Getting Serious About The Cost of Living Debate

Dennis Clarke, General Secretary, NUPW - Photo Credit: Nation

The audit tests revealed that for the financial years 2007-2009 in a sample of sixty-seven vehicles, forty-one (41) consigned to individuals, with a customs value of $485,233.39, were seen in the Customs computerized system ASYCUDA ++ as released without the payment of customs duty – Auditor General Report 2009 Section 3.82


BU wishes to congratulate new Editor in Chief of the Nation Newspaper Kaymar Jordan. Her effort to mobilize a national conversation about the politicised and worrying issue of the rising cost of living is commendable. We could question the motive of the Nation to align itself with the number one public concern,  there is significant earned media to be had maybe? Let us give the newspaper the benefit of a narrow doubt.

Unfortunately high expectations held by BU and others who attended the town hall meeting were not met. We could could point to the fact that Editor in Chief Kaymar Jordan was unable to control the mouthings of the panellists led by Minister Haynesley Benn who broke protocol by lambasting his host. Jordan’s inexperience as a moderator was also exposed by how she managed feedback from the floor, who wanted to hear Gline Clarke, Jepter Ince and others of that ilk?

We observed the Nation is currently canvassing Bajans on Facebook to determine the next topic of discussion at a next town hall scheduled for May. It was our expectation the Nation would have continued to hammer away at the cost of living issue using different perspectives, the objective, to help to mobilize Barbadians to achieve a level of consciousness which might catalyse them to a higher level of consumer advocacy. If we understand their PR strategy correctly they are off to the next issue and in the process any momentum created from the first town hall is effectively sabotaged. The focus of the first town hall was on commodities, what about services?

Less than twenty four hours after the town hall the General Secretary of the NUPW was in the media defending customs officers, who he suggests are being used as ‘whipping boys’ in the cost of living debate. Yes Mr. Dennis Clarke, in the absence of information we will continue to place the customs department under the microscope. A lackadaisical approach best describes how custom officer are observed to perform their jobs, at the sea and air ports in particular. Barbados is a small place and the behaviour of custom officers can be easily discerned in their interacts with the public. They appear to be a law onto themselves. Is there a command and control structure in position at the Comptroller of Customs? Many custom officers appear to perform duties based on personal positions. It does not take an Einstein to appreciate that low productivity at the Comptroller of Customs equates to higher cost of goods to Barbadians.

The eagerness with which the NUPW has defended the woeful work ethic of customs officers, especially at the Barbados Port Authority, makes them unpatriotic and part of the problem. A significant boost to productivity by the customs department will impact positively on the cost of doing business in Barbados. A discussion among most business people in Barbados will immediately highlight the challenges of doing business with the Office of the Comptroller of Customs, specifically the lack of professionalism of customs officers. The recent revelation that many goods have had to be reclassified and that there is one company in danger of being closed because of under invoicing has come has no surprise to BU. They should continue to dig!

Successive governments have avoided confronting the problem posed by inefficient management practices by the Office of Comptroller of Customs. The time has come to smash heads with the NUPW who by their actions through the years are complicit in destabilizing the economy of Barbados. The myopia demonstrated by the NUPW, Comptroller of Customs and the Ministry of Finance by their procrastinating through the years has significantly contributed to the current economic challenges. Barbadians are sick and tired of the diatribes of ministers past and present who continue to betray the confidence placed in them by the electorate of Barbados.

We all know what is contributing to the problem of high cost of living, it is time to fix it!

0 thoughts on “Getting Serious About The Cost of Living Debate

  1. Teefing pervades this society from top to bottom.

    This translates into increased costs.

    Low productivuty is just one more form of teefing with time being the commodity being teefed.

  2. Ca dear, David giv’ Kaymar Jordan de benefit of a “narrow doubt”… and judging from de rest ah de article you got to concur, man dey can’ be nah doubt… Da whole exercise did only PR PR PR..!

    My man David Neilands get up and say dat he ain’ shame tah mek a dollar, my God but someone should ah remind he dat it is out ah de pockets ah bajans dat he mekkin’ dis dollor, particularly as a result ah exploiting peoples need to have access to food!!

