More tea with that, vicar?

“Hello, I’m Fiona Gibbons from The Times of London. You’ve probably never heard of me. I’m honored to meet you Mr. Bolt. So, tell me what it’s like sitting in this sorry excuse for summer weather, watching your team mates compete in Scotland.”
“You’re right. Pretty dull, isn’t it?”
“So, you think the Scottish people are boring?”
“Huh?” (Bolt looks up at sky and thinks of Jamaican north coast, where he’s from.)
“How does Glasgow compare to London?”
“No comparison,”
“So, you think Glasgow is horrible?”
“What?” (Looks at Nike timepiece on his wrist.)
“Earlier this week you were asked your views about the Gaza situation. Any further thought?”

“Look, Vybz got a fair trial and Jamaica’s justice system seems to be working,”
“You don’t know where Gaza is?”
“Are we done?”



Cry, don’t laugh at the drought

Margaret Thatcher said famously, don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions. I read a funny piece in today’s Gleaner about water woes asking what is the Ministry doing, other than beseeching us to conserve water? I’ve asked myself the same question not just on this matter, but on many things overseen by government.

I’ve now been back on the island a week and adjusting to things Jamaican. My wife and daughter have commandeered the master bedroom, blocked off all vents, closed all windows, and cranked up the AC. The room feels like Greenland in December, and I enter wearing a North Face jacket, woolen gloves, heavy socks, and snow shoes, when I go in search of a clean towel. I’m of tougher stuff and bear the heat, slowing down and sweating in my sleep. I wake with no congested head, merely a damp tee shirt.

But, the Eskimos had to take an early flight this morning, and at about 3:30am I heard steps tramping on the landing. I asked my wife if all was good. “If you don’t mind bathing in a bowl, yes,” she replied. I looked at the metal basin by the sink, and remembered that water lock-off applies till about 4. My daughter was trying something different, focusing on wiping only strategic points of her body. They used good amounts of perfume, judging by the trail of fumes I smelled.

Someone joked about saving babies’ tears to bathe with. Last week, I went to the Coconut Board to get my usual three gallons of coconut water. One of the assistants is heavily pregnant. I joked that I was buying the water for my bath. She smiled. I told her not to smirk, because when her baby arrives lock-off could still be operating.

My car was filthy dirty till Friday. I play golf and the course has a spring and pond, which irrigate the course. A man got a bucket of that water and gave my car a bath. I wondered if I could take a few pails of water home. I don’t want a gleaming car: it implies I don’t value water for drinking more than for getting dirt off my car. True, each journey I get nasty dirt on my clothes, and if I want to avoid my wife saying I look like a hobo with dirty clothes, I have to change after I get in and out of my car. But, when I have extra washing, I don’t want the machine running double in a drought. A friend has reconfigured her washing machine so that the waste water goes to her garden. She lives too far away for me to tap onto her waste pipe for my garden. Instead, every little washing in the kitchen gets saved and plants get a little drink several times a day.

I’m taking this drought seriously, so will now keep that waste water in the gallon bottles I have after drinking my coconut water.

If I buy drinking water from Catherine’s Peak, it eases pressure on NWC, at my cost. I see a water bill, for a service that is now far less than it was three months ago. We still pay for services, even if at its minimum. Do I get sent a refund?

I look up at the clouds and again they look dark, as if they will give rain. Hours later, they have gone. The grass stays dry, brittle and brown. I want to cry. I look for a glass to catch my tears. Waste not…20140729-183502-66902166.jpg

Like a scratched record, Jamaica turns around

Jamaica often reminds me of a vinyl record: no matter how hard you try to keep it in good order, it gets scratched. You put it on the turntable and without fail you get a hiccup in the music, as the needle jumps over the scratch. I’ve had some fun over the past few days listing Jamaican approaches to problem solving. They may seem whimsical, but without fail, we can see them in action daily. We are no homogenous nation, and common sense has to wait its turn to get space in our culture.

Over the past few days we got treated to more of the snap me, but in new blouses. A nasty bush fire took hold of a section of Jacks Hill, in St. Andrews, just outside Kingston proper. Most people could see the hill ablaze from their homes, and if not seen, then the ash and smoke came down the hills as the breeze picked up on Sunday afternoon.

