31 October, 2009
Adapted from Julian Cairns-Wicks' column in the St Helena Independent a week ago:
Curtis & Leroy saw an ad in the Starkville Daily News Newspaper in
, and bought a mule for$100. The farmer agreed to deliver the mule the next day. The next morning the farmer drove up and said, “Sorry, fellows, I have some bad news, the mule died last night.” Starkville, Mississippi
Curtis & Leroy replied, “Well, then just give us our money back.”
The farmer said, “Can’t do that. I went and spent it already.”
They said, “OK then, just bring us the dead mule.”
The farmer asked, “What in the world ya’ll gonna do with a dead mule?”
Curtis said, “We’re gonna raffle him off.”
The farmer said, “You can’t raffle off a dead mule!”
Leroy said, “We shore can! Heck, we don’t hafta tell nobody he’s dead!”
A couple of weeks later, the farmer ran into Curtis &Leroy at the Piggly Wiggly grocery store and asked, “What’d you fellers ever do with that dead mule?”
They said, ”We raffled him off like we said we wuz gonna do.” Leroy said, ”Shucks, we sold 500 tickets fer two dollars apiece and made a profit of $898.”
The farmer said, ”My Lord, didn’t anyone complain?”
Curtis said, “Well, the feller who won got upset. So we gave him his two dollars back.”
Curtis and Leroy now work as taxation consultants and will be coming to
Anguilla this month to advise us on diversifying our revenue base.
30 October, 2009
“Is there some law on the books in
Anguilla that precludes freedom of the press? I was told once that all "news" in Anguilla had to be pre-approved by the government. Is this really true?”
These questions were posted as a comment on this blog recently. I thought the questions deserved a little more attention.
The answer is, No, there is no law in
Anguilla precluding freedom of the press. There is no requirement for news to be pre-approved by the government. What we have is self-censorship. Effective censorship does not require a law.
The truth is not easy to come by anywhere. Gold must be mined, it is not normal to find it lying about. Nuggets of news require investigative journalists to dig them out of the dirt. There are no investigative journalists employed by any newspaper in
Anguilla. The reason for this lack is obvious. The island population is tiny, about 15,000, and the newspaper circulation is accordingly limited. There is no money available for a newspaper to pay a journalist. The editor/owners try their best, but their time is consumed in trying to raise revenue by selling advertising space to keep their newspapers alive. Since the population is too small to permit a newspaper to survive on sales alone, the owners depend on government and other advertising. Anything controversial published is likely to affect sales. It is suicidal for a newspaper to publish anything controversial. Investigative journalism is discouraged for these reasons.
The radio stations are small, one-man shows. Typically they provide entertainment and permit publication only of inoffensive public announcements. They depend on advertising to make an income. They cannot afford an investigative journalist for all the above reasons. The radio talk-show hosts are an exception. The call-in programmes hosted by John Benjamin, Elkin Richardson, Yanche Richardson, Haydn Hughes, and others, have brought a breath of fresh air to what was previously a stink of stale air.
From an administrative point of view, what the public does not know cannot hurt. The more they know, the more uncomfortable and difficult-to-answer questions they will ask. So, when a tricky question is asked, it is always preferable to deny knowledge, promise information in a future that never arrives, or simply to conceal information from the public. The traditional
system of suppressing adverse news prevails. It has always been so in Westminster Anguilla since the British took over the administration.
To give you an idea of how it works, take the case of the Indian doctor who was in
Anguilla about 20 years ago doing research on alcoholism. I cannot remember his name or the exact date, but all of us of a certain age will remember the incident. The doctor did research for his thesis on the rate of consumption of alcohol in Anguilla. The figures for alcohol consumption that he arrived at were staggering. The administration in power at the time was concerned that if his figures were true, it would have meant that Anguilla had one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption in the West Indies. He was quickly stopped from doing his research and told to leave Anguilla immediately. His research came to an end. Nothing was ever published.
