Where Must Barbados Earn Money to Support its Conspicuous Lifestyle?

It is no secret Barbadians are addicted to the conspicuous consumption lifestyle. We can debate why educated Barbadians – successive governments included – continue to ignore the the consequences of having champagne taste and mauby pockets – wantonly running budget deficits in the post Errol Barrow era is with us. We can no longer support ourselves UNLESS we borrow as a creative approach to ‘reprofiling debt’ or lobby to access concessionary and grant funding. The question we must ask is if such an approach is sustainable. At some point the country must reengineer the economic model to organically grow GDP to effectively earn enough to pay our bills (support our conspicuous consumption habit). In other words running budget surpluses must not be jettisoned for the lazy and fashionable budget deficit approach to managing our financial affairs.

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Prime Minister Mia Mottley Defends frequent travel overseas

Prime Minister Mottley on her return from overseas after taking a few days off as well as attending COP27 in Egypt, Rwanda and South Africa called a press conference on her return to Barbados to brief the nation. There is criticism Mottley’s time could have been better spend on island given the precarious state of the economy and rising crime situation. DLP spokesman Paul Gibson has been scathing in criticism levelled at Mottley, questioning cost of trips overseas and size of delegations.

The blogmaster has cautioned many times in this space that managing the optics in any situation is important, however, Mottley has demonstrated with the appointment of a bloated Cabinet she intends to do it her – she has an aggressive style – even if it is obvious the configuration of the Cabinet is about political considerations and not about many hands making light of the work. Some of us are not fools although we understand the games politicians play at the expense of the masses.

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Alternate View on Barbados’ Economic Road post Republic:The Independence Economic Order

Kemar J.D Stuart, Economist and Director Business Development , Finance and Investment Stuart & Perkins Caribbean

Barbados national day represents the death of government led socialist values, a transition over to a new economic management style of governance where the trappings of the old independence subsidized social services government begin to diminish and Citizens will be required to each pay more to fund their basic living necessities as government can’t continue to subsidize the cost of providing some goods and services and at the cost asked of Barbadians. International debt service and IMF terms and conditions are already eroding the independence economic model as Barbados now look to China for social investment to fund our new international lifestyle. A lifestyle without God where the innocent are exposed to international banks who violate directives by government ministries.

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Alternate Views: Addressing Professor Justin Robinson’s Position on Barbados’ Debt Problem ( 2005-2022)

Kemar J.D Stuart, Economist and Director Business Development , Finance and Investment Stuart & Perkins Caribbean

In the recent launch of the BERT 2.0 the term lost decade is still a heavily used term in that document that can be reinforced by the unassuming mind in reading a recent article published by Professor Justin Robinson on Thursday 27th October 2022 on the level of government debt in Barbados. Professor Michael Howard, Professor Don Marshall and Economist Carlos Forte offered that Barbados is in a debt trap.

To add facts and context to Dr Robinson’s naked assessment of Barbados’ public debt . The global financial crisis which is categorized as a shock similar to covid hit in 2007-2008 and Barbados’ public finances saw an upsurge of domestic debt. The economic strategy of government at the time relied heavily on local debt from the Central Bank of Barbados via money printing, the NIS , Treasury Bills and debt and interest payments owed to these local Barbadian institutions skyrocketed causing unsustainable fiscal deficits.

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Economic Performance January to September 2022 – Growth of 9.8% with Uncertain Investment Appetite

Central Bank of Barbados Governor Cleviston Haynes delivers the Bank’s review of Barbados’ economic performance in the first nine months of 2022 and takes questions from the media and online audience.

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Believe You Me – It is Still About the Economy Stupid

In recent weeks the country has been consumed with the news about an IDB/Barbados government survey administered by some schools to 11 year olds without the consent of parents. Yesterday Member of Parliament for St. Michael North West Neil Rowe was charged with rape and is scheduled to appear in Court this morning to formally answer to the charge. Not to forget his month the number of murders surpassed prior year.

These issues should not make us lose focus of the perilous state of the economy. Despite the narratives being pushed by talking heads about improved credit ratings, reduced debt and the security blanket BERT II affords, there is reality that has not changed. The Barbados economy is almost entirely dependent on tourism and to a lesser degree international business. How many Barbadians are aware there is a negative outlook for the global economy by the IMF for 2023 with growth predicted to slow to 2.7%? To quote the IMF – “2023 will feel like a recession for millions around the world”.  