Fire blazing on Jacks Hill (courtesy of Daily Observer)
Fire blazing on Jacks Hill (courtesy of Daily Observer)

I feel sorry for some administrations, like OPDEM, who have good intentions but have bitten by the Jamaican bureaucratic version of the chikungunya virus, which seems to involve much foot-in-mouth. They urge people to not light open fires, even reminding people that it’s illegal. “Who tell dem fi seh dat?” as Jamaicans would ask. Illegal? Let’s go do it, is the usual response. But, while OPDEM was trying hard, we have the fool-fool responses of other agencies. We heard the dry-mouth Drought Committee yesterday tell us that the Fire Department can call on the Rapid Response Unit for help to fight fires says drought committee…the only problem is only 32 trucks out of 100 work. Well, that rapidly became a nonresponse. It was just about a year ago that life was breathed back into the the Unit, which has reportedly been ‘shelled’ by the previous government.

On Sunday evening, I’d heard that helicopters were due to be dropping water on the fire. Most people know that the Mona Reservoir, closest to the fire, is the source that would be used usually, but it’s only about 25 percent full at the moment, so water was coming from the sea, and that takes longer. Of course, some Jamaican cynics were quick to be critical that the little water in the dam was being used. Well, we should not listen too much to mad people.

Yesterday, a typical Jamaican thing happened. News reports at midday indicated that the fire was under control and that investigations were underway to find out how it had started. Words are important and ‘under control’ and ‘sections’ can mean wide spectrum of things. Well, friends who live near the fire were quick to use social media to indicate that the fire was still blazing, and to boot note that sections of uptown Kingston were still awash with water gushing out of burst mains for the n-th day. Such is our life. Word last night was that the fire was mostly calmed but still being monitored carefully. Crops, one house, and lots of vegetation have gone. Nature is good at recovering from such trauma, but humans have their way of putting undue stress on nature. Another friend mentioned how she and her family had been caught in a runaway bush fire near Fern Gully while driving home on Sunday afternoon. 

We have old ways that we let go of with much reluctance. My daddy did it this way, and his daddy did so before him and… But, it’s a crazy thing to do. Yet, we can drive along many stretches of road during these drought-ridden days and see little pires of smoke coming out of some hill. As one official tried to make clear, the only thing to set alight these days in a stove. 

Just our luck that we got three new fire trucks, which can pump water while being driven, but the fire was in an area where trucks couldn’t reach: some local terrain is just not for wheels. Just this past week, we learned that a fire truck donated by Hartford City, Connecticut, six years ago, is still parked in Portmore–enjoying the view of the ocean, no doubt. The official reasons given for not using the truck are a litany of the kind of covering of the derrière that goes for management in this little island. It could have been that the wheels were too round. 😛

Still, kudos to the Jamaica Defence Force and the Fire Department for near non-stop work for 24 hours, and also to the administrators who try to get it right. 

The investigation may be like many others, destined to be forgotten in a few hours. Will the media get its teeth into following up? Maybe, but let’s not hold our breath. A sex ‘scandal’ may just crop up and take away their attention 🙂

Doors close, doors open: loving Alia Atkinson, and O’Dayne Richards.

I am almost in tears, after watching Jamaican Alia Atkinson coming in 3rd in the 100 meters breaststroke. She had the race. She has the time. But, in finals, you have to have the event under control. She swam as she always does, fast first 50, but near record pace. She looked great till 20 meters from home, then “felt the elephants on her back”, as the British commentator said. I know the feeling as limbs tighten with lactic acid buildup. But, no second guessing. How proud to be there looking at a potential champion in one of our less-favoured events.

The medals were presented by our own IOC representative, Mike Fennel. A nice twist. The Scottish crowd gave a rousing cheer. Go, Alia! Stay strong. The swimming family is loving what you do for the event.

But, as that door closed, open came the door with O’Dayne Richards winning the shot putt with a games record of 21.61 meters.20140728-144629-53189148.jpg Promise comes true.

Jamaica to the world. More action comes on the track later today, as our sprinters are all looking at finals this evening. Which doors will open?