Think of what that incident reveals. Think of the consequences of this type of behaviour. If the doctor’s research had been published, and his conclusions were faulty, it would have been possible for other researchers to demonstrate his error. For example, Anguilla might have been importing 1,000 cases of scotch whiskey, but smuggling 900 of them into
on our trading vessels that were so numerous at the time. If that was the circumstance, our alcohol consumption would have been ten percent of what the import figures would have suggested. Forget for a moment the other implications. Grenada
On the other hand, if his figures were true, I submit that it is likely that we would not have the present alcoholism epidemic that we presently have in
Anguilla. The evidence of the epidemic is mainly anecdotal. It is widely assumed that large numbers of working men go to work in the mornings with a flask of rum in their pockets to keep them going throughout the day. Large numbers of working men in Anguilla have rum at breakfast time. Numbers of the children of alcoholic parents in Anguilla arrive at school drunk. So I am told by those who should know. If the Indian doctor’s research was true, and if it had been allowed to be published, government would long ago have begun an education drive to combat the problem of alcohol abuse if the facts had been disclosed when they were discovered. We would be well on the way to curing the problem. Covering up the problem only allows it to fester under the covers. That is the result of the deportation of the doctor and the hiding of the information that he was providing.
Government cover-up is supported and encouraged by short-sighted citizens who believe that publishing the truth when it hurts is offensive. People who talk about such societal problems are described as traitors to
Anguilla. They are condemned as being unpatriotic or worse. We all remember the recent incident when the young American school teacher told her home-town newspaper that one the strange characteristics of Anguillian society was that there was no café on the island, as there is a religious sect that is quite prominent in society that promotes the myth that drinking coffee is an evil to be shunned by all except pagans and heretics. On the other hand, she said, there are more rum shops and other commercial outlets selling alcohol from early in the morning to late at night, something that North Americans find troubling. She was telling the truth. We all see the construction trucks stopping early in the morning at the working men’s restaurants and rum shops all over the island for the men to stock up on beer and rum. Or, do we turn our eyes and refuse to see? The truth of her story did not stop a witch hunt from the usual hypocritical suspects when word of her interview leaked back to Anguilla. She was hounded into making a public apology. The principal of her school was obliged by public pressure to make another apology on behalf of the school. I was embarrassed for them all. But, I understand the need for hypocrisy. The school was and still is dependent on public support for its survival.
This form of self-censorship is all-pervasive. It is as destructive and as dangerous as any that could be imposed by a law. There is no need for a law to enforce censorship in
Clearly, one solution is to have a Freedom of Information Act, together with the education and the institutions that make such a law work. With such a law any citizen who is interested in a particular issue will be empowered to demand the information. Every citizen will be made into a potential investigative journalist. Sunshine and fresh air will prevail.
29 October, 2009
Foot Report published. The final report of the independent review of British offshore financial centres by former Bank of England official Michael Foot was published today. You can download the entire report here.
It had been commissioned by the British Government in December 2008. His mandate required Mr Foot to work co-operatively with the various governments to identify opportunities and challenges generated by turmoil in the financial markets and the subsequent impact on the world economy. Readers will recall the news item on the visit of Mr Foot to
Anguilla in June of this year as reported in the Anguillian Newspaper. The final report has been awaited with some trepidation in the financial centres. Overseas Territories
In the event, we need not have worried that he would be unreasonable. I have had a look at the report, and it contains nothing draconian or unexpected. In fact, it is so reasonable that some European income tax specialists are complaining that it is too wishy-washy. I suspect that what has these European tax-them-into-submission crew outraged is that Mr Foot is not insisting that the
implement income tax measures or take any mandatory draconian measures. Overseas Territories
He takes aim at US tax havens such as
, low British and European compliance with their own standards, and sloppy work by the FATF. Delaware
He does point out that we are going to have to bump up our taxes to meet the drop in government revenue resulting from the economic downturn, if we are not to reduce the public sector services or personnel. There is nothing new in this recommendation. However, he leaves it open to us to decide how we are going to achieve the needed increase in revenue.
All-in-all, I consider it a fair report.
Six members of the Royal
Anguilla Police Force arrested in the last five years. As is so often the case, we must go outside of Anguilla to get the real news about happenings in the Anguilla administration. Traditionally, the Anguilla public administration operates under the assumption that any bad news is better not published. It may damage the tourism industry. It will tend to throw a bad light on the island. What the Anguillian people don’t know won’t hurt them.
