09 December 2011

Anguilla continues to be affected by unilateral British authority

                                         United Anguilla for Transparency 
The Valley - Anguilla

The row between the most controversial Governor in recent memory, Governor William Alistair Harrison and Chief Minister of the island, Hon. Hubert Benjamin Hughes has reached a fever pitch. 

Anguilla, a colony (Overseas Territory) of England has been without budgetary aid since 1983 and has stood on its own feet since then. The local elected Government has been under lots of pressure to balance its budget soon after coming to office in February of 2010. The Anguilla United Movement was swept into office on February 15, 2010 and was immediately met with hostility by the UK appointed Governor who has some unusual relationships and questionable friendships with investors on the island. 

The local Government inherited a huge national debt and a $90 million deficit on the recurrent for 2009. Through fiscal measures by the Chief Minister who is also Minister of Finance, the country saw only a $11 million deficit for 2010 and is on pace for a huge recurrent surplus for 2011. What has baffled most including other Overseas Territory leaders is that in an unprecedented move, the Governor has decided to shift around the Permanent Secretaries of the island thus putting the recovery of the island's fiscal position at risk. 

 The Chief Minister addressed the nation (on the evening of 5th April). The full text is as follows:

Address of the Honourable Hubert Hughes
Chief Minister

Fellow Anguillians,

I thank you for paying keen attention to the affairs of Government which are really your affairs which recently took place in London during my attendance at the Overseas Territories Conference.

As you know I try to ensure that you are fully apprised of all matters of primary importance and I try to ensure that you are kept abreast.

One of the matters which occupied some attention on our trip to London concerned the issue of the movement of the Permanent Secretaries. As you know this has been an issue that I have referred to that is yet an added distraction placed on my administration which wishes to get on with the business of helping our island keep afloat against the tide of a bitter recession.

On that issue, I have spoken time and time again as to the fact that what the Governor and Deputy Governor were proposing to do was not in the best interest of Anguilla. You would have heard me refer to the fact that I was never consulted on this issue and that I was informed that the Permanent Secretaries would be transferred after that decision had already been taken.

I am fully aware that the movement of the Permanent Secretaries is meant to disrupt particularly my Ministry. It is proposed by the Governor that Mrs Kathleen Rogers who possesses a double masters in both Accounting and Finance and who has worked in the Finance areas in the Civil Service for over 30 years is to be transferred to the Public Administration. 

It is also proposed that Dr Aidan Harrigan our Economist is to take over the portfolio of Mrs Kathleen Rogers, even though he is not skilled in the area of Finance. It is also proposed that Mr Foster Rogers who has no background in Economics is to replace Dr Aidan Harrigan’s position and that Ms Arjul Wilson to take over the position of Foster Rogers.

I have explained that this does not make sense since it is a poor use of our precious human resources and does a disservice to you the taxpayer who pays for the salaries of these civil servants. In addition, given that specific timelines were set for us in relation to our Budget, the action of the Governor and Deputy Governor has amounted to a shifting of the goal posts in mid-stream and serve to handicap this administration in our recovery effort on the Budget.

What is more troubling however is that despite the expression of my concern over these transfers when Anguilla is in its toughest economic climate the Governor and Deputy Governor have total disregard for the interests of the People of Anguilla. In London, I raised the issue with my fellow Territory Premiers and Leaders all of whom felt as strongly as I did that what the Governor was attempting to do was out of sync and could not occur in their territories. Not only did they express that that kind of action could never happen in their respective territories, but some even felt that what was attempted to be done amounted to economic terrorism. 

As a matter of fact together with myself it was raised at a Luncheon organized by Mr Bellingham in which both I and the other Leaders expressed to Mr Bellingham that what was being proposed was unacceptable and that that type of decision should be with the express view of the Chief Minister. Mr Bellingham undertook to communicate to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to have the matter reviewed.

I am just informing everyone that I have received a letter from the Governor today 5th December 2011 indicating that Mr Bellingham had asked both him and Mr Stanley Reid to review the matter again. Interestingly, notwithstanding the request of Mr Bellingham, the Governor has informed me that his decision stands.

I just wish to indicate to the People of Anguilla that as your representative it is my duty to represent your interests, but that I think at this point our island is under threat by the action of the Governor and Deputy Governor. I feel it my duty to keep you informed.

God Bless you and God Bless Anguilla