The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – Of Overweight Jockeys and the Road not Taken

Jeff Cumberbatch – Chairman of the FTC and Deputy Dean, Law Faculty, UWI, Cave Hill

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference”

-The Road not Taken –Robert Frost

To my best recollection, each of our Prime Ministers has been blessed with a sharp turn of linguistic wit, ever ready to paint a scenario, no matter how grave, with a memorable turn of phrase.

I vividly recall that on the second day of the debate on the Constitutional amendments of 1974, the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Errol Barrow, (as he then was), plaintively inquiring “Where have all the flowers gone?” a sarcastic dylanesque reference to the glaring absence of the tumultuous crowd that had swarmed the yard of Parliament in protest the day before. Perhaps Mr Tom Adams’ tenure was far too brief for him to bequeath me a memorable phrase, but I feel sure that there must be more than one. And Sir Harold Bernard St John, as he was to become, would have suffered similarly.

However, Prime Minister Sandiford will be remembered for his description of the irremovable force of some meeting the irresistible object of his will. “He was adamant, I was adamant, something had to give” [paraphrased] and his later caricature in calypso intoning “you could like it or you could lump it…none o’ you ain’t brekking up my night rest”. His successor, Mr Owen Arthur continued the tradition with his colourful vernacular description of one Parliament as “po’ rakey”, while I can recall the late Mr David Thompson comparing the local economy to a fatted calf.

The current Prime Minister, Mr Freundel Stuart seems bent on continuing the tradition, if it may be so described. With a clear affection for the classics and for language in general, Mr Stuart has delivered himself of some linguistic gems, although his detractors have sought to use these as further telling evidence of his distance from the electorate. There are some Barbadians who are prepared to accuse writers or speakers of the local heresy of “showing off” whenever they use an unfamiliar word; as if one’s vocabulary should remain at the level of a second form pupil for the balance of one’s existence. Doubtless, some have suffered thusly.

I was struck by Prime Minister Stuart’s use of the collective “carnival” to describe a number of clowns in reference to a group on a previous occasion; and by his metaphor of “sucking on the already painfully sore nipples of the nation” by those who were still demanding economic concessions from the state in the midst of stringency; and last week he switched the figure of speech to approximate the national economy to a horse and the traditional civic entitlements to a jockey. In his words, “The state has found itself in a position where, with spiraling expenditure in those years (the period of satisfied entitlement) and with dwindling revenue, the jockey, it seems has become too heavy for the horse and whenever the jockey becomes too heavy for the horse, the horse cannot compete effectively…”

He is right. Indeed, the very point was made earlier in the same debate by Mr Arthur, who now sits as an Independent MP, when he suggested a reform of the hoary paternalistic approach to assisting citizens that previous administrations had employed over the years.

Of course, even highlighting this new normal comes at an electoral cost, but the manifesto promises of those parties aspiring to office should be tempered nevertheless by this reality. Tradition dies hard, however, and there will of course be the alluring campaign promises of a return to the old ways, although it should be clear even to the proverbial “blind man on the trotting horse in the middle of the street” that those days of near plenty have swiftly receded and are gone forever. Heraclitus’ dictum that you cannot step into the same river twice applies with full force in this context.

So far as my assessment of the budgetary proposals themselves and the subsequent debate is concerned, I was out last week and was therefore limited to reading a transcript of the Finance Minister’s speech and listening online to the reply of the Leader of the Opposition. I have read newspaper extracts only of the other members’ contributions since my return.

My general impression is that we are in a grave circumstance (no pun!). Former Prime Minister Arthur argued cogently that having come to a fork in the economic road, we chose the one less travelled -that of the home grown solution- one that leads inexorably to the imposition of harsh measures, rather than the one more used by the scrunting traveller –that of approaching the International Monetary Fund [IMF] for technical assistance. In his view, it was a judgment call and the current governing administration chose the path that may lead to unwarranted human suffering.