Well, the news gets out anyway, but slanted and twisted one way or the other. The story is then the subject of gossip and worry. The facts are never certain. Minor matters are blown up out of all proportion. Rumour abounds instead of the truth. Sunlight and fresh air still remain the best disinfectant. If only we can get the authorities to recognise this fact.
So, we learn from
the above interesting piece of news. It comes as an answer given in the UK Parliament on 26 October to a Parliamentary Question (PQ). We don’t have PQ’s in London Anguilla. When a member of our House of Assembly gets up and asks a Minister for a report on a matter of national importance and great public interest, and the Minister promises an answer, the result can only be described as a demonstration of humiliating incompetence. The classic example is the Hon Edison Baird’s question about the cost of the airport extension, and the Hon Victor Banks’ recent defective and incomplete answer to him.
Was this information about six arrested Anguillian police officers ever published in
Anguilla? No, of course not. If it had been published, we would all want to know the embarrassing facts. What were the names of the police officers who were arrested? What were the offences with which they were charged? Were they brought to trial? What were the outcomes of the trials?
I think we can accurately predict the answers to the last two questions. None are likely to have been brought to trial, and the trials therefore never took place. They were all dealt with “administratively”, ie, the Governor and the Commissioner of Police ensured the matters were swept under the carpet, and the incidents concealed from the public.
And, no, I have no interest in asking the authorities for any information. I am simply disgusted at this state of affairs. I have no interest in the sordid details of the individual tragedies.
27 October, 2009
Does the St James School of Medicine of Bonaire really have a second campus in
Anguilla? That is what prospective students have been emailing me to find out. Do we have a School of Medicine in Anguilla that no one knows about? There have been rumours, I tell them, but there is no trace of a place of medical education in Anguilla.
I am sure everyone remembers what the Minister of Finance said during the last Budget Address:
Finally, Mr Speaker, I am happy to say that the St. James Medical School, which Government granted approval by way of a Memorandum of Agreement in 2005, has received provisional accreditation from the regional body and is currently awaiting licensing. It is due to begin matriculating students in
Anguilla next year. The will initially operate out of rented premises but within 3-5 years, as per the terms of the MOA, will construct its own purpose built state of the art campus facilities. Mr Speaker we have high hopes for the St. James Medical School. The students at the St. James Medical School, which is expected to grow to some 250 persons overtime, will be a boon to the local apartment rental market as well as provide other benefits to the Anguillian economy. Medical School
We have been patiently waiting to see what develops with this promised medical school. We all want to know who is to be the favoured party supporter in whose direction the contracts will be steered.
Then, one of our local rental agents this week got a request from an individual looking for an apartment to rent in The Quarter because “… I will be attending the Saint James School of Medicine in January”. This alerted me that something may be happening. So, I decided to go to the website of the St James School of Medicine to see what I could learn.
Sure enough, there is now a whole section for their campus here in Anguilla. That is very new. It was not there the last time I looked.
There is even a picture of the school building.
…complete with a big sign on the front and logos on the door – even cars parked in front of it!
Well, here’s the same building as it looks today…
…located on the curve in the main road in The Quarter in front of Babrow’s.
But wait – the building appears from the outside to be empty and unfurnished. Where are the sign and the logos on the door that we see in the photograph above? And the same car is parked in the same place! Someone, maybe, doing a little work with Photoshop? Making an empty building look like one that is in use?
A discussion on one of the online forums asks if the school is moving from Bonaire to
Anguilla? The response:
Saint James is not moving it's [sic] campus from Bonaire to
Anguilla. The school had to open a 2nd campus in order to meet accreditation requirements. They has [sic] to have a back up campus in case of an emergency or natural disaster. The new campus on Anguilla is starting it's [sic] first class of students for the Spring of 2010 and the Campus on Bonaire will continue to be on Bonaire.
It is pointless to speculate, as some have, that this could be just a “phantom campus” with a PO Box, to meet accreditation requirements.
One other speculation is that the Premedical Program will NOT be offered in
Anguilla – just the Basic Science Program and the Clinical Science Program. So, this means it could be just classroom work – or it might be devoted to remote learning via computer.
