Books about Anguilla


Thursday, 23 February 2012


Mr. Victor F. Banks - The Anguilla United Front Party Leader
Last week on an interview on ATV Television Channel Three there was a very revealing exchange between the Host of the Show, Mr. Wycliffe Richardson and the Chief Minister, Hon. Hubert B. Hughes. Here is the actual text of that exchange for your information and amusement: 

Host (Wycliffe Richardson): “Chief Minister you have made a number of pronouncements both in the House of Assembly, even in today’s session, and other media about the past Minister of Finance, Victor Banks, basically that he is corrupt or has been involved in corrupt practices. Do you on this second anniversary of your election ---- of your Anguilla United Movement Party stand by those statements you made in the past and continue to make about Mr. Banks.” 

Mr. Hubert Hughes: “Sir, Statements are made by all sorts and conditions of people --- as far as I am concerned when I make a statement I sometimes don’t even recall what I have said. I said what I say at the appropriate time and place and I do not intend to repeat any of the statements on this forum” 

I would like to “tip my hat” to Mr. Richardson not so much in terms of the question he asked --- but definitely in terms of his demeanour when Mr. Hughes responded. Mr. Richardson just simply went on to the next question “without batting an eyelid.” However, Mr. Hughes’s answer is instructive because he confirms exactly what I have been saying for the past twelve years, namely, that he and his colleagues continue to be cowardly in the manner in which they slander and denigrate members of our Party (the AUF). They use the anonymity of the Blogs with fictitious names and they use the shelter of “parliamentary privilege” in the House of Assembly (HoA) to carry out their dastardly acts of character assassination and slander. Quite recently, they seem to have been coached by their legal advisors to use the term “alleged” so as to cover up the most baseless accusations against our members. 

I continue to say that I will not use the anonymity of the blogs or the shelter of the House of Assembly to say what I have to say about Mr. Hughes and his colleagues. My comments will be made on public media of all kind; under my own name; in my own voice; and in my own column. I can do so confidently because I will only tell the truth. I have challenged Mr. Hughes legally, on at least two occasions, and I was awarded both damages and costs. He has had to pay financially for his “lying ways” but now he seems to believe that this (the HoA) is the way he can continue to tell lies, make false accusations, and slander his opponents without fear of legal action. 

His response on the ATV interview is a clear indictment of his lack of honesty and integrity, when he states that he does not even recall the statements that he makes about people. And the fact that he admits that he is selective about the forums on which he is prepared to make certain statements --- is proof that he deliberately chooses where he can tell lies with impunity. The truth is the defense against charges of libel and slander. I have been writing my column for almost two years and have fearlessly attacked the members of the Government for their indiscretions and misconduct --- I have yet to be challenged by any of them for libel or slander --- my defense is that I will only speak truth to the media and on the political platforms. This Government has made “lies, slander and false witness” a “best practice” in their approach to politics --- and seem to become “unhinged” when their opponents use the truth against them. 

In keeping with this attitude of providing the facts as a “best practice” for the Anguilla United Front (AUF) last week I asked the following question in my article “And the beat goes on!”: “The Government has informed us that it is intended that the “Levy” will come to an end on 31st December 2012 at which time a National Health Insurance System will be introduced. What is the Government doing to adequately provide for such a transition if such is still being considered?” 

I asked that question out of concern for the absence of any real public dialogue on the issue of the National Health Fund which was at an advanced stage of discussion under the AUF administration before the global economic crisis struck. In my role as one of the lead Ministers in the discussions National Health Fund, I had commissioned my Senior Advisor, Mr. Marcel Fahie to present a discussion paper on “Targeted Financing for the Social Sector” which he produced on May 11, 2007. It was a comprehensive paper that not only dealt with the National Health Fund but which contemplated the need to go beyond that to a Social Development Fund. Its objective was to “spread the burden of universal health coverage among those able to pay and create a social development fund to provide earmarked revenue to finance the Government’s program in response to the social challenges facing Anguilla.” 

One of the key aspects of our approach to the implementation of the National Health Fund was that it must not fail. In that context, we decided to be painstaking in our implementation process and get it right the first time. When I asked the question in my column, it came out of a real concern that the Government could again find itself in a position where it could end up with “a rush job” --- plagued with problems like the infamous Interim Stabilization Levy. I therefore wanted to highlight it as a major agenda item for this new Government in the remainder of its term. But “lo and behold!” as if in response to my question I hear that the Government is sending a five person team including Hon Chief Minister Hubert Hughes, Hon. Jerome Roberts, Board Members Alkins Rogers and Pastor Hugo Brooks, and Maglan Richardson, Deputy Director, to visit the TCI to look at their National Health Insurance Plan with a view to implementing a similar plan here in 2013. A team from the Social Security Board, together with its Actuary, made a similar visit about a year ago. I expect that the Actuary will join the team in the TCI, again. 

