Daily Archives: October 2, 2006

Barbados Chief Town Planner’s Actions Say “Rule Of Law Not Important”

From our “Everybody knows but nobody cares” files, this little gem (Gem… get it?) of a quote just popped out of a story in today’s Barbados Advocate…

“Under the Town Planning Act, the Chief Town Planner has a legal responsibility every five years to produce a development plan. Since the 1965 act, only two such plans were laid in Parliament, the 1970 and 1986 plans.”

Yup, come and invest here folks. If we don’t like a law that adds to good governance and accountability – we just ignore it, and the government lets us get away with it.

And… where the h*** are Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition on this?

Yes, sometimes I do despair…

Barbados Advocate article link: Release The Land

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Filed under Barbados, Offshore Investments, Politics & Corruption

Did Barbados Prime Minister Borrow Money To Lower Gasoline Price?

Mortgaging The Future Again?

According to Barbados Free Press reader Littleboy56, the “big announcement” at the BLP meeting last night was A gas price reduction of about $1.00 Barbadian currency. Much ado about nothing!!! It was a diversionary tactic by a governing party that is becoming more and more unpopular by the day…”

Never mind whether this lowering of the price of gasoline is a cynical political “diversionary tactic” or a well-meant but flawed attempt to reduce energy costs to the average Bajan – Barbados Free Press wants to know how the Prime Minister accomplished this magic? Did he reduce the gasoline tax at the pump – which is borrowing against the national debt?

Or… did Prime Minsiter Owen Arthur strike a deal to borrow new money – this time from Chavez and Venezuela?

Either way… Ain’t nothin’ be free, folks!

Once again, your grandchild will still be paying decades from now for this week’s tank of petrol. Thanks, Owen!

Owen Arthur Barbados Government Financial Planning:

a/ Tax the people to death.

b/ Enslave future generations by borrowing and increasing the National Debt

c/ Sell off pieces of the nation to keep afloat a little while longer.

From The Nation News a few days ago…

PM nudges Chavez

PRIME MINISTER OWEN ARTHUR is hopeful that the price of gasoline will come down.

Speaking at the Barbados Labour Party’s St James South branch meeting on Sunday at West Terrace Primary School, West Terrace, St James, he said that Barbados could benefit from the “discounted prices” Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he was offering another country.

“If Mr Chavez could be persuaded, and do for us that which he is now walking about saying he is doing for America – he is offering people discounted prices on the gas, and then we have to buy the gas at market price.

“Discount the price for us too; we’ll be happy to get the gas from there,” Arthur said.

…The PetroCaribe deal, which Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago have declined to sign, is allowing CARICOM states to buy Venezuelan oil at market prices but pay for some of it with a long-term plan at low rates of interest.(full article here)

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Filed under Barbados, Business & Banking, Politics & Corruption

World Welcomes Aidan!

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Say hello to Aidan – born a few days ago to proud parents Phil and Mandy over at A Limey In Bermuda blog.

Phil won’t be posting quite as regularly for the next few weeks… apparently he’s going to be busy!

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Filed under Barbados

Slavery… And A Bottle Of Rum: Barbados Rum, Of Course

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“And A Bottle Of Rum – A History Of The New World In Ten Cocktails” is a book with a most appealing title to a few of us here at Barbados Free Press. We may have killed one or two bottles ourselves. Not lately, you understand – we are talking about in our youth. Honest. (hic!)

So the book by Wayne Curtis called to me when I saw it on a shelf in New York City this past August. Why not buy it? I love history and as Shona knows, I still (very occasionally) pour some of the devil’s brew into a shot glass. But time and money were tight and we walked on without purchasing the book.

Then came my birthday, and bless her kind heart, Shona handed me a strangely shaped package that turned out to be the book and a bottle of Barbados fine dark rumbullion by Mount Gay. We’ll leave the review of the rum for later, but the book is a worthy read – well written, sad, humourous, and full of history of Barbados slavery and how we – black, white and all shades between – came to this small island.

Sugar, Rum, Slavery Shaped Barbados

Here are some excerpts from two reviews I found online…

“If not for slavery,” Wayne Curtis writes in one of the capriciously titled chapters in this tumultous romp through four centuries of American history, “sugar might have been a minor economic footnote in the rise of North America.”

Indeed the linkage of slaves, spirits and sugar in the invention of rum leads to spirited reading during which Curtis misses no opportunity for famous name dropping.

The author begins his tale at the door of a Philadelphia tavern, a reconstruction of the original tavern on the site in 1773 frequented by, among others, Thomas Jefferson, Paul Revere and George Washington. It was an establishment that President John Adams referred to as “the most genteel tavern in America.” Curtis is there, a 21st-century visitor, seeking an old drink.

