Interview with Chief Minister (02-01-2018): THE WAY FORWARD IN THE NEW YEAR

By anguillian January 8, 2018 11:51 Updated




The Anguillian: Chief Minister, welcome back to you and your wife. Hope that you enjoyed a well-deserved break over the Christmas recess.
C.M. : Well thank you, Mr. Hodge, for your kind words of welcome. I am sure that Cerise appreciates them as well. I did have the opportunity to have a change of pace and place — as well as to spend some quality time with my wife. This has been a challenging year but to my mind a year which had its special moments as well. Let us not forget, besides everything else, it was the 50th Anniversary of the Anguilla Revolution. There can hardly be any milestone more significant than that for our people. And I thank The Anguillian for so brilliantly cataloguing these and all the other important events – the sad ones and the joyous ones, which passed through in 2017.

The Anguillian : Mr. Banks, you arrived just a few days ahead of the New Year, 2018. Is there anything in particular you wish to say to the people of Anguilla at this time?

C.M. : As I said in my Christmas message, undoubtedly, next year will also come with its own set of challenges — but like the past year there will be times for celebration as well. As your Government, my colleagues and I refuse to be a part of the conversation that spells doom and gloom for Anguilla. In keeping with our approach, over the past years, we will continue to remain focused on what we deem to be the greater good. We will never give up hope! Indeed, our most effective weapon in this struggle has been, and will continue to be, HOPE. Thankfully, over the past year many of those hopes are being realized and as I catalogued during my message — we do have a great deal to be thankful for. Perhaps one of the greatest blessings is the fact that we have survived.

The Anguillian : Mr. Banks, obviously you must have some immediate plans to start off the New Year. Can you give us a peek into the first month, at least?

C.M. : Mr. Hodge, as you know, we did not take the Budget through the House of Assembly last year. It has been necessary to expand the budgetary process to ensure that we have met all the preconditions, for approval by the Secretary of State, for the release of the over 220 million EC dollars we have been able to negotiate for critical recovery projects. We also need to ensure that we have a solid plan of action in place to meet the financial challenges that could be experienced in 2018.

I received a letter from Mr. Ben Merrick, the Director of Overseas Territories, a day before Christmas, outlining the preliminary requirements which I had discussed with Lord Ahmad and Lord Bates, the Ministers for FCO and DfID respectively, while in London in late November. I must say that I was particularly impressed that the Director had taken the time, just before Christmas Eve, to make sure that I received such a letter. I am most grateful, indeed, for the level of enthusiasm for getting things started in Anguilla that we have received from the UK Government.

So, Mr. Hodge, I will be definitely spending the first month – among other things – putting plans in place to get out of the starting blocks as early as possible. I felt especially encouraged by the second paragraph of the letter from the Director and I quote:

(“Chief Minister”) I’m confident the anticipated 60 million (pounds) reconstruction grant will help Anguilla to build back – and build back stronger – a significant proportion of the public infrastructure destroyed or damaged by IRMA. I am delighted that UK ministers have agreed this significant amount, and I am looking forward to working with you and fellow ministers and officials to put procedures in place which will allow us to quickly start to disburse so you can begin the construction work which I know is so very much needed.

The Anguillian : Chief Minister, I know that you have not yet had the time to discuss the details of this letter with your colleagues. But is there any chance that you can give us at least a general outline of some of the proposed requirements for the disbursement of this considerable grant funded package that you have been able to negotiate? We have been listening to the debate in the BVI with regard the preconditions that they must meet for their guaranteed loan arrangements.

C.M. : As you indicated, I just got back today and I have not yet met with my colleagues officially on this. This correspondence is four pages long. But I can tell you that the UK Ministers’ requirements fall into three parts as follows:

• Agreement to a revised Medium Term Economic and Fiscal Reform Programme;
• The appointment of a UK funded Financial Adviser to the Government of Anguilla;
• A clear agreed list of projects which UK funding will support, and the establishment of agreed implementation arrangements.

Of course, the details of these requirements will have to be discussed further over the next few weeks. But my ultimate objective is to have the broad requirements agreed and signed off on by mid-January, and a list of projects “shovel-ready” before the UK Budgetary discussion begins. That is, by the middle March.

The Anguillian: Mr. Banks, do you consider these requirements onerous?

C.M. : Not at all! Especially given the fact that there is room for negotiation on a number of issues and concerns I have already raised in London. I will not go in those details in advance of those discussions. It would not be appropriate or strategic to do so.

But lets face it! This is the largest package of UK grant funding that Anguilla has ever received for capital infrastructure. We expect some level of oversight not only for transparency in disbursement — but also to ensure that the British taxpayer, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude, are satisfied that their contribution is put to proper use. As far as my colleagues and I are concerned, we welcome the oversight to reinforce accountability and transparency to all and sundry.

The Anguillian: Chief Minister, any more areas of focus during this first month?

C.M. : We will get into more detail later but, as you would imagine, I continue to focus on the private sector ensuring that we can get the economy up and running. I have already set up appointments to visit all the tourism investments to make sure that their recovery process is facilitated by all the relevant government agencies. It is important that we get people back to work, for at least a part of this tourism season, and have them on a trajectory to be back in business fully by the beginning of the next one.

I have said to the Minister of Infrastructure that he has my full support on a number of critical infrastructure projects, particularly access infrastructure, namely, the Ferry Terminal and the Airport. Outside of the grant funding, we are receiving, we need to begin the dialogue on public private partnership arrangements for the funding of such projects.

I will also continue our focus on support for persons who have sustained losses of property; employment; and business. There is still a lot of work to be done in this area.

The Anguillian: Mr. Banks, I do apologize for taking advantage of this courtesy so quickly after your return. I am sure that you will be winding up, or winding down, over the remaining holiday season. I wish you and the entire family circle a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year when it comes. Thank you, Sir!

C.M. : My pleasure, Nat! The same kind wishes to you and your family as well! Blessings!

By anguillian January 8, 2018 11:51 Updated


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