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**

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What To Do WIth A Sorry Bunch Of Overpaid Sportsmen

I do not favour politicians getting involved in sports, either in their clear political roles or as benefactors who happen to be politicians. The wielding of power is corrupting. However, I have seen in several recent instances that governments and politicians have decided that some sporting activity at the national level has become so bad--read 'embarrassing'--that they have felt compelled to intervene. The latest such keeling back in horror comes during the current FIFA World Cup 2010, being held in South Africa. Nigeria did not play well and the team did not pass the group stage and have headed home. No starry welcome, I'm afraid, after the team lost to Argentina and Greece, but salvaged a point against South Korea. The economist side of me laughed heartily when I saw this group, which could have been labelled the 'group of economic crises past and present'. But newly appointed Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, has seen nothing funny and (see Guardian report) and banned the national team from international events for two years 'to enable Nigeria to reorganise its football'. Not for them the rumoured working in coal mines that await the North Korean team.

FIFA, not the most enlightened of organizations, has a thing about political interference--it does not abide it--and will be reviewing this matter carefully. FIFA's president, Sepp Blatter, is already putting his beady eyes on the French government's investigation into France's first-round exit from the World Cup. But Nigeria risks being banned by FIFA from all international football because of the government action. I know, that sounds like what the president has done. But, when FIFA does it, it means it really is not politically motivated but for the integrity of football. Like when it suspends referees who seemed to have been slacking on the job. Do not ask if FIFA's decision, when taken, will be reviewed in camera. We know it wont be reviewed on camera, and no replays will be available on screen.

We poor suffering souls in the Caribbean, may want to take a leaf from our cousins in west Africa, and get our governments to slap a ban from international competition on the West Indies team after their string of woeful performances. Limbo like me, is the team motto: how low can you go? Some would suggest that they be sent to North Korean and do a bit of soul searching while hunting for lumps of coal.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Another Duh Moment

I do not know what the experience was during the previous World Cup, but I would have thought that serious second thoughts would and should have been given to mounting a major international sporting event in the midst of the World Cup finals. Now, Wimbledon is a bit different and has its annual and substantial following in England and world wide--it's even more ironic to see in the papers a picture of former Test great, Brian Lara, taking the applause in the crowd at Wimbledon. But Test cricket in the Caribbean? I must admit that I was not at all surprised to see the pictures in today's papers showing empty or near-empty stands (see Nation report). Choice: pay money (reported average B$50) to watch a day of Saturday Test cricket between West Indies and South Africa (which meant the unlikely prospect of seeing any result), or watch international football from South Africa, especially the prospects of major break through by Ghana (our African cousins) or the US (with whom Caribbean people have a love-hate relationship)? I thought that the football was going to win; I had placed my bet and was in front of a screen screaming for Ghana to do it. I read that the Kensington Oval in Barbados barely mustered 1000 fans.

Much criticism has already been heaped on the organization and administration of West Indies cricket. I suggest that this episode be added to a litany of lamentable decision-making.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Unity Bar Lecture: June 25, 2010: Robert Verdun discussses "15 Ways to Improve our Number One Industry without Expending a New Penny"

The next lecture in the series will be delivered on Friday, June 25, 2010, by Mr. J. Robert (Bob) Verdun, Specialist in Social & Environmental Responsibility, Hotelier and Columnist, at the "Errol Barrow Gallery", DLP Headquarters, 'Kennington', George Street, Belleville, St. Michael; his/her topic will be "15 Ways to Improve our Number One Industry without Expending a New Penny". As usual lunch will be served from 12.30 pm and the lecture will start at 1.00 pm.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Susan Haynes-Elcock is friend, who is a writer, housewife, avid gardener and volunteer with the National Trust in Britain. Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in October 2008, she has carried out much research to understand the long-term condition for which there is no cure. Shocking facts revealed that the Black African-Caribbean communities are one of the highest risk groups in the world for contracting diabetes – mainly, type 2.

Diabetes is a killer if not caught and managed carefully. Susan should know, hers went undiagnosed and she went into a coma as a result. Once she got over the experience of nearly dying, through her writing and other projects, she is now hoping to help educate those with and without the condition about the myths and reality of diabetes.