This recourse of approaching the IMF for assistance is one that has been touted time and again in recent months by some prominent economists –among them Mr Arthur himself; Professor Howard; Ms Dukharan; and Dr Worrell- as the optimal solution to our prevailing economic woes.

However, the current administration is adamant that this is not the way, preferring that the citizenry take the bitter medicine of the homegrown recovery. This seeming antipathy to recourse to the IMF is understandable. One of the local sacred cows is the exchange rate of our currency to the US dollar and there might be an innate apprehension on the part of the government that such an avenue is fraught with both the likelihood of devaluation and consequent indelible electoral disfavour. I do not know.

There are equally those who might argue, however, that the recently imposed levy on foreign exchange transactions does serve to reduce the value of the local dollar, resulting in a de facto, though not de jure, devaluation. When, concomitantly, there is an increase in the cost of imports owing to the increase in the rate National Social Responsibility Levy [NSRL], the die is cast.

An enjoyable Whit Monday!

118 thoughts on “The Jeff Cumberbatch Column – Of Overweight Jockeys and the Road not Taken

  1. @Bush Tea June 5, 2017 at 2:30 PM ” should carry his old donkey long home and play with his cars…or something…Only talking shiite now that it suits him”


  2. Ass’ s…….being exposed hurts real, real, real bad dont it….GOOD….lol, hahaha, ,lol.

  3. I think the case of Iceland may be instructive for Barbados. Iceland’s economy is based mainly on tourism and other services. It’s in the middle of the North Atlantic and Iceland’s population is just over 332 000. However Iceland’s GDP is 4 -5 times that of Barbados. Iceland has also recovered from a far more deleterious economic crisis which started in 2007 than what has occurred in Barbados. It is clear that Iceland managed its economic situation with much greater resolve and sense of purpose than we have. Interestingly the Prime Minister that led the restoration of Iceland’s economy was an openly gay female. (Hmm…). However while it is irrefutable that competent management of the economy was implemented in Iceland, I also strongly believe that Iceland membership of European Economic Area which allows access to the EU single market has given Iceland options that Barbados does not have. Nevertheless while Singapore has often been extolled as a model for Barbados I think we should examine Iceland instead.

    As I fantasize about the way forward for Barbados, I would advise the next administration to not only pursue an Icelandic style economic management model but also deepening of regional cooperation say by joining the OECS, adopting the EC dollar and strengthening our relationship with Guyana and Suriname such that free movement of people and capital between Barbados and those two countries is effected and the pursuit of free trade with Brazil, Central America, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.

  4. Icelandic politicians/governments are blessed with critical thinking skills and the population has the power to fire any government immediately at the whiff of corruption or crimes against the people and country,  they have a real democracy, the people know they employ the government and act like it…..they know they have the power to change a government every year until they get the right fit.

  5. What i find fascinating as I peruse these contributions is the use of now popular American cliches: drain the swamp, right wing conservative, etc. Yesterday I saw in the Nation an article about “Barbadian exceptionalism”.
    Like we gone from Britain to America now
    I going and look for a bagel….Bridgetown is now New York. We will soon hear about inner cities.

  6. Having just read Worrell’s article, it is obvious that he and Arthur are now in full agreement. It should be a lesson for those who were “cussing” Worrell before because once more his intellectual honesty is present.
    For the record, I disagree with both Arthur and Worrell. Although, I found Arthur’s Budget contribution to be the only one of substance and I understand his thinking, it is quite depressing that after fifty years of independence, we still find ourselves incapable of solving our own socio-economic problems.
    It is clear that our intellectuals are lacking creativity and the few who tried to progressively change our circumstances in the period shortly pre and post independence have not been replaced.
    Where there is no vision, the people perish. Unless new visionaries arise from throughout the region, we will continue with what is really plantation economies always going cap in hand to our former masters, now disguised as IMF , and other agencies of modern economic colonialism and destruction.