…In the wonderful new world, the imbibement of choice was usually a concocted mixture with the base of what was called “evil in a glass,” rum, a distillation that turned an industrial waste product into cash. For what was a poor or rich sugarcane farmer to do with the seemingly useless leftovers in the production of sugar?

Curtis, a contributing editor for Preservation Magazine, whose articles have appeared in Yankee, Down East and The American Scholar, spent three exhaustive years researching this project through reading, tasting and travel, especially to the islands that initiated the rum industry.

The first British settlers on the island of Barbados, in the early 1600s, were told to go forth and produce products scarce and in demand in England. Several crops failed, and tobacco, at first successful, soon became an inferior product, unwanted in London. Sugarcane, already an essential crop on islands off the coast of Africa, came to the new world as seedlings with Columbus, on his second voyage.

The byproducts of sugar production were considerable, when recognized: “A mass of useless scummings would be skinned off the boiling cauldrons during the canejuice reduction … What emerged was molasses. In the 17th century, molasses was a nuisance.”

How did a rum distiller turn industrial waste into cash? “He began by mixing in a large cistern a liquid mess – the blackish scum that rose to the surface during the sugar-boiling process, the dregs remaining in the still, and water used to clean out the sugar-boiling pots.” Left to ferment in the tropical heat, the distiller watched for bubbles, adding molasses. On occasion, impatient for fermentation to begin, a distiller might toss in the carcasses of dead animals, or dung “to kick-start” the process. One account suggests “the overseer will empty his chamberpot” into an already feculent mess. (Editor’s note: Hopefully, Mount Gay now uses other methods of fermentation!)

Curtis goes into detail concerning fermentation methods, and the growing market for varying grades of the fiery spirit called rum – a shortening of the British slang word, rumbullion, that meant a brawl or violent commotion, surely an apt appelation for the miscreants and Bacchanalians who soon demonstrated a global craving for the drink in all its mixtures and manifestations.

Beginning with the toxic “kill-devil,” “rum began its voyage from the sugar islands to the larger world beyond. Colonists were starved for cheap diversion.” Crossing seas, casks soon came to the attention of brigands, buccaneers and pirates. Curtis tells us more than we might want to know about the exploits of one such scrounging mariner whose name even today is emblazoned on bottles appearing on supermarket shelves – Capt. Morgan – one of the crassest, most-feared of sea rampagers.

We are told the first Puritans arrived with a thirst for drink, distrusting water sources in their new environment, “an apprehension imported from Europe, where crowded, contaminated cities made free-flowing water unfit to drink.”…

…read the complete review at Maine Today (link here)

The publisher, Random House, also has a review on their website (link here)…

And a Bottle of Rum tells the raucously entertaining story of America as seen through the bottom of a drinking glass. With a chapter for each of ten cocktails—from the grog sailors drank on the high seas in the 1700s to the mojitos of modern club hoppers—Wayne Curtis reveals that the homely spirit once distilled from the industrial waste of the exploding sugar trade has managed to infiltrate every stratum of New World society.

Curtis takes us from the taverns of the American colonies, where rum delivered both a cheap wallop and cash for the Revolution, to the plundering pirate ships off the coast of Central America, to the watering holes of pre-Castro Cuba, and to the kitsch-laden tiki bars of 1950s America. Here are sugar barons and their armies conquering the Caribbean, Paul Revere stopping for a nip during his famous ride, Prohibitionists marching against “demon rum,” Hemingway fattening his liver with Havana daiquiris, and today’s bartenders reviving old favorites like Planter’s Punch. In an age of microbrewed beer and single-malt whiskeys, rum—once the swill of the common man—has found its way into the tasting rooms of the most discriminating drinkers.

Awash with local color and wry humor, And a Bottle of Rum is an affectionate toast to this most American of liquors, a chameleon spirit that has been constantly reinvented over the centuries by tavern keepers, bootleggers, lounge lizards, and marketing gurus. Complete with cocktail recipes for would-be epicurean time-travelers, this is history at its most intoxicating.

Is the sun over the yardarm yet? Ah yes… I think so…

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Filed under Barbados, Culture & Race Issues, Island Life

Barbados Grocers Claim Government Tax On Food is 25%

Hey… that’s what they said at their press conference. So, earn a dollar, pay income tax on the dollar, and then pay 25% more to buy some canned goods.

Excerpts from The Nation News…

THE RETAIL PRICE of some goods might be soaring, but local retailers and wholesalers are asking the public not to accuse them of price-gouging….

These assertions were made by representatives from Barbados Shipping and Trading (BS&T), the Goddard Group, and Armstrong Agencies at a Press conference called by the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) to reveal the results of a recent analysis of the cost structure of imported foods by the BCCI’s Commerce Committee.

