Editorial: Bluff generosity, a smokescreen for plunder

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The inter-connectedness of relationships and the logic of choices appear to be basic tidbits of prudence woefully lost on our Prime Minister – who regularly gives the impression of believing he’s smarter than the rest of us put together.

Like expecting that the present UWI campus-hosting territories will applaud and give the thumbs-up to the establishment of a new campus on our home soil, when we’re already owing them 15 million dollars in unpaid dues which they have no idea if or when we’re ever going to pay – and WE have no idea how we’re going to find that kind of money to settle this long-standing prior obligation.

But yet Boss Browne puts it down to jealousy that they’re skeptical about his venturing into a poorly thought out, impulse-and-emotion driven quest for a UWI campus on his home soil – something that will incur even greater financial demands, with only hare-brained proposals (windfall tax, telecoms tax) about how it will be funded; when our prior commitments to that same university have not yet even been touched with a view to settling the outstanding bill.

Surely all of us can relate to when someone owes or borrows from us, say, $50 dollars, takes an unreasonably long time to pay it back without offering any excuse or explanation, repeatedly pleading ‘tings hard’ whenever you inquire about your money.

Whatever patient or compassionate understanding you are inclined to show gets sorely tested should you behold that same person spending lavishly at a bar or nightclub, paying several rounds of drinks for himself and others, like money is no problem – except for your $50.

There is nothing jealous, resentful or petty about someone being hesitant to continue bearing and absorbing your indebtedness, while you recklessly incur new expenses. If no one else understands that, a banker should. Loan officers become understandably incensed at individuals or businesses who default on their repayments while liberally engaging additional expenditure elsewhere. It is a world with which Gaston Browne is thoroughly familiar.

Besides, even if UWI is administered independent of territorial governments, it is ultimately their treasuries that bear the brunt of maintaining campuses, departments and faculties – especially in the face of protracted defaults and arrears by many of the non-campus territories such as Antigua and Barbuda. This has been a sticking point for Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, especially, and one which they have complained about bitterly for many years.

We once again advise that Prime Minister Browne needs to seriously ponder what attitude Trinidad and Tobago is likely to have toward him and the country he represents in light of the very crass, crude and high-handed approach he has taken to the proposed sale by Scotiabank of its assets and operations in Antigua to Republic Financial Holdings of Trinidad.

It takes two hands to clap, and while the Afro-Caribbean consciousness of Keith Rowley might suffer to endure Gaston Browne’s hotheadedness for now, the calculus of tolerance could change completely, overnight, should the Indo-Trinidadian-dominated opposition regain power in the near future.

But beyond such considerations are the practicalities of having a university – any university; UWI, Monroe, Ithaca, etc – up and running and ready for opening in September 2019, about four months from now. D. Gisele Isaac and others have already dealt with this quite capably, so we need not belabor her already comprehensive demolition of the bluster and bluff being huffed and puffed by Cutie Benjamin, Max Hurst and Gaston Browne.

Notice how quiet Michael Browne is in all this – the man who holds the portfolio of Education Minister, no less? He knows it can’t be done, but remembers with justifiable terror the last time he disagreed with and dared to contradict his Prime Minister on the inane Global Ports Agreement. The tight-waist-coated and big-bow-tied show-boater was correct in his misgivings – time has shown – given the frantic and comical scramble for amendments to an already signed agreement; amendments that take account of the same criticisms Gaston & Company so contemptuously and pompously dismissed not long before.

Just as the dirty linen of his bungling in the Indian e-books deal was exposed to silence his dissent in the Global Ports matter, Michael Browne knows that going public with his reservations about this whole UWI 4th Landed Campus fiasco will immediately trigger the retrieval of his doctorate that never was, and his notorious failure to correct or decline the appellation. He might even be called upon (on Pointe FM) to account for the two doctorates he subsequently claimed to be simultaneously pursuing while a fulltime senior government minister with a heavy raft of portfolios.

Space and time fail is this issue, but you can count on us in the near future to revisit how the offer of seemingly generous concessions to the masses turn out to be mere smokescreens to benefit the same set of people who have the wherewithal, to begin with, to make the investments to which those concessions apply.

No sooner had the post-Cabinet notes announced a decision to grant duty free allowances on the importation of gym and exercise equipment, than a gym owned by a certain someone sprang up in a certain area that this individual has been busy transforming into his private business commune.

The apprehensions of the Barbuda people and their refusal to take up that incredibly “kind” offer to purchase their residential plots of land – replete with title deed – for $1 have proven to be well founded; what with all those PRIVATE PROPERTY signs that have been springing up all over the choicest parts of Barbuda.

The Barbuda Council was never consulted about any such land sales and has no clue as to their origins or terms. But despite the smug and cocky presumption of their stupidity and docility, the people of Antigua and Barbuda are neither fooled nor subdued.

The slick theft of state lands and buildings, the wanton plundering of our treasury by outrageously price-rated public housing projects, and the Integrity Commission that looks the other way while all this is happening, will one day stand trial and face judgment.

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