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**

Friday, April 03, 2009

Just Thinking. Just Thoughts.

Honestly, I have not been able to focus on a single thing for the past few days. Not because my mind was wandering, but simply that the things I thought about kept on bumping into each other.

Good friends were off the island in London: he was gallivanting around as a kind of financial 'wonder boy'; she was was hoping to follow his tracks at least to London and catch up with friends; their children hoped to have a good time. I, on thinking about them, could just visualize north London's hilly charm, Hampstead Heathand the great view of the City of London. 'Wonder Boy' was whistling around airports and on trains under The English Channel, and getting undeserved grand treatment in various European capitals, including Bratislava. I still like him, but just a little more than before.

The G20 Summit was taking place in London. Having been in the 'think tank' part of the IMF, I knew what was going on behind the scenes in terms of trying to craft a draft communiqué that would reflect most of the key points important to the various leaders and their 'camps'. It is always amazing that the communiqué then seemed to please the leaders and indicate commitment to make changes that would help move out of the current financial crisis (see communiqué). I know all too well that commitment and action are very far apart.

Associated with the Summit was a series of protest 'against' many things. Many violent acts took place outside my former place of work, the Bank of England, and again, I could visualize people with bandannas around their faces, facing off with the police, who with little else than their funny helmets, tried to keep order.Reports I read indicate that one person died during the 'peaceful' protests and that at one time, the police medics were under a hail of bottles while trying to aid the person concerned.

I thought a lot about the effect of the recession on people's lives. I was asked to make comments on the radio about living through the recession, but had had so much fun screaming for West Indies on Sunday as they put on a good show against England, that I had no voice. In fact, I had no good voice for about three days. My writing seemed to dry up because I could not speak. But, I know the recession in Barbados is not the same as that being experienced by friends of mine working for financial companies in London or Jamaica, who told me how the axe came close to their heads, but not quite onto their necks. I had to offer my comments and observations in writing, and I suspect that they seemed flatter for that. It's an ironic situation, where those who are still afloat and with some funds can do well: upscale restaurants in New York are offering low-cost fixed-price menus; foreclosed homes now make good investments for some first-time buyers; many banks are available for purchase. Yet, some odd downsides are appearing: one instance is that people seem less willing to take options to work at home or telecommute, fearing that this shows a lack of commitment (an old chestnut) and makes them easier to chop.

I eventually found voice for a discussion on the radio on the local welfare system, and to ask for more consideration for so-called able-bodied people who are on welfare. Being able-bodied seems to be some standard synonym for 'should be in a job'. An able-bodied single mother spoke about getting B$250 a month for two children, and that she did not like that welfare payments had been cut. The children's father was not providing any support. The lady said that she was 'selling juices' etc. locally to supplement her income. She did not want to call it a business because she felt it was a very small undertaking. No one seemed interested in knowing what was her cost of living: the possible cost of child care if she was not at home; whether she might have other dependents, etc; the cost of rent/lodging; her own food costs. A lot of 'she needs to get herself a job'. This in the same week when we read of profitable companies in Barbados (One Caribbean Media Group and Sagicor) laying off staff. We have heard how the welfare department's officers are overloaded, so seem unable to either verify who should still be on welfare, if some should get more welfare, what options welfare recipients should be offered, etc. I could not help but have a wry smile and shake my head as I remembered the old Welfare Department Office, standing derelict on the main south coast road.

I spent a lot of time arguing with various people about what is going on in the Barbadian economy. Some see everything as the 'fault' of the new government: as soon as they took office, everything went sour and the company went to the dogs. This would suggest that the country has an on/off switch that is flipped as the old administration leaves and the new one takes office. A lot of statements are so baseless as to be ridiculous, and seem to come even louder and strident when the evidence is clearly to the contrary. I am not a partisan so I cannot have the mindset needed to blame everything I dislike on my political adversaries, but it's been exercising my mind to try to thing along with partisans. It's really tiring.

So, the week has gone.

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