Books about Anguilla


Thursday, 23 December 2010


Let me take this opportunity to wish all Anguillians, residents, visitors and those persons who take the time to read my column every week the very best for Christmas and the New Year when it comes. 2010 was a most challenging year and we now have the opportunity to reflect on all of our successes and our failures; our deeds and our misdeeds; our correct actions and our mistakes, and; our satisfactions and our regrets. I am flattered by the fact that so many persons look forward to my column every week; I am humbled by the kind remarks I receive, and; I am encouraged to press on by those who would want to silence my views and my democratic right to express them with as much regularity as I deem appropriate. It is all testimony to the fact that democracy is alive and thriving in Anguilla.

A major exercise in democracy took place in Anguilla earlier this year as eligible voters went to the polls to choose representatives in the various constituencies. The result was a majority government comprised of members of the Anguilla United Movement led by the Hon. Hubert B. Hughes. That choice came at a time when Anguilla like the rest of the world was in the throes of a recession and as a consequence the main issue was the economy and concerns associated with the proper management of it. The plurality that made that choice were convinced, based on campaign promises, that their selection would deliver Anguilla --- today some of those very voters are expressing the view that they made a mistake. The repeated complaint being that “we were fooled!”

As we go through the final and most critical governmental act of 2010, namely, passing the budget, some very poignant questions as to our plight as a country arise. They become even more poignant when placed against the backdrop of promises made by the present administration before and after ascending to office --- that they would not raise taxes. For the entire ten months of this administration they have stumbled from one controversy to the other while at the same time trying to blame the past Government for all its woes. As I continue to strive in this column to point out these errors and perhaps “shame” the Government into the right direction I am being considered an impediment to their ability to govern. And it remains a puzzlement to me how “so-called” intelligent people could openly express the view that things would go better in Anguilla if I did not write a weekly commentary on the issues.

I am happy to point out some of my successes that made a difference in the manner in which the Government has dealt with some of its decisions as follows:-

• In my April 16th article, “Please Say It isn’t So!”, I spoke about the New Social Security Board planning to move Social Security Deposits from the local banks. The result was that that plan was stymied and to date no such transfers of funds have taken place.

• In my May 14th article, “Comments on the Brimigen Project Proposal” I spoke out about “incongruous and illogical arguments being put forward to support the building of a new airport in Brimigen”. The result is that today the key decision makers in Government have abandoned that proposal ---and are in fact coming around to the wisdom of extending the present facility.

• In my May 21st article, “Comments on a planned hostile takeover of ANGLEC” I spoke out about actions being pursued by the Minister responsible for Electricity and the Chairman of the Social Security Board to orchestrate a high-handed, unethical and unfair takeover of the ANGLEC Board of Directors. The result is that the stability of ANGLEC has been assured and a much more sensitive and sensible approach is being adopted.

• In my May 28th article, “Social Security Again” I spoke about what was being termed the “Bradshaw Style” management approach by the new Chairman of the Social Security Board. The result was a softening of that approach and along with other developments I also highlighted, the virtual absence of the Chairman from meetings --- and rumors of his resignation.

• In my June 4th article, “An Anguilla Day Apology” I spoke about the Chief Minister’s shameful rant on Anguilla Day; his apology for the late Premier Robert Bradshaw, and; his disrespect for the heroes and heroines of the Revolution in attendance and others listening on radio. The result was I received a number of calls from heroes and heroines of the Revolution and other Anguillians thanking me for my intervention on their behalf.

• In my July 16th article, “A Picture Paints a Thousand Words”, and other subsequent articles I spoke about the “three ring circus” being used to distract focus away from real issues and the use of “selective transparency” to give the appearance of openness. The result has been a more cautious approach to political victimization and occasional public consultations, however, usually after the fact.

• In my August 14th article, “Hush Ya Mouth!!” and my August 20th article, “Cockroach Got No Call In Fowl Nest”, I spoke about the Cap Juluca fiasco and the “smoke and mirrors” debate on MOA’s versus MOU’s. The result was that the Government was forced to conclude an agreement with the Cap Juluca ownership and even though it is less favourable than the MOA signed by the AUF Government, jobs and business opportunities for many Anguillians were maintained.

• In my September 24th article, “… So Shall It Be In The End”, I spoke about the Parliamentary Secretary making a press statement that he had signed an MOU with new owners for Viceroy. The result was that that travesty of good governance was exposed and an effort is now being made to correct the situation.

• In my October 1st article, “Joy Cometh in the Morning”, I spoke about the “circus master”, the Parliamentary Secretary, causing a nationwide panic claiming that the Governor had asked the Chief Minister to resign immediately and call fresh elections. The result is that a number of persons are now more informed about the constitutional provisions that govern such actions and can speak intelligently about the Governor’s powers in this regard.

• In my October 8th article, “Physician! --- Heal Thyself!”, I spoke about poor governance exhibited by the Chief Minister in authorizing the Chairman of the Social Security Board to enter into a loan agreement without the appropriate due diligence and without the required Executive Council and House of Assembly approval. He further authorized that both present and future Social Security funds be used as security for the loan. The result is that the Chief Minister is still trying to find a scapegoat for his actions; the Chairman of the Social Security Board is exceptionally quiet, and; rumours of his resignation still persist.

