Books about Anguilla


Thursday, 8 December 2011


Were it not for his appearance on the Upbeat Radio and Kool FM upon his return to Anguilla many of us would have thought that our Chief Minister had lost his voice while in London. Contrary to his usual affection for radio interviews when abroad, all the reports we heard were from his spokesperson, Mrs. Josephine Gumbs-Connor. In her first report, Mrs. Gumbs-Connor gave a “ball-by-ball” account of the proceedings in London in a shrill voice that evoked a sense of despair --- but later in a more intoned presentation conveyed a message that eventually the mission achieved some success. To date, however, the Chief Minister’s demeanour and his comments to the media do not bring comfort to the many of us, who had hoped that this high-powered delegation would make the case in an atmosphere of mutual respect. And most importantly, that some concrete proposals on the way forward would be presented to us rather than the “empty boast” that: “We let them have it --- good!” That kind of “one-upmanship” without substantive results, is not what the people of Anguilla are looking for at this time. Indeed, we still look forward to a more structured report from the Chief Minister, hopefully this time from the “Nation’s Station”, Radio Anguilla.

The Chief Minister returned to blessings from the torrential rains that beset us on Sunday, November 27, 2011. The resulting flooding was reminiscent of Hurricane Lenny in the same the low-lying areas of the island that were affected by that storm, in 1999. The several thousand Anguillian “civil engineers” who were critical of the drainage project on Queen Elizabeth Avenue seemed happy that that area retained a great deal of water. And the Chief Minister joined the chorus by exculpating himself and then blaming it on the Anguilla United Front (AUF). Yes Fellow Anguillians! Let me repeat according to the Chief Minister: “The past AUF Government caused the flooding on the Queen Elizabeth Avenue last Sunday!”

I am embarrassed to admit that I was not surprised that he would want to blame the the AUF --- because we have become so accustomed to the Chief Minister blaming everything on our party/government that we are beginning to accept it as normal. What surprised me though --- is that he is also prepared to throw his own Minister of Infrastructure “under the bus”! I must admit that I felt some sympathy for my elected representative, the Hon. Evan Gumbs who just last week had to defend himself against his colleague Minister Baird in the Anguillian Newspaper. Now I expect he will also have to defend himself against his own dear Chief Minister. The Chief Minister said that he warned “Evan” not to associate himself with the Queen Elizabeth Avenue drainage project. In other words, it is not me it is “Evan”!

The whole matter is disgusting! Rather than thanking God for the rain and spared lives --- upon returning to Anguilla the first thing the Chief Minister does is attack the Anguilla United Front whose “tentacles” he declares are still running the Government. But more upsetting is his “cowardly readiness” to throw his own Minister to “the wolves” and proceed to abuse senior technicians in his department --- apparently because he only cares about himself and refuses to take the blame for anything that attracts criticism.
But I must rise to defend both, my Elected Representative, the Hon. Evan Gumbs and the Road Engineering Division of the Ministry of Infrastructure. And in doing so I hope that I put to rest all the criticisms from the other twelve thousand engineers on Anguilla and in particular, my friend, Elkin “Larry King” Richardson. It is true that the Anguilla United Front established the financing mechanism through the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Fund to assist the island after such disasters --- but the fact is that the Ministry of Infrastructure was not tasked to engineer a system to deal with catastrophes such as Hurricane Lenny and the rainstorm on Sunday. If that were their objective the cost would be astronomical. I have researched the facts for your benefit as follows:

. The project was designed to address severe drainage problems in the avenue affecting the flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic during and after heavy rains.

. Reinforced concrete surfacing instead of the traditional asphalt or “chip and seal” was employed to reduce surface maintenance.

. The scope of work included the raising and resurfacing of this section of the avenue; installation of an additional culvert as well as drainage inlets; adjustment to the existing drainage features; and adjustments to the sidewalks.

. The lighting along the avenue was re-commissioned. Installations, realignments and relocations by the conduits and cables for various utility companies were also undertaken simultaneously.

. The repair and upgrade of the walkways to prevent vehicular conflicts was also carried out and the capacity of the drainage pond was increased to take the overflow away from the driving surface.

. The work was undertaken by several local contractors and managed by the Ministry of Infrastructure to ensure optimum benefits to the economy.

. This project was approved by this Government in Executive Council for implementation and funded under Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Fund, (CCRIF). It was made quite clear in the Executive Council Memorandum that while the improvements would address the localized “ponding” after heavy rains, they (the improvements) were not designed to handle area flooding from rain storms such as a Hurricane Lenny.

. Events such as Hurricane Lenny occur once in 25/50 years and it does not make good economic sense to devise extremely expensive solutions to handle events (like Lenny) occurring so infrequently.

