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**

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Here we are again, happy as can be. All good friends and jolly good company

Barbados after the Christmas and New Year's holidays is an interesting place.

First off, it is a place free from amnesty: the government's deadline for Caricom non-nationals to register has now passed since end December. We hear and read that the "heat's off" as the government will not be rounding up any illegal immigrants still in Barbados--unless they are involved in criminal activity. That sounds amazing: if you laid low while doing nothing illegal, other than being undocumented, you can now surface and so long as you remain involved in legal activity--other than being undocumented--they you can breathe easily (see Nation report). "If you have a work permit it's no problem, but we won't go rounding up anybody," the government spokesman said. I can hear the huffing of many of the Bajan population to whom this will seem like a travesty. If this is the 'sanctions' meant by the PM when he spoke in November, then stroll on.

But amongst the real travesties are the inability to do anything and to be proud of that: Minister of State with 'responsibility' for immigration, Senator Arni Walters, noted that after the amnesty he did not have exact numbers of applications or estimates of people expected to be leaving Barbados. What? The country can count Crop Over ballots but cannot add up the application forms for immigration status? You have got to be joking! So, after six months of getting people regularized the government can still say virtually nothing about illegal immigrants in the country. Why am I not surprised? The government is due to listen to public reactions to its policies in a series of town hall meetings from January 14 and I have a feeling that they could be some tasty affairs, if people follow the US examples over health care reform.

One Guyanese acquaintance told me that his sources indicated that nurses from his country had not had their contracts renewed. Also, some 12,000 one-way tickets had been bought to go on LIAT and Caribbean Airways from Barbados to Guyana. He did not see Bajans would be ready to fill in for those workers in construction who had left, nor in nursing. It will be interesting to see if the gaps left do leave people in some economic straits.

What next? I see that taxi drivers are lamenting that they cannot get tourists to use them when they are on the island: cruise ships come and go but the nifty visitors wont take cabs. So what do the cabbies do to vent their frustrations? Read the Nation:

[O]perators [were] at Browne's Beach, St Michael yesterday where scores of them from the Bridgetown Port took a day away from the stress. "This lime is just to get rid of the frustration of not making money because if you study it, you will go mad," one said while at the buffet table. Last December 26 and 27, with five ships bringing in more than 11 000 visitors, taxi operators lining the Princess Alice Highway cried out that they saw little or no business and were not reaping the sweets of the season.

I thought it was only Trinis who turned everything into a fete. To me, that 'beach in' does not suggest a sector in crisis. Well, it is good to see solidarity, or really a solid bunch of men tucking into some solid tucker. "The workers, united, will never need feeding"--with apologies to Socialist International.

Good things come in threes, so I cannot pass by the story about the coconut vendors, who are enjoying a boom time, but leaving the island like the green house for anthiriums (see Nation report). Coconut vending will not be the stimulus to gets us out of the recession, but as the taxi drivers showed, when the going gets tough, the jelly in the coconut tastes sweeter. Those poor banking types on Wall Street are missing their steak dinners and expensive Italian restaurants, but in Barbados, jelly filling our belly.

I have not even managed to get to the domestic chores that are sitting waiting to be tackled.

When I lived in colder climes, the return after Christmas was filled with trepidation wondering if I could reach my house after heavy snowfall, or if pipes had burst during a cold snap and if my ceilings were about to collapse. I sometimes found birds nesting in the attic, having sought refuge from the cold. I also had to chip away at the ice on the pond to check if the fish were still alive, though hibernating. When I had a dog, it was great to get her from the kennels and get back into the love play with a ball and stick.

In Africa, my greatest fears were that some electrical catastrophe had managed to destroy every apparatus and that the freezer had thawed and was raining water and fetid food. It was also a concern that the damp climate would take over my house and leave me with many square feet of mould on any and everything: I never realised that I had any black shirts, but then realised that it was mould that had set in...and my shoes...and anything made from natural materials.

Here in Barbados, we had left our cat to be fed and watered by a neighbour's handy man. That he did...till the food left on the deck ran out and he did not see that more was in the kitchen. No harm done. The cat was still there--alive. But, cats are resourceful, and birds and lizards are plentiful. So, the smell that came from deep downstairs needed to be found...and it was, as I unearthed a fat dead lizard from a shower. What else would I find? No! Not cat poop in my bedroom? Phew. So, what is the smell? I have not yet found out, but it seems to be everywhere. The cat, missing some loving for a few weeks, wanted to be close to humans. So, we put him out on the deck and he would scale the wall and dive back into a bedroom. Put him in the corridor and he would scratch at the bedroom door as if he were chasing a cockroach...not cool at 1 am. Aha! That's it! The smell was dead cockroaches...one, two, three,... My wife hates that. So, off to clear up. In the end, I put the moggy into a spare room and let him have his choice of empty suitcases to sleep in. It was not the same as travelling on American Airlines, but he got a taste.

So, here we are again, happy as can be....


Sargeant said...

Dead cockroaches smell? Dem ain’t no roaches dem be mahogany birds.

Carson C. Cadogan said...

You need to revisit the first part of this piece. The Nation newspaper's story was misleading as usual. The Minister has set the record straight.

Dennis Jones said...

@Carson C. Cadogan, I did not see any setting straight of the record in the Nation, which reported that the government would be targeting undocumented people who were involved in criminal activity. If I missed something else, please flag it.

To me, it is nonsense to have had an amnesty and then end up at this position. The presumption is that the government knows such individuals or can find them relatively easily. In which case, why not deal with them since May?

Carson C. Cadogan said...

"which reported that the government would be targeting undocumented people who were involved in criminal activity."

One of the impressions created by that misleading story is the fact that if you are an illegal alien and you keep your nose clean then you can remain for as long as you like.

Not true.

If an illegal alien is caught, he or she will be kicked out as is done in every country of the world including Guyana.

Anyway I sure that you are aware that being illegal in another person's country constitutes criminal activity. It is against the Laws of the host country including Guyana.

Dennis Jones said...

@Carson C. Cadogan,
My view is that when the government is dealing with getting over key messages there is nothing that beats a statement: we can then argue about the actual words. Hoping that the media get the right message is messy and risky, especially for tendentious issues. So, why rely on the Nation and VOB to interpret oral remarks?

That said, I do understand that being illegal in a country is a criminal act, hence my '...while doing nothing illegal, other than being undocumented...'

So, I just see another fine mess made possible by a careless approach to handling a very sensitive issue. Let's hope that over the next month the government's mouthpieces can figure out how to say the right things. It would be good if the town hall meetings were televised live. Maybe that is hoping for too much.