What is more factual and interesting is that tuition for the 4-year Basic Science Program taken in Anguilla is almost 1½ times the cost of the same program if enrolled in Bonaire - US $26,000 in Anguilla vs. $18,000 in Bonaire, with housing expenses shown being $800/month here vs. $500 in Bonaire.
So this raises the question: if you are a student, why would you enroll in the school here in Anguilla – right now just an empty building – when for much less money, you can attend the large, well attended, well equipped campus in Bonaire and take the same courses?
You may recall the post I did about this medical school in June. The regional body that gives accreditation to medical schools is the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP). I reported then that they had given provisional approval for the Anguilla Campus of the St James School of Medicine. One of the conditions of this provisional accreditation was that the St James School was obliged to put a warning in all their promotional material in words to the effect that accreditation of the Anguilla campus was only provisional. That was to alert students not to make a financial commitment to a campus that did not yet exist. As they worded their decision:
I am certain the St James School would have done just that and not misled students. Clearly, they cannot open their doors to students until they get final approval. So, I visited the CAAM-HP website to check on the current state of the approval. This is what I found.
So, as per the CAAM-HP website above, the St James School of Medicine is not yet accredited to teach in Anguilla. That decision is still "to be announced". No doubt, everything will be cleared up before they start taking any money from any students who think they are coming to an accredited school of medicine in
Anguilla in January.
Let’s hope there are no games being played here that could possibly embarrass
Anguilla in any way.
24 October, 2009
National Bank of Anguilla and Caribbean Commercial Bank are being forced to merge together. Yes, I want to come back to this topic. The Chief Minister, and Chairman of the Board of the Caribbean Commercial Bank, has told us at one of his press conferences that the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank is demanding amalgamation. I want to focus on that aspect of the issue. The Central Bank is the regulator of the two banks. The banks are helpless to resist the pressure coming from such a quarter, regardless of how mindless it is. Refusal appears to be out of the question. The two banks are apparently working to put the plan into effect without further delay.
In order to have an idea of what a merger would mean in financial terms, I searched the internet for financial data on the two banks. NBA was not difficult to find. The 2008 Report and Accounts are on the NBA website. The balance sheet at page 23 reveals that the total assets of that bank at the time were EC$1.13 billion, deposits were EC$928 million, and shareholders equity amounted to EC$131 million. I searched for any Annual Report for CCB to see how much they would bring to the marriage. I found their website easily enough. There is no financial information on it that I could locate. I know that as a private bank they are not obliged to make their balance sheets publicly available. I realise that the data is not secret. It is given to the Central Bank on at least a quarterly basis. It is also published in the Official Gazette. However, neither of these sources is online, and CCB’s financial data is therefore essentially unavailable.
We cannot imagine that the figures for CCB can be any greater than those for NBA. Even if CCB brought in the region of EC$1 billion to the table, we are still talking of total assets and liabilities of the merged entities of about EC$2 billion. US$100 equals EC$270. That means that the merged assets will be in the region of US$571 million.
Apparently, the Central Bank has convinced itself that the two local banks are too small to stand on their own. The argument being advanced is probably that the two will become stronger and better able to resist the present economic downturn if they amalgamate. That just does not make sense. In international banking terms, both local institutions are tiny. Why would any regulator be so deluded as to believe that two minnows coming together will be anything else but one minnow with indigestion?
A search of the internet for bank failures in the
during 2009 is revealing. Of the 10 largest bank failures, the deposits of Colonial Bank exceeded US$20 billion. The smallest, New Frontier Bank, had deposits in excess of US$2 billion. The complete list, for those interested, can be checked here. Our two banks are miniscule in comparison to these USA banking failures. What conceivable safety could their amalgamation provide when much larger US and US banks are much more likely to fail than ours are? UK
Heaven alone knows what arguments the ECCB has produced to justify such a dangerous and destructive move. Based on what the Chief Minister said publicly a few days ago, the principle argument appears to be that amalgamation will make it easier for our two banks merged into one to compete! Could it be that all it really amounts to is making life easier for the Central Bank? It gives them one less entity to regulate.
As a shareholder in NBA, I have been provided with no information as to why this dismal step is being even considered. That distresses me. It makes me feel sad and dispirited. It discourages me. It fills me with foreboding.
