Notes From a Native Son – Are We Facing the Point of No-Return?

Hal Austin

Two recent events should have shaken Barbadian society to the root. The first was the plea by former prime minister Owen Arthur for a truce on the dangerous standoff between the two dominant political parties on what to do about our badly managed economy, and for a cross-party National Commission on the Economic Development of Barbados. He did not put it in such words, but the sentiment is the same: if this generation of political leaders is going to pass on a sustainable economy and tolerant and stable society to future generations we have to call a halt on the political tribalism led by this terrible Ineptocracy (I love the word) and put our heads together in the interest of future generations.

The development, closely linked to the first, came out of the confusing and misleading hysteria about the future of Almond Resorts, was the call by Bjorn Bjerkhamn, the wealthy Norwegian, who now brands himself a ‘Barbadian’ on the basis of over 50 years of residence and, no doubt, a local passport. Mr Bjerkhamn is one of the wealthiest of the so-called New Barbadians, people who have moved from the four corners of the world and have sought to appropriate our lovely island and call it home. Some of them have nothing but contempt for local people, although this may not apply to Mr Bjerkhamn. I think I have some form on this: I have lived in Britain for over twice as long as I have lived in Barbados. Armed with my British passport, I am still reminded almost every day that I am an immigrant and any children or grandchildren those of us who have lived in Britain since the 1960s have, are called second-generation, or third-generation immigrants. It is a burden I am prepared to carry on my shoulders, since I challenge any man or woman to be more Barbadian than I.

In fact, to be brutally honest, not a day goes by without my thinking of the Ivy, that wonderful small town just off Government Hill and Howells X Road, where I was born and where my maternal grandmother, Mama, showed me the real meaning of unconditional love – and good food. My heart belongs to the Ivy and its people, which in its small way, has produced – the author apart – some of the most brilliant people in our national history – including St Giles, the most under-rated school in the country. Those from Carrington Village may challenge this, even though the best of them went to St Giles, but they are minnows. Let no man say he is more Barbadian than I, even Mr Bjerkhamn, who on the basis of my UK experience, is simply a Nordic immigrant.

But this is the elephant in the room: foreigners buying up Barbados as if there is no tomorrow and our inept politicians and senior civil servants standing idly by and allowing this to take place. Barbadians are proud people and it hurts to see the most attractive parts of our landscape being sold to foreigners – traditional Caricom citizens excepted – just because they have fat wallets.

Can’t our politicians understand this? Don’t they have any dignity or national pride? Why should we allow some Irish-Canadian to turn Skeete’s Bay in to part of his version of Xanadu, his fantasy bit of Paradise; or some failed bathroom and kitchen maker to establish an upmarket estate on the West Coast for American hedge fund owners and semi-literate British footballers; or allow an over-ambitious local economist to use taxpayers’ money to buy a white elephant of a hotel to satisfy his own desires?

Barbados belongs to its people, and their children and their children’s children, not to politicians who can see no further than the next election, or civil servants who cannot see past their salaries and pensions. It is interesting that it has taken a foreigner, no matter how long he has lived in Barbados, to raise this important national question of nationality and ownership. That he has (or part owns) Port St Charles, St Peter’s Bay, Sapphire Beach – and the other inappropriate re-naming of traditional and provides jobs for over 3000 people is no excuse. Does that mean when the Russian oligarchs come knocking at our door with their ill-gotten gains that we will curl up and allow them to tickle our bellies? Most of Bjerkhamn’s wealth, or at least a substantial part, came from Barbadian taxpayers for work undertaken on public projects by his constructions firms.

How much new money did he arrive in Barbados with? How much did Paul Doyle bring with him? I will bet my right arm that Doyle’s bank is a local Canadian bank. Nothing wrong with that, but how many local small businesses do these Canadian banks lend to?

Our ever so clever lawyers, accountants, estate agents, politicians, planners and others daily conspire in selling our birthplace for thirty pieces of silver.

This is where Arthur’s call for a national commission comes in. Let us all who really care about the future of Barbados put our heads together in a non-party political way to rescue that poor but wonderful island Barbados from these foreign carpetbaggers.


  • @robert

    Equally you could have responded to the points you believe to be substantive.


  • Hi robert ross


  • @ David

    Don’t you think I write enough? LOL My wife keeps telling me to find something better to do. But see my responses to Bush and then to you…the ‘to be ourselves’ response…that is US without all the conditioning we’ve suffered from since we were in short trousers and navy knickers. There are so many things that have spoiled us.