    David you must understand that the Port is one of the least of the issues involved with this thing, and when one considers that any costs incurred by the distribution chain at source is only magnified (ie. profited on) by the “Mark Up” tradition of doing business ’bout hey… one would realise that the people who benefit most from such activity at the Port don’ even work dey!

  3. … but making a $ means covering costs.

    Costs are inflated due to teefing.

    So cost of living is inflated too.

    Suppose an item sells for $11.00 of which $1.00 is profit.

    Suppose teefing accounts for $5.00 of the remaining $10.00 cost.

    If that component could be reduced the cost of libving would fall.

    …. so too would the revenue of the supermarkets and probably the GDP.

    The economy using O$A’s eonomic model may actually benefit from the teefing which may be viewed as one of the goods and services making up the GDP economic indicator.

  4. The eagerness with which the NUPW has defended the woeful work ethic of customs officers, especially at the Barbados Port Authority, makes them unpatriotic and part of the problem
    Unpatriotic? For defending his union members? Gimme a break!!! If you want to critique Clarke for speaking up for his Union members “unpatriotic” would not be the word I would choose. In any event why lay the blame in higher COL at the feet of the Customs Officers? Don’t they have a vested interest in having a lower COL? They shop at the same stores as the rest of the public.

    • @Sargeant

      Assume that you made the above comment tongue in cheek.

      We have unions, NUPW included which take delight in believing that negotiating annual increases based on cost a living % is an entitlement.

      The consequence is we have a pack of lazy army of occupation we called the civil service and who nobody wants to offend by referring to them as such.

      Anyway what about all that revenue leaked at the Port by customs not collecting it? What is the fallout from that multiplied several fold?

      You see the point?

  5. Oh go John,

    Now you have a moral responsibility to define “teefing” causing I feel dat allotta people bout hey gun got to plead guilty …!

    You see if there is no definitive or standard way to determine the value of a man’s effort in the providing of a service to the consumer all the teefs could very easily hide in the open …!

  6. Instead of targeting the Port, Tony Marshall’s favorite whipping boy, why not focus on Land Lords, and the cost of Banking and Insurance and Legal Services, not to mention the tardy(nonproductive) nature of their servicing business houses.

    In any event, if business houses that directly serve consumers really cared about the COL, they would pass increases in costs directly though to the consumer instead of marking up on these costs and profiting by so doing …

  7. As lazy as the army of occupation may be, they still stack up very favorably to the stagnating operatives in the justice system in these parts …

    • The model in Barbados is so broken it makes one sick!

      Let us look at the sugar cane indistry.

      We have a model in place where the union negotiates pay increases for the workers.

      The industry is riddled with debt.

      On what basis are increases paid?

      BU is not saying the workers do not deserve higher wages but it should be a function of productivity perhaps?

  8. The merchants are the biggest theives ’bout here, and they have been at it for hundreds of years and customs comes a close second.

    The merchants and customs are experts at theiving.

    Sucking the people dry.

  9. Oh Dear Dear David, I have witnessed Marshall throw a pebble or two in their direction, nothing to shattering of course, just enough to have us mere mortals believe that good ol’ Marsh is on our side … Sorry David, I don’ buy it … LOL

  10. Random Thoughts

    If the merchants really were concerned about the cost of living ’bout hey they would pass increases in costs directly through to the consumer as opposed to marking up and profiting on them. ..

  11. You know David I have never read or heard, in all my life a criticism to the effect that sugar cane workers do not do what is expected of them… never. They cannot be accused of being non-productive. Their pay, as with all other bottom end remuneration has to be connected or related to the cost of living; if this were not so we would be guilty of returning to a system of quasi slavery. The fault lies elsewhere. If the cost of living cannot be contained, even after Barbados’s brightest and best have thrown their two cents worth into trying to solve the problem, then the result will be the increased cost of local labour. Of course the GoB is welcome to “cheat” as does everyone else in the world, and subsidize inputs to the islands sole cash crop.