What is more upsetting is that the plan to amalgamate is being put into effect in secret, by order of the directors, and without consulting the shareholders. Are we the shareholders and depositors not to be told anything until it is a fait accomplis?
Amalgamation for commercial reasons is one thing. Amalgamation at the whim of a regulator is entirely another.
The other result of amalgamation will be that, when the economy rebounds in a few years' time, we the consumers of banking services will no longer have our two most efficient banking service providers competing with each other to our benefit. We shall be left with expensive, inefficient, unfriendly banking services.
23 October, 2009
No news at all. When the first item on tonight’s prime-time 7:00 pm news on Up-Beat Radio at 97.7 FM is a press release from the Department of Disaster Management office about a pretend operation after an “earthquake” you know there is no news at all happening in
Anguilla at this time. The reading of the press release on the ‘simulation’ went on and on and on. It was enough to make one sick of ‘disaster preparedness’. Those of you who engage in the futile and frustrating exercise of listening to the 7:00 pm Anguilla news on radio know what I mean. The uncritical reading out of the press releases that masquerade as ‘news’ go on, and on, and on. The one written by Elizabeth Klute must have been at least three or four pages long.
The second item on Up-Beat Radio’s news was a press release about telephone chargers. It seems that there are some new ‘energy efficient chargers’ being touted by some distributor. It was transparently some sort of marketing scheme. Is this what Up-Beat Radio nowadays considers a news item?
Then, the news-reader went over to the sports news. Thank Heavens, at least I don’t feel obliged to listen to sports news!
Shame on you, Ras B. None of that was news. This was other people using you and your station for self-promotion, touting and advertising of their wares and services.
Renford Kelsick on Radio Anguilla at 95.5 FM, on the same prime-time news, led off with Viceroy Hotel and a release from the Chief Minister’s office. It would appear that we are supposed to believe that the taxes paid to government by Viceroy makes the government more able to meet its commitments. It seems that, unlike many Anguillians, Viceroy has paid its customs duties. Has anyone looked closely at the MOA?
The Chief Minister was next quoted as saying that he was very excited about the number of Anguillians who will be employed at Viceroy Hotel for the upcoming tourism season. Has anyone checked how many of these employees are being hired only for the Christmas season? Viceroy is looking to hire some permanent employees, but most will only be needed for six to eight weeks. What an achievement! What do the employees do then?
Next item was Victor Banks making a statement on the purchase of Cinnamon Reef Hotel to be used as an educational institution by the government of
Anguilla. Apparently, government has used the Social Security Board’s funds to purchase the hotel from National Bank of Anguilla. In that way, they have been able to get around the British restrictions on borrowing. Ingenious! Very imaginative! According to the news, Victor claims that Social Security, National Bank, and the government will all be winners. In the interests of equal time, the Hon Hubert Hughes was next quoted as describing the same transaction as a “scandalous deal”. He complained about conflicts of interest among members of the Board of the Bank, Social Security, and government itself. My question is, will Anguillian contributors to Social Security be the winners? That is the question that Renford and Radio Anguilla did not dare to approach in their uncritical repeating of this ‘news’.
Renford concluded with the same press release as above from Elizabeth Klute on the simulation of an earthquake hitting
Anguilla. Can I ask everyone of a similar ilk for the future, please limit the self-promotion to one or two pages, in very large print! Personally, I cannot take page after page of press release being read out over the radio in place of news and analysis.
That was it? That was the news on the two premier radio stations in
Anguilla this evening? Tomorrow morning at 7:00 we have to listen to it all over again?
When will our radio stations recognize press releases for what they are? They are self-promotions produced by self-important persons trying to promote themselves or their organisations. You are supposed to be news outlets. We expect you to go beyond the releases, and to make some sort of investigation. That I am told is the difference between journalism and blogging!
Go for it.
21 October, 2009
More Anguilla news available on Hansard. As a result of another Parliamentary Question, Minister Chris Bryant has given us some more interesting news about
Anguilla. We learn that the Anguilla prison is presently holding nearly twice as many prisoners as it was originally built to house. How many prisoners to a cell is that? Is this statistic not a recipe for increasing prison violence?
