Owen Arthur’s 2011 Chamber Address at Hilton Barbados: “Ils ont change ma chanson” or, ‘Where have I heard that before?’

Ils ont change ma chanson, ma
(ooh, not bad)
Ils ont change ma chanson
(uh-huh. Let me see here {franglish gibberish})
Ils ont change ma chanson
(My French must be pretty bad, I better do this in English)

Look what they done to my song, ma
Look what they done to my song ma
Put it in a plastic bag and they turned the bag upside down ma
Look what they done to my song

Earlier this week, the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Barbados (BCCI) had their final luncheon for this year at Hilton Barbados and they sought to end with a flourish… Through no fault of their own, they ended up repeating a key event from their Business Luncheons of 2010 but without the power and the presence to give it the correct impetus, as a consequence – the mercantile and commerce elements of Barbadian society felt little hope, if any, was placed as a counterpoint to the current monetary doldrums plaguing Barbados for the last three years.

The keynote address was delivered by OwenOctober 18Arthur, he was obviously hoping to pander to the business segment as a means of fund-raising for when next elections are called (constitutionally due by January 2013, although some feel between March to July next year there may be a big surprise) but since he did not do correct damage control when Gline Clarke was racially attacking the DLP’s budgetary plans towards motor racing here, it is more than likely those same ‘white boys‘ felt Mr Arthur was driving on a flat tyre.

I asked Mr Arthur since he said the BLP is in full Election Machinery at George Lamming Primary in June and at the Ermie Bourne Resource Centre in late August, he indicated the first Public Meeting will be in September... What is happening now? His contention is it was a Business Luncheon and not a Political gathering... Why dodge?

Certainly support was lacking when during Arthur’s Q&A after the main address, he had alluded to free movement of Nationals within Caricom and even worse for most Bajans, Arthur’s old proposal to have a common Currency for the Caribbean drew stone cold silence and no applause {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

His contention is that such an initiative would save Barbados $500 million per year with currency printing, but note how quiet the crowd is at his suggestion? They are probably thinking of Greece who is in such dire straits, the EU is considering if to let Athens stay with the Euro or go back to Drachmas and not create a burden on their overall strength which is mainly from Germany & France.

How can one seriously even mention a solitary coinage for the West Indies when Haiti is at rock bottom, Guyana is still re-emerging as a Caribbean entity and Jamaica plus Trinidad and Tobago have values which are lower than Bridgetown’s? Are you asking Barbados to pull the weight of other islands via their currency?

Now this not just me thinking this way, I had some former officers of the Chamber’s executive pose this to me in the lobby and parking lot after the event was concluded. They also did not like the idea of Free Movement of Caricom, seeing David Thompson‘s (somewhat draconian, ironic considering his surviving widow) measures to control Immigration arrivals to Barbados.

Pat Hoyos sadly appeared to be rather sycophantic in his approach to engage Mr Arthur in clarity on issues...

In a broad overview of what Arthur said in his speech “Managing Change in an Era of Global Economic Instability,” here is the gist of what he sought put forward to the large yet not capacity audience…

He sees the G20 in Europe as an abject failure and also decried the current Administration for considering inertia as a means of dodging this recession now; Arthur reminded patrons how the country has faced similar crises in its 45 years of Independence in a “V” shaped pattern – depression then stabilisation followed by sharp growth…

But when Arthur said that he would like to see Barbados becoming the arbitration capital of the world, it occurred to me that I had heard it all before. In essence, he was not riding on a flat tyre but using a poor copy of a re-tread…

BCCI President Andy Armstrong's address was not a copy of Mia's but an adjunct or an augmentation or complementary edition, his comments will be given full coverage over the weekend.

In the 2010 Estimates, Ms Mottley reminded the country how in 2007 when it looked as though the competitive benefits with China would go, as Minister of International Business – she went to China to discuss Barbados being given more time to allow for the repositioning of its marketing strategy with China as well as Barbados’ business model in the International Business Sector.

It would seem that those discussions were extremely successful and as a result, Barbados was able to gain an additional two-and-a-half years in respect of those amendments to the Barbados-China treaty. The intention was to use Barbados as an outward investment domicile for Chinese surplus capital into the rest of the world, in the same way that Barbados had done with Canada.

When Ms Mottley was Minister of Economic Development, the Parliament of Barbados passed the International Arbitration Bill. That Bill was intended to position Barbados as a centre for international arbitration for the rest of the world. To Miss Mottley’s credit, the London Court of Arbitration, which had said “NO” to the Australians’ request to do similar – said “YES” to Barbados. However, because of the tardiness, Barbados lost that opportunity and India became the recipient of the Court.