  • @Enuff
    Cuh dear man, you of all people should know better than to interfere with Bushies’s analogies…
    There is absolutely no comparison between a woman who sells her body for sexual pleasure and someone who uses special skills to make clothes for sale…

    …you just wake up from a long nap…?

    The former says “look how beautiful I am, come and have your way…. That will cost you X forex. Just let me know your pleasure- special discounts for regular visitors. We have regular medical checks done for your safety.

    A Dressmaker says ” highest quality and best fit, made to your specifications… We offer prompt service with a smile.”


  • Bush Tea did you read Lowdown in the Nationnews ?


  • At the end of the second world war, several European states such as Austria and Switzerland, made it illegal for foreigners (i.e Germans) to own property in their countries. This was to stop outsiders from buying up chalets, ski slopes or sites of natural beauty as tourist destinations or holiday homes, to prevent foreigners screwing up the housing market and depriving locals of their patrimony. Yet these countries experienced a tourist boom when Alpine destinations became chic in the 60’s and 70’s and large sums of money were accrued by locals as a result. Later it was no longer an issue when these countries became wealthy in their own right. I do agree that what little land is left in Barbados should be left to Bajans and yes, the diaspora should be included.


  • Hypocrisy: Wikipedia definition: The state of pretending to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that one does not actually have.

    Hypocracy: Inkwell definition: A government which won an election on the basis of promises it made but had no intention of fulfilling.

    Hypocrasy: Definition??? ….. Anyone???


  • @ Bushie
    A dressmaker is NOT a model, the latter uses her beauty to make money just like a prostitute just not the same ‘part(s)’ of what makes her beautiful.
    I am finished!!


  • @ Enuff
    Apologies. You did say fashion MODEL.

    It still is not the same thing. Indeed, a fashion model is EXACTLY the kind of model that Bushie is advocating for Barbados.

    This is the kind of model that has refined their character and physical assets by honest hard work, by good living and commitment to standards and by becoming the kind of role model that others want to emulate.

    Persons do not become models by selling their asse(t)s to to the highest bidder for sexual pleasure…..( Well they DO become models… models of ridicule.)

    What kind of ‘model’ has thousands of its citizens unemployed on the block…. (Each with an expensive education provided by the state – up to and including advanced degrees,). While semi literate foreigners who may have accumulated wealth through dubious means, are allowed to come here, buy the best land, companies and assets, and then to set OUR national agenda?

    What ‘model’ is it to have a near 100% educated population who are content to sit back and expect people from ‘over and away’ to come here and provide work ($$$$) for them?
    Is that a fashion model mentality or a whore mentality?

    There is NO VISION among our leaders. By leaders, Bushie is including, not only the obvious idiots in charge, but also those here on this blog who see themselves as leaders in thinking …. Like , YARDBROOM, INKWELL,GP,DAVID (both BU and VOB 🙂 ). BAFBFP ETC….NO VISION!!! Lots of brain. Lots of knowledge. Lots of ideas. BUT NO VISION.
    …so what kind of leaders do you expect us to have…..?
    And where there is no vision…. People get exactly what they deserve….

    The Cooperative government approach is the ULTIMATE available mechanism to facilitate;
    – enfranchisement
    – transparency and openness
    – FOI
    – accountability of leadership
    – pooling of responsibility for national progress
    – cost of governance
    – quality of governence

    Bushie has outlined the simplicity of introducing this concept IN TIME FOR NEXT ELECTION
    Bushie has Identified the MOST VITAL COMPONENT required for its success – A HONEST AND COMMITTED PROCESS MANAGER (in the form of CASWELL)

    Have we explored the idea? Criticized it? Discounted it? Improved it?

    Yet people here persist in their quest to find richer an less demanding ‘JOHNS’ to patronize our national fare…



  • Hi Bush Tea
    You are in good form this morning, I am forward defensive bat and pad close together, bat handle angled down and watching the ball on to the bat.


  • Good play Yardie, 🙂
    Bushie was trying to elicit an attacking shot… Have a man at silly midon in waiting ( can’t miss him, smells of old onions…)


  • I formin’ the FIRST registered political party in Barbados. It will be called the United Artisan Effort and its leaders will be liable to their shirt buttons for any misdeeds while in office. Our decisions will be challengeable in court. Who wid me …? (No lawyers please, I intend to make the office of Attorney General redundant and transfer all relevant responsibilities to a Civil Servant).

