — notesfromthemargin @ 8:26 am
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We on the Margin pause to note the passing of Arthur C. Clarke, noted science fiction writer and visionary. Mr. Clarke was well known for his 2001 series and a range of science fiction books. His work foresaw the advent of communications satellites and a range of other developments that we take for granted today.

New York Times tribute to Mr. Clarke can be read here.

Rest in Peace.

Marginal

March 18, 2008

Welcome to the 5 year long election campaign!

When the dust settled on January 16th the two parties ended up being quite far apart on number of seats but actually quite close on total number of votes cast. With only an 8% difference in terms of total votes, it means that the current government is vulnerable to a 4% swing. This means that despite a comfortable majority in Parliament, the Thompson administration must politically plan from now with an eye to elections in 2013. It also means that the Mottley opposition is already keeping an eye on that year.

As a result of this we are likely to see Mr. Thompson trying to attack what has long been perceived as the BLP’s strongest point; it’s management of the economy. The BLP for it’s part will pick at every flaw in the government’s actions.

This leads to the  ludicrousness of things such as Government suddenly becoming skeptical about unemployment statistics despite never having said a word about it before or during the campaign. It certainly was not a part of their platform. They are not releasing those figures because it will reinformce the BLP’s perception of good governance.

For the BLP’s part, this whole “We don’t know why the government won’t work with our consultants” is laughable. They damn well know why and they would do the same if they were in office as well.

What it amounts to is that we are in for a five year long election campaign, with the cut and thrust of January continuing at a lower intensity until 2013

Strap yourselves in, it’s going to be a wild ride!

Marginal

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