In presenting the findings, BCCI president Dick Stoute showed that, in the case of most imported foods, the largest chunk of the cost came from charges levelled by Government and overseas suppliers.

…The breakdown of the final price on the goods showed that 37 per cent of the cost of the item came from what was charged by the overseas supplier, 25 per cent was due to Government taxes and duties, 12 per cent was based on wholesaler costs and 17 per cent on retailer costs.

… read the entire article at The Nation News (link here)

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Filed under Barbados, Business & Banking, Politics & Corruption

Barbados Ethanol Panacea Spin Continues…

We all know that recent economic, political and social changes have not been kind to Barbados. Tourism took a heavy hit with the advent of 9/11, and then again as oil prices soared – causing cruise ships and airlines to reduce service to the island. The Government’s position of failing to support the United States vis a vis an exception to the U.N. war crimes laws – whatever the rightness or wrongness of the position – caused an old friend to turn away economically from Barbados. The old mainstay sugar has been in death throes for decades – artificially supported by domestic and foreign subsidies – charity really – but even the Prime Minister had to recently face the reality that sugar exports are 40 million per annum while the civil service alone requires 700 million.

Life Is Getting Tougher On Barbados

Even our latest little burble of life shown by the Barbaodos GDP has mainly been the result of construction mega-projects like flyovers, roads and cricket facilities – all financed on the never-never – to be paid for by our children and their children and so on, for how many generations only God knows. Project cost overruns of three and four hundred percent are routine as the vultures devour the public purse and park their Mercedes automobiles in taxpayer-subsidized driveways. And the ordinary working Bajan buys a roll of Bounty paper towels at four times the price of the same roll in New York City or Montreal.

Prime Minister Arthur recently publically defended the government’s policy of selling off pieces of our little island to keep the wolves at bay – which is as much an admission of the government’s failure to enact long-term strategic planning as anything I’ve ever heard him say.

Sugar Cane Ethanol Will Save Us!

I guess that the government just can’t help it. They don’t know what to do about the situation any more than I do… and that hardly inspires confidence.

But I have this sense that in a frenzy to find something positive – anything – for the future, the government is grasping at the trendy. A couple of months ago, it was BIOTECH. Yes… Barbados was going to be a world-class BIOTECH center. As we said in our article at the time, “Barbados Biotech” Sounds Trendy… Like Progress, it looked like the Government believed that merely saying the word “Biotech” would cause oodles of foreign investors to beg to give us money.

Now, it is sugar cane ethanol that is the magic panacea and the government is ready to throw tons of money at ethanol production and use – our children’s money – without even a proper cost-benefits analysis. The Barbados media ask no questions, and parrot the words of those who will gain from a government committment to cane ethanol.

Barbados Media As Ethanol Cheerleaders – Asks No Questions 

A Brazilian ethanol exporter says “ethanol is about 40-45 per cent cheaper than gas and it is possible for Barbados to reap the similar benefits” and the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation doesn’t ask simple questions like, “How did you arrive at that figure?” or “How much public money has to subsidize the production?” or “Is that cost savings on a per-litre basis or a per-mile basis?”. (This month’s issue of Consumer Reports points out that in field tests of ethanol-powered vehicles, a gallon of ethanol only yields about 60% of the mileage of a gallon of gasoline – so there is zero cost-benefit to the end user) .

Yes, folks. The Government of Barbados has committed this country to ethanol – so don’t expect the Barbados media and newspapers to ask any difficult questions.

It just isn’t done!

Here is that ethanol cheerleading piece from the CBC. It is all part of the process to soften up the Barbados public for another round of “government investment”…

From the CBC website (link here)

The Barbados energy sector got a first hand account today of Brazil’s successful transition from gasoline to ethanol-powered vehicles. The occasion was a meeting between local energy officials and visiting executive Manfred Wefers of Coimex, an ethanol exporter from Brazil.

Mr. Wefers says ethanol is about 40-45 per cent cheaper than gas and it is possible for Barbados to reap the similar benefits.

Charles Briggs, manager of the local cane industry restructuring project, says the Barbados plan is to mix ethanol with gas. In fact he said the mixture is will only be about 10 percent ethanol.

Today’s seminar focused on the topic “Ethanol as a viable alternative source for Barbados”.

Mr Briggs noted that ethanol is only one of the by products of Barbados’ move from a sugar to a sugarcane industry. However as government looks for alternative sources of energy don’t expect to see vehicles powered solely by ethanol on the streets anytime soon.

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Filed under Barbados, Business & Banking, Environment, Politics & Corruption