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Flowers blooming in a wasteland?

PETER O'CONNOR Sunday, August 13 2017

I suppose we ought to be pleased when financial results of our local banks, insurance and finance groups show continuing excellent performances. However, these bright spots glow in a currently very dark background where many businesses are struggling and where workers are being laid off due to an ongoing, but hardly acknowledged, collapse all around us.

This past week, another of our major insurance and finance groups joined those announcing excellent results even as they acknowledged the difficult financial environment in which they were operating. And, of course, most of us who do not belong to the top echelons of income receivers (I hesitate to say “earners” because many of them are coasting on deals and privileges organised through good political connections) are well aware of the difficult financial times to which some have a convenient immunity.

Naturally, the major shareholders of these companies will be pleased that their investments are blooming for the time being. But the vast majority of us, striving to manage on fixed or even decreasing incomes should not be too impressed.

That some companies, mainly in the financial sector, are doing well is a cause for some comfort. We do not want them to collapse like we saw with many in the late 1980s.

And as we are aware, the CLICO Group is alleged to be in this danger notwithstanding our Government’s “helping hand” there over the past ten years.

But whatever is happening at and to the CLICO Group is well hidden from nearly all of us and, particularly, to those who have lost or are in danger of losing their life savings. The truth of this debacle is hidden in an expensive “meant to be public” report.

We should have accepted long ago that nobody truly is committed to our country. We are all here for ourselves, for what we can get out of this land, this society in which we currently reside.

We look outward, overseas, especially to the USA and Canada, to where we will invest the money we have made while residing in large homes surrounded by high walls and electronic alarm systems. And it has been so throughout our colonial and independent history.

While other islands distinguished and branded themselves proudly, we remained a backwater for cast-offs and refugees and our agriculture never had an identity of its own. Petroleum saved us economically, so we did not need to farm the land any more, and maybe this helped us to disconnect any emotional bonds to our homeland.

Certainly to our land, which we see as something to destroy rather than to cultivate.

But as we face the ever-recurring financial difficulties imposed by the world market price of our oil—a price over which we have no control—we become aware of an ever-increasing outflow of foreign currency, steadily eroding our reserves as the “oil money” dries up.

We must also acknowledge that due to basic incompetence, our production of oil and gas is also dwindling.

We continue to spend and, literally, to export our US dollars on totally unproductive items. What for instance is the annual sum of US dollars exported to pay for the right to sell unhealthy foods with American brand names? People in the unhealthy fast-food business are complaining that they cannot legally access US dollars to pay for the right to sell these “branded” foods, so that we can feel that we are “just like America.” Actually, it is a little bit ironic that the businessman who sells his own brands of pizza, coffee and the like attracted more vilification than those selling American-named brands, for which they must pay exorbitantly.

But understand our thought processes in this regard: It was Dr Keith Rowley, as minister of Planning some years ago, opening another American-franchised fast-food outlet, who stated that if anyone doubted we were a developed nation, they only needed to patronise this food chain! How proud we are to open each new fast-food, fast-take-away-ourdollars outlet! We will be closer to developed-nation status when we are franchising people in North America to sell doubles or corn Soup but we are a long way from understanding this.

Of course, we know but do not discuss the fact that many of our manufacturers who are exporting products consider that their export earnings are to be banked away while the Central Bank must continuously pump them up with US Dollars to import their raw materials.

All of these things drain our foreign currency reserves, which only petroleum can replace. The financial services sector, a large and generally unproductive cartel, continues to squeeze the population, particularly those with limited incomes.

While they are currently blooming in our barren financial l a n d - s c a p e , they too are living and profiting on borrowed time.



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