Text of a Radio Address by Leader of Opposition Hon. Evans Rogers (Tuesday 21st August 2012)

anguillian
By anguillian August 24, 2012 10:44

Text of a Radio Address by Leader of Opposition Hon. Evans Rogers (Tuesday 21st August 2012)

 

Opposition Leader, Hon. Evans McNeil Rogers

Fellow Anguillians, amidst these trying times in Anguilla I am delighted to be able to congratulate Commissioner Proctor and the Royal Anguilla Police Force and the other security companies for the great job they did in keeping the peace and security during the recently completed Summer Festival events. I also take this opportunity to heartily congratulate the students and the staff of the Albena Lake Hodge Comprehensive School for the outstanding results in this year,s CXC examinations. It is extremely gratifying as the previous Minister for Education to hear of the excellent and record breaking results of the male students this year in the CSEC exams. The parents and all others involved in contributing to the success of the children must also be highly commended for the roles they played. I wish to encourage all to keep up the good works.

 

Fellow Anguillians,Anguillalike the rest of the world is facing serious financial times. In these trying times every nation needs and deserves sound leadership which its people can trust and believe in.  We in Anguilla certainly lack this leadership. Those of you who listened to Elkin Richardson’s talk show, “To the Point” on Kool FM on Monday evening, August 20, would have heard Chief Minister Hubert Hughes playing true to form, casting blame on everyone but himself for the lingering fiscal and economic difficulties that he and his AUM Government are facing after two and a half years in office.  His behaviour and performance sank to a new low in radio broadcasting inAnguilla.

Fellow Anguillians, after two and a half years in office, the Chief Minister has nothing new and positive to say.  He has no word of hope for jobs and incomes to the unemployed, no promise of relief from the burden of taxation piled on since he took office and especially from increases in taxation.  He has no strategy to returnAnguillato economic stability, growth and prosperity.   His style, attitude and approach continue to divide, polarize, vulgarize and reduce our stature as a community.  He has done much harm to our image and has destroyed our pride as a people.

When will Chief Minister Hughes be a man and a statesman and take responsibility, rather than continue to behave irresponsibly, refusing to own up to the functions, duties and actions he swore to carry out faithfully, when he took the office of Chief Minister.  After two and a half years, it is clear that he is not up to the task of governing.  AndAnguillais the worse for it.  We are suffering the greater for it.

I am also in possession of the letter dated August 8th 2012 fromUKMinister Bellingham to Chief Minister Hubert Hughes. The letter, as revealed in the “To the Point” show of August 20, is in relation to the UK Government’s concern over the current state of the Anguilla Government’s finances. The following points were made very clear in Minister Bellingham’sletter:

1.   Anguilla’s revenue collection is falling short of the 2012 budget forecast as agreed by the Government of Anguilla (GoA) and action needs to be taken to avoid a deficit at the end of this year.

2.   TheGoAneeds to take action now to return public finances to a sustainable footing by the end of this year.

3.   The Chief Minister Hughes made a personal commitment to Minister Bellingham to balance Anguillia’s overall budget by the beginning of 2013. He further confirmed this personal commitment toUKMinister Duncan in November of 2011.

4.   Without corrective action by the GoA, there is a serious risk thatAnguilla’s public finances will continue to deteriorate.

5.   The continued deterioration of the public finance increases the risk that the GoA will have to turn to theUKfor assistance. Such support from theUKwill inevitably involve attaching strict conditions which include control of public financial management.

 

Fellow Anguillians, we are apparently heading to a very serious budgetary situation.  As I expected, Chief Minister Hughes and his surrogates are taking to the airwaves speaking about this letter.  I have therefore chosen to address you at this time to put the perspective of the Anguilla United Front.  As usual the Chief Minister and his AUM colleagues and principal advocates have begun to tell you that the UK Government is forcing taxes on us, you and me, the people ofAnguillaand that it is seeking to take over the Government of Anguilla. They will also propose the illogical response that we should therefore pursueIndependencerather than try to develop and put forward a well-thought out, realistic and persuasive plan to deal with the issue.

