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Seasons of hope?

Quietly, almost too quietly, the 2012 hurricane season has slipped into history with not even so much as a strong breeze to bother Barbadians. And while our friends in Jamaica, The Bahamas, Haiti and the Eastern Seaboard of the United States were not so fortunate, we have every reason in this island to be thankful.

And as quietly as the hurricane season has slipped away, the Christmas season has slipped in to fill the void. Again, while we all have much to be thankful for, it is certain that the ravages of the economic recession will rob many of their Christmas spirit this year.

We are now ten days into December, or stated another way, 15 days from Christmas and the bright lights of the season are as plentiful as extra cash in the average household. While prudence, and the price of electricity, would dictate that households don’t spend unless it is absolutely necessary, it is quite clear that many are yet to catch the Christmas fever.

We suspect that on Christmas eve a lot of “merchants” in and outside of the City will be crying tears of disappointment with the extent of shopping by Barbadians.

But maybe they will be saved by another season, the 2012-13 Winter Tourist Season, which starts officially on December 15. Officials say the bookings are looking good, the island has not lost any of its airlift capacity and Barbados’ reputation in the international markets is still healthy.

Our challenge is, however, that things are looking anything but rosy in our source markets. European economies are performing dismally, the United Kingdom’s is said to have slipped back into recession, the United States “fiscal cliff”, even if it is avoided, will still serve to dampen the enthusiasm of potential visitors for unnecessary spending.

We should keep our fingers crossed on tourism prospects, but always live with the reality that our gains or losses in this economic activity are almost always dictated by the actions or inactions of others well outside our sphere of control.

When the Yuletide season comes to an end, and hopefully the tourist season has offered us some comfort, we should be rushing headlong into the election [or silly] season.

Without a doubt for some sections of the economy it will spur activity. The media houses should benefit from a surge in advertising, the food vendors and liquor will get some extra activity from at least three weeks of nightly political meetings, the Treasury will take in the candidates’ deposits and hopefully not have to return all.

But will the economic spurt that usually accompanies a general election be sustained after the polling? Should the Freundel Stuart Administration retain power will they see it as a mandate to get on which some of the decisions that they have appeared reluctant to make?

Or, will a change of power to an Owen Arthur-led Administration engender the kind of confidence that would lead the private sector to start spending, since it is quite clear that all our retardation is not related to a shortage of money, but moreso to a shortage of spending confidence by many with the muscle to get things moving.

Conversely, could we be headed for a new House of Assembly that is so finely balanced between Opposition and Government that the former has the strength to frustrate the endeavours of the latter, leading to another term of limited to no growth?

The point is that we are on the verge of 2013 and for many, if not most, the degree of uncertainty is so great as to create disillusionment at a time when good wishes and overflowing hope should be the order of the day. Let’s hope that 13 is not an unusual number for Barbados and Barbadians generally.

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