There is a popular saying from back in the day that, “If you want nothing accomplished, form a committee.” And it appears as though our Economic Recovery Committee (ERC) will live up to the dubious reputation of committees. Of course, we do not wish to put ‘goat-mout’ on the much-talked-about ERC, because if that Committee succeeds in it’s mandate to chart a course forward out of the morass in which we find ourselves, we all succeed. We are hopeful. But it appears as though our faith, the morsel that was already as small as a mustard seed, could be misplaced.
The first red flag for us was when the Prime Minister (PM) was named as the head of the ERC. We believe that the PM should have set up the Committee and recused himself from involvement in its deliberations. After intensive brainstorming and a careful study of ideas and outcomes, the Committee could have prepared a detailed report which could have then been presented to the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda for further deliberation and adoption or rejection, as the case may be. Unfortunately, the PM, with the paramountcy of his own political agenda and self-interest, will over-shadow and colour every blessed recommendation and decision of the ERC. The PM is no shrinking violet. It is hardly likely that he would ever be chairman of a Committee that did not yield to his every wish. Remember folks, it is ‘his way or the highway.’ If a member of that ERC is not willing to play ball and genuflect and say “Aye, Aye, Papi,” he or she will have to hit the road. That’s just the way it is!
Remember, folks, our PM is a Committee Chairman from the old school (think Worl Barse); when he needs your opinion, he gives it to you; heck, he does all the thinking for you. In that regard, the committee members are merely there as window dressers; they make for good press and the feel-good photo ops. They simply have to smile and nod in approbation and affirmation on cue. Good grief!
And the farce does not end there. This ERC will have seven sub-committees, and each will be chaired by, . . . (don’t laugh) a Minister of Government. (Sigh!) Woe is us! Arguably, a great deal of the problems that we now have, even before Covid-19, were authored by . . . Ministers of Government. Again, every single one of these Ministers of Government take their cue from their “Worl Barse,” he whose boots are exceedingly shine. These Ministers of Government have all been reduced to saying “yes” . . . until the cows come home. It is really quite pathetic! Think Trump as the chairman of the American version of the ERC. Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and all who sear their consciences and accede to Trump’s every whim and fancy, dare not bark or whimper, when he says shut-up. Exhibit A: the Mighty Sparrow’s SOLOMON, where Dr. Eric Williams is quoted as saying, “I am goin to do what I feel to do / And I don’t care who vex or who feel blue … This land is mine, I am the boss / What I say goes, and who vex, get lorse . . .” Different time and place, same mindset!
But don’t take our word for it. Here is the addendum to the Cabinet notes dated May 27, 2020. It was a self-congratulatory Media Statement by the ERC with a tasteless reference to itself as, “Fifteen of the smartest men and women leaders from different sectors within the Antigua and Barbuda economy, and chaired by Prime Minister Gaston Browne . . .” Sigh! The pretentious document spoke of the need to reopen the borders and all of that sort of stuff. The statement continued with a recounting of how we got to this point, and the various entities that were suffering as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Sadly, there was very little on the wonderful ideas that the ERC had come up with to stimulate the economy and spur growth. No great visionary initiatives on how to create marvelous opportunities out of this Covid extremity. Sigh!
After four consecutive meetings, the special ERC Media Statement was long on American Airlines flying in on the 4th, June, and that 75% of the passengers on that flight will be Antiguans and Barbudans returning home, and that only a small portion of tourists will be on board, and so on and so forth. We here at NEWSCO were looking for more details on the substantive discussions, and we were quite disappointed that they were not forthcoming. And to add to our disappointment was this doozy from the grand Media Statement: “The Prime Minister requested each member of the ERC to indicate if there was any disagreement or if there was unanimity. The fifteen participants all agreed that opening the economy on June 1 met with unanimous approval.” Think, the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE, Antigua-style. Talk about, “this is our story, and we’re sticking to it.” The Prime Minister instructed/polled us to say that there was no dissension, and we looked at each other and declared that there was no dissension in the camp. Fifteen of the most brilliant minds in all of Antigua and Barbuda, and not one independent, dissenting thought. It is a helluva thing!