Santa Claus came and went! And from the accounts of store owners, vendors, and our little boys and girls, he was very kind. A week later, as fireworks lit up the night sky, and church bells pealed at the stroke of midnight to herald the arrival of 2019, the windows of heaven opened up with downpours of torrential rain. Seemed the Almighty was willing to “Forgive our sins and heal our land!” Here’s hoping that throughout this year we will ever “Humble ourselves and pray and seek the Lord’s face and turn from our wicked ways.” Of course to our political leaders the term ‘wicked ways’ applies to the ways and thoughts of those who see the development of Antigua and Barbuda through an opposing lens.
For example, our Prime Minister, the Honourable Gaston Browne, in his New Year’s address to the nation, lambasted the ‘wicked ways’ of the former administration, and as is his wont, blamed much of the current morass on, yes . . . you guessed it . . . the previous administration. (For example, “ . . .The huge loan burden that we inherited”) He appeared peevish, petulant and more than a little defensive at some points in his er . . . well, speech, which appeared to be a cut-and-paste from previous speeches. Indeed, the rather stale and tired references to the dubious YIDA project and the “500 houses in 500 days” left many folks, even the true-believers, ‘chupsing,’ especially since they were regurgitated with a straight face and without a hint of irony.
To say that it was not in the least bit inspiring is putting it mildly. Neither was his insistence on making mention of members of the opposition in the diminutive! For his part, the political leader of the United Progressive Party, Mr. Harold Lovell, made a valiant and statesmanlike attempt to take the high road and speak to our better selves, especially when he articulated that “We are a resilient people” . . . and . . . “We can, and will rise” . . . and we must “Gird our loins and join the battle,” but he could not avoid highlighting some of the current administration’s “wicked ways!” They were too numerous and egregious to be ignored.
For example, he mentioned that despite a $1 billion windfall from the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP), we are still plagued with bad roads, sanitation and water woes and, of course, the social security pension debacle. The political leader also mentioned, what we will call, ‘wickedness in high places’ at the Clarevue Hospital, the Antigua and Barbuda Broadcasting Service (ABS), Her Majesty’s Prison, the police stations and so on and so forth. Clearly, ‘wickedness abounds,’ as per the perspective of the United Progressive Party, notwithstanding the prime minister’s happy talk about, “living in perilous times” but weathering the storm and “doing exceedingly better” as a result of “sound management.”
So while the PM was pulling figures from a hat, much like a grade B magician with his most elementary trick, and talking about the 5.3% economic growth, exceeded in the region only by Dominica; and while he spoke of the debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) reduction from 140% to 70%, and the $50 million anteed up for back pay obligations and the other $20 million for the interim increase to civil servants, Mr. Lovell, a former minister of finance, was hardly impressed. Neither were many Antiguans and Barbudans.
Indeed, many Antiguans and Barbudans question the borrowing of money to make these payments and the rosy-tinted economic report/outlook that does not appear to comport with the harsh reality being lived by Joe and Jane Q Public. The UPP political leader ended by saluting the Barbudans for what he termed their stand against . . . well, wickedness. Meanwhile, without much ado, and many choice adjectives, the leader of the Democratic National Alliance, Miss Joanne Massiah, launched into a caustic broadside against the administration for well, you guessed it again, the surfeit of wickedness in our fair state.
She decried the “tyrannical, authoritative and dictatorial” manner of leadership, and lamented our deteriorating infrastructure and the dislocation so manifest in the lives of the ordinary people. She recited a (dirty?) laundry list of failure, and ridiculed the government’s “meandering” and “hit-and-miss” governance. Indeed, rather than waiting for the end of her remarks, Massiah pretty much opened by saying that this administration had managed to reach the barest minimum in the execution of its most fundamental responsibilities to the people.
Think righteous indignation! Seems, as per the New Year’s Day addresses, our leaders and parties all need to turn from their ‘wicked ways.’ The thing, though, is that ‘wicked’ is relative. What is self-dealing and conflict of interest to one, is ‘creative enrichment’ to another. It depends on the political camp from which the assessment is being made. While they finger-point, the deprivation, misery and struggle of the ordinary people continue. But all is not lost! We note that some of the speeches held out hope – hope that the people will come to a full realisation of their “self-worth,” and that there will be an “awakened national and personal pride.” Our future demands it!