Letters & Opinion

Budgeting for COVID and Elections Part 1: Paying for Sins of Commission and Omission

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

‘In one of the largest efforts by an institution to atone for slavery, a prominent order of Catholic priests has vowed to raise US $100 million to benefit the descendants of the enslaved people it once owned and to promote racial reconciliation initiatives across the United States.

‘The move by the leaders of the Jesuit conference of priests represents the largest effort by the Roman Catholic Church to make amends for the buying, selling and enslavement of Black people, church officials and historians said.

‘The pledge comes at a time when calls for reparations are ringing through Congress, college campuses, church basements and town halls, as leaders grapple with the painful legacies of segregation and the nation’s system of involuntary servitude.’

These first three paragraphs are from a New York Times story forwarded to me several times yesterday headlined ‘Catholic Order Pledges $100 Million to Atone for Slave Labor and Sales’ by Rachel L. Swarms.

The resource-rich article indeed urged me to start another brand-new series underlining the overriding reality that whether it’s Mary or Joseph Looshan at any Caribbean home heading single-parent or over-sized families, or Ministers of Finance with empty Treasuries, it takes ‘Money, Money, Money’ to budget.

Mary and Joseph have to pray to Jesus every morning, noon and night for breakfast, lunch and dinner; and to find ways to pay water, electricity and cell phone bills, school fees, lessons and transport fees, and/or to access internet and mobile devices for their children to continue to study every day at home under Lockdown — without a cent coming-in.

Some prayers get answered, but most don’t – including most unemployed — leaving a multitude uncertain whether their next meal will be Loaves and Fishes (Bread and ‘Balawoo’), Bread-Without-Butter – or simply Nothing-at-all!

I was therefore particularly impressed by a news item on Monday about a kind-hearted person-of-means who anonymously donated thousands of free face masks to Laborie village.

Like everywhere-else, CARICOM governments (except Guyana and Surinam) have mostly empty treasuries, most borrowing beyond normal means to manage through the ‘New COVID Normal’ that can last until 2024.

So, how to Budget for COVID and Elections in these abnormal times?

Like everywhere else – there are those (unfortunately) being asked to budget for elections by being preparing to sell their votes on Election Day.

However, politicians verbally opposed to ‘Pork Barrel’ politics have so far not yet found words to make poor people understand it’s not only illegal, but also just how insulting it is to be asked to sell their votes.

Therefore, my free formula for poor people willing to vend votes to politicians is simple: Assess how much they consider will be enough to have on hand to spend daily to live well — and how much more if unemployed — then multiply the sum total by 1,825 days (one five-year term) and at existing official rates of interest.

It’s like calculating Europe’s Slavery debt – except much easier, not having to calculate the value of Reparations due to Caribbean people by way of comparable Reparations paid (up to as recently as 2015) to Heirs and Successors of slave owners, plus the value of the unpaid free labour gained from six years of Apprenticeship after so-called Emancipation.

CARICOM is seeking only US $500 Billion as the value of Atonement through Reparatory Justice – miniscule by the trillions European nations that benefitted from Slavery necessarily raised almost overnight to combat the COVID threat.

Similarly, the trillion-dollar figures being spent by the US to clean-up its costly national COVID mess with thousand-dollar cheques per qualifying person paints the picture even better — Reparations is easily affordable if the leaders want to pay-up on their accumulated historical National Debts to Humanity.

Multinational corporations and billionaires also continue to boast even bigger profits than ever before since COVID.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Tesla and SpaceX’s Elon Musk are in a see-saw race over which is ‘The richest man on earth’, while the multinational pharmaceutical companies (BIG PHARMA) are at each other’s throats in the race to sell the most vaccines to the richest countries.

However, none seems prepared to help the majority of the world’s people in developing countries get vaccinated, despite well-knowing that nobody in rich countries is safe until everyone in all poor countries is vaccinated.

European churches deployed missionaries with crosses to accompany and bless the merciless expeditions seeking ‘New Worlds To Conquer’ through Native Genocide along Columbus’ lost way through the so-called West Indies after 1492, after which the likes of the Church of England heavily invested in Slavery, branding enslaved people while trading in human property.

Caribbean churches were not bequeathed any healthy accounts at the Vatican Bank or the Bank of England, COVID Hard Times likely causing a Saint Lucian priest to (unfairly) rain Hell and Damnation on his congregation last Christmas for contributing Tithes and Offerings worth ‘only two hundred dollars’ at a ‘Sunday Mass’.

Some public discussion is emerging in the Caribbean on how best for guilty European churches to atone for having profited from Slavery and Native Genocide — and ‘In the Name of the Father’ — to confess and pay penance for their historical sins of commission and omission.

But the European churches with links to Slavery do still all have enough accumulated wealth and interest — generated over centuries — to collectively wash their dirty hands clean and flush their mortal sins with Holy Water by raising and committing the comparably tiny sums it would cost to vaccinate all Caribbean Christians.

Just as America’s Jesuits (alone) have committed to raise US $200 million (EC $542 million) to pay Reparations to the surviving descendants of African American slaves they owned, some billionaires with trillions in Christian congregations in Europe are just-as-willing to pay atonement penance for their churches through similar acts of commission.

So, where’s the voice of the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC)?

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