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Brace for the Consequences

My last article on Barbados’ vote against the US received sufficient feedback to justify a further explanation.  Some felt that it was simply a case of the US bullying another country, and Barbados’ courageous stand against the US’ offensive threats of retaliation against countries who dared not vote with it.  But is this true?

In assessing claims of truth, we should evaluate evidence.  What is the available evidence?  The US decided to move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem.  Israel did not object.  However, the UN objected and tried to force the US to change its decision.  It did this by crafting a non-binding resolution to condemn the US before all nations at the UN General Assembly.

This type of targeted sanction is normally reserved for nations committing highly offensive actions, like genocide.  The US objected to being singled out for this type of sanction, and the US responded by noting those who voted to condemn it, in order to re-evaluate their friendship agreements.  This is not bullying, rather, it is a response to being bullied.

What is Barbados’ bullying experience with voting against US interests in Israel?  I have found no evidence that Barbados has ever been bullied into voting the way that the US votes.  The evidence shows that every year, it is typical that 100% of our votes are against the way that the US and Israel votes, and this has never put our friendship with the US at any risk.  So why are some claiming that the US bullies us when there is no evidence whatsoever to support such a claim?  Perhaps we are being manipulated.

Let us now address this last UN vote.  This vote was unlike anything that we have ever done as an independent nation.  It was not the typical vote that targeted an issue favourable to Israel or the Palestinians, this was a massive vote directly targeting the US for international condemnation.  That is why the US Ambassador issued her unprecedented warning, which persons have mis-defined as bullying.  This is the first and only time since our independence that we have ever put our friendship with the US in such jeopardy.

To put this in perspective, let us assume that China was singled out for severe criticism at the UN on human rights abuses, and China warned Barbados not to disrespect them before all nations.  Would our principled UN representatives vote to publically embarrass China?  Probably not.

Guyana is currently trying to exploit significant oil reserves in waters disputed by Venezuela.  In my opinion, Guyana has a strong case, but let us assume that Guyana was singled out for criticism at the UN for this action, and they asked us not to disrespect them before all nations.  Would we vote to publically embarrass our Caribbean friend and neighbour?  Probably not.  Why not?  Because we are principled hypocrites?  No.  Because that is not how we treat our friends.  But perhaps it is how we treat perceived enemies.

Errol Barrow summarised our foreign policy as friends of all and satellites of none.  It seems that we are being manipulated into adding … and enemies of the US.  The question is why?

Some have justified our vote by claiming that we have no beneficial relationship with the US, and therefore, nothing to lose by derisively criticising the US in front of all other nations.  This is simply not true.  Barbados is a highly favoured trading partner with the US.  Barbados does not just have a good trading (double-taxation) agreement with the US, or a very good trade agreement like that of Trinidad and Tobago who had an active US military base at the time. We have a rare exceptionally favourable (to Barbados) trading agreement with the US. It is almost unheard of internationally and it is the envy or every country that learns of it.

Being the 2014 winner of the National Innovation Competition, I train groups of individuals, free of cost, to start and grow profitable businesses.  Participants learn to trade with the US and take advantage of this highly beneficial (to Barbados) trade agreement, with direct access to the largest consumer market on the planet.  So I know of what I write.

We are currently on the brink of economic ruin.  The main thing that may keep Barbadians from losing their mortgaged homes, and out of dire poverty if we are surrendered to the IMF, is that favourable trade agreement.  Regrettably, we carelessly treated our friendship with the US with reckless indifference.

Our representatives’ excuse that we were just voting on principle in support of International Law, seems to confirm that they simply misread the UN vote as just another typical vote against Israel’s interests.  The US Ambassador’s uncharacteristic warnings should have prompted them to take a closer look.

So, if we could do it all over again, then how should we have voted?  In my opinion, the most appropriate course of action for complex disputes where we do not have all of the facts, is to abstain from voting.  We should remember that when a vote was taken to give the Palestinians non-member observer state status in the UN in 2012, Barbados did not get involved in the dispute and simply abstained from voting.

The approximately 70-year Arab-Israel dispute qualifies as complex.  Adding a bilateral agreement between the US and Israel that is of concern to the UN further complicates an already complex issue.  Therefore, the most appropriate course of action in the interest of all Barbadians was to abstain from voting.  Eight of our Caribbean neighbours voted in the interests of their citizens and did just that.

