17th September 2018 – Leader of the Opposition – Public Statement
My fellow Anguillans, I need to speak to you on serious issues that are confronting our nation at this time.
The recent announcement that CIBC First Caribbean International Bank will be closing its operations here in Anguilla is yet another symptom of our failing economy. The Chief Minister would have us believe that this is an isolated situation, a simple “business decision.” Are we to believe that this banking institution would have made a conscious decision to open a branch here in Anguilla only to maintain five per cent of the overall market share? Furthermore, are we to believe the Chief Minister when he says in the House of Assembly that the government was informed about this decision on September 12th - the same day it was announced to the public - despite the fact that he apparently told the Anguillian that on Tuesday September 11th he had "a scheduled visit from some principals of the FCIB's regional office in Barbados about the closure of the Bank, having before been briefed on that possibility by Eastern Caribbean Central Bank officials"?
Whether or not the Chief Minister's statement in the House was misleading, does this not raise questions as to the ability of this government to maintain proper relations with such institutions?
Surely, with employees on the brink of losing their main source of income, one can safely deduce that officials from the bank would have provided ample notice to all stakeholders, including the government. What is even more appalling is the apparent callous attitude towards the bank’s employees who by the Chief Minister’s own statements, in the last sitting of the House of Assembly, are free to attend the next job fair. Perhaps he has in mind another of the job fairs where the unfortunate unemployed stand in line for hours on end, without shelter, some of them leaving before being interviewed to avoid getting sick and incurring medical bills they cannot afford. This from a leader who claims that “It’s all about you"?
Ensuring that the bank complies with the labour laws of Anguilla in relation to the separation packages offered to employees is not only insufficient, but speaks to a complete disregard for the human suffering that will take place as a result of this situation. I call on the government to operate with humanity and decency by setting up a special committee to provide support to these employees and their families over a six month period as they seek to transition into alternative employment opportunities after January 2019. This should include income support, counselling, family services and possibly negotiating extended timelines for servicing their debts.
As our people continue to struggle under these strenuous economic conditions, the government now lauds the Anguilla Residency by Investment Programme as our saving grace. As Leader of the Opposition, I call on all Anguillians to remember that all that glitters is not gold; indeed the devil is in the details. The Chief Minister and Minister of Finance would have us believe that this Residency by Investment programme, including its retroactive fast track application period and relaxed application process, caters to individuals who already own investments and real estate on the island. While that may be true and what the Chief Minister intends, this programme will also be marketed internationally to attract investors from different countries. As is the case in other OECS countries, programmes of this kind are marketed heavily in the Middle East and to countries in Asia such as China. It is disingenuous at best to suggest that this programme will not have serious implications to our local business owners and our people specifically as it relates to the availability of lands to build homes and start families. In fact, at the last sitting of the House of Assembly, I specifically asked if lands were being ear marked to accommodate the real estate investment route of the Anguilla Residency by Investment Programme, where these lands were located, and the size in acres. Such limitations have been entrenched in similar citizenship by investment programmes in other OECS countries since they recognize the importance of mitigating the impact to their respective societies.
The Chief Minister insists that there will be no constraints or limitations on the lands to be included in the programme. Furthermore, when asked how many more public consultations will take place to discuss concerns raised by the people with a view to the possible modification of the proposals to allay those concerns, the Chief Minister stated – one. Sadly, the voice of the people continues to fall on deaf ears to a group of persons who are out of touch and out of ideas. While the Anguilla Residency by Investment Programme would bring much needed revenue to our economy, we must be cautious in its planning and implementation. While the government moves rapidly to get this done, I am about getting it done right – the future of our nation and our children is at stake.
Anguilla is in desperate need of a new dawn and a new direction. We must end this vicious cycle of entrusting the future of our country and our children to career politicians who only care about self-preservation. This self-preservation is achieved when we allow them to divide us based on family and party affiliation. I make a clarion call today for unity and for our citizens to become active participants in the decisions that affect their lives. I will continue to share this vision for One Anguilla, a nation which is built on love, unity, and active citizenship. Despite the many attacks waged against me, I will continue to stand for the rights of all Anguillians and to ensure that your interests are represented at all costs. This is my solemn duty.