Fellow Anguillians I urge you not to be fooled.  Whatever decisions the Chief Minister takes later this year in relation to bringing his budget into balance will be his own and his Government’s.  They will almost certainly increase the financial pain that the Chief Minister has imposed on us with the taxes he has enacted since February 2010.  The British Minister has not given any instructions in his letter as to what those actions should be.  It is simply “HUBERTS CALL”, not the British, not the Governor, not the Anguilla United Front (AUF) not anyone else.  Most if not all of us expected that we would have to bear some financial pain and hardship because of the extreme difficulties of these times all over the world.  But it did not have to be this bad had the Chief Minister and his colleagues come up with the right approaches, policies and strategies.  They did not and our pain and suffering has been the greater because of their failures of leadership and governance.

Fellow Anguillians, our Party has long been arguing that Chief Minister Hughes made a serious mistake when he volunteered the time frame of three years to bring the budget into balance. We further stated that it is because of the short time frame that we the people of Anguilla would have to bear harsh and draconian tax measures from theGoA.  I do not want to say we told you so.

Fellow Anguillains as I mentioned earlier, in his letter of August 8th to the Chief Minister, Minister Bellingham made it very clear that the Chief Minister volunteered a personal commitment to balance the budget by the beginning of 2013. Minister Bellingham further stated that Chief Minster Hughes confirmed this commitment to UK International Development Minster, Duncan, in November 2011.

And of course last night on the talk show as could have been predicted,  the Chief Minister intimated that theUKMinister is not telling the truth.

But Fellow Anguillians, the evidence confirms that the Chief Minister did indeed volunteer and set this time frame.  In a letter dated January 19 2011, to the same Hon. Henry Bellingham, Minister forOverseasTerritories, Mr Hughes stated on three occasions that he wanted three years, 2010 -2012 to balance the budget.  On page 3 of the letter Mr Hughes writes “My Administration came to the viewpoint that given the recurrent deficit of approximately EC$70 million recorded in 2009, and mindful of the Anguillian context, as a small open and highly vulnerable economy with little or no social safety nets, it would be more efficacious to restore fiscal balance, defined as “restoring balance on the recurrent account”, over the three year period 2010 -2012.On page 5 of the letter he writes “Minister Bellingham, I have been adamant and on record as stating that you cannot tax a dead economy and that is why my Delegation pushed for approval to balance Anguilla’s recurrent deficit over the three year period 2010 -2102.”

Fellow Anguillians these two statements clearly show that it was Hubert that asked for three years to balance the budget. The British agreed with his request from back in March 2010. In the same letter on page 4, Mr. Hughes writes to Minister Bellingham “On the basis of the green light from the FCO to restore balance on the recurrent account over three years, Ministry of Finance technical staff prepared the 2010 Budget Estimates (which had to be approved by April 30 at the latest to comply with provisions of the Finance and Audit Administration (FAA) Act as regard Provisional Budgets) and within a three-year fiscal framework covering the period 2010 -2012.”

 

Again this makes it very clear how the three year period was arrived at. Fellow Anguillians I ask you not to allow yourselves to be fooled again. Start to demand the truth from Mr. Hughes. Mr. Hughes continues to play the “blame game” for everything that take place inAnguillaand does so by openly lying to us. Let Mr. Hughes know that this time we are aware and know that “It is his call”

 

Fellow Anguillians, we strongly believe that Mr Hughes and his AUM/APP Government will go back on their word about the Stabilisation Levy. You will recall that the Government promised that it would be temporary and would end on December 31st 2012. In the very Act itself, this date is given as the end for the Stabilisation Levy. I am warning you today.  Do not be surprised if the date is extended.  Do not be surprised if a rate increase is seriously considered by the Government.

