Books about Anguilla


Friday, 17 December 2010


“Thanks Bradley!”

This week I am honored to accept a contribution for my weekly column from a good friend and supporter, Mr. Ashton N. Bradley. Mr. Bradley has also been a loyal advisor as well as a former Chairman of the Anguilla Democratic Party that I had the privilege to lead. Mr. Bradley had a distinguished career in finance and particularly revenue systems in Canada before returning to Anguilla some eleven years ago.

But before I turn you over to Mr. Bradley, let me take this opportunity to congratulate Klassique Academy of Dance for its excellent recital “Unleashed” which took place over the weekend. For yet another time they thrilled large Anguillian audiences with their exceptional talent and breathtaking performances. It was a breath of fresh air to see a large group of youngsters of all ages (and so-called “adults” --- because at my age everyone seems so young) coming together to put on such an entertaining event. It would be dangerous to single out anyone --- but I would risk heaping kudos on the “twinkle toes, the twinkle babies and juniors” for the part they played and as a consequence their instructors and parents. I am strong believer in the importance of music and the performing arts, in fact the Arts in general, to wholesome national development. And while I salute the Founders and Directors of Klassique Academy of Dance on this occasion I am very much aware of the great work other groups are doing as well. They all deserve our support.

Let me now turn you over to Mr. Ashton Bradley:-


This article is for critical appraisal by all Anguillians. It is not intended to praise the Anguilla United Front. Instead, it wishes to be a reminder to all of us of the number of changes, improvements and other ancillary benefits that accrued to the island while they were in office. However, it gives cause to reflect on the words of Mark Anthony in Julius Caesar where he said: “the evil that men do lives after them --- but the good is interred with their bones.” So let it be! With the AUF! Despite the accomplishments the appreciation and gratitude they received seems to have well disguised.

Nevertheless, let us try and be fair in our evaluations and conclusions as we reflect, take a backward glance if you will, on some of the major changes generated by their efforts during the ten years of their tenure. Then looking in the mirror at ourselves honestly assess these achievements and based on the empirical evidence see what emanates from our observations putting aside the invective, the innuendo and rumours that abound all around Anguilla.

Let us start with the areas in which most dynamic, meaningful and reformative changes have impacted us all, namely, economic growth, social development, infrastructure enhancement, and revenue raising and collection. We will examine these parameters first because here we will find dramatic advancement that is most conspicuous. They highlight the impact of the work of the AUF, they make a compelling and appealing argument for a Government whose manifesto declares the desire of leadership to provide more and better services and in general an improved quality of life for the inhabitants of this island. Anguillians should ponder on the huge increases in the housing stock and considered how this came about. It was made possible by the deliberate and careful actions taken under the AUF watch. The construction, size, design of homes, shopping areas is a tremendous achievement that should make all Anguillians feel proud. This new construction undeniably has changed the landscape of our homeland. And the increase in real property values could provide a bonus to revenue projections and collections. The Flag Project was the engine of change that drove this growth.

The collapse of the Flag Project is unfortunate. However, say what you may, the conclusion must reveal that the injection by that company of over US$400 million was to be fair a “godsend” to us all. It was that money which kick-started our economy. It is a pity that the bubble burst. We never had it so good. But who brought Flag here? The AUF of course! So now we blame the AUF for Flag’s failures and forget the significant contributions Flag made to our development.

Again Shakespeare in Julius Caesar refers: “O Judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason”. The fact that AUF did not introduce new or higher levels of taxation on foreign developers as well as Anguillians is now being considered a mistake. Of course, rightly or wrongly hindsight is better than foresight. The AUF wanted Anguillians to keep most of their money in their pockets, hoping that when they were called upon to pay their way they would see its merits. This was a vain hope. It is obvious to all now that increased services bring with them increased costs. Somebody has got to pay!

Infrastructural changes were far-reaching, extensive and expensive. The Government embarked on the reconstruction of roads, seaport improvements and the expansion of the airport in an effort to deliver adequate transport services. Roads were constructed from West End to East End and from Stoney Ground to Island Harbour. These improvements required huge expenditures that the AUF had to raise. These facilities were completed as part of national priority programs to enhance tourism in particular, the enjoyment of Anguillians generally and to improve the environment as a whole.

The benefits of good roads are plentiful. For example, good roads provide rapid transit, less wear and tear on vehicles, tires last longer, shocks and batteries are less frequently replaced --- these are real benefits for the entire populace. This period of development provided for procedural as well as physical changes to the Princess Alexandria Hospital. There is now in place the Anguilla Health Authority. Yet the changes in the tax base and the tax rates remained negligible and incommensurate to the level of services now available. The tax rates in Anguilla under the AUF were among the lowest in the Caribbean.

Under the AUF more students received government financial support than any other island in the region with the exception of Barbados where I understand that education is free from kindergarten to university. The difference between the two islands in this respect is the level of taxation. Anguillians can keep more of their wages in their bank accounts than elsewhere. The very last thing the AUF wanted to do was change the tax base. They would not. History will reveal that they did not.

The AUF lost the election despite the improvements and hard work that had been expended to make these positive improvements. If as Shakespeare said “there is a tide in the affairs of man” --- let those who are swimming with the tide show us where it leads. It is ironic that those same people who most vociferously criticized the AUF policies on taxation are now justifying the importance of higher taxation. It is a real shame and clearly shows that denigration, hyperbole, castigation, innuendo, political rhetoric and such subversive behaviour has only negative effects.