However, it doesn’t stop her living life to the fullest. She is developing a website, so keep an eye out. She is also workingjavascript:void(0) on becoming a culinary coach, and creating a range of ‘diabetically-friendly/everybody who loves food’ products. She promises more to come on that. As a part of a National Trust project, she has written ‘The Wightwick Manor, Caribbean Herbal’ - a book about many of our Caribbean herbs and their culinary and healing properties. Her article below was published recently in The Voice.

By Susan K Haynes-Elcock

Diabetes: This silent stalker, common chronic lifestyle condition, is cloaked in myths. The most common of these - ‘the sugar myth’, unlike most myths, at least has a modicum of truth attached to it. Research shows that it is a universally accepted ‘truth’ that ‘if you eat too much sugar you get diabetes’ and ‘if you have diabetes you can’t eat sweets or chocolates.’

I laugh when I think of this particular myth, as I was once a member of the ‘sugar myth club’. When diagnosed with diabetes back in 2008, my first and only thought was ‘OMG, no more sugar.’ The simple truth is that the ‘sugar myth’ is just that – a myth. My diabetes was triggered by medication.

To make sense of how this myth has been accepted as fact at a global level, we need to go right back to the beginning to what is known about diabetes. Historical evidence shows that in approximately 1550 BC, an Egyptian papyrus mentions a rare disease ‘that causes the patient to lose weight rapidly and urinate frequently’. This is thought to be the first reference to the disease.

However, it wasn’t until around the 1st Century AD that it was named by the Greek Physician Aretaeus. He described a condition with symptoms of ‘constant thirst, loss of weight and excessive urination’. He called it diabetes meaning ‘siphon’ or ‘flowing through’ in Greek.

Around the 19th century, methods of testing to identify the disease included official ‘water tasters’ and some physicians actually tasting the patient’s urine. As it had a sweetish taste the name ‘mellitus’, which means ‘honey or sweet’ in Latin was added. Hence the name Diabetes Mellitus. Even more interesting though, is the actual makeup of the condition which gives a clear link to sugar and the disease.

Diabetes, a serious life-long condition is caused by a build up of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream. The body breaks down food into glucose which moves through the bloodstream to provide cells with the fuel needed by the body to produce energy – similar to petrol in a car. To do its job, glucose needs the help of the hormone insulin which is produced by the pancreas. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas can no longer produce insulin, the insulin produced is not enough, or the body cannot use the insulin produced (insulin resistance), thereby causing a build up of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream.

Diabetes is classified mainly as type 1 or type 2. Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetics, viruses, medication, stress and unknown factors. Type 2 diabetes is linked to genetics, lifestyle, obesity and age. Eating excessive amounts of foods high in sugar like sweets, pastries or drinks, can certainly lead to weight gain and an increase in the risk of developing diabetes, especially if there is a history of diabetes in the family.

The charity Diabetes UK describes myths as ‘old-fashioned untruths’ and state, “From misinformation around what food to eat, to incorrect causes of developing the condition, these old fashioned untruths cause various problems around living with, treating or even talking about diabetes.”

Diabetes is serious. If left untreated it can lead to heart attacks, blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease, and other life-threatening complications. So much damage can be done by these myths that during Diabetes Week 2010, Diabetes UK have launched a campaign aiming to dispel the myths about diabetes.

The sugar myth and other myths might be dispelled over time, but the real worry globally are the cultural and traditional beliefs of a community. Unfortunately, it would seem that the people most at risk include the ethnic minority communities of the North American Indian, Asian, African and Caribbean peoples. In the Afro-Caribbean community the belief was that for a female to be attractive, she had to have ‘some meat on her bones’. Other deep-seated beliefs are that diabetes is caused because of sin or evil spirits which only a spiritual healing or ‘bush bath’ will cure. Added to these are the beliefs that herbal healing and traditional medicines will ‘cure’ diabetes. Presently, there is no cure for diabetes.

The problem is that cultural and traditional beliefs are an integral part of a people’s heritage. Often no one knows where they originated but eventually they become ‘truth’ and accepted. Additional problems occur due to the inability or refusal of some professional care providers to acknowledge, respect or give credence to these cultural and traditional beliefs. As a result, ‘underground pockets of self-healers’ develop.

