Sometimes it takes a visit away or unfortunately a disaster to appreciate what we have here in Barbados and the calibre of people that we have. Despite the many things that need to be fixed here and the issues that we have, I was very proud to hear that the Barbadians were the first to respond to the Dominica crisis by sending in goods via the Coast Guard and other
private vessels and that the Barbados Defence Force and the Regional Security System were keeping law and order in that island.
I was really heartened to see stores offering discounts and making provision to facilitate shipments of goods and foodstuff to our sister island. My husband went to a small hardware on the west coast and when the owner heard that he was buying a couple of tree saws for Dominica, he gave them free. Another hardware gave him as much as a 20 per cent discount on other products for Dominica.
It would be even better if the Government were willing to make items earmarked for relief efforts for Dominica VAT free so that the money people have allotted to spend on goods to send would stretch farther. However, that would be a logistical headache and would need to be facilitated by stores sending the items directly to the Coast Guard or other shipping agents so that unscrupulous people would not use the opportunity to help themselves.
I wish that the generosity being shown by businesses would also be extended to our own people so that we could buy goods at reasonable prices every day. Jokes aside, I know that businesses couldn’t be sustainable if they offered those types of discounts on a regular basis, but I would really love to know how much profit is made on imported food and how much is duty, NSRL and other charges that have to be paid over to Government.
I was shocked (but glad) to buy a jar of jam in the UK for £0.70 when the same jam sells here for $26-27. How is that possible? I also bought a popular brand of flatbread which sells for about $13 here for £1. Having said that, not everything is cheaper there because I found quite a number of things there as expensive as, and sometimes more than, ours. Imagine paying £5 for parking for two hours in London? That makes the $1.50 an hour for parking in Bridgetown far more palatable.
I also don’t think that we realize how good we have some things here in Barbados and in the Caribbean. I’m talking about the services that we sometimes take for granted. We stayed at a farm in the country and the Wi Fi was a source of frustration for us; when it wasn’t disconnecting, it was operating at snail’s pace. That gave me a new-found appreciation for FLOW and the Internet connection that I have here, which is usually reliable. I thought that London would be better, but some parts of London have similar problems.
I’ve also come to the conclusion that I shouldn’t complain about the three days waiting period for a cheque to be deposited to your account, even though other banks can access cheques that you write to them a day after you pay. I say that because I discovered that in England even a cheque drawn on the same bank, can take up to seven days to clear! Talk about getting interest on undeposited funds.
Tourists sometimes complain about our small roads, and while I admit that some are small and in bad condition, I travelled on some of the equally small, not to mention dark, country roads over there. And don’t look to find a 24-hour gas station, like our SOL stations, in those areas because they are non-existent. Many close at eight and we were lucky to find one open after 10 when our gas light was on and we were literally on our last few miles of gas.
So although we are a developing nation and our currency is considered an “exotic currency” as I recently heard it described, we, as Barbadians have a lot to be thankful for and proud of. If we can only get some strong leaders who have vision and the political will to run this country effectively, we would be farther ahead than we are.
I have noticed though that there is also efficiency in taking off the foreign exchange fee (FXF), although that is probably a function of the banks and not government. In some cases, you see the FXF coming off before the merchant even puts through their charge. Let us hope that the Government is as efficient in putting it to good use.
As we continue to help Dominica, let us remember that we are not yet out of the hurricane season and pray that Maria was the last of the catastrophic hurricanes. As we hear of the destruction and loss of life, let us remember to appreciate who we have and what we have and give thanks for them.