Government Press Conference: Visit To London

By anguillian December 11, 2017 12:03 Updated




The Government of Anguilla held its third post-Irma press conference on the afternoon of Tuesday, December 5th.
The Hon. Chief Minister first recognized the government team which travelled with him to the UK recently for the Joint Ministerial Council meeting to put forward Anguilla’s need for financial assistance following Hurricane Irma. These delegates were in the persons of Hon. Mrs. Cora Richardson-Hodge, Minister of Home Affairs; Dr. Aidan Harrigan, Permanent Secretary of Finance; an Mr. Fritz Smith, the Anguilla Government’s Sherpa.
Mr. Banks reflects: “The schedule was very tight. We hardly had any time for our selves, but on our days off we had the opportunity to visit with the community. The day that we got to the UK, there was a fundraiser on behalf of Anguilla. It was a comedy event housed at the Slough Cricket Club. It was well attended by persons, not only from Anguilla, but the Caribbean region who supported the cause of the Anguilla recovery.”
Mr. Banks continued: “We wanted to make sure that the item of recovery was foremost on the agenda. In fact, the first order of business on the Tuesday was Hurricane Relief and Recovery. This took up all of the morning and a considerable part of the afternoon. The meeting dealt with specific reference to relief efforts. We had territory updates and we also had the opportunity to give our overview of the UK response to the disaster and to relate the lessons learned. Later in the evening, we focused on the topic Building Back Better, indicating the private sector perspectives on reconstruction investment. These sessions were led by the Minister for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lord Ahmed and Lord Bates, the Minister of State for DFID, the agency that is mainly responsible for aid and support.
“On that Tuesday morning, we had a fifty-minute 8 o’clock meeting with the Prime Minister herself. This is an unprecedented event as far as Overseas Territories are concerned, but during our meeting with her every territory had the opportunity to express their concerns and put forward their positions. She gave us a very useful indication with regards to where they were with the recovery effort. She, in the end, revealed the package that the territories affected by Hurricane Irma will be receiving. This is grant funding of up to seventy million pounds, as well as guaranteed loans up to three hundred million pounds. We were able to derive from the package offered to all the overseas territories, sixty million pounds of the seventy million offered to all of the overseas territories. This translates to EC$220,000,000. This is significant and is unprecedented and it will go a long way towards meeting our needs.”
The next minister to address the press conference was Hon. Mrs. Cora Richardson-Hodge, the Minister of Home Affairs. Among other issues, she explained the post-Irma unemployment plan that would benefit persons who have been left job-less following the hurricane.
Mrs. Richardson-Hodge said: “The Temporary Unemployment Benefit Assistance program arose as a result of the storm and the number of person who would be deemed now unemployed. After the storm, the Labour Department conducted an island-wide assessment to determine the number of persons that were it not for Hurricane Irma would have been still employed. We identified approximately 2,000 from the hotel sector, the restaurants sector etc., where these places of employment were either damaged or significantly destroyed to the point where the businesses would not be reopened at all, or would not be opened until the New Year or at some later date.
She continued: “ So the Labour Department and Social Security were able to come together and identify a program within which we can offer some assistance between now and the New year. The rollout of the program officially began on Friday, December 1st 2017. The is a person from Social Security that is occupying a portion of the Labour Department office. That person is distributing forms and accepting completed forms for the benefit assistance program. There are a number of requirements that would enable one to qualify. For example, persons applying would have to be paying into Social Security for 50 weeks.
In concluding, the Minister Richardson-Hodge explained: “While we would have liked to offer such a program to every unemployed person, because of the possible strain on Social Security and the fact that the Social Security funds were never established to accommodate this type of program, we were concerned about the significant damage that would have been done, and as a result we have had to limit the benefit program only to those persons who have been left unemployed as a result of the disruptive effects of Hurricane Irma. For those who qualify, payments will be made in two installments: The first payment of EC$1,500.00 will be made in December, and the second payment of EC$1,500.00 in January, 2018.
Next, the Hon. McNeil Rogers, the Minister of Health, thanked the British tax payers who have come to the aid of Anguilla through the British Government in granting the much needed relief aid. He then spoke concerning the progress made with repairs to the Alexandra Hospital and the dental facility.