In her 2010 Estimates presentation – Ms Mottley queried the status of the 495,000 pounds Euro grant from the European Union brokered during her tenure, which was intended to develop an educational institution at the University of the West Indies to prepare Barbadians to occupy better positions in the International Business Sector. There was also to be a partnership with the University of Toronto. Unfortunately, no further action has been taken on these matters.

Another area raised by Ms Mottley in the 2010 Estimates in March was: ‘The Special Technical Assistance Programme,’ which had helped up to 495 businesses up to the end of 2007 in the repositioning of their companies in order to meet the more liberalized environment.

Many BLP stalwarts appeared - some who had not beeen seen in ages - while others who await their duly apportioned crumbs lapped themselves at their master's feet (no lie - they were feet away from the lectern where he spoke), so to speak...

How is it possible that Arthur new idea was mentioned long ago by Mia Mottley? Is it, that at November 24th 2011, the BLP under Arthur – is where it was three years ago when Mia was leader, and is therefore now only repeating the innovation introduced by her?

Do not just take my word for it – here is when Mottley referred to a potential solution for NIS {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

What is the real reason that the Government owns the airport or the seaport today? Security? That can be provided no matter who owns it. Revenue? Share retention through the NIS and fees and taxes will ensure that the country continues to benefit from future revenue and profits. Is there any reason that Government should continue to wholly own and manage some of these facilities when to do so will challenge its ability to afford other services and benefits which are more important to us as a society – like affordable health care and free tertiary education? While there are efficiencies that can be introduced in these key areas they are too critical to our stability and our ability to attain social justice to be threatened at this period of our development. I say no.

And yes there is sentiment. But pride and sentiment can be found in a new range of Barbadian investors, individual small investors, credit unions, pension funds and the like, and not only through ownership by the Barbados Government.

How does Arthur look at revitalising the infrastructure? Sounds familiar? {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

Arthur claims he wants a moratorium on Government spending on Capital Projects, privatising many Departments and reviving the West Coast Sewerage Project…

This project was abandoned after Fomento Y Cubiertas, who butchered the South Coast Sewerage Project (as a cost-cutting measure, the same firm left a trench in Jamaica improperly covered and a 6 year old girl died after a fatal fall not long before digging commences here in Barbados) to the point where Owen’s own regime between 2000 and 2004 disbursed many out of court settlements for injuries or losses of revenue from the installation of pipes which still do not appear to alleviate seasonal flooding and allegedly still befoul the shorelines on occasion…

The South Coast Sewerage Project had a disastrous effect on Worthing to Bay Street in 1997 and even now there are still roads along Brittons Hill which bear the scars of roads dug and re-dug!

Meanwhile, Mottley’s plan for the Transport Board is phenomenal and no major restructuring {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

In 2008 we spent over $45 million and in 2009 just over $23 million. There is a large overdraft as well. The sector is already attractive to individual, small and medium sized investors. There are about 250 Transport Board buses and about 500 public service vehicles. Why should government invest another $100 million in debt to purchase equipment (buses) and operational expenses over the next decade when it can contract out its routes to private operators for a fixed fee monthly in a highly regulated environment where the penalty will not be chalking up another traffic conviction but losing your route. Why can’t the men and women who have been driving the buses for years be empowered to become owners along with other private investors in the sector? What about the NIS? What about the other range of institutional investors? Government will of necessity continue to find a mechanism to protect the most vulnerable for whom that cost of travel is still a burden. There is the added benefit of securing greater order and discipline and a level playing field for the sector under these arrangements. There will obviously still be a need for the bigger buses on the long haul routes. But why would we not want to maximize the investment made collectively in our country by the myriad investors?

Listen to Owen’s commentary on LIAT and see if you don’t find yourself going “Hmm,” is this not another Transport solution changed from buses to planes? In a problem which started with Owen himself (BLP under Arthur bought 49% of LIAT)? {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

Arthur says he collaborated along with Gonsalves to seek a new way for LIAT, if he had Government to run again he’d say for Private Sector to handle the outsourcing of routes – only there was no REDjet then… Is this not an aviation version of what Mottley said over a year from before?

The only difference was that while Ms Mottley has not had the direct experience to conduct Prime Ministerial duties (Mind you, when the Glendairy Crisis emerged in March 2005 she showed utter calm and full control – engaging the Private Sector to start Harrison’s Point facility as a stopgap; but where was Owen?), nevertheless it was under Arthur when some of the current debts have been brought home to roost, so why do you expect those who started it to be able to solve it?

Mr Arthur? The Chamber may thank you, but please recall; “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Charles Caleb Colton (English sportsman and writer, 1780-1832)

Again, I say – Barbados needs a cadre of Independent candidates or a truly viable 3rd Party to come forward and break the vicious cycle of Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber!

