EDITORIAL: An odd perception

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The long Whit weekend confirmed a few of things for us.  First, the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) is still a big deal for people and cryptocurrency, while fascinating for most, is poorly understood. And on top of that, it is amazing how some people turn a simple desire to know more into ‘opposition criticism’.  We have reached a stage where asking questions is perceived as hurling criticism and insults.
The CIP has always been a divisive issue. Our stance on this subject is well known, so there is no need to rehash it here. The people have spoken, so let’s move on to support processes that best maintain the value of one of our most precious possessions, our citizenship. Recently, we openly asked about the new U.S. $150,000 offering, which was described in the Cabinet notes as such, “Cabinet decided to create a fourth option under the CIP for the sum of U.S. $150,000 per file. The innovative legislative change to the CIP law will be used to fund Antigua’s university at Five Islands.” The question was simple, who will pay U.S. $50,000 more for the University option, when they can contribute just U.S. $100,000 for the National Development Fund (NDF) option? 
The offer baffled many people, including many CIP supporters and like us, they wanted to hear some simple answers from those in authority. That question, however, was greeted with a good deal of contempt by some Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) supporters who thought, for some unknown reason, that our question was rude and critical. The question morphed from a genuine desire to understand more about the offering to, in their minds, ‘negative criticism’ and a demonstration that we are always opposing for opposing sake. That fascinating part about this strange logic is that none of those criticising us for asking the question could answer the question. Their logic is that we simply shouldn’t be questioning the decisions and actions of the administration. Weird!
A similar perplexing logic followed our questions surrounding the news that a “specific Citizenship by Investment Programme has been devised by Calvin Ayre, the Bitcoin Envoy for Antigua and Barbuda.” From the public reports, “These CIP units can only be paid for in Bitcoin Cash (BCH)”  and the government of Antigua and Barbuda recognises Bitcoin Cash as “the only real Bitcoin and the world’s most scalable and flexible cryptocurrency.” Okay, who does not have questions about that kind of announcement? And even though we have publicly proclaimed that we see potential for cryptocurrencies and the underlying blockchain technology, we have been criticised for being ‘fear mongers’ simply for asking questions about how we intend to get into this technology.  
Our tribal politics has driven us from having sensible conversations and debates to simply lashing out along party lines. We have evolved to a ‘how dare you?’ mindset.  It appears that no one is allowed to ask questions anymore. Do so and you are branded as an obstructionist, an economic terrorist, or any of the many derogatory terms that leap from the mouths and fingers of party supporters. Supporters, who, in most cases, cannot answer the questions being posed but presume that answers exist without caring if the answers make sense or not. 
Before we go on, we must give credit to the country’s cryptocurrency czar, Calvin Ayre who commented on our CIP piece (or at least someone with his name online).  It is refreshing that he would take the time to engage on the subject since most investors and envoys simply ignore the media and the public when questions arise.  Ayre’s comments were brief but at least he engaged on the topic.  Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies hold immense potential and we have publicly asked him to join one of our daily talk shows to give greater insight from the perspective of his role as Special Economic Envoy with responsibility for advising on economic cooperation and commerce along with the effective implementation of new technological developments in cryptocurrency. We do hope that he will accept our invitation because we believe that he would be able to provide a much better understanding of the technology and the government’s plans to harness the potential for the benefit of all in our bit of paradise.
In the meantime, we ask all the blind, loyalists to engage in the public debate on topics of great importance and stop adopting the automatic and dismissive stance that is displayed with increasing regularity. Just because someone asks a question, it does not need to be characterised as being part of an agenda or criticism. While political tribalism may cause the party loyalists to perceive questions as criticism, the reality is that (in most cases) people just want to know more.  
We will end with the words of Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology and philosophy who said, “Asking questions is what brains were born to do, at least when we were young children. For young children, quite literally, seeking explanations is as deeply rooted a drive as seeking food or water.” We would like to advise everyone to continue to be as curious as children, it will make our bit of paradise better.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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