Mr. Rogers said: “We have established a Rehabilitation Committee consisting of Permanent Secretaries, technical staff from the Health Authority and an engineer from MICU as well as other individuals to look at the overall re-development of our medical facilities. We have been fortunate to have a number of friends of Anguilla who are committed to the development of the hospital as a health facility. We now have some additional space in the neonatal section. A new section of the intensive care unit is being added. Again I would like to say thanks to the British Government, through the Governor’s Office, who has come to our aid.
“With regard to dental chairs and dental equipment, we have to transform the East End clinic to accommodate two dental chairs. Our dental services were severely compromised by the storm, but we are covering. There are discussions now going on between the Ministry of Health and the Governor’s Office I trying to source two mobile dental units that will assist us in provide required dental services.
He continued: “ I would like to thank the staff at the poly-clinic in Welches for their patience and understanding as they continue to work in an adverse environment, given the circumstance. I can assure them that we are working hard to restore normalcy and improvement to working environment there. Again, we do intend to upgrade the entire electrical system at the Princess Alexandra hospital. Of course, hospitals are not institutions that can take time off, so we will have to upgrade the system while we are operating. As a result of that it is going to take some time, and it will be costly. However, if we don’t do it, the costs that we incur now will be minor in comparison to the potential cost that would be incurred if we don’t do it. Overall, we are working very hard to restore normalcy.”
The next Minister to speak was Hon. Curtis Richardson, Minister of Infrastructure and Communications. He began by apologizing for the recent frequent water outages, after which he commended the efficient restoration efforts of ANGLEC.
He said: “Very recently we have had some water outages which seem to be following me. My desire is to have the water supply going continuously without fail. This seems to have been a serious challenge over the two years that I have been in office. However, we are working on the situation, and there will be some new development in water services soon. We are pushing ahead and trying to do our best as far as water is concerned.
He continued: “I want to commend the British Government so far on the electricity restoration. I thank the Chief Minster and all my other colleagues for their support. I want to thank Mr. David Gumbs and all the workers of ANGLEC, as well as all the other Caribbean crews and the crews from Canada that are currently on island. Electricity restoration work is progressing well as the crews move to the western parts of the island in areas such as Blowing Point, Rendevouz, and South Hill. The crews have done a fantastic job. When these are would have been restored, it will bring us to about 80% of the island being supplied with electricity. We are still pushing ahead with our promise to have 95% of the island lit by Christmas.”
He stressed, “I really want to thank the Anguilla public for their patience and tolerance. In some areas it is a little difficult, because some folks don’t have the understanding of how the feeders work. Yopu may see your neighbor with electricity, but you don’t have. But one of the things that we must continue to be mindful of is that over the entire period of electricity restoration. We have not had any injuries or deaths. For this we give God thanks, and we want to continue to keep safety as priority number one.”
Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Cardigan Connor expressed thanks to Mr. Banks and his accompanying officials who were successful in their relief-seeking trip to the UK.
Mr. Connor said: “ I wish to also say thanks to the Anguillians in the UK who would have moved there over the past seventy years and who would have paid into the tax system. We here in Anguilla tend to look at the Brits or Anguillians who were born in Anguilla, go to the UK and come back in a different light. And when we can request aid and get over EC$200,000,000 we must say thank you to the Anguillians who would have contributed to that tax system.
Mr. Connor continued: “In the field of tourism, again I want to say that I am very pleased with a number of our business owners and our investors, who, rather than wait for insurance have decided that they wanted to make sure that there is something left of the 2017 tourist season. There are a number of small properties especially in West End that will be ready for this festive season. There are those that will be opened in Shoal Bay as well, along with small villas throughout the island. When I was in Grenada, at the the Stae of the industry meeting recently, I mentioned that we would have about 200 rooms ready for Christmas. Some would have ridiculed that statement, but in fact we are looking at having up to 500 rooms available.

“I have an appeal to all Anguillians. We are not going to use Irma as an excuse for having bottles, cans and rubbish lying around. Even as Government works on cleaning the roadsides, it is still disheartening to see the number of bottles and cans that litter the sides of the road in some places. So, I appeal to all of us: stop the litter, and pick up what’s already there. We want to leave a positive impression of being proud as a people.”

During the press conference, all of the government officials made mention of the passing of local investor, Mr. Leandro Rizzuto, who died in the US recently. They all tendered their deepest sympathy to his family and friends who mourn his loss.

By anguillian December 11, 2017 12:03 Updated


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