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Barbados’ Fintech Push

This week Barbados will the host of a global fintech conference called Fintech Islands from October 5 to 7 welcoming 300 delegates from across the world and attracting sponsorship from prominent global players like Visa, MasterCard and Delta Capital Group. The government must be given credit for being the enabler by placing emphasis on the emerging fintech sector.  Some of the initiatives the Mottley government has spearheaded include:

  • Rollout of the Regulatory sandbox in late 2019 which BU commenters will recall generated raucous discussion. 

The government has also moved quickly towards digitisation by executing the IDB Public Sector Digitisation Project which is being rolled out across all ministries at the back end, at the “front end” the rolling of the new National ID card which will have an accompanying optional Digital ID. The government must however do a better job communicating with the public about the New National ID card.   

A government’s job is to create the environment, legislative and otherwise to encourage private sector to drive economic activity. There is consensus our over-reliance on fickle tourism as a SIDs makes the economy more vulnerable to exogenous shocks. The 2007 global financial meltdown and recent experience arising from the pandemic is a sorry reminder. In 2016 late Prime Minister warned of the need for policymakers to introduce radical measures to add new earning sectors to the economy, instead the Central Bank was repurposed to be government’s ATM and as they say the rest is history after incurring 23 downgrades.

We live in a world that has transformed to digital cum services era, building new sectors to drive economic activity is not only about building physical factories. Rolling out fit for purpose regulation and other initiatives to improve business facilitation is the new alternative.

Barbados has built a reputation as an offshore financial hub, however, since the mid 2000s as Arthur mentioned in the above video, Barbados lost a lot of business to Cayman and has never fully recovered. It was one of the problems which plagued the Stuart government and as Arthur pointed out – from 2016 the country lost $259 million in foreign exchange and tax revenue which the then government sought to replace by imposing heavy domestic taxes on a shrinking economy and taxbase.  

One of the things the Mottley government seems to be trying to do is to reconfigure the business sector from which Barbados can offer modern services to replace the old tax haven model. The OECD has shown they have no problem shifting the rules of engagement ‘during the game’. It must be helpful that Barbados also added to its brand in the fintech space by being first to market with the Barbados Welcome Stamp program which allowed high net worth professionals many from the fintech world to work remotely during the pandemic.  

Quietly the Ghanaian fintech company Zeepay has setup in Barbados with plans to launch in Guyana next. Some have been asking are we there yet? This is a rhetorical question.

Today Ends Barbados’ Lesson on the IMF

Submitted by Kemar J.D Stuart, Director Business Development , Finance and Investment Stuart & Perkins Caribbean

However On September 28th 2022 the Prime Minister of Barbados announced the details in regards to signing another IMF program. Included in this new IMF program is pension reform and reform to state owned enterprises

In the press conference earlier this month the Prime Minister when asked by a reporter she venomously denied that pension reform will be included in this new IMF program but it will be done in the old program which ends september 30th today .

The mention of the credit rating agencies, keeping Barbados’ credit rating at stable is nonsensical as Moody’s already indicated publicly in a release that Barbados will not be downgraded as long as it signs another IMF program. Barbados has not regained access to international capital markets after the voluntary default in 2018.

Prime Minister Mottley said it was difficult to say how deep state owned enterprises reforms would be under the new program . This is a confusing statement as the government circulated a survey previously under the first program asking citizens which SOE’s should or should not be privatized.

The strategy to cut as many SOE’s from government funding is still in place. The strategy is to fund them via a tax or levy or privatization . The PM made reference to urban and rural development which will be merged into one department, she made mentioned of CBC which will be privatized , the BWA will be privatized as the first hint of this plan was when former Water Resources Minister Charles Griffith indicated that government is appointing a 20 man water committee to tackle the water woes. The committee is made up of a list of wealthy businessmen , BWU leader Toni Moore , Director of Finance Ian Carrington who was the IMF press conference , Dr. Clyde Mascoll, as quizzed by myself, admitted on Brasstacks that the government is now seeking to find the right price for water. The IMF in 2007 recommended that to achieve savings and to reduce the amount money government spends on BWA that automatic price increases will address the cost prices imbalance in deliver of water to Barbadians