Certified normal accommodation
Turks & Caicos
108, rising shortly to 150
More interesting, perhaps, is the note to the
Turks and Caicos Islands figures. How does Bryant know that the prison population is shortly to be increased by nearly 39% to a total of 150?
And will the increase consist of politicians or merely of lawyers?
The real concern for us is that Anguilla is the only
Overseas Territory in the West Indies to have its prison so over-filled. Unless a new prison is built, I would suggest that the Magistrates should be using alternative means of sentencing to an increasing extent. Failure to do so will risk prison rapes, the spread of HIV, and more burnings.
In order to further reduce the risk of uncontrollable prison violence, the Governor should be actively considering releasing significant numbers of long-term, non-violent prisoners whose conduct has indicated remorse and who are not thought to represent a continuing threat to society.
PS: 24 October 2009 - Hansard has, without apology, altered the webpage linked to above to correct the footnote. It now appears attached to "Certified normal accommodation" instead of "Current population". They could, at least, have said sorry for having originally mislead us.
20 October, 2009
What progress has
Anguilla made towards energy independence? As a result of a
question asked in the House of Commons, Minister Chris Bryant (who appears still to be Minister for the
) tells us some interesting new information about ourselves. Overseas Territories
We learn with interest from the Minister's statement that:
There has been the formal Establishment of the Anguilla National Energy Committee under the Department of Environment;
We have a draft National Energy Policy which has been verbally endorsed by the GO A. This is expected to be formalised by 1 December 2009;
A renewable Energy Co-ordinator, supported by OTEP funding (Overseas Territories Environment Programme, a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development fund), has been retained and is currently working to promote the goals of the Draft National Energy Policy;
Funds have been raised through the
GOA (EC$ 500,000) and OTEP (£100,000) for the establishment of the Anguilla Renewable Energy Office;
A National Energy Committee covers high-level international consultancy, data collection and data analysis;
A business plan has been developed for a special entity currently called "RECorp" which will establish and operate a first phase 2-3 megawatt wind farm under a power-purchase agreement with ANGLEC,
Anguilla's sole electrical utility.
It would appear that to learn about government policies and developments in Anguilla, you must go to foggy
I calculate that amounts to $1 million for the establishment of the office. Someone must be working in very plush surroundings!
Has anyone out there in the public seen the alleged business plan?
19 October, 2009
The way public works contracts in
Anguilla are awarded. The Anguilla Government is in the process of awarding contracts for the construction of a 500 metre “Runway End Safety Area” or “RESA” at . The cost of constructing this safety area is expected to be in the range of EC$10,000,000.00 and upwards. Wallblake Airport
I have learned that there will be no ‘bidding’ or ‘tendering’ for any of the contracts. Instead, the Ministry of Infrastructure has divided the project up into several separate contracts, and proposes to share them out “equitably and without regard to politics” according to who’s got the required equipment. Junior Fleming is on the list, but so is Greig Hughes. That is supposed to mean that the process is fair and equitable!
As I understand it, the Ministry of Infrastructure will carve up the RESA project into, say, for the purposes of this discussion, 5 equal separate contracts, allocating prices to each of them. As I understand the proposed “fair and equitable” award procedure, a Ministry of Infrastructure agent will go to Contractor A and say, “We have decided to award you Contract A for $2 million. That is your fair share of the RESA project. Do, you accept it?” Contractor A does his sums. Let us say he realises he will make a 50% profit. Of course he says “Yes”. The same happens with Contractors B, C, D and E. Everybody is happy!
Now, let us look at how the tenders procedure was supposed to work. Suppose that there are several Anguillian contractors, all equally competent and qualified. Suppose they are all interested in one or more of those 5 separate contracts. Say, Contractor A studies the tender documents for one of the contracts, and thinks he could do it for $2 million, and make his profit. Contractor B might have fewer overheads than Contractor A, and concludes that he could do it for $1.8 million. Unknown to them both, Contractor C is prepared to shave his profits down, and he puts in his bid at $1.5 million. All qualified Anguillian contractors put in their various bids. Their bids are opened by the Tenders Board. The Board awards the contract to the most competitive bidder, in this case Contractor C.