    The party will implement an office of Contractor General. The candidate will be a non-Barbadian with NO previous Barbadian ties. All statutory corporations will be incorporated into central Government. All retiring high court Judges will be replaced with Non-Caribbean Commonwealth personnel.

    Engineers, natural science and arisan/production based individuals will be given an appropriate amont of management training to fill ALL senior openings ahead of economists and social science types, in the Civil Service as the positions become available.

    The Ministries of Housing and Culture will be summarily shut … so too the Productivity Council and the recently set up Community Councils.

    International travel by Public Servants including Ministers will be cut by ninety percent and of such expenditure will be tracked and publically reported on yearly. And so on.

    The Credit Unions will be allowed to set up their own banks and will be invited into the process of assisting failing companies, including hotels.

    Neil ana Massey will be forced to find ways of earning some of the foreign exchange that it is so use to spending … and so on


  • @ Bushie
    I still don’t see it as prostitution….at least we are on the same page ref a ‘fashion model’ model for Barbados. Let the foreigners buy the west coast–it is a swamp even the Arawaks and Caribs knew that and one swell away from being washed away. Best lands?? Not!!! And again I ask, how much of the lands recently developed were new developments versus Redevelopments and how many were prevously locally owned?
    You against foreign money and BAFBFP promoting the invasion of ‘foreigners’ brains….lol.


  • @
    “Engineers, natural science and arisan/production based individuals will be given an appropriate amont of management training to fill ALL senior openings ahead of economists and social science types, in the Civil Service as the positions become available.”

    The educational background of the prson is not what’s critical, but the ability to be able to understand the role of each sector/ministry and to develop sectoral policy that is harmonious across each sector and in sync with a national objective i.e. horizontal integration of policy.


    Does not seem that your manifesto is going to be much different than what is currently on offer. And in any event we must deal with items that have larger orders of magnitude if we are to change things. Why did you not ask us help develop the manifesto. These may include a strategic default; abandoning the defense force; firing the governor general; land reform; using Bajan abroad as a military force in the fight for economic survival; right to recall any elected official; rewrite the constitution; realignment of international relations; and so on.


  • Bottomline there must be a ‘Bajan Spring’ to provoke the lateral thinking required for a movement as suggested to take root no?


  • Yes, and we will also have to make any one god system illegal. We can proceed now to write a new constitution on the basis that we already have the power to govern ourselves. Thus ignoring the place on Bay Street or in Parliament Buildings LOL. You are nominated as interim PM to oversee the transition. Of course you’ll have to receive the backing of the people through voting here LOL


  • @ Pacha

    I ain’ nah dictator, even though I am not too opposed to them. Man I welcome suggestions. But I must warn of the danger to the civilian population of firing an army of trained killers LOL.

    I would also thread lightly with our relationship with Britain. I say get on the road to large scale productive export before we tackle the GG (tourism, you know how…). The other items are fine. But my special shine is for a transformation of the Senate to one that truly represents minority interests. We are all minorities in some way. So the party will change the constitution (we may have to wring arms to get the two thirds majority) to have Senate seats allocated religious groups (three), business types (four), environmentalists (one), physical demographics (one to rural one to urban), gender (three) and so on …


    Your are a real Bajan. Want to play it safe viz a viz the defense force uh. These guys are generally little more than boy scouts. They have never fought any real wars anywhere and during the events in Grenada the Americans were joking about them. In any event they were nowhere near the front lines. We hear that now they have a few special operations units though. But can’t judge what that means. LOL. But cyber warfare is a new and potentially profitable ‘industry’ and we maybe able to commercialize this force and have them operating like Ze, for example. The only thing is that Barbados may be seen by some as a threat and treated accordingly. This will no doubt scare us all. No LOL. The Saudis, the Qataris and others are outsourcing a lot of this kind of ‘work’ these days – if you want Forex and have potentially dangerous men/women on your hands. LOL

    We still think that your recommendations are properly located on the periphery of the problems we face Mr Prime Minister. No amount of tinkering will fix any of this. We are especially concerned that a man of your stature would be unwilling to sever the existing relations with the Mother Country. LOL


    As far as large scale production is concerned, it is not going to happen because the costs of all the inputs in Barbados are to high. Why do you think there have been few new hotels in Barbados in about 30 years. Recently, there might have been a few but that does not change the underlying industry structure. This is the real problem that companies like Almond will continue to face and have faced for 30 to 40 years. To the point where most of the hotel industry is unprofitable and there is no amount of tinkering that will fix this. Manufacturing was allways an ‘industry’ not treated with any degree of seriousness in Barbados. Things are unlikely to change anytime soon, even if industrial transformation was possible. We are guided that it is not.