Most Barbadians are completely unaware of the grave danger that our UN representatives have now placed us.  If we actually misread the vote as I am charitably assuming, then the damage can be repaired.  However, if it was intentional, then they should have at least warned us to brace for the likely consequences.

So my main point is that if we feel disrespected by another country at the UN, we should vote for the best interest of Barbadians.  If we feel bullied, we should vote for the best interest of Barbadians.  If the US bullies or does not bully another nation, we should vote for the best interest of Barbadians.  If the Palestinians want to establish a runway in Gaza and a central bank in the West Bank, we should vote for the best interests of Barbadians.  In my opinion, our recent vote was not in the best interest of Barbadians.  I am willing to be convinced otherwise with additional evidence.

The only reason why we should not vote for our own self-interests is if there is genocide and the like in another country.  Otherwise, we should do what every other country at the UN does – vote for the self-interests of our citizens, and be wary of being manipulated into voting for the interests of others at the expense of our citizens

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer, an analyst of history, and the founder of Solutions Barbados.  He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

A Bunch of Hypocrites

As I engage the younger generation, who we are training to manage Barbados after we have gone to the great beyond, I am normally impressed with their general boldness and ability to articulate their concerns.

I recently saw a young fellow who appeared to have just graduated from secondary school selling newspapers.  I bought one and encouraged him to keep doing the right thing.  I was impressed by his politeness.  He should do well in business, because he was selling a high-demand product in a high-trafficked location, and he was polite – which is a valuable asset.

I also encountered persons selling mangoes.  Some had no fear about explaining that they had picked them from a neighbour’s yard.  They felt justified since they did not pick all, but left some, that were harder to reach, for their neighbour.  They also felt entitled to the mangoes since they previously chased the monkeys from stealing the fruit.

They asked me what I will do about police coming into their community and taking bribes for looking the other way.  They laughed when I informed them about the Police Complaints Authority, saying that it is a joke.  I asked them whether they had ever made a complaint, and they admitted that they had not because it is a joke.  I explained that they should first make a complaint, and then observe the response before they conclude that it is joke.

They agreed that this was a rational approach, but then countered by stating that they were tired of all of the hypocrisy in Barbados.  Why is everyone preaching “do as I say but not as I do”?  They then asked some pertinent questions.

Why are obese health officials preaching that the public should not enjoy the unhealthy foods that they seem to be enjoying in abundance?  Why are people with high salaries telling those who are barely getting by to tighten their belts?  Why are people who are always drinking preaching that others should drink responsibly?

When I asked about their choice of job, they tried to justify their choice of employer.  What is the difference between having an employer who tells you to use substandard materials and methods, and having a gang lord who tells you to sell drugs?  In both cases, the employers are doing wrong, customers get hurt, and if they get caught, you will be out of a job.  So what is the real difference?

Why do the police leave the men who pay and receives bribes, and the restaurants that dilute drinks, and contractors who do bad work, and shops that sell defective products, and supermarkets that sell expired food alone, but want to arrest the fellows who are selling drugs?  How is that right?  I agreed that it was not right, and that in a Solutions Barbados administration, they would all be treated equitably.

This brings us to the political poster issue.  The Barbados Light and Power formally requested all political parties not to place posters on their poles.  One reason given is that they can seriously injure workers.  Respect for private property is a basic human right in Barbados, and is protected by our constitution.  Politicians who want to write our nation’s laws, but unashamedly violate constitutional property rights in full public view, are extremely poor examples for our youth.

Fortunately for all of us, there is an upcoming general election and an opportunity for us to select better political models for our nation’s justifiably cynical youth.  Your responsibility in this regard is to simply note every political candidate on a utility pole, and do not vote for them.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and the founder of Solutions Barbados.  He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

Put Up or Shut Up

This is the most crucially important general election that we have ever had since our independence.  We are so much in debt that we are facing economic ruin.  If any successful political party fails to significantly improve the economy within their first year in Government, the majority of Barbadians will suffer unimaginable harm.  We are realistically looking at most of the middle-class being reduced to poverty within the next 3 years

With so much to lose in this general election, voters need to examine each Party’s economic plans.  However, that is clearly asking too much of voters who have more immediate concerns.  In recognition of this, the US has a non-partisan Congressional Budget Office that examines political plans and determines their effect on the economy.