. Increasing the cost of this project to deal with rare catastrophic occurrences like Lenny would also have meant that other priority areas (Fire Station Construction, Police/Emergency Operations Center Expansion) also funded by the same CCRIF project could not have been addressed.

The truth is this project could not have been undertaken without the Executive Council (EXCO) approval, a body of which the Chief Minister is a most important part. No decision can get the approval of EXCO if he decides to object. A project such as this would have been discussed in EXCO and if it was felt that the scope of the project should have been increased, the costs and other implications of the additional work could have been ascertained and decided upon. The Chief Minister therefore has no reason to berate his Minister and abuse officials in the Roads Engineering Division to avoid blame for a project that was not intended to deal with catastrophic events. In fact he should be trying to take credit for the fact that:

1. The project was implemented with Design, Laying out, Project Management, Construction and Material Supply provided 100% locally.

2. The security along the Q. E. Avenue has been improved by the clearing and lighting that was done as a component of the project.

3. Since the project was completed all sustained rains leading up to the severe weather system on Sunday Nov. 27, 2011 were accommodated and it was observed and registered that the water was disappearing in a matter of minutes.

Will the Chief Minister also blame the flooding in Welches, Mount Fortune, Island Harbour and other low-lying areas where residents were affected on the Anguilla United Front? Such questions are not without merit based on a pattern of behaviour that has characterized the Anguilla United Movement Ministers; Advisers and supporters. Indeed, they have even blamed the AUF for the very tax measures that they have implemented since coming to Office on February 16, 2010. And speaking about tax measures, our (AUF) warnings about the Interim Stabilization Levy are now impacting thousands of law-abiding Anguillians. Among so many other things regarding “the Levy” we said:

. The law will increase the hardship on businesses at a time when many are struggling merely to keep their doors open. Small businesses in particular will be badly affected.

. The Levy is also grossly unfair to the self-employed who are being taxed at 6% of their income, double the rate at which employed persons are being taxed and twice the rate at which businesses are taxed to match the tax paid by their employees.

. The principles on which the law is based are inappropriate to the purposes that the tax is intended to achieve and will cause harmful effects in the economy and the Anguillian community generally that would be felt for years to come.

. The Interim Stabilisation Levy Act is a bad law that will be enforced by draconian measures in the form of high penalties and lengthy imprisonment terms.

Despite all of our several pleas the Chief Minister refused to heed the AUF Elected Members in the House of Assembly in their requests to repeal this bad law. The Chief Minister even responded to the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Evans McNiel Rogers that he could not repeal the Act and that it was a matter for the Governor. This was a most ridiculous statement and lie given the fact that he subsequently made several amendments to the Act in the House of Assembly. Indeed, the AUF came out since mid-March this year with a strong campaign against the Levy on various media. We believed that most importantly “there was not sufficient public consultation in the management and control of the tax measure that can result in the criminalization of taxpayers based on the extremely high and inflexible penalties”. We labeled them “IRS style” penalties!
Over the past week following a press release from the Inland Revenue Department have raised the concerns about the Levy. All of a sudden despite our many articles, press conferences, letters, petitions, speeches and motions --- persons are only now becoming aware that the levy can affect them. The nice old lady selling “sugar cakes and mauby” suddenly realizes that she is a self-employed person under the Act and must file a return even if she is not making 2,000 dollars a month. And further if she does not file she will have to pay 50 dollars a day just like Cable & Wireless; that if she does not go to file by November 30, she is liable to pay as much as 12,000 dollars in penalties; that even if she files by that date she will still have to pay 5% of that amount, that is, about 600 dollars; and that if she did not realize that she is considered self employed and makes more than 2,000 dollars a month and has not filed, she will have to pay up to 12,000 dollars in penalties as well as 6% of her earnings.

If the Chief Minister and his colleagues claim that they are not responsible for the tax --- they certainly CANNOT claim that they are not responsible for the penalties. They approved those penalties in EXCO. And just like they are now granting a grace period for penalties in certain categories --- they can likewise do something to ease the burden on persons who have been affected by the lack of public consultation and clarity on the implementation of the Levy. The Government must be called upon to correct these excessive penalties in a system that has not been properly introduced. Indeed to enforce compliance in the terms of the present penalties will criminalize a large percentage of the population --- many who would not have been aware of contravening the law. It is therefore time for law-abiding taxpayers to point out the inequities and unfairness in the system. We must not allow the Chief Minister and his colleagues to abdicate their responsibility to govern any longer by shifting the blame. It is time to take charge!

By: Mr. Victor F. Bank
Victor Banks is a former Finance, Economics, Commerce and Tourism Minister on Anguilla. He is presently the leader of the Oposition Anguilla United Front Party, writer and author of a weekly political article for theAnguillian News Paper, lyricist, and a self-employed entrepreneur.

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