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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bear with me on this topic....

There is plenty debate in Dominica about the role of the Chinese in unfair business practices (I swear I laughed a little when I wrote that...like there is some ethical business model as standard).

The Dominican merchant most affected by the Chinese, like every other merchant of their type in the Caribbean operates on the import and sell with margin model. It is the essential playbook of capitalism that we all practice if we sell commodities we do not produce or manufacture.

Many of us import goods from China, amongst other manufacturing countries where they produce cheap and in bulk.

At the same time there has been a constant ‘im cheap, im good’ message trumpeted in Dominica. Before the Chinese community came along with their import advantages, some of the existing top of the heap merchants operated on the same principles.

Dominicans became addicted to cheap. Quality and service are almost dirty words, and as such it was the perfect market for the Chinese merchant to sell into. As such I can understand the Chinese being puzzled about what is going on. They can see that this is a cheap price is king market. And they can see how the existing powerhouses in general (and there are notable exceptions), have treated the consumer base.

What is there to be loyal to and what is the business community complaining about ?

The average Dominican cant even return a defective purchase in a couple hours, much less days. Now, if the market was built on quality, then the Chinese would find a niche, but not dominate. But as people did before them, so now the Chinese are doing. They are putting serious pressure on any operation which depended solely on price.

As for the consumer, my personal policy is simple. If you treat me like you despise me, I wont buy your product. So if consumers in Dominica buy from people who don’t patronize any of their own services in turn, who don’t have any respect for them, and yet get fat on their patronage, then its unfortunately your problem, not the merchant, whoever they are. So stop harping on about the Chinese and start to understand that everything has its eventual price.

The consumer has had their hand in creating this.

Ironically, the people who got the consumer addicted to cheap imports, can now only turn to quality and service to differentiate. So maybe we might have a renaissance. You cant turn back the clock. The Chinese will always be the cheapest. Maybe tomorrow they might get into frozen goods or your business sector whoever they are. What I do know is that the people who have been doing this for years with the constant diet of make me rich and get out of my face, cant turn around now and pretend to be indignant, when the Chinese merchants are making ground . Its just a cycle of a type of capitalism in the region. Come purchase from me but don’t expect me to be nice to you.

What goes around, comes around.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Shhhh

Whether you are in grenada or antigua or in dominica it is pretty normal that the people who prosper are those who understand the principle of party in power.

The contraction of economies means that more and more companies are dependent on government, either directly or indirectly, to make their corn.

In economies when the largest companies invariably have close interests with the government, if you rub them the wrong way, well, crapaud smoke your pipe.

In these times being silent is the most important thing to do according to some people. You dont get brownie points for articulating a clear position on corruption, a loaded judiciary, toadyism, large companies flouting taxation rules, or just pure nepotism. In fact you could go under in a heartbeat.

When you combine that with a fickle audience who will goad you to take a stand and proceed to stone you when you are down, it doesnt inspire much heroism.

Everyones waiting for the next guy to do something. Needing to pay your bills does that.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

A question of consistency

Small countries in the Caribbean inherited both their religion and their laws from the colonial powers.

The issue about homosexuality is that it appears at one level to threaten the fabric of the belief systems of Caribbean people. Many many people really do believe it is an abomination cursed by God.

With me its a bit more simple.

We have laws against buggery on our books. Either you enforce it or get rid of it. If you speak to any knowledgeable medical professional on this island you will find out that there is a fast growing incidence of anal sex amongst heterosexuals of all ages. There are other related complexities such as the amount of so called heterosexual males who are messing around with men, 'down low', which people dont like to talk about openly, but lets leave that.

Our laws do not discriminate and mention orientation. Sodomy / buggery is a crime on our books. For everyone.

Either accept it is part of the belief system the country wants to communicate to the world, or consider that controlling sexuality through a combination of religious thought systems and laws is dangerous and repeal the law.
The priest and the pastor own iconic roles in Caribbean society. Our populations feature the classic scenario where the masses take regular solace in church. And I wont make the mistake of pretending religion and church are so different as to not be related. They are very much intertwined. The church is part of a social and economic phenomenon in which religion is practiced.

Unlike Central America, the whole idea of liberation theology does not exist in the Caribbean. In fact, the pastor and priest are facilitators in the main for the status quo. This is unfortunate because in the main it is the most ordinary and the less fortunate who rely most on their words and inspiration and ‘pay’ their way. Ironic even.

So when a society features growing distress and yet the priests and pastors generalize and roll their words under their tongues, what is to be concluded ? Unfortunately, same as Africa, Caribbean people have not yet learnt that continuous praying doesn’t cause an economy to get better or for bad things to go away. In fact the converse applies (I recommend whywont godhealamputees.com as a test of your faith).

Of course after a 20 year timeline when a series of organic events causes a regime to collapse, advocates of religion and faith are quick to use the ‘ God don’t sleep’ reasoning. You cant beat the zealots with that logic. As one friend put to me…God may not sleep, but he doesn’t vote or agitate either.

It is one of the more cynical cons of life that most poor people across the region have to wait to the afterlife for justice, whilst their tormentors live large in real life. That is a nice reason to encourage people to wait till death to see justice exacted against the rich, powerful and corrupt. You will win in the end, but only after the credits completely roll, the screen goes dark and there is no audience. Yes…got that.

Myself, I rarely go to church. Its partly because church is boring. Also, I figure if all I want is for things to get better for me and my family and anyone else I like, I could stay home. At some point all this cross praying must be creating one big stalemate. And I haven’t even factored in other faiths.

However as a networking forum in a small society dominated by religion and faith, it cannot be beat. Just like the Masonic lodge (another irony), they do flock together. It is part of a rites of status quo passage which is very powerful in our societies. Yet at no time, not in Antigua, not in Jamaica, not in Guyana has the religious hierarchy done anything but stay in line with the leading horse.

Napoleon Bonaparte once said that religion is what prevents the poor from murdering the rich. I am inclined to agree.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Small Gestures

If you assess your own life, small gestures have huge significance.

Years ago, when I worked for a company called Breakaway Solutions, I lived in the Old Colonial Inn in Concord Massachusetts. I was there for a long time...over three months. I considered it long because living in a hotel stops being sexy when there is nothing new. But a great place it was and I am sure still is. Concord is the small town where the American Revolution began.

I worked nearby in Maynard and on weekends I would drive commute to New York. Once a month I would travel back to London where I lived in those days.

On the day my engagement ended in Boston, I decided to cut out early a Friday morning to go shop in NY before my flight, which was at 7pm in the evening.

Well, to cut a long story short, I was doing around 100 mph at around midday coming into Connecticut on my way to NY when a police car started flashing in the distance. My first reaction was to take the first exit I saw (I remember this so well), and I ducked into a gas station.A few minutes later, cop car pulled up behind me and I had to do the usual display license etc.

Speeding at that time was a jailable offence at the speed I was doing, but she let me off because I told her that I was overdoing it trying to get to NY quick before my flight. SHe marked me down as doing 85 in a 65 zone and I gladly paid the fine when I got back to London. I also sent her flowers.

Now in an alternate reality who knows how many things would have changed had I been arrested for speeding recklessly. But that small gesture helped me.

Thats why the small things you do for people can never hurt your chances of gathering good vibes. In a small country its even more so. In Caribbean countries people build legends and myths on things you do or say, both good or bad. So make the gesture and reap the good will.