12 June, 2007



We are lucky in Anguilla when it comes to poverty. The UNDP says we have none. We know differently.

World leaders agreed on the Millennium Development Goals at the Millennium Summit in 2000. There are now recognised 8 goals, 18 targets, and over 40 indicators. I leave you to look them up and decide for yourselves how many apply to us.

The following UNDP poverty profile shows Anguilla having the second best Gini Co-efficient in the region. The higher the figure for the Gini co-efficient, the greater is the degree between high and lower income households. Only the BVI scores better than us in being more egalitarian.

Poverty Profile in OECS Countries


% Below the Poverty Line

Gini Co-efficient







St Kitts



St Lucia



St Vincent and the Grenadines












Because we have no statistically significant percentage of households living below the poverty line does not mean that we do not have poor households in Anguilla. There are at least 50 homes that the Welfare Department have certified as deserving free public water because the heads of those households cannot pay the minimum bills. To put this in proportion, there are probably 3,000 households in Anguilla.

We may not have the deaths from starvation we see on Television, and that we may associate with “real” poverty. Our poverty has a different, less obvious face. We have homes with a poor standard of living, homes where the adults suffer from low education and low skills, and are employed in low income jobs. We have old and vulnerable persons without access to social services. There are many homes that have difficulty meeting the weekly grocery and the monthly telephone bills. With our tourism-based industry, when hotel business dries up, as it does periodically, people are let go from their jobs. The result is that loan payments become overdue. Homes are wrecked by the stresses that result. We see the periodic spates of advertisements by banks of sales of distressed properties. Our citizens have weak voices and limited power to influence the forces that affect our lives. We are at the mercy of so many forces that are outside our control. In all these ways many of us in Anguilla can be said to be impoverished.


  1. I agree, we are a fortunate country. For now. I do get pissed off at compagnies who take advantage of low-income house holds like Caribbean Cable. A few months ago the billing period for Cable TV has changed in our area from the 15th to the 10th of each month. I know, TV is by no means essential but the point is when one gets paid each week or on the 30th and 15th of each month the payment can be tight if it falls on the 10th. Sunday was the 10th, I went to pay on monday, yesterday, and was told to pay 50$ late fee. 50$ ! On a 120$ bill? Like 40% for being one day late!
    If I was rich I'd buy a satelite! C&W has become so accomodating, first they block outgoing calls, then they call to remind you your bill is due, if you still don't show up you get disconnected and pay a fee. Reasonable, considerate. Caribbean Cable should take their example.

  2. 3000 house holds? What is our population, 12000, 15000? You think there are only 3000?
    Do you know of all the back yard chack, lean-to, garage and former hog pens transformed into living quarters. The people who live there get a bucket of water from the main house, current via an extention cord and share the tv cable through a splicer. Single mothers, two jobs, two children. They are poor alright. Are they counted?

  3. It's true that we have a number of people who are trapped in poverty, often through no fault of their own. Poverty is a lack of choices. We also have a far larger group whose choices have resulted in it being difficult for them to survive. These are often the "poverty by choice" people, who we hear crying that "the taxes is killin us." Have they any similarity to those desribed below in Antigua?

    The Observer, Antigua
    9 March 2005
    Taking Our Teeth to Dig Our Graves

    People will complain about paying the $400 college fees in the ‘A’ Level Department of the Antigua State College, but will think nothing of spending the same amount on a single pair of shoes, a lecturer recently complained.

    This mentality is in keeping with the findings reported in a USA Today piece on the spending habits of blacks. According to the article, “The National Urban League’s ‘State of Black America 2004’ report found that fewer than 50% of black families owned their homes, compared with more than 70% of whites,” and “the Ariel Mutual Funds/ Charles Schwab 2003 Black Investor Survey found that when comparing households where blacks and whites had roughly the same household incomes, whites saved nearly 20% more each month for retirement, and 30% of African-Americans earning $100,000 a year had less than $5,000 in retirement savings. …”It’s enough to make a Buppie weep into her cheesecake.

    now making the Internet rounds, juxtaposes very nicely with a major event in the financial life of black (and other) Antiguans and Barbudans: the commissioning, on Sunday, of the ABI Financial Centre. And in this age of frightening consumerism, the 15-year anniversary of this homegrown and far-reaching institution is cause for hope.

