Editorial: VICTORY OR DELAY

anguillian
By anguillian September 26, 2016 11:15

 

 

 

In November 2015, I penned an editorial, captioned “We are at a defining moment,” which outlined and offered my perspective on the contents of a letter from Chief Minister the Honourable Victor Banks to then UK Prime Minister, the Rt Hon David Cameron, in relation to the lack of development assistance for Anguilla. In his letter, the Honourable Chief Minister wrote: “Prime Minister, we are at a defining moment in the UK – Anguilla relationship”. The essence of the letter was to put the UK Prime Minister on notice that how the UK Government chooses to deal with Anguilla will either make or break the relationship between the UK and Anguilla. One of the many concerns of the Chief Minister was the proposed increase in the powers of the Governor by the Draft Anguilla Public Finance Order 2015, a copy of which was made available to the public at the time. Those powers included the appointment of a Chief Financial Adviser. It was on this issue that I wrote in the referenced editorial as follows:

“[T]he Draft Order in Council seeks to … give the Governor the unilateral authority, among several other things, to:…

2. Appoint a Chief Financial Adviser “whose office shall be a public office.” I am subject to correction, but this suggests that the Chief Financial Adviser will be paid by the Government of Anguilla as would any other public officer. Imagine having to pay for the whip used to give us licks. However, it is clear that the Chief Financial Adviser is no ordinary public officer, but rather a spy sent by the UK Government to assist the Governor to keep an eye on Anguilla’s tax-payers money, tell us how to spend it, and to do their bidding, for he or she “has to comply with any directions given …by the Governor”. Additionally, the functions of the Chief Financial Adviser will be prescribed by order of the Governor and published in the gazette (which means given legislative teeth without having to pass through the legislative process in the House of Assembly and therefore without input from elected representatives) which is certainly not the usual course for someone holding a public office. It is interesting to note that in at least one other OT, their Constitution was amended to set out the duties of the UK imposed Chief Financial Officer. We certainly do not want constitutional change of this nature, but we must wonder whether the UK is seeking to entrench the powers of the Chief Financial Adviser in our governance framework more craftily. While we are not privy to the proposed powers of the Chief Financial Adviser, we know for certain that the Chief Financial Adviser will have significant clout because the Governor is bound to consult him or her (not consult the Chief Minister or even the Attorney General) before making legislative proposals to Executive Council.”

I further advanced the view that:
“I would think that in this century, the UK Government would be more interested in providing the assistance needed to empower its OTs, revamping Constitutions so that they reflect more responsibility for self-governance, helping OTs to build resilient economies and promoting the bio-diversity of the OTs as an asset to the UK rather than adopting an unreasonable, unjustifiable and tyrannical position that can only stunt the development of OTs and particularly Anguilla. We can only hope that the Chief Minister’s letter to Prime Minister Cameron does not go unheeded. His response will surely determine our next move.”
While a Financial Adviser has been appointed and has recently taken up office, an examination of the method of appointment and terms of reference (which have been made public) indicate that this is a far different arrangement than what was previously advanced by the UK Government. Can it be that the Chief Minister’s letter to the former Prime Minister was effective in forcing the UK Government to reconsider their position in relation to Anguilla? If so, then well done Mr Chief Minister! Or could it be that this is simply a softening of the approach of the UK Government to achieve the same result through less confrontational and objectionable means? It is left to be seen how the presence of the Financial Adviser will be of benefit to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development or, by extension, the people of Anguilla. Is his appointment a genuine effort to support our Government in its goals for fiscal sustainability and economic development? Or is he here to aid in advancing the agenda of the UK Government that will eventually be revealed to us? Only time will tell whether our Chief Minister managed to prevail by thwarting the UK Government’s plans of increased control and interference, or whether he has only served to delay the inevitable. Either way, I would suggest that Government officials and public servants be vigilant and transparent in the conduct of Government business so that the Adviser will have no option but to be an ally in, and advocate for, Anguilla’s development.

anguillian
By anguillian September 26, 2016 11:15

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