A strange experience

Alia Atkinson made history for Jamaica this week when she won a silver medal in swimming the 50 meters backstroke. It was the best any Jamaican had ever achieved in swimming, and in a stroke where we had never won a medal. Janelle Atkinson, not related, won bronze medals in freestyle events at the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games; she now coaches in the USA. Swimming has been a Commonwealth Games sport since the inaugural edition of the event’s precursor, the 1930 British Empire Games. It is a core sport and must be included in the sporting programme of each edition of the Games. Jamaica took its time getting there.

Alia has had a really great run at the top international level, making the final in 50 breaststroke at the 2012 London Olympics. In 2013, she won a string of races at 50 and 100 breaststroke in the FINA Gold Cup events. She looked a good medal prospect heading into Glasgow. Then, she got racing and broke the Games record twice before the final. The races are very close over the short sprint, and while gold might have glittered more, Alia could say she’s content to come away with a medal, especially against the swimming powerhouses of Australia, Canada and England.

We have become accustomed to our sprinters hauling in medals but to be a realistic prospect in swimming is a huge achievement. I screamed all I could during the 30 seconds of the final. What an odd thing to be doing.


A sensational morning

The smell of heat, even at dawn.
The intoxicating smell of rotting mangoes.
Damp grass, mixed with dust, smelling like moss.
Sweat dripping from the head to the nose to the neck.
Water spraying for the grounds, whose spring lies ready to be tapped.
Heavy breathing coming from behind, the couple sprint the hill.
Huffing, puffing, weighty arms holding a bag full of mangoes.
1, 2, 3, 4,…14, 15. Switch hands.
Labrador barking at the stranger he sees every morning.
Alsatian sneaking into my kitchen, just to say hello?

So the day starts. How will the day go?

Scenes from a day out: Mandeville deals with drought and recession

I wish I did not have to help run a set of errands when I visited Mandeville yesterday, as that would have allowed more exploring with questions than just my eyes. I try to take things in quickly.

The first thing I noticed, as usual, was the coolness. Leaving Kingston at 9am, the temperature was already 35 degrees C; arriving in Mandeville, it was 31. What a relief. The day also had hints of cloudiness, which darkened as the day went on. I prayed to see one drop of rain. Even though I thought it was cool, those living out in the countryside felt the heat, and stretched out on cardboard trying to nap and cool off.

The drought has hit this town just as in the city. But, sitting on the concrete step of a house outside Mandeville town, its effects seemed harsher. The ground was dry and dusty. Running water wasn’t available for everyone. Some hoped that a neighbour with a well or tank would take pity on them and give water. No guarantee. Alpart had built many houses in the area, and they all had big water tanks to catch rainwater. Many houses, also had modern black plastic tanks. Give thanks for tanks.

I’d brought some mangoes from my walk and they were received gladly. One had burst and become soft, so I readied to eat it myself. A jug of water came and I washed hand and mango together. The sweet fruit was nice to take the dustiness from my mouth. I threw the skin onto a pile of drying grass.

Chickens raced to peck at it. Waste not.

Those chickens were adults, but chicks that we want to raise can’t survive without water, and none meant that the little extra income selling them offered was gone, for the moment. But, a new ground had been prepared for sweet potatoes.

The yield looked good, judging by the bucketful that came to go into the car.

While chickens could not be raised, the need for the freezer was less, so it was turned off. That would calm the bill, and keep it around J$3,000 a month. Sounds little? Try that on no regular income. We suggested putting bag juice in the freezer and selling them for a little extra money. Maybe, but the shop up the road might still be preferred.

Children went off to have something to eat. It was well after noon, but the first meal was still not on the table. Such is life. I pondered my excessive eating on a few weeks of holiday. Really!

I’d brought some clothes I no longer wore–shirts and pants. They were well appreciated. Some bars of soap picked up from hotels, also went into the family stock. Thanks, again.

Bare feet kicked back and forth over dry red dirt.
The mining industry had brought many services and a better way of life. But, bauxite mining was done. Yet, the town is not falling to its knees. Money is around. I saw a new set of town houses going up, next to a block that had been started but never finished.
image Doors close, doors open. A man cleared his yard of dry and dying plants. The paint on the house was impeccable, across the road, likewise, and a new colour too. Many people here have foreign income, mainly from time spent working abroad–England, Canada, Cayman Islands–and get protection and gains from the falling exchange rate. Some homes stand vacant, though looking spruce, their owners delayed abroad facing judgement for crimes that allowed them to build their mansions.