The PM hinted that she provided an additional 30 Million to BWA instead of increasing prices , as this program progresses the BWA will face a price increase in water rates once the electricity rate increases. Transfer funding to entities such BWA are to be cut as part of the IMF deal and in observation of other countries worldwide under IMF programs saw private water companies emerging when the conditions took their toll on governments , the GAIA is still in negotiations to be leased out

The new IMF program will continue to focus on digitization of the public service as the impact of Covid-19 pushed many economies to focus on delivering services online. The government declared that their policy is to take Barbados into fully digital and cashless society under the original BERT plan

The recent tongue lashing and attack by the Acting PM Santia Bradshaw on government workers who are attached to economic programs such as the Ash program is a bluff to create reasons for the cutting of these programs as a condition of the new IMF program. The programs were always intended to be temporary but were used as tools to hand out jobs for election purposes. That vile tongue lashing was unnecessary when the truth could have been told. In order to bring improvement in the government’s fiscal position all covid related expenses and ash expenses will go. The implementation of a fiscal rule to limit domestic deficit financing will tighten in.

The writing is on the wall as further expenditures cuts in government will see some thousands of government workers laid off under the new program. The wage bill of government which stood around $850million is the one of the main consumers of government funds and the IMF recommended that it should be cut.

As the PM spoke about the UK’s currency devaluation as a reference to Barbados not being as bad as other however the continued borrowing of foreign debt to keep the 2:1 peg avoiding external devaluation comes with measures to implement an internal devaluation which is one of main reasons why prices are so high in Barbados. The internal devaluation comes in the form of government laying off workers and cutting the wage bill, reducing funds allocated to Ministries , reducing and cutting pension monies , placing caps on capital expenditures and overall cutting government provided income. Dr. Kevin spoke of how government is going about the internal devaluation while speaking with Lisa Lord on CBC tv in an interview.

The mention of Barbados having 17 Billion in debt in 2018 vs 13 Billion today is numerically true but disingenuous and misleading because the government simply wrote off $4billion in debt overnight owed to Barbadians overnight in a very draconian debt restructuring and still has not repaid those debt. The CBB lost $1B and still needs to be recapitalized and this is another missed target under the first IMF program , the NIS lost close to $1B , treasury bills were cut to the value of $1B causing Barbados to make world economic history as this action only ever occurred in Russia 1998, Ukraine 1998 and Uruguay 2003 . The last $1B were in overdrafts , government guarantees, SOE debt and arrears. The danger that locals face moving forward is that there is a high chance of another debt restructurìng and reprofiling happening where the bond payments that government promised these creditors are postponed. The likelihood of local creditors being repaid in cash is extremely low and precedence has shown that government can abuse it’s parliamentary majority by using the clause included in the debt restructuring bill which states that only 75% of creditors need to agree to any changes for new debt restructurings.

One last potential abuse of power is the government’s new thirst for compulsory acquisitions of land. Under the government’s passage of the debt settlement bill in parliament persons whose land has been taken under the Land Acquisition Act, section 4 made provision for those persons whose land was acquired by the government to be paid in bonds, this provision also covers all legal claims or outstanding liabilities.

So the question must be asked of government , once they compulsory acquire the properties in St Lawrence Gap will the property owners be paid in bonds according to the law passed via the Debt settlement bill?

Countdown to the end of the IMF program Continues (September 30th 2022)

Submitted by Kemar Stuart

Barbados is still under a state of emergency and the Emergency Management Act holds supreme as law of the land as it was extended for no logical reason by the Ministry of Health yesterday September 13th. AG Dale Marshall in the press conference sought to defend the state of emergency legislation which de facto keeps the country under a prime ministerial dictatorship.  This state of emergency legislation has a clause that gives the PM absolute power over the country as previously stated in my video and in the nation newspaper. 

(4)    When a proclamation of a public health emergency referred to in is in force, it shall be lawful for the Cabinet to make any Orders whatsoever it considers desirable in the public interest. This is a parliamentary dictatorship 

(6)    In an Order made pursuant to subsections (4)  the Cabinet may delegate to the Prime Minister the power to make such directives as may be required in the public interest. Prime Ministerial Dictatorship 

There is no emergency existing in Barbados, there will be no need to tighten protocols as we proceed full steam into the tourist season.  These dictatorship type laws need to be removed to bring democracy back to Barbados’ political system. The WHO and USA President Joe Biden declared the pandemic over however the government still finds a need to hold onto a power grab not because of a non-existent pandemic but the advantage of side stepping traditional processes under the old independence constitution which have some checks and balances in place.


