Businessman Ralph “Bizzy” Williams is right. So too is Minister of Industry Donville Inniss. We Barbadians are generally risk-averse –– to a fault, others might add.
In fact, the same criticism which has been levelled against our dear Prime Minister Freundel Stuart could truthfully be applied to us all. Be it in business, or our personal lives, we tend to measure twice and cut once –– for self-preservation and stability’s sake.
How else can we explain the aversion of some of our local businessmen to expanding beyond these shores? Explain our low rate of divorce in an education system that churns out 50 plus lawyers a year? Explain how entrepreneurs can be a dime a dozen and yet authentic Bajan businesses fall precariously by the wayside almost daily?
And then foreign interests are seemingly allowed to swoop in unhindered and take what precious little we have left in terms
of indigenous Bajan businesses, and we simply lounge back and say “it is just business”.
But is it really? We think not; especially when all that is distinctly Barbadian is at stake. Take for instance our own Banks beer. Why should we be forced to drink Carib beer, when it’s a cold refreshing Banks our trained Bajan palates mostly crave.
It is like asking us to have corn soup instead of conkies in our month of Independence.
Of course, some of us are quick to our feet in condemning the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) in such a context; but we aver a deeper incision needs to be made and a thorough examination done on the Bajan DNA. a dime a dozen
Our traders have been as content merely buying and selling, as the many of us have been cheery and at peace going to school and learning to get a job in the Government service, assuredly because of the low level of risk.
God forbid that any mortgage meltdown should ever happen here, or that there be any more contagion à la Trade Confirmers or CLICO. For in this dog-eat-dog capitalist world, so-called titans like Leroy Parris, who dared to step out of the box and use unorthodox methods of growing our money, only exist for a time; it seems so too anyone who dares trust in them and their ambitious investments.
The obvious casualty in such a scenario is the small investor; put more directly in our context, the small Bajan investor.
But lest we all shrivel up and die the proverbial investment death, there needs to be a stronger regulatory framework to save us from the vagaries of the marketplace; to protect us from unscrupulous investors, the man-made “titans”; and to guide us through the treacherous waters.
Six years after CLICO, we would have thought such would have already been in place; but the saga of the local investor has been allowed to continue. We are none the wiser for having June Fowler and thousands more like her being left out of pocket.
As Barbadian and Eastern Caribbean shareholders await their long promised payday, the latest “Bajan” casualty of our improperly regulated commerce seems to be Banks Holding Limited. That company is now ripe for the picking, with little care being expressed for what it has meant sentimentally to Barbadians.
As analysts continue to warn of the negative outcome of the current bidding war between Trinidad’s Ansa McAl and Latin America’s AmBev, we the shareholders may be left with no other choice but to accept the directors’ “poison pill”, since little has been learnt from our most recent experiences with hostile take-over bids.
Instead of any more reassuring words from our authorities, those of us who would have invested our hard-earned money would rather that our two regulatory lions be allowed to grow real biting teeth.
Or should the bell not only toll for our small, and in many ways niave, Bajan investors, but for our Fair Trading Commission and Financial Services Commission as well?