But, they have mouths to feed. The hardware store was busy. Pipes to fix, at least, or just top-up cars to buy. The golf course was like a desert, brownish and crisp like toast. Not a soul in sight. Town was quiet too. The market still bustled but not so much. It was Thursday. When pay comes then things would pick up. Taxis hope for rides.

We stopped by the pharmacy before heading back to the furnace of Kingston. I spoke to the manager, a friend and keen observer of the Jamaican scene. He told me that I looked and sounded more Jamaican. I took the compliment as a sign of time well-spent over the year. We talked about the perennial problem: the conundrum of Jamaica. Our views differ in detail, though not much in direction.

Many people know what needs to be done, but have come to a deal: let’s not tamper too much with what gives us the lifestyle. Work just enough. Take few risks. Enjoy the time off and leisure opportunities. Yet, we knew that some people will scratch and try hard to do more than that, yet have little to show for it. Had Madame Lagarde come recently to see how Jamaica had been taking so much bitter medicine and no rioting? Maybe. Once she had a Red Stripe and some jerk chicken, she understood the coping mechanism.

He feels that most Jamaicans don’t want to know what’s going on. They are not like Bruce Golding, curious about why the police commissioner resigned: he’s gone, who’s next? They don’t have much interest in GDP. How could they, after nearly five decades of seeing it putter along at one percent a year? But, of course, that’s a lie: “Cecil, you checked if the barrel reach?” Don’t upset the apple cart.

We headed back to town. I listened to the radio. Reparations Committee discussing the billions of dollars that are due to slaves and their offspring. I was asked about getting a ship to go to Africa. I pressed the gas pedal. Minister Phillips is introducing harsher tax measures, in a country where only half of registered businesses are tax compliant. Fix the leaks, first? Lawyers and politicians railed about our constitutional rights being trampled. I thought about the tax scofflaws. Trampled? Perspective is all.

Arriving in Kingston, at nearly 6pm, the temperature was over 37.5. Yikes! It must have been a scorcher here. So, glad I took a day out in the coolness.

Jamaica’s recession is part of its recidivism

A good friend, living in England, read my comments yesterday and declared that “You really bashing your homeland today…”, that, after I had been on holiday in various places over the past few weeks. That led me to respond “But, notice how I have sought to give the child good guidance in how to do better, rather than just taking out the belt and heaping some heavy licks on its skin. I’m progressive…”

The real agonizing aspect of living in and with Jamaica is its inability to move past its condition. That is, it is in constant recidivism, as Webster defines it, ‘a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior’. That is Jamaica, par excellence. Look at almost any issue that is facing the nation today and you will see the same problem, patched up like the potholes in many neighbourhoods: looking good for a day or so, but put it under anything like normal stress and strain (aka, daily life) and it crumbles, only to be repaired again, to be put under normal wear and tear, to be repaired again, to be… Einstein, this is your life. You’re credited with saying that doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different resutls is the definition of insanity. “Next patient, please. Name? Jamaica? How do you spell that?” Houdini could escape from a strait jacket, submerged in a tank of water.

Harry could escape, but not Jamaica
Harry could escape, but not Jamaica
Jamaica loves to put itself into a strait jacket, wriggle around and flail for a while (this can be from days to years) and then, exhausted, cries “No more!”

We are reaping the benefit of this strait jacketing with an absence of senisble policies and actions over 50 years to deal with [fill the gap]. I quip that Jamaica is the land of would and should. We have plenty of bright people, who can figure out what to do and then preside over years of it not being done. We do not like the word ‘accountability’. If we did, our rate of unemployment, now a high enough 14 percent, would perhaps be well over 50 percent.

Most people would have no problem citing an instance of rank incompetence in their dealings with an institution, and don’t smile smuggly that it’s all the public sector’s fault.