• In my December 3rd article, “Dunces or Liars” I spoke about the outcome of the Chief Minister’s approach to dealing with the UK Government including the FCO Minister as well as the final acceptance by both the CM and the Parliamentary Secretary that there is a “global recession”. It has been a recurring theme throughout my articles that the Government needs to tell the truth about our national situation. The result is that the Government has now come around to facing up to reality and after raising expectations unnecessarily must now resort to telling the truth.

• In addition to the foregoing specific results from the articles in my column there have been the constant awareness by the Government that every week I will be in their face with some critique (not necessarily criticism) of their actions. And as I pointed out in my November 5th, article, “You ah gon tired fi see mi face!” I intend to be here all the time doing just that --- as God’s grace and providence allows. I believe that they have come to the realization that I will not be stopped. As a matter of fact I have been told that the Chief Minister on “a point of order” during the Leader of the Opposition’s presentation referred to me as the “demented leader of the Anguilla United Front”. Such statements only reinforce my view that my comments are having effect. And as a friend and a former Chairman of the Anguilla Democratic Party used to say to me (in the colloquial vernacular): “dem don’t throw stones at empty mango tree!”

I have listened so far to three contributions to the budget address in the House of Assembly up to the time of writing this column. Two made by the member of the Opposition and one by the Minster of Social Development. I was impressed by all of them. They all said many important things about the budget, the budget address and the way forward. The Honourable Othlyn Vanterpool, among many other things, spoke about the need to focus on how we will take Anguilla forward during these challenging times rather than talking about spending scarce resources on unfounded Commissions of Inquiry. Also making the point that such inquiries should be comprehensive and not selective --- all governments should be included.

The Honourable Leader of the Opposition Evans McNiel Rogers, among many other things, spoke about the importance of style, approach and attitude in Leaders when dealing with important national issues particularly in challenging times. He went on to demonstrate that the Chief Minister was not using the correct strategies to achieve important national objectives, particularly with regards to getting the support of the public service, British government and foreign and local investors in that endeavour.

The Honorable Edison Baird, among many other things, spoke about the importance of growing the economy. He explained that the revenue heads for our central government budget are very dependant on a tax regime that is based on consumption and fees for services. As a result when the economy is sluggish these revenue sources do not perform sufficiently to meet expenditure requirements. His position being that one needs to understand what is required to increase growth to meet the demands for services. In this regard he pointed out that in times of challenge a Government must provide support to companies that provide jobs and business opportunities.

All these contributions show an awareness of the challenges facing Anguilla at this time and the importance of focusing on getting the job done rather than seeking to apportion blame. How embarrassing can it be for a Chief Minister to make a grossly false statement that Anguilla is the tenth most corrupt nation in the world and then later be accused of lack of patriotism when it is discovered that he did not have the national pride to insist that it had to be Angola and not Anguilla?

It is clear from the debate thus far that the Opposition and the Minister of Social development understand that even though taxation and cuts in expenditure are not the entire answer --- some sacrifices in these areas must be made. And as a consequence while they are not completely opposed to all the tax measures --- they like me have a number of questions with regards to what is being proposed.

A number of questions may be raised on some of the major tax measures being proposed. For example:-

1. Will the Property Tax increase also be made equitable with the introduction of the Bradley Report recommendations on location, use and market value?

2. Will the 7% levy on petroleum products be on top of the customs charges already in place and will it be charged at the pumps or the port of entry?

3. Will the interim Stabilization Levy have a cap like Social Security on income earned; how will the self employed be made compliant, and; how will their contribution levels be assessed? Will all these funds go into the consolidated fund?

The Chief Minister and his colleagues have wasted a lot of precious time arguing with FCO officials about their unwillingness to carry out certain harsh measures rather than taking the time to make a strong and objective case for their position. I wholeheartedly agree with the CM’s position not to make drastic reductions to the size of the public service and further salary cuts. However, there is no use going into public consultations at this late hour hoping to force the hand of the UK Government --- you must show the British how you intend to bridge the budgetary gap without taking such measures. This is what should have been taking place over the last ten months not trying to fight the British. I am confident that the British will listen to a “well thought out” plan matched with an appropriate strategy for achieving it.

Will the proposed budget receive the approval of the British Government in its present form given these refusals by the CM? Or will we be forced to enter the New Year with the statements of hope made by the Chief Minister as he closed the Budget address as follows: “in a few short months Madam Speaker, the call to work will occur and our construction sector will again be vibrant with activity. Those heavy equipment owners who lack for business and did not license their trucks and other equipment in 2010 will be happy to license the same in 2011.” To which statement one his former supporters who had heard such promises before muttered barely audible --- and under his breath: “Yeah Right! --- and a partridge in a pear tree!”

Victor F. Banks
Sachasses Estate
December 21, 2010

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“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” – MLK.