Books about Anguilla


Thursday, 5 January 2012


Mr. Victor F. Banks - former Minister of Finance, 
Economic Development, Commerce and Tourism 
on Anguilla
As the longest standing Minister of Finance in Anguilla and as a concerned Anguillian I feel strongly moved to comment on the Chief Minister’s Press Statement of January 3, 2012 in which the main issue is that the UK Government has not yet assented to our Budget. In my estimation this is tantamount to making the proverbial “mountain out of a molehill”--- but even worse is the fact that as a result of the extrapolations he has made around the issue he has created an atmosphere of panic thus contributing to the feeling that once more this New Year will be one of uncertainty and a growing sense of instability. I also take note with some alarm his subtle overtures to the public service to join him and his colleagues in battle and the fact that the President of the Civil Service Association appears to have swallowed this appeal “hook line and sinker”!

During my tenure as Minister of Finance for almost sixteen years, including the period which I served with the Government of the Chief Minister 1994 -1999, I have few recollections of the budget being assented to by the first working day in January. I would even go so far as to say that to the best of my recollection less than ten of those sixteen budgets have been assented to on time for the first working day in January. In fact provided we are not aware of any issues that would stand in the way of assent being granted we have proceeded using the provisions set out in the Financial Administration and Audit Act to carry on the business of Government, seamlessly. And even on occasions when there may have been differences there was never a reason to make an alarm.

This is not how we should beginning the New Year. To this point no one in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has indicated that there is any issue with the Budget or that they have any reason not to sign. Yet the Chief Minister in my estimation seems to want to jump ahead of himself. I predict that the budget will be assented to very shortly by the Secretary of State. The fact is this Budget was approved in the Anguilla House of Assembly on December 22nd, just a few days before the Christmas vacation. A good question maybe why did it take so long to reach the House given the fact that it was prepared since October 31st 2011. Unlike our legislators the British MP’s meet practically all year round and usually take a recess around the Christmas season. Given those circumstances it may mean that if our budget is not approved by December 15th in the Anguilla House of Assembly --- it may not be reasonable to expect assent by the end of the year. In light of such issues there has been an ongoing debate in the Ministry of Finance for many years that we should change our budgetary year from the period January1st to December 31st to the period April1st to March 31st, as obtains in the UK and some other Overseas Territories.

The Chief Minister in his statement further went on to say that if the Budget is not assented to in a timely manner it then means “the wheels of Government grind to a halt”. Most discerning Anguillians would know that this is not the case. In 2010 when the Government came to Office they did not have a budget until the beginning of June yet Government did not grind to a halt. Similarly when the past Government came to Office in 2000 they did not have a budget until April 1st 2000. Therefore it is obvious that such statements are only designed to create panic where it does not exist. I consider this extremely irresponsible on the part of the Chief Minister.

Having said that let me however congratulate the technocrats in the public service for their excellent work in challenging circumstances. They have been an important aspect of our ability to survive this period as they have under other administrations. They can, as usual, be expected to articulate their frustrations with the process of approvals from British Government. When I was Minister of Finance I did so as well on several occasions without alarming the nation. But we all understood that it is the “state of the game” with the FCO, the EU, CDB, ECCB and all the other regional and international agencies we do business with, some to a greater extent than others. We always have to factor such delays into our system without making a public outcry.

With regards the Chief Minister’s reluctance to utilize the option of a provisional Budget that is tantamount to “biting off his nose to spite his face”. It is in the Financial Administration and Audit Act for that expressed purpose. If the Chief Minister does not employ that provision he himself is standing in the way of getting the business of the country moving. The proposed revenue measures that he claims are compromised need not be affected. In fact the reason why he rushed an emergency meeting of the House on the last working day of the year was for that purpose. Obviously the Government has not met its deadlines either. But in any case the conventional approach is that once the matter has been mentioned in the budget address it has legitimate authority and furthermore many of the revenue measures suggested could be implemented by regulation outside of the House of Assembly since the relevant legislation already exists to do so.

On the matter of the approvals from the EU this has absolutely nothing to do with the present delay. The technocrats in the Chief Minister’s Ministries are fully aware of that process and the bureaucratic requirements to release EU funding. Last year the delay was perhaps more as a result of the Chief Minister’s own public pronouncements and his insistence on bringing in regional and international agencies to assist in our budgetary matters, than the result of any other factor. The way forward is very clear. This provisional budget must be signed by the Chief Minister, immediately, so that the flow of government business in all its aspects can continue without interruption. That is why we have a Financial Administration and Audit Act.

So the main purpose of my short intervention is to say to public servants; the private sector and all residents of Anguilla that we are not in a crisis situation. I believe that it is irresponsible of the Chief Minister to take this approach and it is unfortunate that the President of the Civil Service Association also seems caught up in a conspiracy theory, which is not helpful to the overall success of our efforts to manage the challenges ahead! I pray that we can move ahead of another futile battle at the expense of losing the greater war of restoring stability to our country. May God Bless us all and May God Bless Anguilla.

By: Victor F. Banks
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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