  7. It saddens me that this great economist OSA having placing barbados between a rock and a hard place with unsustainable debt has not one intellectual idea comprised of his own thinking that would put barbados on an economic path of recovery except to rolled out an economic carpet that many other countries have strolled down and now finds themselves in the clutches of unbearable hardship for their people .

  8. @ William
    Even if what he says now makes sense (a BIG if), your man Worrell is akin to a house nigger who fell out of favour with the master, and got his donkey kicked out of the ‘big house’ from which he previously pissed down on the field slaves.
    Now, in an attempt to spite the former masters, he is on a campaign to expose their secrets – which he previously championed, while dissing the Press and public.
    Bushie do NOT play that shiite game.

    Don’t want to hear him….
    Don’t want to see him…
    Not joining with him…

    Tell him to ‘haul his donkey’ and go away…
    He is playing that he is a ‘Saul of Tarsus’…
    But is was not God that struck him blind and gave him a vision…
    …it was Stinkliar who fired his tail …and who started his nightmare.

    So tell him that he is no Paul … He is more of a Judas.

  9. With reference to the fourth paragraph of Mr Cumberbatch’s article – I think that a speaker should tailor their words to suit their audience, e.g. a MP who is speaking to a diverse audience of Barbadians who are likely to have varying vocabularies. The objective of the speaker must be effective communication.

  10. @ Bush Tea
    What concerns me more is the failure to find workable solutions to our socio-economic problems. I am fundamentally opposed to the positions now held by both Arthur and Worrell.
    @ Tony Trotman
    We still have a school of thought that subscribes to the notion that big words mean big ideas. Language is constantly evolving and it is basically illogical to send people scurrying to the dictionary when that can be avoided. Most people do not accept that a truly educated person displays humility rather than seek to “show off”.
    However, in all fairness to Jeff , he does construct his offerings in such a way that they do not present any tremendous difficulty for his readers. I have been reading him long before he appeared in BU and he is perhaps one of our most effective communicators.

  11. Ping Pong June 5, 2017 at 7:25 PM #

    Well stated and on point,especially the need to form a federation of Caribbean states and we should start by joining the OECS first and then try to entice Guyana the next power house into the group after which the rest will follow.

  12. The patient could have been saved 3 years ago with homegrown bushtea but as the patients religious persuasion told him not too,he refused it.

    His condition is now critical,no bushtea or bath can save him but a foreign team of specialists are ready to operate and save his life which he refuses due to his persuasion.

    Now we have most family members saying yes to the foreign surgeons and a few objecting vehemently that the patient must be saved by homegrown remedies only.

    ……but they cannot be found.
    ……what to do.
    …..should he live with foreign aid.
    …..or is it better to die proud for a lack of homegrown medicine.
    ………stay tuned to this epic saga of life and death,playing out at a cinema near you.

  13. @ Bush Tea June 6, 2017 at 6:53 AM
    “Bushie do NOT play that shiite game.
    Don’t want to hear him….
    Don’t want to see him…
    Not joining with him…
    Tell him to ‘haul his donkey’ and go away…
    He is playing that he is a ‘Saul of Tarsus’…
    But is was not God that struck him blind and gave him a vision…
    …it was Stinkliar who fired his tail …and who started his nightmare.
    So tell him that he is no Paul … He is more of a Judas.”

    Despite your misogyny, deep down you are more of a morally ‘decent’ man that you project superficially.

    Bushie, that is what you would call a perfect case of poetic justice at play.

    Unless he confesses to the public about that the ‘true’ whereabouts of that missing $300 million in foreign reserves going back to the post-2013 election then Pontius William Skinner can dish out as many indulgences, pontificate and pretend to forgive that lying man his sins but until Jesus returns to rejoin him on a cross he will always be seen as a Judas.

    Karma is a bitch and will always bite in their ‘retributive’ donkeys all those wicked people who throw stones at her.

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