By anguillian May 25, 2015 12:29 Updated



Opposition Leader Hon. Pam Webster

Opposition Leader Hon. Pam Webster

Together with fellow Anguillians I looked forward to the Chief Minister’s State of the Nation address on 19 May 2015. After the rhetoric of the last 5 years, and the results at the polls, personally I was hopeful that our new Leader of Government business had adopted new ways of doing things and in his address would provide practical solutions to get Anguilla back on the path to growth.

Our people’s expectations were that our new Leader of Government business would use the opportunity to unify a people still pained by a nasty and negative campaign just passed; and that he would outline a creative and responsible plan for Anguilla for the next 5 years addressing our needs, giving substance to many promises of the AUF campaign. Our overriding expectation was that the former Minister of Finance would take advantage of a God given opportunity to provide the hope and inspiration that our people are seeking at this time. During the Chief Minister’s entire address I kept remembering the words of J.F. Kennedy that those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. At the end of the Address I am sorry to say that the People of Anguilla still have more questions than answers. Did the Chief Minister say he has solutions to our problems? What are the solutions for our families to face the challenges of putting food on our tables today? Will the economic and social policies of the AUF and AUM continue to be responsible for the hardship and suffering our families and children face? We appreciate the Chief Minister’s desire to put the politics of the past to rest and to address the allegations of the AUM administration regarding an empty treasury being left behind by the AUF Administration in February 2010. However to fall prey to the same political rhetoric and counter attacks, does not augur well for our new leader and the AUF Administration moving Anguilla forward in a meaningful way.

We need new ways of looking at the Budget and Anguilla’s fiscal situation. Clearly the economic context in 2010 necessitated austerity measures being taken, and indeed the U.K. Government insisted that austerity measures were implemented in line with the fiscal recovery strategies they recommended. It was important to balance the Budget and to reverse negative spending practices. While I will be the first to agree that the AUM administration failed to deliver a vibrant economy, and I know there was sufficient opportunity for Chief Minister Hughes to do so; the former leader did reverse the economic decline and negative spending.

A good leader accepts responsibility and demonstrates excellent leadership by recognising and thanking others for their contributions, moreso his adversaries, but always those in whose footsteps he follows. Our former Chief Minister deserves to be thanked for his stewardship of the Treasury and albeit he had his shortcomings too, the People certainly wish to thank him. I thank him.
I note Chief Minister that you have accepted the responsibility to deliver a strong and vibrant economy. We would have been better served if you had told us how you expect to deliver it and if you had identified the solutions, programmes and policies for job creation. There is a high level of appetite amongst our Youth for solutions and for employment. What are your plans to create jobs?
Honorable Chief Minister Banks we need to know what your debt management strategy is going forward. What are the short and medium term plans to service the debt we have?

And Yes, it is true our people with long memories would have felt better served if you had addressed your personal failings as a past Minister of Finance. When you said Chief Minister that our people are no better than 5 years ago are you admitting that the economy you inherited was just as bankrupt like the former administration you left? The concerns that past policies of the AUF and those of the AUM have bankrupt our nation still worry our people. Your assurance that you will not be repeating mistakes of the Past would have shown personal and professional growth. It is important to the People including the many supporters who voted for you in the recent elections, that you are going to manage differently going forward. We are also looking for evidence that our former Minister of Finance has developed good leadership skills and is listening to our People. Personal arrogance will not serve our children’s future well.
I appreciated the focus on our people being challenged by the electricity and water issues – basic needs still unmet. We need to move quickly to fix these. How is the AUF Government expecting to meet these needs in the short-term? Are there any creative thoughts about how we can meet these NOW? What are the solutions for our families to face the challenges of the new school term in September?

The Cap Juluca problem is a serious one and our Government needs to show professional maturity in properly balancing the legal aspects and the economic aspects.
You have glossed over the legal aspects and you need to be reminded to be sufficiently transparent so we can truly assess whether the decisions we have to make are the right ones.
About the arrears in licences and taxes – Honorable Chief Minister are you proposing to grant a tax amnesty or are you going to pursue the outstanding taxes? Our people need to know.
About the Boards and proper certification – all excellent ideas. However we must have a value for money Government and we must strengthen our public procurement legislation to avoid the mistakes of the past. We must also find a mechanism to punish individuals who use public office for private gain. Your address noticeably omitted how you expect to minimise the costs of special assistants and consultants.

The same gaps can be recognized in the information you shared regarding the indigenous banks; do we really know now what the issues are confronting the Anguillian shareholders and their investment in the national institution? A promise to organise representation at this stage would have been a welcome step forward for our Anguillian owners. We have a professional community that will be responsible to review the reports from the ECCB and the forensic auditors and manage the information in a prudent way. Why is the information being withheld after almost a full month in office? What are the solutions to address the fact that our lands are at risk as we are still unable to refinance the outstanding loans? We must review our financial policies and our banking framework urgently; how are you proposing we address those requirements?
Indeed the functioning and restructuring of Anguilla must be actively pursued and we must have the widest possible consultation to ensure as much consensus as possible. People buying into the process must be a precondition to transform Anguilla. As Leader of the Opposition, again I congratulate you on your appointment. I hope to work with you to assure that you deliver what our people are asking for; good leadership and effective governance standards are the staples. We must work together to ensure that the needs of our people are not glossed over but responsibly addressed. The rhetoric of the Past will no longer suffice. We look forward to your next and more comprehensive address.

May God bless our people and May God bless Anguilla.

Hon. Palmavon Webster
Leader of the Opposition

(Published without editing by The Anguillian newspaper.)

By anguillian May 25, 2015 12:29 Updated


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