Researchers in the USA believe that unless care providers change their attitudes, they will continue to have little chance of being successful with the treatment and lifestyle changes they recommend. In spite of whatever education they provide or the arsenal of drugs, the communities that need it most will not fully benefit.

The belief amongst communities that herbal remedies such as garlic, ‘ganja’ tea, cerasee, lignum vitae leaf, and cinnamon lower blood glucose or even ‘cure’ diabetes is real. Forward-thinking Diabetes UK says, “Using herbal remedies and plant derivatives to help in the treatment of diabetes should certainly not be discounted’, with a caution that thorough research and consultation with experts is necessary (www.diabetes.org.uk) I personally have found using ordinary herbal remedies along with my insulin very beneficial in maintaining my blood glucose ‘sugar’ levels.

2010 Diabetes UK figures show globally 285 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes of which 2.6 million are in the UK. The question is, what more can be done to dispel diabetic myths? How helpful would it be at global and national level to include a formal structure that accepts and encourages the use of cultural and traditional beliefs in conjunction with modern diabetes treatments.

The truth is even though diabetes is a ‘killer’ disease, it has been proven that with careful management, dispelling the myths and avoiding ‘chocolate meltdown’, people with diabetes can have long and successful lives.

©2010 Susan K Haynes-Elcock

Monday, June 14, 2010

Whatever Moves You

I have no idea what the probability is that I arrive at another Caribbean island for the first time--Grenada--and one of the first people I meet is someone who is the son of Grenadian migrants who grew up in the same town as I did in west London, England. Someone who also played football in that same area; he was much better than me because he now plays in the English Premier League. But to add to the irony, he now plays for a northern England club in a town that I also know very well and used to visit often. I then go on to meet someone else from this island who also went to this same town in west London as an immigrant, where he raised his son, who has now gone back to their home island to help his father run their restaurant business.

But, so it was this weekend in the Spice Isle. All the things that went through my mind during the brief meetings go a long way along the road of the migrant experience in England. (I had thought about how Caribbean offspring may be about to make more political waves with Diane Abbott putting her hat into the Labour leadership race. I had also thought about how Ivorian, Tidjiane Thiam, who is the CEO of the Prudential Group, can stand up as a black man and not have his mistakes fall on matters of race, rather than competence.)

As for my chance meeting, we were none of us products of areas where migrants traditionally settled, ending up in some of the sleepier suburbs on the edge of London, and not getting lost in a bad educational experience. That the people I met had decided that for part or all of their time going forward they would go back to their native islands and try to start some venture is also interesting. I did not get into the issues enough to get a true feeling but even after a short time working in the Caribbean the full-time businessman and his son were talking about how hard it is to get used to how people do business, and their 'lack of professionalism'. Put nicely, they felt that making things work well would be 'a challenge'.

But, that said, there was something special about their being back in the Caribbean and working in what seems like a place that really values community and personal relations. Those are good and bad attributes. I do not know how long the father and son team will stick it out: the son was honest to say that his brother could not settle and was keen to head back to England. The father is set to stay, but he's been back less than 10 years. The professional footballer struck me as someone who has a head for other things and I would not be surprised to see him turn his interest and ideas into political leanings.

There is nothing simple about returning to the Caribbean and making things work. It's a hard fit. But, those who are trying it need more than applause and support, because two very different mind sets are now having to work together. I had a feeling about two years ago that recession in Europe and north America would lead to more of a flow of returnees to the Caribbean. I still hold that view, and I wonder how it will work out. The phase of outward migration from this region was extremely difficult for those who left and those left behind. I suspect--and know from some personal experiences--that the reverse movement will also be difficult. The diaspora has not been well nurtured over the years--exploited in the basest ways rather than used creatively, is my impression. But the region needs to change how it seems all its people that reflow back to the Caribbean need to happen so that all of its resources can be harnessed better for development.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why? Because I Say So.