While the Acting PM Santia Bradshaw and AG Dale Marshall were addressing the issue of relaxing covid protocols as recommended in my previous video and publications, a point also made by the Head of the private sector and also the head of the BHTA. The real PM mia mottley was meeting with the IMF to discuss BERT 2.0 as the countdown to the end of this current IMF comes to an end september 30th having divulged that her team are in advanced stages on pension reform . In her press conference previously she told a reporter that pension reform will indeed happen under this current program which is soon at it’s end.

Having feeling both internal and external pressure Barbados recently announced that majority of the covid-19 restrictions are to be dropped from 23rd September the financial losses are becoming too deep and this decision was announced in a press conference by acting PM Santia Bradshaw The loss of money from absent cruise ships and empty airplanes along with the fact most countries have moved past Barbados months ago is high on the list of reasons for the dropping of these restrictions as articulated by the acting PM.

This was long overdue as we had many mishaps, discrimination in how some classes of persons were treated by these covid laws and public events like general elections, crop over, unctad conference , the Afri – caribbean Conference as the public which includes the PM long ago decided that they will live with the presence of covid and lived life accordingly often ignoring the protocols.

However purposely left out the fact that The public should note Barbados has no declared constitution in place since the transition of the country to republic in 2021 and an update on when the new republic constitution should’ve been on the agenda for the acting PM and Ag’

Barbados is still under a state of emergency and the Emergency Management Act holds supreme as law of the land as it was extended for no logical reason by the Ministry of Health yesterday September 13th. AG Dale Marshall in the press conference sought to defend the state of emergency legislation which de facto keeps the country under a prime ministerial dictatorship. This state of emergency legislation has a clause that gives the PM absolute power over the country as previously stated in my video and in the nation newspaper.

(4) When a proclamation of a public health emergency referred to in is in force, it shall be lawful for the Cabinet to make any Orders whatsoever it considers desirable in the public interest. This is a parliamentary dictatorship

(6) In an Order made pursuant to subsections (4) the Cabinet may delegate to the Prime Minister the power to make such directives as may be required in the public interest. Prime Ministerial Dictatorship

There is no emergency existing in Barbados, there will be no need to tighten protocols as we proceed full steam into the tourist season. These dictatorship type laws need to be removed to bring democracy back to Barbados’ political system. The WHO and USA President Joe Biden declared the pandemic over however the government still finds a need to hold onto a power grab not because of a non-existent pandemic but the advantage of side stepping traditional processes under the old independence constitution which have some checks and balances in place.

This act must be discontinued and government should not pursue another IMF deal or pursue pension reform with this act in place.

Barbados is now a country that has no opposition leader , a country without a constitution and a country with directives that gives a PM such absolute power without any checks or balances in repeat is bordering on rouge governmental practice

Therefore committing Barbados to another program spells uncertainty especially for the future of democracy especially if your livelihood is dependent on government payout .

Countdown to the End of Barbados’ IMF Program

by Kemar J.D Stuart – Economist and Director Business Development , Finance and Investment Stuart & Perkins Caribbean

Government will be forced to decide the fate of Barbados very soon as the decision to enter into another International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme will be publicly known in some days ahead. In my analysis the Prime Minister may seek to table the proposed changes in legislation before September 30th 2022. In the press conference hosted by the PM she indicated that the NIS is not in crisis really but we must act now to save it. The rush to amend pension is the government following the dictates and timelines imposed by the BERT plan endorsed by the IMF.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley on May 13th 2022 told reporters at Ilaro Court that the current programme would end on September 30 , 2022 and discussions would begin once the mission report “passes the board” at the end of June.Mr. van Selm said Barbados had reached a staff level agreement with the EFF, following its latest review and once approved by the IMF Board in June, the country would have access to US $23 million in funding.

