Barbuda’s time

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By the time you read this piece, the results of the Barbuda Council election should be known. The fussing and the fighting should all but be done. Well, we hope so because Barbuda has a bit of a reputation for close elections. In any case, there were six seats up for grabs, and those seats will help determine the general direction of the council and Barbuda leading up to the national general elections, which are expected to be in 2019. 
The days leading up to the election saw the island overrun by the political machinery from both the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) and the United Progressive Party (UPP) and we can only say, “finally!” Not that we wish the crass politics that occurs in Antigua to invade the peaceful tranquility of Barbuda but rather, we are glad that the politicians have finally warmed to Barbuda.
For too long, Barbuda has been treated as the stepchild in this twin-island family. Central government has always done just the minimum when it came to Barbuda and that has certainly put the island at a disadvantage. We have long lamented the manner in which Barbudans have been left on the outside looking in with no particular attention being paid to their unique set of circumstances and no plan in place to address the island’s shortcomings in areas like infrastructure.  
Time has marched on while Barbuda stood still but now things are changing.  Barbuda has become a place of interest and Barbudans now occupy a prime spot in the priorities of our politicians. So much so that one political party contracted political pollster Peter Wickham to test the temperature of the island ahead of the council elections. 
We shared Mr Wickham’s fascination when he said,  “The other thing that I am fascinated about with this Barbuda election is how much interest there is in it. I certainly have never been asked to poll … a council election for either political organisation and the fact that I have this time, I think it sets a relatively high bar, in that it communicates the extent to which one of the two political parties is keenly interested in Barbuda and knowing what is going on there.”
That is truly an amazing statement and we are very happy that Barbuda’s status has reached this point. As Wickham went on to say, “… It seems that the Barbudans are being brought closer to the family – which can only be a good thing for them.”  We do not want to count Barbudans’ chickens before they are hatched but this is certainly a good development. 
And since we used the word, development is what this is all about. Regardless of the land issues in Barbuda, the locals have always begged for development that would allow them to be self-sufficient and not just rely on handouts from central government. Through his research, Mr Wickham confirmed what everyone has known for years. He said, “Certainly they seem to be very concerned about development for the country or lack thereof and the feeling is that Barbudans need something to happen and there is not enough happening there. That is the sense that I get.” That is the sense that everyone gets and anyone ignoring that does so deliberately.
Mr Wickham made another observation that summarised the years of frustration of the Barbuda people as they basked in the newfound political sunlight. When asked about all of the promises and the counter claims of election gimmickry, he said, “Even if it is only for the purposes of the election, I think that people are grateful for the fact that something is happening because clearly there is a sense over there that enough has not been going on as far as development or projects.”
Coming from a pollster, we think that is a powerful statement. Barbuda has been starved for development for so long that they are just happy that someone is talking about the topic. Even if it might all be a gimmick, they hope that something positive will happen. 
From a national perspective, Barbuda is a constituency just like any other, except that there is also the Barbuda Council that holds a considerable amount of political sway. It is difficult to ignore one and embrace another. To do so would be detrimental to political success. That is why the upper echelons of the political parties were in Barbuda to press the flesh and preach a bit of propaganda. 
We hope that the Barbudans use this moment in the sunshine to press for what they want and hold the politicians’ feet to the fire to deliver on the promises. They should not let this golden opportunity pass them by. 
So, as we look on and wish Barbuda well, we can’t help but wonder if this is just a taste of what the 2019 general elections will be like. If it is (as we suspect), we will be in for a wild ride. 
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