Do you remember when, in late February, the Member of Parliament for Barbuda pointed to logistical concerns as the reason why the highly anticipated ground-breaking for a new airport on Barbuda had been postponed indefinitely?
To be specific, Arthur Nibbs said “the logistical arrangements were not completed” and therefore the ground-breaking could not happen on February 24 as planned. That was the specific quote that was very short on specifics. Nibbs said that it was decided that the preparations should be fine-tuned rather than going ahead with the turning of sod, and the situation would remain this way until further notice.
As is usual in Antigua & Barbuda, people shrugged their shoulders and thought nothing more of it. Fast forward a month and mere days before the Barbuda Council Election and lo and behold, the previous logistical arrangement had been sorted and the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party was able to bring finality to the indefinite postponement.
We did note that even though an extra month was taken to sort out the logistics, there were not enough shovels to go around. Minister of Tourism Asot Michael and Minster of Trade Paul “Chet” Green had to don their bright yellow hard hats, stand belly-to-belly and share a shovel – one foot each on the spade.
That minor point aside, we must ask the question, based on what we witnessed during the low-key ground breaking ceremony, what logistical arrangements were not ready a month ago? What exactly needed to be fine-tuned? Conspiracy theorists tell us that we are asking rhetorical questions. They point to the transparency of the coincidence of timing and have berated us for being so naive. As we have told them before, please leave us in our naivety because if we do not ask the questions, we will never get the answers and that will lead us to making assumptions – something that we do not like to do.
During the ceremony, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that the groundbreaking was a symbol of the commitment that his administration has towards the development of Barbuda. He said, “The Labour Party Government has done its part. We have invested the funds. We are ensuring that there is sustainable development in Barbuda to improve your living standards, so when you go into that polling booth you have to understand that what you’re supporting here is sustainable development.” He added: “In order to sustain the development that is taking place here in Barbuda, the Labour Party must remain in firm control of the council. Just imagine if we did not have a Labour Party-led council. We would not be here today.”
It does not take a political scientist to decipher the message contained in that address. Labour Party equals sustainable development and improved standard of living. No Labour Party equals no development and an unimaginable standard of living.
Right there is an excellent example of politics, not only in Barbuda, but elsewhere; maybe everywhere. While we will not characterise this as a threat, many would and have. But we will counter that argument with the fact that government is continuous. The administration should have executed their duties such that the investors are dealing with the Government of Antigua & Barbuda and not any politician or political party.
We have been told that the initial funding for the airport was contributed by the Paradise Found Group and Peace Love & Happiness Barbuda. The former is a partnership between Robert De Niro and James Packer for the US $250 million Paradise Found hotel project. The second group is principally a partnership between John B Turbidy and John Paul De Joria to construct another US $250 million hotel project on the sister isle.
Last year, the prime minister announced that both investors had, at the request of the Government of Antigua & Barbuda, given US $5 million dollars for the construction of the new airport. So, surely, regardless of who takes the reigns of the Barbuda Council, these projects will continue, along with the plans for the new airport.
Citizens and residents of our bit of paradise should never fear that a politician’s good work would disappear with him or her when they or their party leaves office. And there should be no fear, by the politician, that they will be turfed from political office as long as there are doing right by the people. The reward for doing good is re-election. It should not take any type of threat, real or perceived, to win over the voters.
Let’s face facts, if an investor leaves because a politician or political party is no longer in power then the original investment was never made on sound business principles and should be investigated. Long term investments, such as hotels and airports, are pretty much guaranteed to span several changes in the ranks of political personalities and political parties. No one politician or party holds the keys to our success.
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