Message to the People of Anguilla from Pam Webster, Elected Member District One and Leader of the Opposition

anguillian
By anguillian May 8, 2017 12:42 Updated

 

 

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Ms. Pam Webster

I bring this message to my constituents, as the elected representative of District One, and, as Leader of the Opposition, to all the people of Anguilla, each and every one of whom I consider myself your representative and your voice.

In the 25th April 2016 edition of The Anguillian – the anniversary edition of our last general election – I said: “One year gone; one year lost.” With the utmost sadness I now say: “Two years gone, and not just even more lost but every sign that the Government doesn’t have a clue what to do about the many devastating mistakes they have made and has simply adopted a siege mentality.”

As the Leader of the Opposition – indeed as the only elected member of the opposition – it is hard for me to choose my words at a time that should be an occasion for celebration – a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Anguilla Revolution, but which, in fact, is an occasion for disappointment at the very least and for far too many of us an occasion of deep despair.

Most worrying is the stagnation of the economy. The government has done nothing to revive the economy or to provide opportunities for our youth to secure employment, yet they bask in an envelope of silence and denial.

But what is worse – far far worse – is that, having totally and completely mishandled the so-called banking resolution, by organising the forfeiture of bank employees’ pensions and the consequent default of those employees’ property loans, and the institutional theft of offshore depositors’ moneys, they stand by and say and do nothing to put matters right. What kind of confidence can any prospective investor have in a country whose government behaves in such a demonstrably deplorable manner?

Turning now to the catastrophe represented by the so-called banking resolution, I absolutely condemn the secrecy with which the government hides not only the details of how and why the hugely burdensome financial consequences arose, but also brutally obfuscates the consequences for Anguillians, including the prospective irreversible loss of Anguillian owned properties. They blithely ignore the fact that much of the problem arises from their irresponsible encouragement to landowners, during their party’s term of office from 2005 to 2010, to borrow and spend, and they turn a deaf ear to anyone seeking modified policies to alleviate the horror of what is happening in Anguilla.

From the limited information that has been provided it appears that the Government of Anguilla wrote off or cancelled out EC$214 million in Social Security deposits and approximately EC$154 million equivalent of offshore depositors’ deposits. The Government is additionally accessing EC$90 million to inject into NCBA (including a loan of EC$59 million from the Caribbean Development Bank). These amounts add up to EC$458 million.

The write-off of the Social Security deposits was on the basis that the Government would replace the lost EC$214 million over a 30-year period through increased taxes (on the same Social Security contributors) and pay Social Security 3% interest per annum on the amount.

The interest on the written off Social Security funds will amount to a huge sum – possibly nearly as much as EC$200 million, depending upon how the principal amount is going to be replaced.

That these prospective burdens on the people of Anguilla are nothing short of horrendous hardly needs to be said. Yet the government shuts out any alternative solutions by declining to discuss the issues in a meaningful and creative way. And it seeks to spend its way out of immediate problems by mortgaging Anguilla’s future – by basically selling Anguilla out!

And that brings me to what, for me, is the most troubling aspect of our present government and its leadership. “Its all about you” they said, to deceive a majority of the electorate into voting for them. Nothing, but nothing – absolutely nothing – could have been further from the truth. They have no care or compassion for anyone but themselves, so much so that the Honourable Chief Minister does not even take the elementary step of excising a Minister from his team who shows himself, for all the world to see, to be fundamentally flawed and about as bad an example as it is possible to imagine for the core values of our people (and especially of our young people).

Against that background it is perhaps unsurprising that the Chief Minister is so protective of his administration that he does not dare engage it in the kind of public and unifying consultation that would enable Anguilla to move forward. What a stark contrast from those days 50 years ago when Anguillians were united and conquered together – what a sad stark contrast.

• And that brings me to the next anomaly. The scenario is abundantly clear. There is poverty and suffering in the country of a kind not seen for many many many years. The government has saddled the people of Anguilla already with huge debts arising from the banking crisis, and has imposed enormous tax increases, and yet – and yet – they have the effrontery (recorded in EXCO minute 17/138), to “request the PS Finance to consider options as to the availability of an additional US$100,000.00 EC$270,000.00) towards the Anguilla Day celebrations, and to report to Executive Council on Thursday 13th April 2017” (a report which does not appear in the 13th April Minutes). In reaction to this flagrant attempt to glorify their failed administration, I put down a motion for the House of Assembly meeting scheduled for Tuesday 2nd May (but now adjourned without any new date being set). The motion called for the Government to retract its request to the PS Finance and to consider diverting any resources that the PS Finance purported to identify as available for such purpose, to the relief of poverty.

If the government had any compassion for the needy and suffering in Anguilla, that course of action would be a no-brainer, but the sad thing is that they don’t care. And we no longer need a callous and self-serving government. They have shown by their silence and their ineffectiveness that they have lost their way – if they had ever found it. They should resign and call an election.

When it was suggested that members of government should make their contribution to the economy, by reducing their take, they refused. When they were asked what they were doing to reduce the cost of running the country, they had nothing to offer. The government’s only interest appears to be to protect what little is left of their voter base at the expense of the majority of honest Anguillians. And so the lurches from one crisis to another continue for our beloved Anguilla, and the government are doing everything in their power to prevent us doing anything meaningful about it.

This cannot go on. While I urge all of you who genuinely care about Anguilla and our forefathers’ legacy of a peaceful Anguilla to be responsible always I beg you to speak out; I beg you to show your support for a change of government; and I beg you to demonstrate that support by contacting your representative and calling on him or her to step down, to resign.

And when we have a change of government, its first priority will be the relief of poverty and suffering of every kind; its second priority will be an enlightened stimulation of the economy on a sustainable basis; and its third, longer term, but absolutely vital, priority will be the improvement of the educational system in Anguilla. Without such improvement we cannot offer our youth a future in Anguilla, and without our youth Anguilla has no future.
Dr Glenford Howe of the University of the West Indies Open Campus, as reported in Caribbean 360, spoke recently about the “outdated and outmoded criteria” being used to test Caribbean students, saying that the regional education system remains inadequate at preparing young people for the world of work as reflected in the growing number of unemployed and underemployed persons, especially youth. Furthermore, he said, there is a serious skills deficit across the region and an overall low educational base in many countries.

Is our government listening? Are they giving this issue priority? Are they leading the way by recognising the vital importance of a modern educational system? If they are, they are playing their cards so close to their chest that they are not being heard; they are not showing the leadership that would gain the support of the people. They are failing Anguilla in the most dismal and cataclysmic way that our revolutionary forbears would be ashamed of.

And finally, my people, if the government seeks to cover their incompetence with a show of extravagance to celebrate 50 years since the revolution, draw your own conclusions. They have presided over one of the the most damaging episodes in our country’s history during that 50 years period. Do not rejoice if they spend even more of your money on ostentatious gestures only for their self-aggrandisement. Be grateful for good government if and when you get it, but do not reward ostentatious profligacy that deserves no respect.

I pray for all our sakes, but especially for the sake of the future of Anguilla and its youth, that we shall see better government in future, and that the plight of our people will receive compassionate and considered relief.

If we are to succeed, if we are to survive even, Anguillians MUST come together for the benefit of both present and future generations. Acting as One Anguilla there are no obstacles that can hold us back.

May God bless us all and may God bless Anguilla.

Tuesday, 02 May 2017.

(Published without editing by The Anguillian newspaper.)

anguillian
By anguillian May 8, 2017 12:42 Updated

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