From the recent NIS political showcase with Actuary Derek Osbourne which caused serious civil & societal discomfort across the country . The GOB is going ahead to alter pension to meet the draconian proposals agreed to by signing the IMF program back in 2018. Pension reform is one of the major agreements the government agreed to enact and to date the government has not lived up to it’s end of the bargain with the iMF as the current IMF program winds up in 23 days and pension reform is still due.

The odd timing chosen by the Prime Minister to raise the NIS and pension reform conversation was not to sensitize the public about the NIS which she categorically stated is not in crisis but we must act now to save it was but a cliche is to hide the force and pressure being applied against Barbados to live up the agreement made with the IMF within the specific dictates and timelines imposed. This is why Bajans may have to work to 72 through no fault of their own.

My prediction is that the government may move swiftly to amend the pension before September 30th to avoid running over into the end of the IMF program. If no decision is made by then this will be an indication of the government’s intent to indeed enter into another IMF program come September 30th and pension reform will be a high priority requirement for the government to enact in the next program. The next program will be more difficult than the first including more cuts to jobs, deeper cuts to pensions especially non-contributory , cuts to SOEs, increased taxes and levies on government services, cuts in budgets to all ministries and to also privatize more government assets such as the GAIA airport which being leased out to an unknown we speak for 40 years and the water authority which is undergoing serious changes to it’s operations as we speak .

Prime Minister Mottley said that “From July, we will start discussing. Will we have a successor programme? If so, what type of successor programme? Will we go it on our own or is it time or is it right to go on your own when interest rates are rising globally? Or do you stay in the comfort of concessional interest rates by having a programme or working closely with the other regional development banks and international financial institutions . July and August passed and no discourse took place

The Prime Minister of Barbados mentioned the possibility of a roadshow in September to start to tell our story to the capital markets pointing out “whether we go back into an IMF Programme or not, we believe that our story, which is a credible story, has to be told, in order to be able to…get our way back to investment grade. Barbados was barred from capital markets because of the voluntary international debt default by the Mottley government in 2018 and in 23 days September comes to an end therefore the public should monitor social media over the next 23 days starting september 7th for comments from the Prime Minister surrounding Barbados’ fate in regards to signing another IMF program and proposed NIS reform.

AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum 2022 – Closer Ties a Must

The ongoing pandemic has given impetus finally to governments in the region assigning additional resources to improving food security. Barbados in the period has been developing a closer relationship with Guyana and we have seen cooperation to increase black belly sheep production to satisfy local and some regional demand for lamb. There are additional initiatives we hope to see bear fruit in the coming weeks and months mentioned in a previous blog – Government Initiatives to Address Food Supply – The St. Barnabas Accord. Last week Minister of Agriculture reported there is a plan to slash food import bill by 20% when a food terminal is established in Barbados with the help of Guyana. It is a reminder the founders of CARIFTA envisioned Guyana to be the bread basket of the Caribbean almost 50 years ago.

Yesterday a direct flight – a first from Nigeria – to bring delegates to attend a 3-day investment forum one may argue is the result of the effort of the government to forge close ties with some African countries to create business of opportunities. The AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum will take place in Barbados from September 1-3.  The forum represents an opportunity for the Caribbean and African private sectors  to explore opportunities for trade and address challenges that have historically prevented deeper collaboration.  The forum is being hosted by the African Export-Import Bank. The blogmaster is hopeful there is meaningful collaboration coming out of the engagement.

In a previous BU blog – Barbados based Fintechs on the MOVE the entry of Barbadian Fintech companies was highlighted and from reports have been reaping success on the African continent. It bears no reminder that 95 percent of Barbadian are of African descent, we therefore share a historical bond. 

Related Link:

CEO of Export Promotion Facebook page.

Government Jettisoned Sinking Fund Arrangement for 2018 Restructured Bonds

The quoted comment was posted to the blog From Private to Public – Cinnamon 88 to CLEARWATER BAY, a concern for taxpayers. It is a nugget of information – see blogmaster’s highlighted text – that has not registered in the BU space, however at this seemingly late stage it is a matter ripe for discussion. To be fair to government the amendment occurred in the light of day however …

The Government response has ‘promise’, and certain bodies, like the Accountant General have much on their plate. Of news to me, was “following the debt restructuring exercise in 2018, the Local Loans Act was amended to remove the 2% sinking fund requirement in respect of the restructured Series Bonds. The sinking funds were then transferred to the Consolidated Fund…”

This was yet another step to aid in the cash crunch, and gave the GoB cash. It also means there is no provision to periodically set aside money (sinking fund) for repayment of the ‘restructured Series Bonds’.