For this critical general election, Barbados desperately needs a set of non-partisan accountants and economists who are willing to put aside their political biases, and honestly examine the effects of each Party’s plans on the national economy and society.  I am calling on the Barbados Economic Society and the Institute of Charter Accountants of Barbados to form a joint committee to do just that – for all of our sakes.

The criteria for membership of this committee should be agreed with all political parties.  The joint committee should critically examine each assumption used in each Party’s economic plans, because we cannot afford to get it wrong this time.  It is in all of our interests to know whether a Party’s plans are likely to work, and any deficiencies in a Party’s plans that need to be corrected before they are implemented on the public.

While this can serve to protect the public in some way, it is not fool proof.  Despite all political parties knowing full well that there is no more money left to pay for reckless political promises as in the past, some Parties will continue to make them, because that is the only way they know of getting elected – but this time, they know that they will be blatantly lying to the public.

Since we have run out of time for any more political games, Barbados needs a guarantee that we can return a political product if it is found to be defective.  One such method is to allow voters to recall all members of Cabinet after their first year in office, if their economic plans fails to meet the measureable improvements promised.  With this method, politicians are less likely to make reckless promises and are more likely to keep responsible ones.  It is much better to hold by-elections in those constituencies than to put Barbadians through any more unnecessary suffering.

Solutions Barbados is the only party offering to do what the other parties have not done, namely, properly manage public services, reduce our national debt, allow public workers to be promoted on merit alone, and root out corruption.  Our plans have been published for the past 2.5 years for rigorous public scrutiny, and we welcome having them scored by any non-partisan group.  It is now time for every political party contesting this important election to either ‘put up or shut up’, because we simply cannot afford anymore broken political promises.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and the founder of Solutions Barbados.  He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

They Know Not What They Did

If there was not a clear reason to vote for Solutions Barbados in the upcoming General Election, then our recent vote at the UN should be the final straw.  Our politicians have once again recklessly put us in grave danger.

The US decided to locate their Embassy in Jerusalem.  Barbados was thinking about publically criticising that decision with our vote in UN.  So the US Ambassador, Nikki Haley, gave us citizens a clear warning. “On Thursday there will be a vote at the UN criticizing our choice. And yes, the US will be taking names.”

The warning did not seem to deter our politicians, so Ambassador Haley made her statements even more explicit.  “The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out in this assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation,” and to ensure that we would be without excuse, she added, “We will remember it when, once again, we are called up to make the world’s largest contribution to the U.N., and we will remember it when many countries come calling on us to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”

Our politicians could not be dissuaded from adamantly angering the US and potentially harming Barbados for symbolic reasons.  Ambassador Haley explained that the US will put their embassy in Jerusalem regardless of how countries voted.  She also stated “But this vote will make a difference on how Americans look at the UN, and on how we look at countries who disrespect us in the UN.”

While our politicians were praising themselves for their principled stand, Ambassador Haley identified the countries that would remain under their good graces – Barbados is not listed among them.  She noted “We appreciate these countries for not falling to the irresponsible ways of the United Nations” and included the following Caribbean countries: “Antigua-Barbuda, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, and Trinidad-Tobago.”

Did these Caribbean countries vote with the US?  No. They simply abstained from participating in an exercise designed to embarrass the US at the UN.  We are a friend of the US – well, perhaps until that last reckless vote.  Barbados frequently opposes positions supported by the US without our friendship being put at risk.  However, the US suggested that our friendship would be put at risk if we voted to embarrass them on this occasion.

There may come a time when all responsible Barbadians will fully accept the consequences of our politicians’ attempt to publically embarrass the US at the UN.  However, such action should only be used as a last resort when it is the only remaining option.  Because friends try moral suasion first, not international disrespect.  Further, the offence would need to be grievous, like genocide, or killing people because of ideological differences – not their decision to locate their own embassy.

Our politicians are supposed to represent our interests.  It was not in our interests for the BLP to recklessly borrow in our names to the point where our debts became unsustainable.  It is not in our interest for the DLP to have brought us to the brink of economic ruin.  It is not in our interests for our politicians to have made us one of the most economically vulnerable nations on this planet.

