|Anguilla's Chief Minister, The Hon. Hubert B. Hughes|
As the party then in opposition, the Anguilla United Front (AUF) pledged that we would give the new Government the opportunity to govern --- but that we would not be “muzzled” from rising to the defense of our supporters and the people of Anguilla as a whole --- if and when it became necessary. One such occasion arose just a few weeks after the AUM came into office, when it was discovered that its new Anguilla Social Security Board was considering moving the Fund’s deposits from the two indigenous banks to the international commercial banks on the island. As the AUF Leader, I addressed the matter in a press release and later through articles in the Anguillian Newspaper. The attention that I brought to that issue is believed to have caused the new Social Security Board not to pursue its decision and that success strengthened my resolve to use the print media as a means of registering my views on Government’s decisions and actions. I could have chosen other platforms, like the “blogs” and the other social media to do so --- but I decided that as a matter of principle I would continue to do what I have done in politics all my life: “Speak the truth and be fair in the statements I make!” I would not descend to using the cloak of social media, where many people post irresponsible statements and lies in a very cowardly and dishonest manner. Anything I have written in the Anguillian Newspaper is under my own name; I am fully responsible for what I have written --- and I remain prepared to stand fully behind the statements I have made. However, if unwittingly, I misrepresent the truth and anyone --- I am fully aware of the recourse to legal action that is available to them!
I soon realized, however, that the “platform of lies” that catapulted the AUM to office had become a “best practice” strategy for them as a new Government and in particular for the Chief Minister. I was therefore forced to point out a wide range of conflicting and incongruous statements that he has been using to consolidate his support and that also became “talking points” for his key supporters and some of his more callous advisors. For example, he said”
- … that no one could force him to introduce taxation yet he commissioned a revenue study and proceeded to claim that the taxes imposed were not his --- but rather British taxes.
- … that the AUF was giving away revenue to investors by MOAs but he did not mention the new streams of revenue over the longer term that were also a part of these same MOAs .
- … that the AUF left his Government in deficit but he did not mention that they had built up total reserves of over $62 million while at the same time building some of the best roads and seaport facilities in the region.
- … that he found the government almost $200 million in debt but he did not point out that it is the lowest in the region (of course Montserrat excluded) and there was a plan on the table to manage it.
- … that the AUF Government was seeking permission to borrow to meet recurrent requirements --- which is the exactly what his Government has been doing since it came into office.”
- … that the Governor controls Executive Council yet he was able to extract EC$40,000 for himself without the Governor’s support for a questionable telephone bill that was incurred some 12 years ago.
- The Government orchestrated a “hostile takeover” of ANGLEC with the new Social Security Board by trying to politicize the Board of Directors, apparently, so as to put forward the party agenda without following proper governance procedures.
- The Government allowed its junior members, namely, the Parliamentary Secretary and the Elected Member for East End, to negotiate a new MOU with Cap Juluca, which had the effect of giving the Developer back pond lands, beachfront resources, and other national assets belonging to the GOA and people of Anguilla.
- The Chief Minister allowed the Parliamentary Secretary alone to negotiate an MOU with Starwood Capital Group on the purchase of the Viceroy Resort. The Parl. Sec. did so and had the Chief Minister sign it on Starwood stationery without Executive Council authorization.
- The Chief Minister with the assistance of the Parliamentary Secretary stirred up civilian protests by claiming that the Governor had asked him to resign immediately and call fresh elections. He then proceeded to establish the groundwork for a movement for independence.
- The Chief Minister signed a document authorizing the Social Security Board to borrow US $200 million from a relatively unknown financial institution and secured the loan against present and future Social Security Funds. All of this without Executive Council approval and the required authorization of the House of Assembly.
- The Chief Minister’s inability to make the case for more time to balance the budget and come up with sound proposals as to how he intended to retire the deficit and restore fiscal and economic stability, led to a bitter budgetary dispute. During which period he took no responsibility for the new tax measures.
- The Chief Minister encouraged workers from Cap Juluca to march to the Governor’s Office to petition the Governor in support of Mr. Hickox. He is now in dispute with the same Mr. Hickox who he convinced the workers to be the most qualified person to take over the project.
- The AUF created a vibrant economy as a result of a deliberate plan to attract private sector investment, which created thousands of jobs and business opportunities leading to the building up of a substantial Social Security Fund. The present Government has used this fund as a source of financing for its budgetary shortfalls. Without this facility the Government would have been hard-pressed to meet many of its commitments when it came to Office. They literally “milked” the Social Security Fund.
- The AUF initiated the Policy Based Loan (PBL) from the Caribbean Development Bank that has enabled the present Government to consolidate its loans and manage its debt obligations with more sustainable arrangements. Without this loan the Government would not have been able to satisfy its borrowing needs and reduce its debt service.
- The AUF established a separate Inland Revenue Department along with appropriate IT support systems to create more effective revenue collection. Without this integrated tax collection system the present Government would not have been unable to get accurate data on the performance of the economy and make informed fiscal decisions.
- The AUF signed on to the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Fund (CCRIF) to ensure that Anguilla had a facility that can provide a source of guaranteed assistance in the event of a natural disaster. Without this assistance in the amount of 4.3 million US dollars, Hurricane Earl would have placed considerably more stress on this already struggling economy. Those funds are still been used today on several projects.
- The AUF, despite some objection from the present Chief Minister while in Opposition, provided ways and means to facilitate the timely completion of the Viceroy Resort. The AUF also insisted that there was need for more than one major project to allow for more certainty in the delivery of new jobs and business opportunities in the operational phase. That property can now accommodate over six hundred guests and almost as many employees. Without the Viceroy Resort, the failure of the Flag would have had a more disastrous effect on our economy.
- The AUF decided as a part of its tourism access strategy to improve the pier facilities at the Blowing Point, as a result even as we await a more modern terminal building the facility provides an entrance for more than sixty percent of all passenger arrivals to Anguilla. Without the improvements to the pier facilities the impact of the decision of our main carriers to reduce flights to Anguilla would have been devastating to our tourism industry.
- The AUF decided to expand the Clayton J. Lloyd International Airport (formerly Wallblake Airport) to facilitate larger commercial carriers and more direct private jet arrivals into Anguilla. Now even in the midst of the recession, we have been recording weekly private jet landings into Anguilla of up to some fifty movements a day. Without this expansion Anguilla would not have been able to facilitate this new trend in air travel and the upper end Tourists that visit our island. And we would still have been waiting for Hubert’s “pie-in-the sky” Airport in Brimegin.
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 The Anguillian News Paper, lyricist, and a self-employed entrepreneur.