The proof is that Arthur in the BLP can only try for investment in his campaign using the brightest star in their camp and no original ideas of his own… While the DEM’s are merely the other side of the counterfeit coin – as opposed to no original action, their method of control is Auto Pilot? Ms Mottley has a hard road to carve, but once done will rival any that Rome ever mapped out and implemented… Roads from Rome last thousands of years, check Wales and/or Czechoslovakia thereabouts…

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  1. As Barbados celebrates its 45th birthday of Independence, it is clear that Owen Arthur’s legacy of high debt, accumulated during times of plenty – is now killing our country. That explains why the announcement from the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) that he (Opposition Leader Owen Arthur) would have been addressing its luncheon on November 24th – became “big new” and for a number of reasons. That announcement was coming less than a month after Owen Arthur had spoken at his Party’s Annual Conference. Pray tell: what new or important could he possibly have had to say?

    Secondly! Given the topic he was expected to speak on, it would have been bizarre, to say the least, for a man who was Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of Barbados for fourteen years, to be now talking about “change” or the need to implement anything, especially when he would have had more than amply time and more time than anybody else in the history of this country, to restructure the Barbados economy; find new economic sectors as well as a new development model – but did not.

    Thirdly, his address was coming within days of what would be his Independence Address but since Mia Mottley (as a former Opposition Leader) would have significantly raised the bar, as regards, presentations by BLP politicians at such BCCI luncheons (September 29th 2010 being the new standard) it was foreseeable that Owen Arthur would have been under tremendous pressure to even come close, far less – better Mia Mottley’s performance, which for him, would have been: “MISSION IMPOSSIBLE!”

    This is significant because, after he and his “gang of 5” had ousted her, it would be only reasonable for Barbadians to expect much better or even better! Unfortunately, it just is not happening, simply because it is not possible! Owen Arthur spoke for a considerable amount of time at that BCCI luncheon but by the end of his presentation – those looking for freshness or credible ideas how the country would advance under him – got absolutely nothing, except Arthur again telling the DLP to cut and impose austerity on Barbadians.

    At the end of his “warm-over-cold-soup-talk,” local academics were not impressed, neither were Talk Show Hosts. But they were when Mia Mottley spoke and they said so publicly! No Senior Reporter from the London Times was impressed when Owen Arthur spoke, either! Frankly, there has simply been no buzz, as was the case when Mia Mottley addressed the BCCI.

    Whether you are on-board the Owen Arthur geriatric brigade or the George Payne gravy-train, it is not difficult to notice that the BLP veered off-course some time ago and has since come to an abrupt halt. In August this year, Owen Arthur promised public meetings that ought to have started in September but have not. He had earlier, officially launched the BLP’s general election campaign but that too has been a false start. One can therefore expect a re-launch of the launch because the alleged launch – never got off the ground. What could it be that he wants to say, that CBC is preventing him?

    Since becoming Leader of the Opposition, Owen Arthur has been using that position to encourage the Freundel Stuart administration to introduce austerity measures and impose pain on Barbadians. He has suggested to the DLP that it should cause Barbadians to pay for health care, to even telling the DLP that it is spending too much on poor people. But week-after-week, Arthur keeps getting it wrong.

    Owen Arthur does not bother to go to Parliament now! He tables no Resolutions, he does not ask any Parliamentary Questions and yet he plays the role of victim (which he does well) by blaming CBC for not letting the public hear him speak. However, the high-point of his recent speech to the BCCI’s Luncheon was that the NIS Board should not invest the savings of Barbadian in Barbados to build productive capacity at Four Seasons. But no sooner had he said that than respected Ratings Agency, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) stated publicly that investing NIS Funds in that project is a good idea for the economy.

    Once again, Owen Arthur has found himself on the wrong side if the fence. But for him, this is the norm! He is against football, which he labels: “a distraction.” Yet the Stadium is packed nightly with paying patrons. He said Mara was “an affront” but she got the most votes ever, in any Barbadian political election. Owen Arthur is a very lonely man who is bored with himself.

    All over the world, there is overwhelming evidence that the gold or first-place, sometimes goes to the less deserving contestant. Mia Mottley, as former Leader of the Opposition – is therefore a constant reminder to Barbados Labour Party supporters that – banking on a 3% swing to topple the DLP will not be enough, hence they must not settle for less than the gold, especially when (WITH MIA MOTTLEY) much better is possible; much better has been placed on the table for national discussion and Barbados can be a winner! For: how can the man who ran-up millions in debt during times of plenty, be now calling on the DLP, in the worst recession in our life-time, to reduce his debt? Call us “wild boys!” Allege that we “do not know what we are doing” but we will not send home Barbadians from the Public Service, neither will we cut spending on poor people.


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