Several days ago someone asked me about my lessened involvement on the radio call-in programs in Barbados. I explained that for a variety of reasons I had not been very audible for several weeks. Some of the reasons were that I needed to focus on what I do as work, and financial markets were very nervous and turbulent: I have found that I cannot concentrate on what is going on there for my benefit, and also have an ear and voice tuned to the issues coming across on the radio. Multitasking usually means that something or someone is getting short shrift, so I made a decision to limit certain distractions. I also explained that, while I may have a view on lots of things and some expertise in certain areas, one of my motivations was to encourage people who had views to express them, not to take up the airwaves with my own views and thoughts. I listened a lot to the discussions and formed ideas in my head, but did not feel the urge to express those on the air.

One thing that struck me was the repeated recurrence of particular topics and points of view and wondered how it was that this was still going on. Why do people need to use the call-in to let the water authority know that pipes have been leaking for days/weeks? Why cannot the electricity company address the issues of disputed meter readings? Why are those involved in West Indies cricket so seemingly out of touch with what the public wants of the team and its administration? Why are parliamentarians acting as if they are not being televised and broadcast live and stop what most people see as a set of boorish and uncivil behaviour, supposedly doing the people's business? Why can't a company representative give a simple answer to a simple question? Why is so much action promised and so little delivered? Why is it that things seem to get little or no action until a crisis appears? And the list goes on in my head.

In a sense, the various complaints and criticisms had not found a good ear on those who had the power to address them. What I also heard was a very distinct tone of defensiveness from decision makers. Whenever someone was being asked to take responsibility or give an explanation for why no action had been taken, up came the 'wall' of 'when the time is right, all will be explained' (or words to that effect). By and large, I find that approach very unacceptable, but I cannot speak for the general population, and if they find this 'wait awhile' style fulfilling. The other aspect that comes with that approach is a clear paternalism, that says 'we', the decision makers, know best when to tell you things that are important to your lives that we have done but not yet shared with you.

When I heard fellow economist, Tennyson Beckles, speak recently about the need for transparency in public decision making, his points seemed so obvious. Yet, here was a situation where information about a substantial addition to the public burden seemed to have been kept very close the chests of a select few. It does not matter how good or necessary the decision was/is--in this case, how to finance the rebuilding of prison destroyed by fire--the thinking seemed to be that people could not handle the nasty news that taxpayers would be on the hook for a lot more money over several years to come. That suggests that, had the public been informed, they might have said 'No, don't do it that way.'

Subjecting public decisions to public scrutiny is still not part of the Caribbean reflex. I'm not sure if that comes from centuries of having been subjected to bossiness of one sort or another. People seem to know how to ram decisions down people's throats, but not how to take people into their confidence or negotiate their way to a solution.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Unity Bar Lecture: June 11, 2010: Mr. Guyson Mayers--"The Implications of Entrenched Organized Crime: A Caribbean Perspective"

The next lecture in the series will be delivered on Friday, June 11, by Mr. Guyson Mayers, Attorney-at-Law, and Chairman of the Rural Development Commission, at the "Errol Barrow Gallery", DLP Headquarters, 'Kennington', George Street, Belleville, St. Michael; his topic will be "The Implications of Entrenched Organized Crime: A Caribbean Perspective". As usual lunch will be served from 12.30 pm and the lecture will start at 1.00 pm.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Pants On Fire

I was intrigued to read today's Nation report that the Attorney General (AG) is concerned that new applicants to the Royal Barbados Police Force are balking at taking a lie detector test (see report). I'm not sure if the AG has really thought through his concerns and the reporter does not appear to have asked any questions about that concern. But, applicants could have a lot of reasons for objection, including hiding a prior criminal history. Not least, is the test for those interested in joining also being applied to those already in the force? Lying is not a crime, and it's clear that people lie for a range of reasons, feeling that this offers better protection than telling the truth. But, if such a step is being taken are we to see it as the norm for job applications into the public service? Should political candidates be subjected to the same? Don't laugh.

