Even that use of the word ‘throne’ strikes us as odd. After all, it is a head-scratcher as to why, some 37 years after independence, we still cling to that colonial umbilical cord – that ritual known as the reading of the Throne Speech. The Throne Speech is a projection of the government’s spending plans for the coming year, and it is, more often than not, happy talk and rehashed pablum that has little or no foundation in reality.
That our Governor General, Sir Rodney Williams, is forced by virtue of his office, to recite that insipid multiplicity of words with a straight face, is well . . . testament to his good naturedness and sense of humour. Of course, many Antiguans were not amused. Indeed, most Antiguans and Barbudans were too busy gingerly navigating the hazardous potholes and agitating for pension and back pay and trying to make ends meet to be bothered with that exercise in incredulity. Most simply shrugged and said, resignedly, “Yea, yea, whatever!” We are apparently too jaded and disillusioned, too busy “Keeping our heads above water, making a wave if we can . . .” (Theme from GOOD TIMES) to even bother getting excited at even the most tantalising promises contained in the litany from the throne. Sigh! And what were some of those tantalising projections for those of us residing on the boulevard of broken promises and the cul-de-sac of dashed dreams?
Well, according to the aspirational (with ‘aspirational’ being the operative word) speech entitled Creating Sustainable Wealth; Moving Forward Together, the government will be doing something about male underachievement (the number of female UWI graduates is three times that of males) here in our fair state, and the APUA will be investing a great deal of money, US$20 million to be exact, in an undersea cable to “Drive prices down further and to ensure universal access and sufficiency of speed.”
All well and good! We just wish that the APUA could do something about our high electricity and water costs, as well as the unreliable delivery of water. Needless to say, we will believe that fantasy about the million-dollar investment driving the costs of telecommunications down when we see it. Sigh! Of course, there was the obligatory feel-good news about the Transport Board being in the black “after several years of deficits,” and gasoline sales revenues increasing. Hooray!
We just wish that these increased revenues could be reflected in a tangible upward lift in the lives of Antiguans and Barbudans. Not to mention some relief at the pump. Alas, we fear that those wishes are bridges too far! The political leader of the United Progressive Party, Mr. Harold Lovell, was equally unimpressed. In his response, he suggested that much of what we heard from the throne was a repeat of malarkey from previous years, with no realistic plan as to how the malarkey would be achieved.
So sad! Apart from the great photo, the ceremonial inspection of the guard, and the surfeit of pomp and circumstance, most Antiguans and Barbudans greeted the activity surrounding the speech from the ‘throne’ (still scratching and shaking our heads), and the speech itself, with a long yawn. That speech, much of which has already been forgotten, will now be filed away until this time next year. At that time, it will be dusted off and pored over for any malarkey that can be redelivered. Sigh!