Books about Anguilla


Sunday, 12 June 2011


A major problem in Anguilla that was probably inherited with the introduction of the Westminster/Whitehall system of government is the way government departments are micro managed. The top civil servants are managers in every sense of the word but under the burden of rules and regulations these public service managers find it very difficult to function. Those who remain within the system and semi-function do so not because of their creativity but from their ability to manipulate and tolerate the system. The system is plagued by the presence of mini kingdoms within each Ministry and the Minister desire to rule his domain. In a colony unlike the metro pole important functions such as the management of Security and Human Resources are vested in colonial office as the locals cannot be trusted with such delicate matters. The Heads of these colonial administered departments are not subject to local control sometimes acted in a manner that is not consistent with the local interests.

For example when Anguilla was at the height of its boom, various departments found it difficult to function at current staff levels, so they hired a number of temporary workers. This was done with the knowledge and blessing of the Ministers as it is hoped the Minister understood that his department would not need these people when business returned to normal. It appears that either the Minister did not communicate his strategy to the Governor and the mini kingdom of Public Administration, or the Governor or the mini Kingdom of Public Administration felt the Ministers actions encroached on their power and authority. In response the mini kingdom decreed that all temporary workers must be regularized and brought in to the general pool. The end result of the mini kingdom decree was a bloated Public Service. On the surface the bloated public looks as if it was caused by the behavior of irresponsible Ministers or political patronage and although it is likely that some of these factors might have played a role. In the final analysis responsibility for the public service crisis must be borne directly by the Department of Public Administration and indirectly by the Governor’s Office.

The other problem Anguilla face is politicians who gear the public reaction and fail to make decisions. This is made worst by a number of people who irrespective of their education or training convince themselves that they are experts in every field without tested expertise. In Anguilla we got Lawyers who are convinced they were called to the Bar for engineering.  A prime example of this is the AUF decision to scrap the proposed planning bill. Everyone involved know that Anguilla cannot develop without proper planning but out of fear that known political pundits could disrupt what was expected to be a carefully planned re-election campaign the decision was taken to scrap the bill and thereby stifle progress.  If we want to see the benefits of the planning bill we only need to compare the disasters in Haiti and Japan.

Similar actions and behaviours are what turned the Airport project into the prime White Elephant it is today. The Airport is a dead donkey because it is not sustainable and it will not be sustainable unless the Government finds a way to acquire sufficient land to make it viable. In fact Anguilla will not have a sustainable economy until its Airport problem is rectified. Interestingly projects started by those who oppose the Airport expansion will find it very difficult to succeed without a viable airport. The role of fear in public policy can also be seen in the concessions the AUF gave to those who opposed the airport because they threaten to campaign against its re-election effort. Anguilla cannot continue to depend on St Maarten airport as a gateway for its upscale visitors, traveling via St. Maarten frustrates Anguilla’s visitors. This frustration begins at their point of origin. It only takes one ignorant airline attendant who has no reason to be aware of the Anguilla situation to cause major problems and frustrations for the visitor. It’s a nightmare and Anguilla cannot continue to sell an up-market product under the present conditions. If we do our upscale properties like Viceroy will continue to sell $5000 rooms for $195 or they will follow the example of Malliouhana and shut down.

The viability of the Airport is also dependent on the number of hotel rooms on the island. Tourists will not travel to a wilderness destination like Anguilla without reservations for accommodation. The number of hotel rooms on Anguilla is open to debate as a growing number of properties continue to close. The Department of Tourism lies to itself and the travel industry by counting villa rooms as hotel rooms. This is a practice that makes no sense and should stop. A villa can only be rented by one group at a time, therefore if a couple rents a three bedroom villa although they would only occupy one room the other two rooms become unusable and off the market. In terms of statistics is this counted as one room or three rooms occupied. If it is counted as three rooms occupied then the occupancy level will be out of sync with the number of persons visiting the island. If it is counted as one room occupied then the entire villa was just one room not three rooms. This is a problem that only common sense and practical action can solve. In the final analysis, Anguilla needs more hotel rooms the villas are just a bonus on the tourism product. In this regard hotel style villas also do little for the islands tourist capacity. These projects alienate land and might create a garden style residential setting but provide little benefit in terms of the islands occupancy capacity.

The Stabilization Levy is also another lazy knee jerk reaction to our economic plight. It appears that the Government took one look at the Social Security system and decided to introduce legislation based on that model. The Levy irrespective of what it is called is nothing less than an income tax. The tax should have been simple especially since it was introduced as a temporary measure. It should have been a flat 6% with the first $2000 exempt. There should have been no ceiling and no business contribution. If the Government wanted a corporate tax on profits, it should have introduced it as a separate law.  The necessity of the Levy can always be debate however the Levy in its present form is a bad tax that was ill conceived. The Levy is also a local law the Government can repeal if it so desires but repealing it would leave a budgetary void that must be immediately filled. In light of this the government needs to stop blaming the British and the opposition need to stop using the people money and misery as a political foot ball.

The politicians also need to understand that when they open their mouths they are no longer speaking for local consumption; every utterance is going to be debated in the global village. It appears that the present Chief Minister still fails to understand that his sometimes locally humourous rants are now instantly transmitted around the world. The anti-white venom will undoubtedly damage the economy by scaring away investors while it antagonizes a fragile and damaged imperial mentality. The Leader of the Opposition party also needs to realize that perception is usually more powerful than reality. The perception of corruption through deals and kickbacks follows him like a second shadow. The fact that many in the electorate have great confidence in that leader’s intellectual ability doesn’t necessarily translate into personal trust or confidence. A significant part of leadership is trust and more need to be done to repair a damaged public image. A desperate electorate is increasingly saying it prefer the days when the country was getting 90% of the investment dollars; however don’t misinterpret this as a vote of confidence or future tolerance for the same old behaviour. In the final analysis it is what it is an act of desperation not a license for corruption, Anguilla need to find ways to keep its politicians honest.

We all know what happened in the past, some of us elect not to speak of evil, others make it a battle cry, however blame without action is like faith withour works, it offers no solution to our problems.  Let us move ahead as a people ready to join the global community.

By: Statchel Warner

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