Our water problem is something we created. We have ample water on and around the island. It is not where it needs to be and what we send to people we do not harness in a way that ensures its continuity. Nature did not create that problem; some jackass in a shirt and pants did. We can’t have hopes until we get rid of those dopes.

I got a call from the University Hospital yesterday about bills for my father. The short story is that they feel that many items are still unpaid. I know I paid a good chuck of money on what I was then told was the final bill, nearly 9 months ago. The issue came up from the caller that some items might have been duplicated, so could I indicate when and to whom I paid. Wait a minute? You mean there is not a centralised payment account? Please, don’t tell me that? My major concern was that I could not pay easily through a bank, except by going to one in person–so 1950s… As many would cry, “You ever hear about online banking?” I will look over my records and see if I can unravel this little maze.

I exhorted the young lady to “Not be like the rest, but be the best.” She laughed, and I told her to pass this onto her supervisor, or better still, just make sure that very soon the clunky payment style is a dead and gone thing.

Jamaica is nothing if not a constant spoiler of good work.

Jamaica can do somethings well. We know that most through the way our athletes have shown the world how to run fast. I was surprised to read today about the case of a female teacher from Trinidad, who was killed a couple of years ago in Jamaica by a taximan. Her mother, a parliamentarian, flew to Jamaica for the sentencing, and said that she was impressed with Jamaica’s justice system:
“What Trinidadians are surprised about is the fast rate at which this trial took place (within two years). They really expressed pleasure that they were quite pleased that within two years they were able to get a verdict,” she said. Well, we have seen the justice system work as many think it should over the past year or so. Of course, that augurs well for life in general. Can we take politicians and administrators to court, though? Unfortunately, not. But, we should not have to do that.

We are masters of the cover up. I don’t mean the criminal kind, though that is in there, too. Just that, we are not good at facing up to our faults. Take the recent incident with a TV sports reporter who yelled “Heil Hitler!” In the name of civility, give him his pink slip and say “Aufwiedersehen,” and wish him well in his career. If you are weak and think that his services are indispensible, then you show that you are complicit and give a public warning to him, apologize to the audience, including the German Ambassador, and then keep him off the air for a short while. But, what do we see from his employer, CVM TV? He makes a feeble on-air apology, then the company says…NADA. Whatever little self respect you think an organization can muster through being credible, was pushed out of the window with that stunning silence. It’s only made more appalling by the relative silence of media brethren. Former PMs grumble about whether the US has moral authority, when we do not have the decency to acknowledge that we have overstepped a very clear border of respectability on a national TV channel, when probably most of the country was glued to the screen. Tek weh… Oh, why bother?

I don’t speak about the economy too much, because that song is so tired and well known that it’s time to just let the chords waft over my head. I pity anyone who tries to work the levers of financial policy in this country. I took my car for an ‘evaluation’ yesterday. When the technician asked me to start the engine and turn on the indicators, I knew what was supposed to happen and it did. With Jamaica’s economy, so much is wish and hope. Standard economic prescriptions come to Jamaica to die. Devalue to boost the economy? Up go costs, down go some imports, up go some exports, but the biggest impact is not the change much how the economy functions. Maybe, we’ve so much unrecorded assets and capital flows that are in foreign exchange that the devaluation is perverse as many major spenders are protected, or even stand to gain. We get a ratcheting up of costs and the exchange rate, and little shift in competitiveness.

Like a plane, I need to fly in some clear air. I will take a look at Manchester and see if Mandeville and its normally lush hills offers any sign that things are really different than what I see from the hillsides of Kingston.

Moaning and groaning is hard not to do

I keep saying to myself that I will not just be another moaner and groaner. I was in Barbados the past weekend, and a friend asked if I had gotten into the call-in programs in Jamaica. I told him that I found them to be too much moaning and groaning (M&G) and not enough grappling with real issues. Truth is, I have not given them much time, but when I have what I found was a lot of M&G. But, it’s really hard to be otherwise. Just look at the past 18 hours since I stepped off the place at NMIA yesterday.

I listened to the radio on the drive home: it was the BBC World Service. Gloom and doom from all over the world. I get home just in time for the 7pm news and listened while I unpacked my bags. What? Our single gymnast for the Commonwealth Games, wont be going? Why?