The Chief Minister constantly speaks about Macmillan’s “wind of change” speech. As if to suggest that it has relevance to Anguilla. Since Prime Minister Harold MacMillan made his speech to the South African Parliament massive shifts in world political thought have occurred. There has been significant promotion and advancement of “human rights”. Such movements in this area have brought with it great adjustments in the relationships between the rulers and the ruled. MacMillan was expressing his dislike for the apartheid policies prevailing in that country. There is no need in Anguilla for that sentiment to be expressed. Britain has already declared unequivocally its position on her relationship with the Government of Anguilla. Therefore to use independence as a trump card is only an empty bluff. Who cares? Is it necessary to have autonomy to the “nth” degree in order to enhance the living standards of our people? The AUF has long observed the attitude of HMG in this regard and requested “full internal self government” a position in which it was prepared to accept some negotiation. The message that is advertently or even inadvertently being telegraphed from HMG is that “you can jump if you want to --- but we are not going to push you”. The question is “to be or not to be”!

There is the need for a shift in the thought process, a move away from humdrum, mundane, lowdown style of politics. This old fashion type of operating must be replaced by a more egalitarian, pragmatic forward- looking approach. History is over. It is not who blew the budget but everyone wants to know how you are going to fix it --- and who can do it best. This is the litmus test that must now be taken in order to find ways and means to grow and build on the last ten years. Name calling and blaming the mistakes of others will not suffice. This is the overwhelming flaw that must be eradicated before we can move on to a higher level of real politics. These conditions stifle the air in the political arena. They are regressive and restrictive while we need to be progressive and effective. The real benefits gained by their removal is that the electorate will begin to make voting decisions based on clearer thought processes and reduce the impact of unsubstantiated gossip and deliberate lies on election results. When people are able to make decisions through a rational assortment of issues they will make better choices of representation. After all the purpose of elections is to obtain the most effective government.

One cannot escape noticing that things like growing the economy has not been mentioned now that the AUM is in power. The dilemma rests with our inability to collect the necessary revenue. It is unfortunate that the present leadership spent an inordinate amount of time, haranguing the AUF in the House of Assembly on this issue. The time has now come for the Chief Minister to demonstrate his knowledge and his ingenious ideas for raising revenue. He cannot fall back on the old hackneyed practices that he once decried. He is now the Minister of Finance so this is his opportunity to bring in bold new initiatives that he proclaimed to have. Revenue is the number one issue that should be openly discussed. Frankly speaking everyone on this island should be engaged in a mature dialogue on this matter. This is in fact Anguilla’s “cause célèbre”.

When Victor Banks was Minister of Finance he made several revenue raising initiatives. It generated some dialogue, although apparently not sufficient to result in the drastic changes in attitudes that are required. Minister Banks did, however, manage to make structural changes. The Inland Revenue Department was separated from the Treasury to allow for more pro-active management of revenue collection. There was also a rash of modern legislation to be implemented. The Minister did not micro-manage his department therefore the result of proposals and policies in the final analysis depended on the efficiency of the department. Superimposed on these frameworks are two major issues. Firstly, Anguilla is a British Overseas Territory --- that situation has built in limitations. These limitations may be removed by going into independence. But at this time of our political maturity may not feasible. Should the present regime doubt this they should call a referendum and test it. This would be preferable to constantly nagging about it.

Secondly, Anguillians must come to grips with the fact that Anguilla’s development now and in the very distant future is inextricably tied up in the hands of foreign people who want to come here and invest. We in Anguilla are receivers we may not always be able to dictate but we can always negotiate. The arguments about MOA and MOU are mere words. What is important is will we get the projects? And how they will benefit Anguilla and Anguillians in the long run?

Finally we must take note of the circumstances we encounter when the relationship between HMG and GOA gets sour. For example it is not the people of Anguilla who determine the Governor’s position. It is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that determines the comings and goings of all Governors. The best results are therefore not obtained by “fussing and cussing”. All the talk on this issue of independence that now prevails whenever the Government wants to avoid following proper procedures is not helpful.

During all these developments it is important to acknowledge that the AUF was able to maintain an amicable and effective working relationship with all the Governors who came to Anguilla as well as the people in the FCO. It is therefore this environment that will always be conducive to promoting positive development as we navigate through the many challenges of delivering the best for our people in an atmosphere of political maturity. In such an environment, perhaps the good work of the AUF will not have to be “interred with their bones”.

(Written by Ashton N. Bradley, Sachasses Estate)

Let me thank Ashton for a most thought-provoking article. He has said a number of things that could have appeared to be self-serving coming from me or the other elected members of the past AUF Government. He has commented on some areas that have just recently become the topic of conversation as Anguillians become more and more frustrated with the choices they have made. What is most obvious is the need to return to civility! One gets the distinct impression that the Chief Minister and some of his colleagues do not believe in creating an atmosphere of mutual respect regardless of ones personal views and differences.

The Chaplain of the House of Assembly quoted Proverbs Chapter 15 in his invocation. What ensued as the Chief Minister delivered his budget address did not seem to take into account the wise admonition especially recorded in verse one of that text. It reads: “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger”. Let me say for the record that even though the introduction of the budget speech was rife with the usual rants, ravings accusations, slander, innuendo and lies by the Chief Minister, the Budget speech was well written. Hopefully, the Chief Minister understood what he read or more generously, meant what he said. I will spend more time in another column at a later date dealing with my response to that presentation. I would not wish to speak out of turn as the AUF elected members make their presentations in the House on Thursday.

Again, thanks Bradley!

Victor F. Banks
Sachasses Estate
December 14, 2010

1 comment:

  1. Ashton! You had a focused conversation. It was objective, reflective, interpretive and called for a decision.



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