Other countries with our level of debt have devalued their currency long ago.  We have had 20 Government bond downgrades.  We are desperately selling every national asset of value before we will be surrendered to the IMF.  We have been blacklisted by the European Union as a tax haven.  Now, our politicians are trying to get us blacklisted by the US.  Why?  What was so important for our politicians to risk our children’s future?

Our politicians have recklessly chosen to place Barbados in a conflict that they have not demonstrated any level of understanding whatsoever.  The Arab-Israeli conflict is primarily a religious conflict, and not a political one for politicians to get themselves involved in.  It is rooted in Mohammed’s final command that “Two religions should not be allowed to remain in the peninsula of the Arabs.”

Islamists on the peninsula will never violate Mohammed’s final command, regardless of any type of political compromises that their politicians reach.  As long as the Islamic nations teach that Israel is part of the peninsula, then it does not matter what Israel does or does not do, Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state will never be accepted by the surrounding Islamic nations.

One non-military route to a sustainable solution is through meaningful discussion, by Islamic religious leaders, on whether Israel is situated outside of the geographic and political boundaries of the Arabian Peninsula.  If Barbados has a burning desire to enter this conflict, then we can play a meaningful role in this solution by facilitating such a discussion – not by putting our economically vulnerable population at risk by attempting to publically humiliate the US.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer, an analyst of history, and the founder of Solutions Barbados.  He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

Find Redemption like Scrooge – Christmas Message

Dear Fellow Barbadians:

Sometime during the Christmas season, I normally find myself watching a movie of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’.  The story describes the reactions the selfish Ebenezer Scrooge to visits by ghosts of Christmas’ past, present and future on Christmas Eve.  However, his redemption only happens after he sees the impact of his selfish actions on others in his likely future.

This Christmas, each of us need to see whether our planned actions will harm or benefit our fellow citizens.  For the first time since our independence, we can accurately predict the type of Christmas that most of our fellow Barbadians will have next year if we do not change.  That is a future with the IMF dictating our economy.  So let us get to know our planned new masters.

Before the World Wars of the last century, if a country could not repay its debts, the lender could invade the country and plunder its wealth in order to recover the debt and the cost of the invasion.  After World War 2, the principal lending nations decided to establish a bank of last resort from which indebted nations could borrow in order to repay international creditors.

As a condition of the IMF’s loan, indebted nations first had to agree to inflict severe austerity measures upon the population.  One reason is to punish citizens for electing politicians who would take out unaffordable loans in their names.

A former Prime Minister asked the now famous question “How did we get back here?”  We got back here because the last punishment was not memorable enough.  The most memorable IMF austerity measures are reserved for those countries who have run out of all good options, like us.  Guyana is another country that had run out of all good options, and their experience with the IMF is instructive.

Within one year of being surrendered to the IMF, Guyana had fallen from being one of the richest Caribbean countries to one of the poorest.  Guyana’s politicians became overseers who oversaw: a 70% devaluation of the dollar, doubling of income tax rates, a lack of supplies and maintenance parts, reduced social services, mass emigration of professionals, and 75% of the population in poverty.

Our Christmas next year may be similar because our dollar will likely devalue.  The obvious result is that everyone with a mortgage who is not earning foreign currency will likely lose their homes, our infrastructure will not be properly maintained, and the cost of imported products will be unaffordable for most.

Like Scrooge, we can ask “Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be?”  We can also learn from Scrooge’s insight that if you do not change your behaviour, then your future is predictable.  However, you can change an undesirable future by changing your behaviour now.

If you thought that your only option was to vote for severe austerity for your fellow Barbadians, then be assured that you can vote for Solutions instead.  Austerity can be avoided by: reducing taxes, depoliticising the public services, rooting out corruption, and properly managing public services.

All Barbadians can finally experience: a fair economy where everyone can participate based on merit and not whom they know; good quality public services delivered in a timely manner; and significantly more income left after paying their normal monthly expenses.  If you truly want to give all Barbadians that bright future next Christmas, then vote to give them Solutions, and not austerity.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and the founder of Solutions Barbados.  He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com