A day late and many dollars short

The onslaught to bury this country six feet or more has been gaining momentum. First it was the US investors. Then there were the South Americans. This past week another group joined the ranks of the Stanford Victims Coalition and have made their intentions known to make this country pay for what they perceived are our sins of association with R Allen Stanford.

A snowball catapulting and gathering speed down the Alps is an apt analogy for what has been happening in the continuing fallout from the Stanford offshore banking mess. The Europeans having joined the chorus are threatening to make life extremely difficult if not impossible for the people of this country.

Their strident call is for a total boycott of Antigua & Barbuda by visitors and investors. Further, the Europeans want the prime minister to convene an audience with their government as an admission of culpability and to say how this country will make restitution.

During this past week, too, the government, at last, announced that it was delegating a member of parliament as lead spokesperson to mount a challenge to the ballooning campaign.

The question is, why only now? It has been more than a year since the SEC stopped Stanford in his tracks by charging him on a number of counts in connection with fraudulent use of investors’ funds. So for more than a year it should have dawned on our leaders that a structured response was in order, for the problem of Stanford’s business deals using Antiguan connections would not just go away.

Instead, it took numerous calls from a concerned public and pressure from various quarters before the message sunk in and someone could have been appointed to hopefully do some damage control.

There is something to be said for careful, studied, deliberation. Governments cannot always act in haste. Some problems will work themselves out. Time takes care of some misdeeds. But why must this country always appear to be batting from behind the stumps? Why is our response rate so slow? Is there ever a time when we can forestall adverse consequences by being proactive?

It took the regional media to ask the question, what are we doing to arrest the slide, to have it answered. And, even so, the nation is still in the dark about exactly what this country’s strategy will be to the mounting claims that Antigua & Barbuda was not only complicit in the alleged wrongdoings, but profited significantly from the proceeds.

The fact is, this country does not stand alone. We are a member of the family of nations. Firstly, we belong to a regional grouping called the OECS and a wider association called Caricom. Antigua & Barbuda has a permanent representative to the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

Surely, now is the time to enlist the aid of these bodies. As a dues-paying member, our subscription entitles us to some sort of representation and support. Shouldn’t our government be asking these bodies to intervene on our behalf to bring some sanity to the situation?

And, too, there are tens of thousands of Antiguans and Barbudans who live in other lands. Shouldn’t we be marshalling them to come to the defence of their homeland? They, too, have voices that can be raised. They, too, have lobby power, especially in the United States.

While what the home bunch is doing might be laudable, the fact is the fight has to be taken to its highest level. It could easily be a fight to the finish. When people think their cause is just, they spare no ends to accomplish their goals, and this lot appears as if they would be satisfied with nothing less than blood. Hence, no halfway measures will suffice.

The news that the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will be going after some of these people for avoidance of taxes might be a blessing for us. For after all, somewhere along the line they have forgotten that the reason why they had such huge sums in Stanford’s bank is because they were trying to avoid paying their fair share of what their government requires of them. So if the whole thing backfires on them, bully for us.

Nevertheless, we cannot sit idly by and wait for this to happen. We have to fight this thing with all we’ve got. The problem has to be bombarded from all sides. Like an HIV cocktail it has to attack from every known angle and then some.

The story of gross procrastination is the tale of how this country has been governed for a very long time. Examples abound of how failure to adequately and on a timely basis respond to pressing issues has led to problems being compounded multiple fold.

An English poet once said procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried. We can only hope that exhuming might be possible, so that from the grave of procrastination we just might be able to salvage some opportunity, which could bring some positive returns.