I don’t want to cast any aspersions of the composition of the team but it does comprise mainly persons associated with the Social Security System as if to suggest that this will be another Social Security Project. This is not what the National Health Fund should be all about --- two very important components are missing, namely, the Health Authority and technocrats from the Ministry of Finance. While the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) struggle to meet commitments made to InterHealth Canada to pay for the territory’s new hospitals, and the Social Security Board there (called the National Insurance Board or NIB) fights to keep the funds it says are reserved for pensions and other commitments from being reassigned for other purposes, the Anguilla Social Security Board appears to be running full speed in the opposite direction, with Chief Minister Hubert Hughes and his colleague the Hon. Jerome Roberts in tow. The current events in the TCI make one wonder as to the wisdom of these visits and the dangers the proposals that this team appear to have in mind can pose to the survival of the Anguilla Social Security Fund. 

As we speak the Interim Government of the TCI has been pursuing a claim for a transfer of US$10 million from the TCI National Insurance Board (NIB) to pay into the Health Insurance Plan. According to the TCI Sun, Chairman for the NIB Ervine Quelch told a news conference on Thursday, February 16, that Governor Ric Todd’s announcement in October last year to transfer the funds, which would eventually be given to the National Health Insurance Board (NHIB), took the Board by surprise. This move has been resisted by the NIB, which says the $10 million that the Governor wants to force the Board to give to Government should be saved for possible future shortfalls in pension funds. Last week the NIB began legal action to challenge the constitutionality of the legislation authorizing the transfer. This is the tangled web that Anguilla’s experts have dived into. 

When the past (AUF) administration was pursuing the implementation of the National Health Fund in Anguilla, plans were well advanced with an Act being passed and a Shadow Board in place. Those plans called for the Social Security Board to play certain administrative roles, such as collection of contributions and accounting. However, there was to be absolutely no inter-mingling of the two funds. There was to be no possibility of transfers from the Social Security Fund to the National Health Fund. This was based upon the best actuarial advice to ensure that funds allocated to pay future pensions are not diverted into more current health expenditures. However, the self-proclaimed experts who have taken over the administration of the Social Security System in Anguilla seem “hell-bent” on doing exactly the opposite, thus putting the entire sustainability of the Social Security Fund at risk. Since these costs are apparently being borne by the Social Security Board, it is apparent that the Board is going directly down that dangerous path. 

Anguillians must be vigilant to ensure that this does not happen. All of us would wish to have a more efficient mechanism of funding our health system, but we can never allow our Social Security System to be put at risk to achieve this. We must ensure that monies being put aside now for future pensions, are used for that purpose only! 

One can only wonder what are the views of the Hon. Minister of Health, Edison Baird who is actually charged with the implementation of the National Health Fund under the Act? Or even whether his opinion matters at all, since he has been excluded from the delegation? Based on the way things are being done these days it may even be fair to ask, is this activity sanctioned by the Executive Council? 

What is also very worrying is the fact that this Government seems to be seeking a lot of guidance from the Turks and Caicos Islands these days. I understand that once more an “expert from TCI is coming in to talk to us about Independence at a time when they are struggling with “higher supervision” as a result in a breakdown in their governance system. We support our brothers and sisters in TCI in their struggle but we need to question the applicability of their solutions to the issues we face. During the period of our Administration the reverse was the case. Our Social Security System was considered a model for the region including TCI; pioneers in our banking sector were traveling to TCI regularly to advise on indigenous banking; the TCI Government was exploring our system of transshipment of aluminum to the EU; the TCI Government were looking at our Tourism Investment Committee as a “best practice” in Tourism; the TCI Government were looking at how we implemented the “earned pension” plan in our public service; and so on. Should the Chief Minister be leading a delegation to TCI at this time to adopt their model of a National Health Insurance Board without having a clear idea of the issues involved and at a time when they themselves are facing a crisis? 

Like I did almost two years ago when the Chief Minister and his Ministers and advisers were using the Social Security Board as a means of attacking the Indigenous Banks; taking over ANGLEC; and pledging the fund against a questionable US$200 million loan --- I believe that it is my duty to bring to the attention of beneficiaries of and contributors to the Social Security Fund, namely, almost every Anguillian and Resident of Anguilla, the potential danger of this cavalier approach to dealing with this very complex issue. 

As I said earlier, the National Health Fund once implemented cannot fail! And it would be a shame to know that this administration in its eagerness to amend the mistakes of the Interim Stabilzation Levy is now planning to embark on a course of action, which can reverse the thirty-year old success story of the Social Security System of Anguilla. We must never allow this great legacy of the Father of the Nation as well as the Father of our Social Security System, the Hon. James Ronald Webster, to come to naught and his vision of social justice for his people be blindsided by this reckless venture. The question has been raised as to whether this trip is really designed to take a critical look at the National Health Insurance Fund in the Turks and Caicos Islands --- or is it just another joy ride!

By: Victor F. Banks
Victor Banks is a former Finance, Economics, Commerce and Tourism Minister on Anguilla. He is presently the leader of the OpositionAnguilla 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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