By anguillian November 27, 2017 12:22 Updated




In an instant, life, as you know it, can come to a screeching halt. Whether it is the result of an accident, death, divorce or a natural disaster, everything changes. The employed become jobless; the middle class is plunged into poverty; those with plenty have all their assets stripped away. In Anguilla, our path to development moved us so far from our history of neglect and deprivation, so far from the days of drought, famine and abandonment, that we forgot how quickly things can change.

We didn’t expect to be stopped in our tracks or to have our economy plunged into further decline – and so many people in need of basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing and, most of all, work. It is heartbreaking. Unless concrete steps are taken to alleviate the situation, we can easily find ourselves in the situation described by Singing Sandra in her 1999 calypso Voices from the Ghetto.

The sun rises slowly over the hills,
Everywhere is golden sunlight but still
Most nights with sad tales are crowded

Their days with dark clouds are shrouded
They don’t smile and they never will,
Only vultures get their fill.
Empty promises is what they hear
No running water from year to year
Hearts that know one desire –
That if there is a Messiah,
Someday He’d hear their whispered prayer.

Cupboard always bare and scanty
Ten people in a one-bedroom shanty
Forced to sell on the pavement
No vacancies, no employment
Can’t tell firecracker from gunshot
Blood does flow when things get hot
Ah ‘fraid to look out mih window
To hear voices from the ghetto.

Social amenities, Lord, Heaven knows
Opportunities, well them always closed
Can’t get work once it white collar
So if you can’t stretch your dollar
Is later for you, crapaud smoke yuh pipe
You sure to dead from gripe
Life does rape dignity and pride
‘Til there’s only bitterness left inside
And everyday is a hustle,
Arguments are settled with muscle
‘Til you six feet deep by three feet wide.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The circumstances that we are in call for some out of the box thinking to ensure that we do not reach to a point where there is a collapse of our social systems and structures. Our Government must offer some assistance to persons to help rebuild their homes and their lives. This should include cash contributions and temporary housing – or some mechanism for persons to access low interest loans to rebuild. Additionally, there ought to be funds made available for training of persons who may be out of work so that they can broaden their skill set and be able to function in more than onesector. Creating job opportunities, out of disaster recovery activities, may also be a consideration. People can work in areas such as relief distribution centres, logistics, data collection, labour force assessment etc. Further, investment in small business enterprise development is a must for persons of all ages, so that we can create opportunities for people to be more self-sufficient and less reliant on a sole industry. All these are areas that must be tackled, in short order, if there is to be hope for the hopeless.

There is much to be done, and while these things should not be too difficult to achieve, in the context of the economic debilitation brought on by a natural disaster of the magnitude of Irma, Government has to be innovative in finding ways to fund its initiatives. It is doubtful whether in areas such as these that the British Government would be minded to contribute. It is more likely that they would consider it less trouble for us to abandon the island like Barbuda post-Irma, and like the ridiculous scheme they had, many years ago, to relocate the entire population to British Guyana, a country unfamiliar in scale, topography, demographic makeup and geographic location. Instead, it may be worthwhile for consideration to be given to utilizing funds collected from the interim stabilization levy, for example, and reinvesting them in programmes that develop the capacity of our people and place them in employment. This would be money well invested because the more people are working and earning, the more money circulates in the economy – and the more money Government can collect.

I encourage Government to pay close attention to the cries of the people.Many are in genuine need, and our Government must be prepared to offer some hope lest our people fall into the abyss.

By anguillian November 27, 2017 12:22 Updated


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