We wont get the chance to see this, because we fall over on our way to Glasgow!
We wont get the chance to see this, because we fall over on our way to Glasgow!
Administrative error! International federation fees not paid? Surely, not? Oh, yes they didn’t. Charlie Brown, where are you? Good grief!

But, there’s the perennial upside to things terrible in Jamaica. Chronixx was being featured on the Jimmy Fallon late night show on NBC. Shaggy was extolling the nation to pull for the yute. I did, and spread the link as wide as I could.

Of course, the water shortage is everyone’s problem. I had heard that rain fell during the afternoon. I mentioned it to the Immigration Officer on arrival: “It came from the sky?” she asked me, as if I was a frothing madman. I told her I presumed so. She said she’d not seen a drop. I walked out of the airport and had to agree, as I saw the hazy sky above and it felt just like west Africa and the Harmatan season. I drove home in the dry heat and reached home. I unpacked and gradually set myself up to watch Chronixx. Wait! Let me take a shower, after all that travelling. It was 10pm. I turned on the shower, and waited for the water to hit my head. One drop eked out of the shower head. I forgot so easily, after a long weekend in Barbados, which has had great rains in the past months after its dry spell. We have lock off. Minister Pickersgill has tried to put urgency into something that he had not treated with urgency before. Too little and too late. I did not see any leaks on the drive home. Yea! I read that there is now a hotline and text messaging service to report leaks. Goodie! Stops people having to use the radio call in programs. It should be easy to develop an app that could pinpoint the leaks and give the GPS locations. Guess what? Detroit is just about to introduce one.

But, Detroit is not the first: Wessex, in south England, had it in 2011. Jamaica, which so loves jumping onto a band wagon, has been slow to jump onto those rolling in the direction of progress, preferring those heading down the road to nowhere.Screenshot 2014-07-23 08.22.22 Did the Minister really say “My fellow Jamaicans…”, or was it “My fool, fool. Jamaicans…”? Today’s Observer hits the right buttons on the man-made disaster that is the water crisis. We put men in charge and maybe a woman would have figured out the answer faster, they certainly show no idea of knowing where their are Rs are relative to their As.

I will not give up hope on what seems like a hopeless case. That’s what patriotism is, I guess. However, next time I hear the phrase “working, working, working…” I may just have to pull out my finger from my ear and talk a good long walk to Vale Royal and start by saying, “Listen!…”

I saw the recession, Barbados

Barbados is in recession, we are told, but it’s a duck on water: it’s not apparent on the surface. It is not a case of a deep, dark recession, where people are putting everything in hock to make their daily bread. Now, Barbadians have a long history of not exposing their situations, either good or bad fortune. Have a good job? Don’t show it with a big flashy car; that beat-up jalopy is just dandy. Build that house, but keep its design modest: time was when you paid less tax if the house exterior was unpainted, so beware the bare concrete look. By contrast, Jamaicans love to be flash, even when they are facing a financial crash. But, all the talk of weak economic activity has some basis, I figured.

I wanted to explore some real life observations. I met or spoke to some friends, who are all in different circumstances, and I talked to some people I met along the way.

Here’s what some people told me, yesterday.

One friend had lost her job in a telecom company, after they outsourced service work. She tried doing some projects for a year or so, but has been looking for work the last three months. She’s one of the best people I ever met in customer service, so if she is true to form a job won’t be long coming. She has kids to raise, and they are great strains on the budget, usually. Will she find work? Her attitude is all positive, but is that bravado? We will see.

A lady working in a department store: My wages have not risen, but prices keep going up. She was grateful to still have a job, though, and was only just back from vacation, on island.

A friend who owns a small restaurant: We had 27 people in for breakfast, today. We were run off our feet. He and I played golf in the afternoon, once the restaurant had closed. We took the twilight special of two-for-one. Stretch those dollars. I know that he and his wife are going to leave Barbados in coming months, for the UK. Why? Cost of local health care. They’ll take a hit renting in England, but they will have NHS benefits. The other factor is that most close family members are in England.

Financial analyst friend: Have you seen the prices for Kadooment costumes?20140722-070809-25689917.jpgHow fitting (weak pun) that this featured as a cartoon in the Nation, today. He’s working as a regional consultant, and his plate seems full, but that hasn’t stopped him trying some income earning on the side. He wants to replace his car, but said he’ll settle for a paint job.

