Editorial: The band-aid government

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It was the darndest thing. For an entire year, the roads leading to Fort James had fallen into a shocking state of disrepair, and nobody cared. At least, nobody in officialdom. They were too busy doing their thing – building oversized mansions and amassing personal holdings and laughing all the way to the bank.

Mind you, Fort James is one of our most sublime tourist attractions, what with the impressive walls of the old fort, the many cannons pointing out to sea on the parapet, and the breathtaking views of St. John’s proper with the stately and imposing Cathedral, the market, the Michael’s Mount lighthouse, and Mount St. John’s Medical Centre. And not to forget that the beach itself is one of our best. Oh, and there is Sandy Island in the offing and the silhouette of St. Kitts that can be seen from the shore on a clear day. Plus, and this plus is a very big plus, there is the lovely and ever-popular Beach Limerz Bar and Restaurant, as well as the famous Russell’s By The Sea. For tourists and locals alike, Fort James is idyllic.

Well, much to the shame of this government, which has made a virtue of neglect and apathy, the roads and landscape leading to Fort James were left in a most unpleasant state. The area was a virtual warri board of crevices, ditches and ravines, and bush and overgrowth was everywhere. It was an indictment of the ‘half-ass’ measures of this government and its repeated and astounding failure to deliver.

          Of course, there is nothing to concentrate the mind of a feckless and unfocused regime like thoughts of the party faithful seeing officialdom and its stewardship, or lack thereof, in all its unsightly nakedness. We mean, heaven forbid that all the supporters of this government see the government’s petticoat, with all its holes, exposed. So the government had to act, post haste. The minefield roads and the horrid landscape leading into Fort James had to be transformed into a pristine and pothole-free mini-paradise just in time for the Labor Day party being put on by the Antigua Trades and Labor Union and the ruling regime. And then to hell with Fort James and its environs for the rest of the year!

You see, for this mealy-mouthed government, its all talk! Sweet-sounding bs! Think government by PR (public relations) and photo-op! It’s all style, such as there is, and no substance! And so, in the days leading up to Labor Day, the government shifted its resources to filling in the treacherous potholes in large swaths of the roads leading to Fort James. The road crews worked feverishly – like men possessed. And much heavy landscaping equipment was employed in cutting the preponderance of bush and overgrown grass in the byways, sideways and hedges. The place never looked so good. We submit that the long-suffering owners of the establishments down there must wish that Labor Day would come more than once a year. Heck, disillusioned and jaded Antiguans and Barbudans must wish the self-same thing – that all across this forsaken island, there would be a Labor Day party and picnic by this pretentious and ‘smoke-and-mirrors’ regime. Seems, that’s how we will get things fixed.

Manifestly, it’s all a mirage! Welcome to the band-aid government! The rule of thumb, so to speak, is to slap-on a ‘sticking-plaster’ just to look good for the moment and assuage the people; give the impression that a whole lot is happening in our blessed country, when in truth and in fact, there is not much! They have turned the use of band-aids into a science, instead of coming up with long-term plans to fix problems and address the serious issues that plague us. Fort James, and what happened down there just in time for Labor Day 2019, is a microcosm of our entire country and its governance. Patch-up! Cover-up! Spruce-up! Just for the moment! Then kick the blasted can down the road . . . ‘til next Labor Day or the next event where many Antiguans and Barbudans are likely to see the incompetence and the neglect!

Back in 1986 or thereabouts, the Mighty Chalkdust, arguably the soul and social conscience of Trinidad and Tobago, sang a biting commentary dubbed, RAM, THE MAGICIAN, on the hapless Trinidad government led by George Chambers. At that time, that government just could not seem to do anything right. It also prompted Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters, another outstanding calypsonian, to sing, THE SINKING SHIP. Sounds familiar? Anyway, Chalkdust cites a litany of the problems plaguing Trinidad and the underwhelming response by the Chambers regime, and he sarcastically suggests to the out-of-his-depth Chambers, that if he can’t run the country, (solve problems without the ad hoc use of band-aids) then he should call in Ram Kirpalani, a seemingly astute businessman who was making serious money all over Trinidad.

For your consideration, here are excerpts from that timeless classic which is eerily familiar and speaks to our government-by-band-aid situation here in Antigua and Barbuda: “If you can’t run de country, then call-in Ram Kirpalani . . . Accept my sympathy for dem fools that you have, Georgie, in your cabinet, at your side, and in your party . . . Every project dat dey touch, from road-building to a paint brush, when de dam buss, de country losing money . . . Before these men bankrupt we, send them quick, Georgie, to take a course by Ram Kirpalani!  Beewee (BWIA) is an annual loss, Don’t talk bout de Transport boss, Road project is one big crime [Tout moun] making overtime . . . (he then cites many money-losing projects then says) TT$480M lost in ’83 . . . Ram never went to UWI, but he have a Phd in money . . . If you can’t run de country, then call in Kirpalani . . .” Good grief! It’s the same crap everywhere!        

If you can’t run de ports (and our good PM, in a moment of candor, has admitted as much) and de country, then call in Global Ports Holdings! Help us Lord! If you can’t fix the roads, then call in Bahamas Hot Mix! Heaven forfend! If you can’t fix sidewalks and maintain government offices and courts . . . You get the point!

Matthew 5:30 says, “If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee . . .” Hmmm! Something is clearly offending us here in our fair state, and we ought to cut it off, not use a band-aid, as is the wont of our blessed government.

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