In advancing his reasoning for extending the Stabilsation Levy, I further predict that Mr. Hughes will again argue that it was forced on him.  This again is another one of his lies.  But do not be fooled! You will recall that on March 16 2011, Mr. Hughes admitted in the House of Assembly that the budget is his budget. The same budget which made provision for the Stabilization Levy. Read page 15 of his budget address where it states that an Interim Stabilization Levy will be introduced in 2011. His Budget! His Taxes!

 

Fellow Anguillians do not allow yourselves to be fooled any longer. Further proof of the fact that the Stabilization Levy is the choice of the Government, is found on page 8 of Mr. Hughes same letter of January 19, 2011 to Minister Bellingham. In saying to Minister Bellingham that his government was taking measures to balance the budget in three years as was agreed, Mr Hughes wrote and I quote:

 

“GoAidentified new revenue measures for implementation in 2011 as approved by Executive Council in the June 2010 Fiscal Discussions with FCO OTD technical officials and/or subsequently amended by Executive Council. These included, among others:

 

•    Increase in Property Tax rate by 150%

•    Increase in Customs Surcharge from 1% to 3%

•    Introduction of new 7% Petroleum Tax

•    Introduction of Interim Stabilization levy on Income of 6%

(split equally between employees and employers with caps)”

Fellow Anguillians, I am giving you verifiable and documented facts of the actions of Mr. Hughes. Yet he will say things contrary to what he has done, to deliberately mislead you into believing it was not him — but the British, or the independent advisers they funded to assist the Government, or AUF or the civil service technocrats or all of them together.

 

A further point to note is that earlier this year there was talk about a contingency plan to restore fiscal balance if the budget projections fell short. To date we have not seen any such plan.  However, according to Minister Bellingham in his August 8th letter and I quote:  “the Department of International Development has funded a technical expert to work with your Government to provide expertise on options that are available to you to help provide sustainability of the public finances”.  Fellow Anguillains, I suggest to you that theGoAis in an advanced stage of agreeing a “New Fiscal Framework”, a framework which includes new taxes and other cost saving measures.  It is these taxes and other cost saving measures that will shortly be imposed on us by this AUM/APP Government later this year and they will say it is the British plan.  Again I beg you —-do not to be misled.

 

Some of you fellow Anguillians will ask the question, “What would the AUF have done and what would you (AUF) do if you were the Government at this time?”  To you I simply say, “Stay tuned”.  We will address you on this in due course.  Some of you will say “Why don’t you as the AUF offer your assistance to Chief Minister Hughes?”  To this we say “We are open to working with the AUM Government in the national interest.”  But there is every indication that the Chief Minister and his colleagues have little or no genuine interest in pursuing this. Remember we offered in February of this year and the Chief Minister refused saying, he does not want any assistance from the AUF, and that he has more sense than all of the AUF put together.

 

I call on Chief Minister Hubert Hughes to take full responsibility as Chief Minister and Minister of Finance for the tax and spend decisions of his AUM Government over the past two and a half years.  Serious, dedicated and responsible political and government leaders understand that the “buck” stops with them. They do not duck from the responsibilities of their high office.  They do not seek to pass off blame for failures and challenges to others.  The only current leader that I know of who consistently places the blame on everyone else except himself is  Chief Minister Hughes.  I call on Chief Minister Hughes to stand up and face his responsibilities and take the blame for his failures and those of his Government as much as he readily takes all the praise for any successes.

 

I call on him to tell us how he will deal with the looming deficit at the end of 2012.

I call on the chief Minister to tell us how he and his AUM/APP government plan to deal with the serious issues affecting Cap Juluca and the over 400 workers there.

Cap Juluca is an issue on which we are again offering our assistance to him and his government to come up with a well thought out plan that will lead to saving that flag ship property of the Anguilla Tourism Industry.

 

I call on him to create a plan that does not further increase the tax burden on all of us the people ofAnguillaat this extremely difficult time.

 

(Published without editing by The Anguillian newspaper.)

 

 

anguillian
By anguillian August 24, 2012 10:44

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