Restaurant owner and band member: We have been open three months and customers are coming, both locals and tourists, and we need locals, most of whom come for nearby offices. However, he did see lots of signs of an economy that can’t progress because it’s still locked into some old social divisions, that largely focus on race. The yacht club’s doors open for Barbados whites who are members, and for the blacks who work there. The beach is public access, so the exclusive entrance must give way to the many black bodies that can reach the white sand from other points and all mingle in the sea. A bit ludicrous? Maybe, but not trivial. Some people are stuck where they are placed, daring not to challenge the rejection. Some people are busily placing people where they feel they belong. That means a waste of talent. Would that persist if economic conditions were dire?

We get the signs of political struggle over a cake that is not expanding. The government has introduced recently a new solid waste tax. (Ironically, Australia just repealed its environmental taxes.) The opposition are going to walk the talk this coming weekend, if their leader, Mia Mottley’s, proposal gets support. However, the usual bun fight of so-called party MP partners is going on, as Kerry Simmonds says he won’t speak at the proposed event.

People say freely the government is a joke, and those saying so are not opposition partisans. They say the finance minister knows nothing. In combination, they are sinking the SS Bimshire.

The central bank governor has been singing a happy tune that all will be well, by and by, or will it be bye bye? 20140722-071408-26048848.jpg He, too, cannot worm his way out of criticism. Year-end will be an interesting time for reminiscences.

Economist turned into politics for Clyde Mascoll, now an opposition MP, and he’s saying that Barbados cannot avoid putting out its hands for IMF help. Unemployment at 20 percent, more borrowing and higher debt, smaller economy, foreign exchange problems all point this way. The government overspending is at the root of all of this, he contends.

The government has been bolstering the economy, for sure, sometime in partnership with the private sector. On the face of it, that’s resulted in some spruced up public buildings. Where the private sector has had to go it alone, say in some hotels, the signs of dilapidation are clear.

South coast hotel needing some TLC
I heard that the airport air bridges have been bought, but won’t yet be installed. Some officials think it’s good for tourism to have visitors experience that waft of hot air as they exit the plane.

Run down and seedy would be a good description of a too significant portion of hotels on the south coast.

Bank branch looking lopped off

Minted people on the west coast may still be helping that side out. Wasn’t that Robin van Persie who just ordered a burger?

The picture is complicated. Many Bajan businesses are run by Trindiad owners, so now a popular chain, formerly ‘Big B’, now spouts the name ‘Massy Stores’. Should that be ‘massa’? Who’s in charge of Neal and Massy marketing? Investors are there wanting to renovate property, but word is that they get caught up in red tape, but that may be pocket filling. What is being done to enhance the image of the island? Little things could go a long way. One person mentioned how appealing Bridgetown could become with a facelift of its waterfront, including making it a pleasant walking area that highlights the attractiveness of its historic buildings.

People are spending. Let’s not pretend, otherwise. Friday night at a very good south coast restaurant showed that fine dining seemed to be doing alright. The place was rammed, upstairs and down. Outside, many took the evening air along the boardwalk. I visited a friend whose husband is a tennis coach. The summer camp was full.i didn’t ask how gate numbers were, but parents had not tried saving money by parking kids at home. Maybe, savings came from bringing lunch instead of buying it. I went to watch a friend’s son play cricket. Admitted, Monday morning during July is not when I’d expect to see a big crowd, but two mums seemed sparce. Where were the other parents? Another friend also runs a tennis coaching business. Kids keep coming. Parents who can are still investing in their little one’s futures. Is it do, got others?

Unlike Jamaica, where poverty stares you in the face in many places, Barbadians who are poor are much less visible. Barbadians are not on the constant hustle, the way Jamaicans seem to be. No begging to see. No windscreen washers. But, you get boys sitting on the corner, looking around in areas where there’s nothing much to see. Barbados has its rough areas, where few tourists tread. The raggedy youths running up roads are not near the hotels.

Barbados is more hanging on than fallen over and struggling to get up. Well, that’s what the eyes see.

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