EDITORIAL: MAINTAINING OUR CHAMPAGNE TASTE

The content originally appeared on: The Anguillian Newspaper

‘Champagne taste and sugar water pocket.’ A person is said to have ‘champagne taste and sugar water pocket’, when he or she aspires to own expensive things and live a life of luxury, while not having the means to afford such a lifestyle. This mindset has plagued some Anguillians over the years and has resulted in their downfall when they were unable to sustain their grand lifestyle. As a nation, we must be concerned when it appears that our leaders might very well be aspiring to provide citizens and residents with state of the art infrastructure, amenities and services, without any apparent plan to create a sustainable economy to ensure that our access to quality infrastructure – the highest standard of amenities and services – is not short-lived.

This concern was expressed in The Anguillian’s editorial of 18th June, 2021. A significant portion of the editorial is set out below as the issues raised continue to be germane as wee continue to see infrastructural improvements courtesy of the UK taxpayer, while the success of new tax initiatives remains suspect.

“Asking and Answering the Hard Questions

The earthly sojourns of our first, second and third Chief Ministers, have come to an end. We have said farewell to Mr. James Ronald Webster, Sir Emile Rudolph Gumbs and now Mr. Hubert Benjamin Hughes. They each played a role in charting Anguilla’s path since the 1967 Anguilla Revolution. We are grateful for their service and the sacrifices they made in their respective lives.

We must, however, ask ourselves some hard questions as we examine our current circumstances. In doing so, we must naturally wonder whether our three departed leaders would feel pride in Anguilla’s current circumstances. Fifty-four years after the Anguilla Revolution, Anguilla remains unable to determine its own path.

As Anguillians, we are known for our resilience. It is, therefore, generally expected that we will persevere and overcome in the face of adversity. Is this what we portray today? There is no doubt that we have suffered adversity in the last decade. We endured the Banking Crisis, the ravages of Hurricane Irma, and now COVID-19 and its negative impacts on our economy. What has been our response? Does it reflect self-reliance and resilience?

Since 2017, Anguilla’s reliance on funding from the Government of the United Kingdom (UK) appears to be growing to the point where we might very well be approaching absolute reliance if we do not ask ourselves the hard questions and answer those questions with a sense of honesty and pride. We have benefited from significant infrastructural development since Hurricane Irma and apparently there is more to come, all courtesy of the UK Government. We will be the beneficiaries of significantly upgraded primary school buildings, a new secondary school, an upgraded hospital, upgrade and new health centres, new port facilities and upgraded roads. These improved facilities are certainly welcome but we must consider how we will maintain these facilities and prepare ourselves accordingly. It is the apparent absence of such preparation that is alarming.

Anguilla’s Government struggled to meet the recurrent costs associated with our education and health facilities when we had less structures, equipment and furnishings to consider. It is reasonable to conclude that operating and maintaining our new and improved facilities will incur greater recurrent costs. How will these be met? We, the citizens and residents of Anguilla, must pay our way. This is something that we must accept if we are to achieve any level of self-reliance. However, acceptance alone will not suffice. If we are to pay our own way, we must first have the wherewithal to do so.
It is appreciated that Government has devoted significant attention to keeping us safe from COVID-19. While the efforts of the elected and appointed officials are appreciated, some energy must also be devoted to medium and long-term economic and financial concerns. Is it that the recently increased Government Agency fees are expected to allow the Government to better address approaching recurrent costs? How will the citizenry meet these increased fees?

Is there a looming tourism-related project on the horizon that will change our prospects? Do we want to continue to place our hopes on tourism projects? Will plans to diversify our economy come to fruition and, if so, within what timelines? Will such plans be sustainable? These and other hard questions must be asked and answered and we must ask them of ourselves and answer them ourselves.”

Concern is turning into alarm, as with the progress of time there still remains no discernible plan to ensure that as a country, and as individuals, we will have the means to sustain our taste for quality products and services. Without sustained means the lovely edifices being constructed, the supporting amenities, and the expected improved services, will soon decline as they become more reflective of a ‘sugar water pocket.’ Every effort should be made to avoid this possibility.