  • @Pacha

    Interesting that our last comments were posted at about the same time albeit on different blogs:

    Submitted on 2012/04/24 at 7:44 AM

    Interesting observation from Colin Jordan who is President of the Barbados Hotel Tourism Association today. He speaks to a systemic problem facing the tourism industry which sees them battling high cost and unable to refurbish plant which is a routine requirement in that kind of business. This is where we have hedged all our bets and if his observation is correct we are in for a rough ride. There is no reason why we should disbelieve him given his accounting training and intimacy with the hotel product. We need to wake up!

    Are there stats about how many hotels have closed across the region?


    Dictatorship! We were talking about a form of direct democracy were the PM Sir has no more power than any other citizen. Were the populace are the leaders and the current leaders would be the real servants of the people. Right now the PM of Barbados has more relative power than the President of the USA. This is what has to be focused on if we are to find a better way


  • @ David
    With all due respect to you as a kind host. We have little respect for the Colin Jordans of this world. To us these are the people who sat down on their asses for all these years and presided over the monstrous malaise that we now face. We have to stop respecting people in Barbados because they have a few useless degrees and hold position of prominence. We hate to be in a position where hotel owners in Barbados or the hotel industry has to be defended by us. However, for 40 years these problem have been existing and as a country we have always had a mealy mouth approach to them. We have seen many Colin Jordans come and go but the problems continue to rise, decade after decade. But this is a deeper problem than Jordan or a bankrupt hotel owing culture. To us this represents that has implications for our survival as a people. Until we can find a way out of this failing construct the hotel industry in Barbados will experience a major collapse.


  • @ David
    We have just had a look at the Colin Jordan piece. Thiry years ago he could have made this same comment and he would have been right. In fact ‘hoteliers’ and their managerial class have been complaining all this time but Barbados has always had no strategic response.


  • @ David
    Sorry, we don’t have current data on hotel closings in the Caribbean. However, when considering the structure of the hotel industry a major occurence took place when Butch bought aquired a number of hotel that included one in Barbados and a few in St. Lucia. Barbadians should have recieved a wake up call when Butch Stewart (Stuart) afer many years refused to developed the Barbadian property. He left it to be in ruins for nearly a decade. Today, this same property has been able to attract public support. How is it that this could make sense, short term, long term?


  • @Pacha

    With respect the reference was to Jordans’s mouthings rather than any bend down reference to the man. You are correct of course that the tourism model we have is not efficiently aligned to the market. The arcane thinking which has brought us to where we are no doubt reaches to all the other areas of civil society where decisions have to be made.


  • @ David
    Point taken. But if we want to fix this we have to get into the psyche of the Barbadian. For it is there where these problems begin and where the solution must come. We may find that the political establishment or the economic oligarchs are unhelpful in making the different Barbados that we may seek.


  • Everyday the current government remain in office is two days towards the point of no return …


  • @ austin
    Yours assumes that any ‘government’ within the current paradigm can correct our ills. We think you mean an Owen Arthur’s BLP led regime. By definition the current opposition is part of the government right now and there are few ideas for transformation. Was it not this same tired BLP that run out of steam a few years ago? What would really change if the BLP takes the power of the people? These are not 3 or 4 year problems. These problems go back for decades and implicate both ‘leading’ political parties. Yes, we believe that a gullible Barbadian public may opt to exchange Tweedledee for Tweedledum but beside the emotion for vengeance NOTHING fundamentally will change the next day or five years thereafter. Are we to continue firing governments – because we seem to be dealing with the same issues for the last 50 years. If as a people this is our strategic response we may well be deserving of the future that beckons. The problems that Barbados is facing and will continue to face, regardless of who is in government will continue except there is some fundamental transformation. We are not persuaded that a one man cult will make any difference. Regardless to who is the cult leader. Why would thinking people want a return of Owen Arthur when everything he knows, the economic models by which he is guided are collapsing all over the world and the people he looks to for guidance are themselves in a quandary. Come on ‘peoples’ this is not the time to be dependent.


    How come you are not frightened of well trained armed men walking around on Miami Beach (Enterprise Beach) with M16s among ordinary citizens and visitors. My friend the military security state is upon us all? LOL.