    Some sisters, having read the piece, hastened to point out that local circumstances are not as dire, especially as it relates to home ownership. Others point to the much-vaunted level of savings in the banks as a redeeming feature of this society. But we believe there’s a long way to go before we can rest on our laurels.

    The fact is – just like our North American brethren – many of us are shameless and clueless consumers of non-durable goods, with neither umbrella for shelter nor the sense to come in out of the rain.

    Each of us has a relative, friend or co-worker who is the latest word in fashion, from sleekly coiffed head to well-shod feet. The value of her wardrobe could probably fund an apartment building, but she is constantly late paying the rent, and her cheques are more rubber than the wheels of her SUV. We’re also familiar with the fellow who trades in his vehicle every two years so that the shine on his chrome never dulls, but who has a rising tab at the Courthouse for child-support payments. And the parents who have no compunction in telling you that government “haffu” educate their children, because their money is to go to San Juan, or New York, or Atlanta to shop. And the families whose cupboards and freezers are bulging, but who must lick from pillar to post borrowing a hundred here and a hundred there if one of them should fall sick. … All taking their teeth to dig their financial graves.

    Antigua & Barbuda will, in less than a month, see the reintroduction of personal income tax, and many are the mouths bawling “Murder.”

    There is no doubt that all of us could find more pleasurable ways in which to spend, or save, our money. There is no doubt that many will truly feel the squeeze. But for many others, the complaint is born in the belly, the belly of the same beast that, in America, bawls, “More! More! M-o-oo-re!” Cars. Entertainment. Equipment. Vacations. Jewelry. Weaves. Bleach. Bling!

    Pundits have argued that the media are to blame, dangling, as they do, all kinds of attractive goods in our collective face. But the same media also market mutual funds, health insurance, mortgage loans. Why are we takers of one kind of bait but not the other?

    There are those who argue, too, that with salaries being as small as they are, most folks cannot save, having only enough to get by on. Getting by on Timberlands?! Others stoop to criminal levels, selling and muling drugs, prostituting themselves for this weekend’s outfit or the next month’s rent. Tell them to invest some of their ill-gotten gains in a modest house, a computer, a course of study, and they think that you should be locked in a padded room.

    We are inclined, to be kind, to say that it is not, strictly speaking, all the people’s fault. After all, for the past three decades, we have been lulled, fooled, duped into believing that there is a free lunch. Accordingly, we have made no provision for rainy days, because some fairy godfather was always waiting in the wings to bail us out of our self-created messes, say every five years or so. But when do we get tired of being handed a fish, a ham, a turkey? And when do we become the fisherman or the livestock farmer?

    It is instructive to note that in contrast to the escalating sums spent on consumer goods, the Today article noted that spending on books was down by $53 million for the same reporting period. With Government providing textbooks right up to the tertiary level, we wonder what the case is here at home?

    The ABI Group has proved the local saying that “one-one full basket,” and if our unlearned grandparents knew the wisdom of this, what is our excuse for spending threescore years and ten and returning with less than which we came? Since we know that sickness and death must come, what is our reason for not anticipating that day? We spend hundreds on the christening; but how much do we put aside for the baby’s college fund? Yet, we are the same ones who cuss and fuss when others move ahead, blaming our nationality, our race, our politicians.

    It’s a pity we’re not spending more on books. Because we would have known, from reading Julius Caesar, that the fault is not in our stars that we are nderlings, but in our selves.

  4. We have all heard the stories about Anguillians exploiting illegal labour. The police and the politicians are said to be reluctant to proceed against them. But, are there many of these alleged back yard shacks, sheds, generator houses, garages and former hog pens that have been transformed into living quarters? Or, is it just a made up story?


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