Eating their words

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It was one of the funnier moments in recent American politics. We’re talking about that date in 2004 when presidential candidate, John Kerry, attempted to give an explanation for his ‘no’ vote on a bill calling for a further appropriation of $87B to support the Iraq war effort.  Said the befuddled Kerry, “I actually did vote for the $87B before I voted against it.”As you can imagine his explanation gave rise to much mirth and merriment in political circles, and the good John Kerry was branded a flip-flopper – a man with a convoluted mind who was at war with his own principles and himself. Remember, this was the same man who had voted in favour of the Iraq war. How could he now vote against providing funding for it? How could he now vote to de-fang the war machine? How could he now vote to leave the troops in the field without the requisite tools to effectively prosecute the war?

Of course, in explaining his switcheroo, he said that “It was one of those inarticulate moments.”He said that he was trying to explain his vote for an earlier version of the bill, before opposing its final passage. The earlier (Democratic) version of the bill would have seen the $87B come from a reduction in the George Bush tax cuts, which primarily benefitted the rich.

Fast forward to an even more recent time and place – the latter years of the United Progressive Party’s (UPP) time in office when the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party’s (ABLP) inveterate opposers agitated relentlessly against the Citizenship by Investment Programme. Oh, according to them, the CIP was the worst thing since Esau sold his birthright to his brother, Jacob, for ‘a mess of pottage’ – a bowl of lentil stew. Seemed, they had not given much thought to the enormous benefits to be derived from the programme, or the fact that there was a rigorous due diligence process, or that a number of smaller countries, much like ours, had successfully implemented it. They were opposing just for opposing sake!

But guess what? Surprise, surprise! It is that very same CIP that is now saving this hapless ABLP administration. We would be in much deeper doo-doo were it not for the CIP. To be fair, our Prime Minister (PM), the Honourable Gaston Browne, was not one of the anti-CIP protesters, and we can imagine that he arises from his bed every morning, thanking the Almighty for the CIP. Without the CIP, this Administration’s  . . . er . . . derriere would be grass! They found religion, and they are now reaping the benefits of that come-to-Jesus epiphany.

Interestingly however, seems the largesse from the CIP might no longer suffice. The longer that this pandemic lasts, the more likely it could be that this arrogant and obstinate Administration could very soon be on its knees, in sackcloth and ashes, or rather, in all its nakedness (It is not a pretty picture) desperately casting about for a bailout from . . . gasp! . . . the much-maligned International Monetary Fund (IMF). Good grief! Talk about a dog returning to its vomit (Proverbs 20:11)! Talk about the stone that the builder refused becoming the chief cornerstone (Psalm 118: 22-23). It is quite pathetic, and it brings to mind the oft-quoted Biblical saying, “How are the mighty fallen in battle! Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon!” Shhhh! The Administration could soon be returning with its tail between its legs, eating its own nasty words! Shhhh!

Remember, it was our PM who haughtily heaped scorn on the IMF, telling-off an IMF official. To her face! It was the Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst, who often derisively dismissed the IMF and its tough medicine. He spoke of accessing funds through our own means and tailoring our borrowing requirements to suit our peculiar circumstances.  The notion of going to the IMF was often pooh-poohed by those in high places in this puffed-up Administration. But that was then, and this is now.  According to our good PM, “We recognise that if the situation persists for nearly another year or two, then we could end up in a situation in which we have no other choice but to go to the IMF.”Of course,it is not difficult to imagine that the IMF official who was denigrated by our PM, must be privately chuckling at how we could possibly come crawling back, prostrate on our knees, cap in hand. That official must be privately whispering under her breath, “Payback is a word that rhymes with witch!”

So there you have it, folks! The ‘frenemies’ make nice after quite an acrimonious relationship under this Administration. Here’s what our DAILY OBSERVER dated March 25, 2018 reported on that frosty relationship, in a piece entitled, PM BROWNE SAYS IMF REPORT IS NOT ACCURATE: Prime Minister Gaston Browne says despite what the IMF said in their article four consultation report, the Antigua and Barbuda economy is doing much better than it did last year and even the year before. The IMF says the twin island state’s economic outlook deteriorated since the last Article IV Consultation which would have been in 2016. The IMF also noted that the government’s reluctance to implement its recommendations had worsened the already difficult macro-economic situation. But the prime minister tells OBSERVER media that he didn’t wish to comment further on the document, saying it doesn’t represent a true reflection of the country’s economy. Some of the IMF directors also underscored that volatile CIP revenues are better used for reducing liabilities rather than for recurrent budget expenditures. The IMF has also criticised the repeal of the personal income tax, considering Antigua and Barbuda’s ongoing fiscal challenges. For the second time in two years, the Antigua and Barbuda government has denied the IMF permission to publish the report coming out of its assessment of the country’s economy.” Hmmm!

But our PM has come to his senses and is now willing to entertain a renewed relationship with the IMF . . .  if push were to come to shove. There is talk about a more tailored funding programme and, according to him, “What I can say to you is that our discussions which are actually taking place with the IMF, have actually yielded quite good results in terms of the terms.” PM Browne, speaking with considerably less anti-IMF venom, (See Daily OBSERVER June 2, 2021) highlighted our “bespoke” IMF plan, and insisted that if the country were to enter into an IMF relationship, there would be no retrenchment of workers, the loan would have to be a long-term loan, and there would have to be a dropping of the IMF’s precondition for the repayment of our Paris Club debt. Hmmm! There seems to have been some kissing and making-up, with much comity and goodwill.

Nonetheless, we cannot help but cast our minds back to the old sayings, “Be nice to the people you meet on your way up; you’ll meet the same people on your way down.” And of course, “Watch your words; you just may have to eat them!”

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