NorthernObserver

The common explanation for the purpose of a Sinking Fund is “a fund containing money set aside or saved to pay off a debt or bond. A company [government] that issues debt will need to pay that debt off in the future, and the sinking fund helps to soften the hardship of a large outlay of revenue. A sinking fund is established so the company can contribute to the fund in the years leading up to the bond’s maturity”.

The obvious explanation to which NorthernObserver alludes is that the government because it is broke ignored the importance of a good financial rule i.e. creating a sinking fund to make paying at maturity of the bonds easier. In other words to mitigate against a default. The biggest irony in this case is that a selected default by the Mottley government in 2018 must have informed the decision to jettison the sinking fund arrangement. Oh what a tangled weave when first we practice to …

The decision to do away with the sinking fund arrangement obviously had the approval of government’s banker. Four years later the government feels confident enough to issue bonds. In the prevailing climate stoked by NIS fear, 2018 restructure and a hostile economic climate, it will be a hard task for the government to convince the most patriotic Bajan to buy government bonds. There is the reminder every decision has consequences.

Here is a copy of the Local Loans (Amendment) Bill, 2018 passed in our parliament on the 24/10/2018.

Barbados One of the Most Expensive Countries to Live in the Region

This report out of the Virgin Islands identifies Barbados, Bermuda and The Bahamas in the top 5 most expensive countries to live in the WORLD. Allow the blogmaster to ask a silly question, is this reality reversible?

https://fb.watch/f2IRNlS95W/

NIS Town Hall – The Golden Chip

Today is the scheduled NIS Town Hall for a concerned public to share feedback to the revelation our National Insurance Fund (NIF) needs another lifeline. In recent days the buzz is a concern the eligibility age for NIS pension will be extended to 72 years old.

The blogmaster is willing to bet Prime Minister Mottley being the political animal she is anticipated that NIS reform currently being contemplated will significantly deflate her popularity, she needs the time to implement reform and win back favour BEFORE the next general election, the perfect political gamble. Especially if she is serious about demitting office at that time. Therefore one of the reasons for an early general election call.

Follow the NIS town hall at Combermere School, Waterford at 6PM.

Barbados Needs Good Focused Leadership Says Bajan Living Overseas

The following comment was posted to blog Democracy, Apathy and the National Insurance Fund  by a commenter resident overseas – Barbados Underground

@David

We have to accept facts and reality. I am and always will be a PROUD Bajan. ALWAYS.

Bajanabroad

But facts are facts. We have not done nearly enough to remodel the mindset of our people and our economy over the last 50 years to result in a level of broad based, diverse innovation that leads to large FX inflows. It’s just a fact. No debate. This could only mean one thing. Barbados is headed for worse, harder times.

Dreamy, fantastical talk alone that will not change that trajectory. Other countries and economies have failed. We are not exceptional and immune to basic facts. We act like we do but in reality we are not. That is what our pride would not let us believe. We think we are special, punching above our weight with our 98% literacy rate. This is who we are. We have been sold a bunch of sh7te that is just emotional fodder but never really grounded in fact and does not translate to a sound economic future.

We are at that moment where bullcrap can’t plaster the crap anymore and we can’t kick the can any further with cheap loans. Unless we find oil now like Guyana our standard of live WILL drop and times will get tougher . It can and has happened to other well meaning, well intentioned countries. Sri Lanka??? It is FOLLY to ask bloggers and citizens to do what elected country managers failed but were paid handsomely to do over the last 50 years. We don’t have access to all relevant information and our elected officials want to make this situation worse. Imagine that. But yet have the gall to say they are interested in public discourse. We are not driving the bus. Even if we protest and strike. What happens next? Who leads and implements the day after? At the end of the day without good focused leadership, nothing changes after the protests and strikes.

Whether we believe or not. Facts and consequences follow their own truth. They do not care if this is who we are. They are not interested in watching muh.

The writing is on the wall. Who chooses to see it is irrelevant.

The ONLY solution is GOOD FOCUSED leadership. Always has been. This is where we failed the most:

Signed – PROUD but realistic Bajan