EDITORIAL: LIVING BY OUR WITS

anguillian
By anguillian September 4, 2017 11:35 Updated

 

 

The late Franklin Benjamin Connor, OBE, of blessed memory, once remarked in an impassioned public address that we, the people of Anguilla, were forced to live by our wits and should therefore order ourselves to that reality. He was then making a budget presentation in the House of Assembly, at the old courthouse, in the days when he served with distinction in the constitutional position of Financial Secretary/ Permanent Secretary, Finance.

The year was 1983, when the United Kingdom Government unceremoniously cast off Anguilla as a grant-aided territory on the pretext that the island was better off than a number of other dependencies. This was both a financial headache, and a blow to balancing the budget, when Anguilla had no other source of external funding, had limited economic development, and a relatively small revenue tax base.

That Mr. Connor, then Anguilla’s equivalent of Chancellor of the Exchequer or de facto Minister of Finance, was able “to cut and contrive” and manage the island’s finances, was a credit to his ingenuity and hard work and to Anguilla’s pride of not depending on meagre handouts. We owe Mr. Connor a debt of gratitude as an outstanding and respected public service financial administrator and later on as Acting Deputy Governor and Acting Governor.

The question is: Are we still living by our wits? Thankfully so, despite the attendant challenges. For instance, one can point to the banking sector which our leaders, and those other persons charged with certain administrative responsibilities, are now solving. Right before us another example is unfolding. It is the launch of a prospectus, several days ago, whereby the Government of Anguilla is offering for sale 4,636,100 ordinary shares in the Anguilla Electricity Company to Anguillians and Belongers to raise in excess of EC$20 million to finance various public requirements. This is a fine example of living by our wits when there appears to be very little opportunities to obtain the required funding from other sources.

Some persons may question the wisdom of Government withdrawing from that level of involvement in a potentially prosperous entity. The fact is, by divesting itself of its shares, the Government is creating opportunities for nationals to share in the development and fortunes of their island. Today ANGLEC is a swiftly-growing company, moving succesfully from fossil fuels to modern forms of renewable energy. The company’s mission is clear and attractive. The prospectus states: The mission of ANGLEC is to meet all customer electricity needs by providing a technically optimal mix of quality, affordable and price stable, reliable and sustainable energy from clean renewable sources, alternative clean and low carbon sources and low carbon fossil fuels, through a motivated, innovative team committed to excellent service.

While acknowledging various challenges ahead, the prospectus is certainly very positive, leaving little or no room for failure. Such a confident analysis and promise of the future direction and development of the company, as portrayed throughout the 101 pages of the prospectus, are indeed an encouragement to many persons to become shareholders of the company.

Chief Minister Banks summed up the Government’s position as follows: The present divestment…comes at a critical time in our strategy to resolve the banking crisis and to energise our depressed economic situation. The sale is intended to raise 20 million EC dollars in funding to support the resolution as well as other Government debt obligations. This will reduce the need for burdensome tax measures to the residents and businesses of Anguilla to meet these important obligations. The proceeds from this share offer will be used to assist the Government with its debt amortisation payments.

The sale of the Government’s shares in ANGLEC appears not only justified, but a necessary and commendable decision. It follows a similar course which Governments everywhere – in financially-strapped small island developing states, and even in richer and bigger countries – pursue. It is the sale of debentures, bonds, stocks or treasury bills, whatever the mechanisms or instruments are called, to secure needed capital for short or medium term financing in all of its forms.

For us, in Anguilla, it is a way of living by our wits and in agreement with what the late astute and influential public servant, Frankie Connor, once remarked.

anguillian
By anguillian September 4, 2017 11:35 Updated

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