ANGUILLA UNITED FRONT’S GAME OF THRONES AND DISTRACTIONS by Dr. Ellis L. Webster, Leader of the Anguilla United Movement

anguillian
By anguillian February 22, 2016 11:26 Updated

 

 

 

Over this past weekend and into this week, the Government of Anguilla has issued a number of press releases. These press releases makes it evident why the Banking report and the options for a resolution should be made public in their entirety as they seek to lay blame on the lack of an assent of the budget at the feet of the AUM in what can only be considered an attempt to politicize this situation that requires all hands on deck approach.
This is the approach the AUM took after inheriting the Banking crisis in 2010. The former Chairman of the Board of Caribbean Commercial Bank who also doubled as the Island’s Chief Minister, along with the entirety of the Board of Directors of the National Bank of Anguilla supported the ECCB intervention that averted disaster. Members of the opposition were kept informed. They were even invited to, and attended a meeting at government House including representatives from the FCO and Mssrs Banks and Rogers as recent as October 13th 2014.
It is obvious that the decision of the British Government not to assent to the Appropriation (Budget) Act, or the Banking Act and the Eastern Caribbean Asset Management Corporation Act is causing the AUF administration to become unhinged. The outbursts from the Chairman, his surrogates, the First Nominated Member and even the Chief Minister, would suggest that Anguilla is back in election season. The AUF administration’s inability to present a plan, and a passable budget or to devise an affordable and sustainable resolution to the banking crisis has led to them blaming the former AUM government for their own ineffective governance. This is all revisionist history. They want us to forget that it was the deplorable economic condition in which they left Anguilla in 2010 which led to the Interim Stabilization Levy (ISL) being imposed by the British Government, and taxes having to be increased to prevent Anguilla from being declared a ‘failed state’ such as befell the Turks and Caicos Islands. They want us to forget that they left a budgetary deficit of $70 million, unpaid invoices to Anglec and Social Security of $14 million and bank overdrafts of $18 million. THE AUF CAUSED IT. The AUM fixed it by improving the economy from negative 16.8% in 2010 to positive 6.73% by 2014. Economic growth was reported at 7% in the first quarter of 2015. Since the AUF took office in April 2015, these trends have reversed and the economy has regressed significantly.

The AUF did not produce a 2010 budget because this would have revealed all the new and increased taxes they had agreed to impose as outlined in their Fiscal and Economic Recovery Plan 2009 – 2011. It is ironic that the AUM administration is blamed for ‘taxation and lack of leadership’ when after almost one year in office the inept AUF administration has driven Anguilla into economic and social stagnation and a political status worse than prior to the 1980’s with the certainty of HIGHER SUPERVISION FOR THE FIRST TIME IN OUR POST REVOLTION HISTORY.

There has been no economic activity. Since returning to office, the AUF has seen visitors to the island decline even though AUM created the climate for a number of hospitality projects including a new Malliouhana Hotel, Ananya, Solaire and Zemi Beach House, all already open with Manoah still on the horizon. There is an increased violent crime. They have not started projects which are already approved and budgeted for by the AUM such as the Anguilla Community College building, or the new IT Tower, Valley Main Road, Airport Tower and Fire Hall. Private investors for two major projects for the Eastern End of the Island and Corito/Forest Bay have openly complained about the lack of cooperation by this AUF administration. Also, the proposed placement of a Chief Financial Advisor in the Ministry of Finance will set Anguilla further backward on its quest for self-governance and clearly demonstrates this government’s ineptitude.

The Chief Minister has asked us to trust him blindly by not releasing the details of the Banking Report or the Forensic Audit Report, and forcing through the Banking Act and the Eastern Caribbean Asset Management Corporation Act without proper public and expert consultation. He chose not to release the details of his banking resolution plan, but it is obvious that the proposal is not in the best interest of Anguilla as outlined by the Governor’s press releases of 13th January and 3rd February, 2016, where she implied that the British Government is not satisfied that the resolution plan is affordable and sustainable, since it will burden Anguillians with unsustainable debt for at least a generation. Without public release of the proposed banking resolution, except for the formation of a new bank and naming its board members, we have to assume that the debt burden will approach $70 million per year for at least 10 years as stated by Minister Duddridge in his letter of 6th November, 2015. This is disastrous for any small country, but especially for Anguilla, with urgent needs in education, health care, social development and infrastructure improvement.

Speaking on behalf of the government of Anguilla, the First Nominated Member stated that “all the AUF Government has done is to ask our largest businesses and those who can afford it to dig a little deeper financially to save our country”. In representing government’s position, the AUF failed to note that these increases will be passed on to all Anguillians in increased rates, fees and prices. They failed to acknowledge that there has been no economic improvement to offset this increased burden on the businesses and people of Anguilla. Also, they omitted the fact that the taxes they blame on the AUM were imposed because of the dismal state of the economic situation in 2010 caused by the AUF and the preexisting agreement captured in the letters to the AUF administration in October 2009 and January 2010.

Ironically, the First Nominated Member campaigned against the reckless policies of the AUF in 2010, including raising their salaries multiple times, not reducing expenditure, and not having a plan to rescue Anguilla from the economic depression they caused. Obviously something has affected his memory while articulating the position of the AUF administration.

For almost five years, the AUF campaigned on taxes in particular, the removal of the LEVY. In their promise to the people captured in their Manifesto, they promised to;
1. Provide immediate partial relief to employers and workers from the Interim Stabilization Levy and repeal it within 12 months.
2. Reduce the Environmental Levy on Anglec bills at least by 2% from 7% to 5% within one year of taking office, to help reduce electricity costs.
3. Waive the 40 cents per gallon duty on diesel paid by Anglec and pass on the benefits to consumers.

On the contrary, the AUF has imposed a level of taxes on every man, woman and child, the likes we have never seen. Some of them include an increase in the Anglec Licence by 150%, an implementation of a Gross Revenue Tax on Anglec plus implementation of taxes on the bulk importation of fuel and a new tax on petroleum gross revenue. All of the above will impact the lives of everyone on island, more so, the most vulnerable among us.
The Government must recognize that the cries heard are not from the opposition ‘crying out to the hills’. It is the people of Anguilla crying out for the jobs, living wages, removal of the Interim Stabilization Levy, reduced utility bills and economic stability which was promised by the AUF in their Manifesto and on the election platform. It is the families of the young men who are dying needlessly through acts of gun violence, and the businesses that are being robbed who are questioning what the AUF administration is doing to curb these criminal activities. It is all of us pleading with the AUF Government to be transparent and accountable and inform us of tangible plans and proposals to secure Anguilla’s economic and political future, and ensure progress in education, health care, and social development and security for the young and elderly. Maybe then the AUF can start to restore the faith and confidence of the Anguillian people.

The attempt at distracting the people of Anguilla by their recent press releases will not help the people of Anguilla who are struggling.

As a year looms closer, the time is now for the government who boasts of the largest mandate in Anguilla’s political history to get down to looking out for the interests of the people they are elected to serve. But then we are reminded by Minister Evans Mcneil Rogers when he said, “We are breaking our promises to the people in the best interests of the people!” while making the case for a new car.

God bless Anguilla
(Published without editing by The Anguillian newspaper.)

anguillian
By anguillian February 22, 2016 11:26 Updated

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