I wanted to write about Christmas gifts today, but something horrendous happened last week. So, I must combine both issues. Let me recommend the following types of gifts, each of which cost under BD$100 on Amazon.
For anyone in construction, whether carpenter, mason, electrician, plumber, foreman, tiler or other finisher, let me recommend a self-leveling laser level.
For anyone with a digital camera who takes a lot of photos, or someone who needs more digital storage, then let me recommend a 256 GB SD card.
For someone who works on a laptop, let me recommend the portable adjustable laptop desk, where you have the option of working standing up.
The general suggestion is to purchase gifts that can improve the recipients’ productivity. If your intended gift will not likely cause the recipient to make more money, then choose another gift.
Avoid buying any photo frames, ties, fiction books, games, expensive pens, jewellery, perfume, crystal containers, decorative lamps, or any other ornament-type gifts this year.
The obvious exception to that rule is the proper husband. This man must buy whatever sort of gifts his wife wants – that he can afford. Of course, if his wife asks only for a functional gift, that means that she should receive both the functional gift and the jewellery.
To allow all Barbadians to afford a wide range of gifts, the Government of Barbados has negotiated trade agreements with other countries. For trade agreements to benefit Barbados, trade negotiators must understand what Barbadians want out of the deal. The negotiator should be prepared to accept no deal over a bad deal.
Approximately 18 years ago, 25 national professional associations representing all sectors of Barbados’ economy, along with three government agencies, did something wonderful. They formed a National Export Committee and developed the most comprehensive economic growth plan for Barbados.
The purpose of the plan was to identify critical trade positions for negotiating a trade agreement with the US, Canada and Mexico. Those three countries already had a trade agreement, but it was to be expanded to include South America and the Caribbean. The election of several anti-US South American leaders resulted in trade negotiations being stalled by 2005.
In 2004, Barbados and 14 other Caribbean countries started to negotiate a European Partnership Agreement (EPA) with 27 European Union (EU) states. As Chairman of the previous Export Committee, I pleaded with our trade negotiators to see what they were negotiating on our behalf. They refused. I eventually got a copy of the agreement and immediately realized that we were being tricked.
I urged Caribbean leaders not to sign such a lunatic agreement, but in 2008, they did – all except Haiti, which was probably tired of being tricked. In my opinion, the EPA is the worst trade agreement since our fore parents were traded for trinkets.
The EPA closes Europe as a market for some of the most lucrative Caribbean trade, but opens the Caribbean as a market for European competitors. To pretend that such lunacy is fair, our negotiators gave us an illusory 15-year head-start. This was to delay the arrival of the European traders to the Caribbean, but to allow us to compete in Europe.
As I explained 12 years ago, if Caribbean people are disqualified from trading in Europe, they will forever be anchored to the starting block, even after 15 years.
After ten years of signing the EPA, some European dignitaries were publicly expressing their frustration and disbelief that we were still at the starting blocks, especially after they spent about $200 million trying to get us to move.
As providence would have it, our largest European trading partner, the United Kingdom (UK), is leaving the EU. Knowing the unfair and absurd advantages for the EU in the EPA, the UK obviously wants that deal after it leaves the EU.
Miraculously, we were given an opportunity to remove the fatal flaws in the EPA that kept us chained to the starting line for the past 12 years. This good fortune only supports the assertions by our elders that God is indeed a Bajan.
Last week, our Members of Parliament debated whether to extend the EPA to the UK. After 12 years of evidence of its gross failure, all that was required of them was to negotiate out the fatal flaws that have held us back.
They all voted to keep us and our children chained to the starting line, for the rest of our natural lives. May God have mercy.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at [email protected]