Given that lie detector evidence is not admissible as evidence in many courts of law, why would one want to base an employment policy on it? You'd deny someone, accused of nothing, a job based on it, but would not use it to help establish the innocence or guilt of an accused? It is not clear to me that being asked to take a lie detector test for a job application is a 'reasonable request'. Why not an HIV/AIDS test, given the contact with public and risks of being able to transmit a disease? Does the force also have a test for drug use? I would have thought that the country's top lawyer and the police commissioner would want to pursue the logic of this polygraph policy as far as employment criteria are concerned a bit further.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

How Some See Crime

A reader of this blog sent in an anonymous comment today on the post "A Hard Road To Travel":

'Honestly, I am more concerned about what Jamaicans are doing in Barbados than what they are doing in Jamaica. Today, I read in www.Barbadostoday.bb and the Nation online that three Jamaican men, along with a Bajan man, have been arrested for allegedly committing a string of armed robberies (at least 15) throughout Barbados within the last 5 months. I have long suspected that many of the armed robberies committed in Barbados were being committed by Caricom nationals. Though Bajans commit armed robberies, armed robberies were rare in Barbados until recently. Bajans need to look to Jamaica as an example of what can happen if thugs are allowed to take over a society and fight to stop them before their way of life becomes the norm in Barbados. I feel sorry for Jamaicans, but as long as many of them choose to take to the streets to fight to keep criminals in their communities instead of taking to the streets to protest against them, not much will change in Jamaica any time soon'

This is an interesting set of concerns. On the matter of who is committing various types of crimes, I would say that the nationality is sometimes mentioned in crime reports, but the data I have seen show that the majority of crimes are being committed by Bajans, not foreigners. Who committed the daylight robbery at the Parkinson Memorial Secondary School in late May? No doubt, certain types of crimes do involve foreigners to a high degree, for instance trafficking in drugs: today's Advocate has a report of a 'Vincentian charged with drug offences'. Crimes reported in the press are not the full story--not least because they are a selection--but these have involved a range of nationals, including those from Europe. The last information I say reported indicated that non-nationals are not disproportionately amongst those charged and convicted for crimes. I am not going to make a guess based on people's names. Given that deportation is an option, I have not seen a spate of stories about non-nationals being deported for crimes. It's fine to have a suspicion, but it needs proof, otherwise it's just a plain old prejudice. What would be helpful, would be if the Royal Barbados Police Force gave statistics on the national profile of criminals. That, at least, would give the proof as far as their coverage of crimes go.

The recent discussions about gangs in Barbados was notable in that very little reference was made to active foreign elements, though some had an element of 'copy cat' behaviour. Notably, today, new Senator David Durant stressed the need to take the Barbados gangs problem seriously (see Nation report).

A tendency exists that says bad things come from outside and somehow no one needs to look within for problems. As someone commented on the radio this week, even if a proximate cause comes from outside, it cannot really
take hold unless the conditions are there for that to happen: the host must be receptive. So, foreign influence may be a catalyst, but is not really the cause. Judging from the local scenes I see of children and adults misbehaving, there is plenty of violence that is part of everyday life. I just came from the yard of one private school and saw two young children (about 5-6 years old) 'playing': the boy was chasing the girl and when he caught her, he beat her with a stick. I could not tell from a distance what were the nationalities of the children and I could only guess from where that behaviour had been learnt. I know one parent of the child is a Bajan and past student of the same school. As was also reported today, Professor Linden Lewis, outgoing president of the Caribbean Studies Association, noted that violence seems to have become a banal part of life for many, and he lays part of the blame at the feet of 'globalisation' (see Nation report).

It is a major worry that Jamaican citizens in a community would defend an alleged criminal, but that also ignores that the person concerned may not be committing crimes against the community, but may be using crime and its proceeds to provide goods and services to the community. In that case, people are defending their gains. It points to the failure of other agencies and institutions for not providing and for letting a void exist. The truth is also that most Jamaicans did not rise up in support, and had called earlier for the extradition order to be laid. But, if one is concerned about what has happened in west Kingston, then one also has to decide if the same concern should not apply to say public or elected officials who are accused of misdeeds yet are robustly defended, at least verbally, by their constituents. I can think of some very recent instances in the precincts of Parliament that would fall into that realm. Assuming that in either case allegations have to be proven, the defending of a representative by his or her constituents is not that peculiar.

I would not disagree with any notion of opposing thugs and preventing them from taking over society and having their way. But that means seeing a thug, whoever that may be and not sitting complacency thinking he or she is not local and that they are persons who come from outside.