By Dan Ehrlich
The news media has reported how less than adequate hurricane recovery aid has been given to Caribbean territories as diverse as the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
For residents of the UK territory of Anguilla, government promises from London have rung hollow as the Caribbean island struggles with restoring the bare necessities for living, while trying to produce a balanced budget.
Anguilla, still a British dependency, is a case in point of a cynical exercise by Whitehall mandarins in the face of extreme devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.
Last November, following Hurricane Irma, Anguilla’s Chief Minister Victor Banks had a personal meeting with UK Prime Minister Theresa May at which time she promised Banks a reconstruction loan of 60 million British pounds (US$100 million).
Yet that note of joy and salvation has been dulled by bureaucratic gloom. As is often the case, as so clearly depicted in the classic TV series “Yes, Prime Minister,” an executive proclamation may be nullified once Whitehall mandarins become involved.
No, not Sir Humphrey this time, but his real-life counterpart at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon. He’s the Minister of State for Overseas Territories as well as the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Preventing Sexual Violence in Conﬂict. What the latter has to do with Hurricane Irma and Anguilla is mystifying.
He wrote Chief Minister Banks that the desperately needed cash grant had two conditions…the island had to submit a budget proposal that was default proof and if not, to submit the island to the stewardship of a UK Government financial advisor.
According to Lord Ahmad the island has not been making enough money since the hurricane. Something indicated in a draft budget proposal.
As he wrote Banks, “Put frankly, Anguilla is at risk of defaulting. Neither you or I would want that. I can’t let that happen….Given the risk of default one of the measures I am considering is the appointment of a chief financial officer.”
So, to receive the disaster aid promised by PM May, devastated Anguilla must work with a financial adviser in developing a budget that will show a profit.
In response Banks said, “Like you I am also conscious of the critical milestones that are fast approaching our territory.
“Indeed, I am reminded daily as I witness the plight of our people who are still suffering from the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Irma. With Anguilla’s key infrastructure crippled, and its main industry undermined by the destruction of our main tourist resorts, Anguillians continue to experience mass unemployment and loss of business opportunities.
“Although some opportunities have arisen from the restoration of the tourism sector and the initial ‘clean up’ operation, the situation remains challenging. With our main access hubs still in a state of serious disrepair and with the existence of fierce competition in the tourism sector within the Caribbean; Anguilla’s main economic driver still has some distance to go before normality is restored.
“It is against this sordid backdrop, that we are seeking the approval of Anguilla’s 2018 Budget and the release of the £60 million recovery funds committed by Prime Minister Theresa May last November when I met with her at 10 Downing Street,” Banks said.
He pointed out:
-The depressed performance of revenue during the first quarter of 2018 is no surprise given the extent of the damage caused by Hurricane Irma both in Anguilla and the surrounding islands on which our territory depends.
-The extent of Anguilla’s risk of defaulting has been considerably exaggerated. offers little justification for the UK defaulting on its obligation to protect t It he welfare of British citizens of the territory from both the consequences of last year’s catastrophe, and the increasing potential risks of the forthcoming hurricane season.
-Anguilla does not seek aid dependency, but needs humanitarian aid delivered in a timely manner without inappropriate conditions that further compromise the welfare of its people. We were therefore encouraged by the Prime Minister’s commitment to provide aid to Anguilla and even your statement that you would like to disburse the £60 million allocated by the Right Honourable Theresa May last November as soon as possible.