  • Ah boy Pacha

    I gun respond to as many things as I can on the things that you mention’.

    High costs in tourism is a relative consideration isn’t it? If the Barbados brand and the people that it attracts is of a low spend nature then of course our cost will be high. But as it stands the hotels are the lowest paying of the various industries in Barbados and workers are expected to work longer hours and with a smile … hmmm. NO. …! The business model that was used, that of being attractive to return visitors (who were the spenders) has died a natural death (along with the patrons). Forty years of repeat visitors is as long as one could expect from that kind of business. Why do you think Peach and Quiet is being sold? Not only is the proprietor aging, but so too are his guests, those that are still alive.

    Export driven manufacturing under a new dispensation will be attained through the out fitting of the overseas agencies with a highly skilled/trained effective results oriented sales force. Weather made up of Barbadians or not is immaterial, just the best available talent is all that the party will seek. These people will seek out opportunities and develop demand and so on.

    And so on …


    In the tourism industry the major costs are labour, water, land taxes, marketing, maintenance etc. It is self-defeating to talk about the relative quality of the Barbados tourism product when we don’t really understand or underestimate the potency of the competitive environment. People like us who travel often see higher quality products in many, many other places. Some not to far from Barbados. Sometimes there is a sense that Barbados does not have too much to offer or that the industry is tired and cannot develop further. So labour cost alone is unlikely to turn an investor away but the combination of the internal factors listed above are lethal. Now the question has to be – what can we do to transform the internally (Barbados) generated cost base of the industry? And if this is possible how would the profitability be impacted? If profitability is then ameliorated – what would be the new competitive conditions? In short, we could start by working backwards, instead of the traditional worker driver approaches we could employ a holistic approach that involves other supportive industries – at least as a thought experiment. This could be very painful. Some of this has been done over the years in a quixotic fashion thus failing to transform the industry.

    The industry should not be dying with any particular group of people. I can’t agree with you on the manufacturing idea. Neither the local, regional or international circumstances suggest this initiative could be successful.


  • If you’re considered ‘a second-generation-immigrant’ after fifty years of living in the UK, (yes FIFTY YEARS!!) then it’s your own fault for not making the contribution which you should have done (not necessarily you, personally) but your people! If, unlike the Indians and other intelligent people, you’re not going to devote your energies to making a worthwhile contribution to this country but instead, are going to be involved in countless crime, mugging, murdering, raping and the rest, what further impression do you expect peopole to have of you!


  • this thing isn’t working properly, WP n other icons getting in the way, Dave!! anyhow, to continue: what further impression do you expect people to have of you! Muggers aren’t usually welcome by any community, therefore can you be surprised that you’re not appreciated! Listen, all the writing for this journal and that newspaper which you did while over here, has all been in vain, when your people aren’t appreciated. That’s where I come in, but I’m getting tired now! I have got the aptitude but not the oppoortunity. this thing’s messing about again – i gone!! 🙂



    Look come back ha ha ha ha.


    Of course Government can do so much in relieving its burden on the trade, maybe just settling with the FX that is gained through salaries and the payment of utility other business bills. The holistic approach toward its development has always been spoken about and yes anyone who can effectively implement this would be deservin’ of national hero status, but I wish I had figures to back up my claim on the repeat guests. I have a hunch that those who know are remaining quiet.

    I see Barbados’ ability to produce and export as a business that is seeking to compete in a shark infested environment and the best possible way to do so as I see it is to outfit yourself with a sales force that is second to none. I think of NCR in the 70’s and 80’s when it succeeded in moving shop owners away from tabulating on pieces of brown paper and so on. It was hard selling. Operatives in the Life insurance business understand this concept very well. Sellers “create” opportunities and that is where the investment in staffing should be made.

    and so on …


  • BAF, i seem to have shut e up!! Looka, he generation uh Bajans come ova hay n write a lot uh *hite in d West Indian papers, week after week, n month after month, trying to song wise n, wha d **** duh achieve!! bugger-all! I daresay he line he pockets wid a house or two up in d Heights but, as for doing anything to help the West Indians in Britain, they’ve been an abysmal failure. In my view, life here for us, is now worse than it was the fifty years ago to which he refers, and how he’s writing again, to youthis time. LOL. I wish wunna all luck. reckon you’ll need it. this thing’s messing about again!!


  • Still relevant six years later.


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