Public works contracts are not supposed to be awarded by government officials to chosen recipients at a price determined on a Heaven-alone-knows-what basis. Government contracts are supposed to be bid on competitively. The correct and proper process is called ‘tendering’ for government contracts. The mandate of the Tenders Board is to protect the public purse in the award of public works contracts. The independence and procedure of the Tenders Board is meant to be guaranteed by a statute. The Tenders Board is not expected to act like anybody’s pet poodle. They are not supposed to award contracts on the basis of whether they will get government the most favourable publicity and popularity. Their duty is to select the bid that will be in the best interests of the people.
Tendering is the only known and proven way for government to be transparent and accountable in the award of public works contracts. Tendering for public works contracts happens in every Commonwealth Caribbean country, except
In my view, the procedure that government intends to follow in awarding these major pre-election airport contracts is the opposite of fair, transparent and accountable. The award procedure may be politically safe and popular with the contractors. But, it is not fair to the consumer, that is, to you and me. It is a system of pre-selecting contractors that must by its nature and effect be the opposite of fair, transparent and accountable. If you want all 5 contractors to have a fair chance at each of the 5 contracts, let them bid on each one of them. Let the best bid win in each case. That is fair, transparent and accountable.
Let the contractors do what they are supposed to do. Let them compete for public works contracts. Award each contract to the one with the best offer. The present system reminds me of a dog-owner handing out treats to his pets. It is a contemptible failure of a system.
The procedure proposed for the award of the RESA contracts rewards the inefficient. It punishes the public by failing to ensure the best bang for the buck. No doubt, it has evolved partly out of ignorance of the proper procedure. It has also evolved partly to ensure that the party in power is popular among all the contractors who are invited to do public works contracts. They each control a lot of votes. In the case of the RESA project, no one notices that $10 million is going to be paid out for contracts that may really only be worth $7 million.
Consider this. Not all public works projects are this big. Not every project can be divided up into separate contracts and shared out to several contractors. There have been hundreds of smaller contracts over the years that have been awarded to pre-selected contractors. Tell me why this should not be described as an intrinsically corrupt system.
Consider this also, how many of our politicians have brothers, sons, and campaign managers who are either building contractors or heavy equipment contractors? How many Anguillian politicians have shares in construction companies? Do these politicians allow Public Works to treat their companies in the same way as all other Anguillian contractors in the award of public works contracts? They would have to be all angels for that to have happened!
And, yes, the procurement process, even when protected by statute, can be corrupted by crooked contractors, public servants and politicians. At least then we know who to prosecute. Under our present weak and inefficient system, no one commits a crime while doing the same thieving and wasting of public funds.
Meanwhile, may the public see a copy of the Medium-Term Air Transport Sector Plan 2004-2008 done in connection with EDF9?
18 October, 2009
The extension to be constructed at the east of the
is called a “Runway End Safety Area”. The safety regulators have banned small jet aircraft from landing in Wallblake Airport Anguilla until the required RESA has been put in place. Many of Anguilla’s richest visitors arrive for their vacations in such small jets. The upcoming Christmas tourism season will be adversely impacted if we do not complete this construction in time.
Wikipedia has a good explanation what a RESA is all about.
Government is quite desperate to have the RESA built in time for the upcoming tourism season. They are not even waiting until it is announced that the British Government has agreed to the necessary borrowing of funds to finance the project. Word came to me that Government has already begun awarding the contracts for the construction to heavy-equipment operators.
Someone sent me some photographs of the work that has begun. The photos were taken today, Sunday. They give some idea of the extent of the work that will have to be done, and what has been started so far.
Photo of the eastern end of the runway, indicating the steep drop-off that will have to be filled and graded
Another photo of the eastern end of the runway showing the steep drop-off
Someone has started to move a lot of heavy equipment on site.
More heavy equipment
Yet more heavy equipment
The bush east of the runway is being cleared
Land is being cleared and holes are being dug to extract marl and boulders
Huge amounts of fill will have to be moved from higher up the hillside to create the safety area lower down
Holes are being dug in several places, and the marl piled up
Rumour has it that Government expects to fill in the steep drop-off to the east of the airport for the sum of EC$10 million.
It looks to me like it will cost much more than that.