  12. The sugar industry in Barbados is is fact a government work for welfare program.
    Growing cane serves a purpose in that it retains the soil and prevents Barbados from becoming a dust bowl.

    food for thought.

    Ordinary bottle of Mount gay rum. sold in Canada for $60. Barbados dollars. Bet the Canadians make the most profit from this.

    LCBO 64444 | 750 mL bottle

    Price: $ 29.95 Canadian
    Spirits, Rum, Light/Amber Rum
    43.0% Alcohol/Vol.

    Made in: Barbados, Barbados
    By: Mount Gay Distilleries Ltd.

  13. @Hants: “The sugar industry in Barbados is is fact a government work for welfare program.

    I agree.

    @Hants: “Growing cane serves a purpose in that it retains the soil and prevents Barbados from becoming a dust bowl.

    I don’t agree.

    I think it would do Barbados much better to use this solar collector we happen to find ourselves blessed with to grow food for ourselves like Potatoes, Beets et al.

    Let’s face it — Brazil can, today, flood the sugar market without noticing a drop in indigenous food production.

    When will Bajans realize they are already behind the curve ball?

  14. @Christopher Halsall,

    It is a fact that Cane retains the soil in Barbados so you would need to find an alternative crop to stop erosion of the soil.

    Barbados needs food security. Imagine that there is an abundance of “west Indian” food crops in every supermarket in Toronto.
    Okras from Costa rica. sweet potatoes from Belize. Yam and Cassava from Honduras. I even saw 4 foot long sugar cane pieces of Sugar cane in a Metro supermarket yesterday.

    Barbados cannot produce enough of anything to supply a supermarket chain in a North American city.

    Neither can Barbados importers buy enough to get quantity discounts.

    Food security first. Then think about niche market products for export.

    As for solar energy, Barbados needs to wake up to the reality that it is blessed with a great source of energy and use the Sun for more than heating water.

  15. So how exactly is this teefing done
    What is stolen
    who exactly steals what
    Where exactly does this teefing take place
    NONE of you can answer the above questions because you know what ?
    You know nothing of what you speak
    Youpeople have to stop the nonsense of generalizing and careless foolish talk talk talk. Many people have been hurt because of careless talk–SHUT UP !

    bUJU BANTON is introuble now because of careless talk
    So called educated people should not be making statements without facts nor a proper understanding of situations. In effort to impress others that we know, we go overboard in our pronouncements. it is a stupid thing from old that must stop.
    Leave Customs to Customs.

  16. @Hants: “It is a fact that Cane retains the soil in Barbados so you would need to find an alternative crop to stop erosion of the soil.

    It is also a fact that any crop takes away from the soil important nutrients.

    That is why sophisticated farmers let a field go fallow once every three years.

    Some let a natural crop grow, and then plough it back into the soil to help the next two years plantation….

  17. Even if inflation were contained would it make the sugar industry as it is currently constituted competitive? If the industry is not competitive how can one justify increasing the wage bill?

    Have not even touched on the fact the industry is funded by government but owned by others?

  18. Dear: Dr. Know-in the Know-You of March 19, 2011 at 9:39 PM “You people have to stop the nonsense of generalizing and careless foolish talk talk talk. Many people have been hurt because of careless talk–SHUT UP !”

    Dear Dr. Know: Why are you being so sensitive?

    Somebody mash you corns?

    (Buju Banton is not in trouble for careless talk. Buju has been convicted because he was willing to buy/sell/distribute/use cocaine. The cocaine thing is a criminal offense, talk isn’t.)

    Quoting Dr. Know “Leave Customs to Customs.”

    I’d much prefer to leave Customs to the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions. I have no confidence that Customs can or will ever disipline themselves.

    If Customs officers don’t tief for themselves and their higher-ups how than can you explain Customs officers living a $300.000 dollars per year on a $30,000 per year salary.

    And remebber remember the old saying “You can hide and buy ground but you can’t hide and work it”

    Or to put it another way we the taxpayers see when you are spending your ill-gotten gains.


    “The merchants are the biggest theives ’bout here”

    You have it right for a change.

