As Anguillians struggle to maintain their place in Anguilla’s workforce, we must ask ourselves some hard questions and try to provide honest answers. Are Anguillians today like Anguillians of yesteryear?
With good reason, young persons bemoan their apparent lack of opportunity in Anguilla. Competition for jobs is stiff and is not restricted to Anguillians. Starting salaries (some would say salaries for most persons) are small. Many persons work at least two jobs to make ends meet. The ability to own land, house and car is severely restricted, based on income levels. Opportunities for improved education are reduced as Government sponsorship has been reduced.
While in some respects the landscape has certainly changed, many persons would tell you that life in Anguilla has never really been easy. In fact, older folks are likely to quickly opine that young people today have it easy compared to them. How then did past generations manage to secure land and home for themselves and an education for their children? Might it have been achieved through proper prioritisation and a greater sense of community?
Anguillians prided themselves on being landowners. How many Anguillians today are able to gift their children a parcel of land, to build their home when they come of age? Has the land instead been sold off to provide transient luxuries, with no thought for future generations? If a young person is lucky enough to be blessed with a gift of land, he or she must now overcome the monumental task of securing the financial means to build a home. Banks require realistic construction estimates – and are unlikely to be persuaded by any suggestion that contractor friends will assist for free, or at a reduced rate, therefore making it feasible to build a home on the young person’s income. Obtaining a house loan is not necessarily easy.
Many older persons tell of having built their homes without having obtained a loan. These persons were privileged to obtain credit – from hardware stores – for the materials required to build their homes. While they did not obtain a loan from a bank, they benefitted from, what amounted to, an interest free loan from the owners of the hardware stores. This avenue is however no longer available to young persons. Today, many hardware store owners are unlikely to be familiar with such practices or desirous of engaging in such practices. It does not help that some persons who benefitted from the altruism of hardware store owners, in the past, repaid their generosity by failing to honour their debt thus causing their benefactor to experience hardship.
Many older Anguillians built their homes over extended periods of time, with the help of family and friends who offered free labour. This option, too, is no longer readily available. Family and friends are occupied with two or three jobs – in an effort to improve their lives – and cannot usually spare the time to participate in the jollification-style activities that benefitted past generations.
Which is considered more beneficial? Our changing value system or our past value system? Is this new era, that demands that we ‘hustle’ to make ends meet, really providing us with a better quality of life? We no longer appear to be concerned about the well being of future generations or of the well being of our family and friends. The growing mentality seems to be that I have to get mine to the exclusion of others. With this mindset we appear to be focused on quantity rather than quality, and this is reflected in the work output of many persons so that many persons no longer consider Anguillians as high performing employees.
It appears that our value system has changed. We must consider whether that change is for the better – and what role we have played in effecting that change.