Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sleep Baby, Sleep? Not If You Want To Keep Your Job.

To be brief, "Living in Barbados" is in The Bahamas, for the wedding of a sister-in-law.

When Canned Heat played "On the road again" it was back in a day when travel seemed like fun. Nowadays, those who travel know that being on the road, or at least needing to go by air is one of life's penalties. I have joked often enough that if we could just find some nice-fitting plastic bags for us to travel in the whole process could be simplified: no need to strip off the shoes, the belt, the jacket, etc. What you see would be what you get. Those who are modest or don't want to be ridiculed could just have enough of a covering to avoid unwanted comments.

Our arrival in Nassau was as smooth as can be, late at night. But, it was so cold. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and these Bahamian in-laws of mine used to love to come to Washington DC at this time of year to get a draft of America's cold air and of course do their part to keep the economy afloat. Now, they have no need to give thanks "up north" as they have their own cold snap here.

We loaded up the car and headed out of the car park. My sister-in-law honked the car horn as we pulled up to the cashier's booth. No reaction. We looked across to the adjacent parking lot where vehicles were leaving and we saw that there were two cashiers operating. Logical conclusion, our cashier was over there. Up gets my brother-in-law (whom we had met at Miami airport), who is in fact very much in the law, and strides over to the other booth. Meanwhile, the horn is honked again. Back comes the lawyer, with one of the two cashiers we had seen. My bro' says "She in there, they told me." Now hold onto your chair.

He opened the window of the cashier's booth, which had been in darkness, and there stretched out in her chair was the cashier, with her mouth wide open sucking up air and snoring like nothing on Earth. No wonder she could not hear the horn that was all of two yards away from her head. As they say in The Bahamas,"De woman sleeeepin'! Can you believe that? An' on our time. Well, I never." Our lady, whom my little daughter decided we should call "Fancy Nancy", is clearly the epitome of The Bahamian "business prevention officer" (BPO). Nancy had been asleep so long that the computer terminal that she used had logged her out. Nancy did not look up at us, as her sleepy eyes adjusted to waking and having to deal with "her job". There was a comedy sketch I heard on the radio in Barbados a few months ago. Two women were talking, and one said that her friend needed to understand that she was doing all she could to avoid having to live on handouts, but the job she wanted was not easy to find: "I looking for work but not hard work."

You have to believe that in an environment when people are losing their jobs as economic activity slows down, you must have a peculiar sense of job security if you can just curl up at your place of work and expect that pay will continue to roll in rather than your having to deal with getting your butt fired. I don't want to jump to the conclusion that the image that some have of those in the Caribbean as lazy and good for nothing is justified. But sometimes it is hard to argue against.

The saddest part of this all-too-common incident is that just this same week, the Kerzner International group announced the laying off of 800 workers in Nassau (see Nation report), saying that the "reduction in staff is based on the fact that the resort has experienced significantly lower occupancy levels due to the poor global economy." Kerzner reportedly decided to lay-off workers after cutting US$ 25 million from its Atlantis operations budget. Approximately 7,800 staff members remain employed and are expected to stay on assuming an occupancy level of around 64 per cent. First quarter bookings for 2009 are down 50 per cent.

The ironic icing on the cake is that Kerzner then had a gala extravaganza opening two days ago for a replica Atlantis resort in Dubai (see report) on Palm Jumeirah, which cost a mere US$ 1.5 billion to develop. While the resort has been open for a while it had been getting bad press not least for very poor service. Now it can get some really bad press. The bill for the light show that could be seen from space? US$ 20 million, mostly for the fireworks and flying in the celebs. There you go. I hope the Bahamians can feel that they did their part to make this a good party. If they don't I'm sure they will after they have slept on it for a while.

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