  20. Christopher Halsall | March 19, 2011 at 9:12 PM | @Hants: “The sugar industry in Barbados is is fact a government work for welfare program.

    I agree.


    Actually if the true position were known what would emerge would be that GOB was heavily indebted to the sugar industry.

    The Port is made out of sugar money as is the QEH.

    Common sense would indicate that the major economic activity built the Barbados we know today at a time when tourism was in its infancy.

  21. …… yup , if you use the magic of cmpound interest you would find that the sugar industry would be surviving on the interest from the loans it made GOB.

  22. @John the same “magic of compound interest” would find that the sugar industry owes reparations to the slaves and workers who were exploited in the past.

    The sugarcane industry in Barbados is doomed to failure unless there is some new niche market product that can be produced from sugar cane.

    Mount Gay rum is already sold in Canada at the same price as Johnny walker red label. $29.95 Canadian.

  23. I agree 100% with your assessment of the long term prognosis of the sugar industry.

    I think however that any economic activity which is deprived of the use of its assets will after a time shrivel up and die, the sugar cane industry is no different.

    Comes down to the concept of product lifetime which they taught me at University but which the stakeholders in any successful busisness will instinctively know and practice.

    Rum is also the product of an economic activity which like any product is constantly going through variations to keep its market share.

    The day it ceases to change and adapt to market forces it will die, but for sure it will need access to its built up “reserves” when the rainy day comes, … at it most surely will … no different to any other product.

    It is conceivable that Rum may face the same fate cigarettes face as people become more health conscious …… a serious threat.

    However I am sure there will always be a market for Barbados Rum, … so long as there are born and bred Bajans alive.

    Irish whisky, like scotch whisky continues to thrive …… but notice the marketing input.

    With regards reparations, I am sure if you can produce a single slave to receive the cheque the sugar industry will write it, …. but don’t wait too long because like those slaves long dead it too will be dead.

  24. Dear John:
    If someone is owed a debt (or wages for work already performed) and thatt person dies, does the death cancel the debt?

    Oh I wish that I lived in your paradise and that my estate didn’t have to pay my debts.

    • @John

      The problem with your argument is that it is not about reserves but the need to establish by products and new markets.

      Even if the sugar industry had the reserves and the best management practices were not applied to move the industry to the next level you would still be spinning top in mud.

  25. Agree David …… but try running a business that is constantly hamstrung by Government interference and emotion and is also subject to the vagaries of the weather. You will find the best and the worst managers in the sugar industry.

    Those who can break even or turn a profit, and there are some, overcome both the weather …. and the Government. One of Colin Hudson’s favourite graphs was the one with a plot of sugar output vs Government assistance!!

    The Barbados Sugar Industry has been until, the post Independence period, on the cutting edge of technology in the production of sugar from cane.

    That is a simple fact of history.

    Since the late 1980’s it has just been marking time as its assets have been more and more covetously regarded by politicians and their croney’s.

    Economic models that have no economic foresight have been imposed upon it.

    Have a read of Robert Goddard’s article in the William and Mary Quarterly journal.

    I think it is called the Barbados Planter Class and it looks at the period 1980 to 2000 or thereabouts. Historians are documenting the slide.

    The point is the sugar industry didn’t just wake up one day and find itself in the position it is in. It was put there over a period of time, … and I agree that like most economic activities in Barbados, poor management is a factor!!

    It is like the Water Authority, no strategic foresight or planning for too long.

    We will see what we will see!!!!!! …. que sera, sera.

  26. Hants

    The Rum industry is a development of the sugar industry.

    That was 300 years ago.

    The interesting thing is the molasses from which the rum is made will disappear once the sugar industry disappears.

    Can we then claim that the rum is a Barbados product if the only raw material put in is water?

    My bet is that as we discuss, imported molasses is making Barbados rum!!

    … and it may be from Guyana, or Brazil or perhaps even Australia!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Then again, if the sugar industry dies after you find the slave, the cheque could be written by the Rum industry, it has the same history as the sugar indstry!!

  27. I think that you could experiment trapping CO2 in the rum product and market it as “Bublerum” (no chewing required …!)

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