There was an abundance of hand-wringing and belly-aching in some quarters when MP Jamale Pringle, he of All Saints East and St. Luke, decided to decline an invitation to be a part of the committee called the Economic Recovery Committee (ERC). This committee was supposed to chart our way out of the Covid-19 crisis – a crisis, mind you, that was exacerbated by this administration’s stunning lack of vision on matters of high finance. Remember, this was the administration that looted the Medical Benefits Scheme and frittered away millions of dollars in Citizenship By Investment money, among other acts of profligacy. As you can easily imagine, the actions of this administration, even before Covid-19, would make a drunken sailor blush.
Of course, those very wilful and wanton acts have left us in extremely straightened circumstances, and much like Old Mother, this administration has gone to the cupboard to fetch us poor folk a bone, but when it got there, the cupboard was bare, and so the poor folk get none. How pathetic! Anyway, MP Pringle was supposed to be a part of the grand rescue effort to restock the larder, but he declined on principle. His reasons have been well documented. Seems, he was wise.
Interestingly, our financial nakedness, and we are indeed as naked as we born, never mind Minister Weston’s vehement protestations to the contrary, is the stuff of much ridicule and derision, not only here within our borders, but around the region and the wider world. For example, here at home, there is a chaotic toddler’s sketch that has gone viral, the object of much laughter and scorn. The whimsical, ‘crappo-foot-a-run-dong-tong’ scrawls of the three-year-old child are said, by the artist, to depict the “the government’s plan to reopen the economy.” As you can imagine, it is indecipherable and totally devoid of rhyme or reason, and only the mind of a child can make sense of the nonsense. Help us, Lord!
And it is not only here at home that the senseless thought-processes are being ridiculed. The deputy prime minister of St. Kitts Nevis, a young bright fellow named Shawn Richards, openly scoffed at this administration’s inadequate response to the Covid-19 crisis by saying, in tones loud and emphatic, “When other countries are saying to workers, I can only give you $75.00 a week, Team Unity has said I can give you up to $1000.00 per month. When other countries have not been able to respond, because if you go nearby to Antigua, to date, not one single stimulus package has been put in place in Antigua. We have been able to do that because we have managed this country well.” Good grief! Talk about washing one’s mouth on the wonderful Economic Powerhouse! Everybody shame. Especially when the good deputy prime minister waved his hand and literally spat each word, “NOT ONE SINGLE STIMULUS PACKAGE HAS BEEN PUT IN PLACE IN ANTIGUA!” The contempt was unmistakable.
Even in international circles, we have seen a few distinguished Caribbean leaders on any number of international media explaining the progressive steps that they have taken to keep their peoples safe and provide a meaningful cushion to the hardship occasioned by Covid-19.
Feebly, and dare we say unconvincingly, this administration has responded to the broadside by Shawn Richards with uncharacteristic meekness, and mumbled about our stimulus being the duty free concessions, and the fact that we pay no personal income tax. The good Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, the Honourable Lennox Weston is on record as mumbling some nonsense about not giving a detailed stimulus such as the $120 million St. Kitts Nevis stimulus, because this administration does not know how long the crisis will last. He is also on record as saying that his administration already has a three-point plan to pull us out of this financial bind. There has also been fanciful talk about a $500 million nest egg, just in case. The thing is that, while some administration ranking members have spoken of its existence. Others have shrugged and bared their palms. We know not whom to believe.
Meanwhile, we are hearing conflicting stories about who agreed to what at the Economic Recovery Committee (ERC). Remember, this grandiose committee of “Fifteen of the smartest men and women leaders from different sectors within the Antigua and Barbuda economy,” came up with the dastardly plan to stick Das Boot of big business (to whom this government is shamelessly beholden) up the derriere of workers. Sigh! Clearly, this ERC (the members have stressed their unanimity) is underwhelming us, and MP Jamale Pringle is beginning to look like a giant. His decision not to be a part of the window-dressing pappy show is pure genius. Had he been a part of it, he would have been painted/tainted with complicity in the damnable attempt to stick it to workers. And yes, his voice and suggestions would have routinely been ignored. And the disrespect would have continued as a matter of course. If things had gone well, he would hardly have been given any credit. After all, this administration has often hijacked United Progressive Party (UPP) ideas by saying that they already thought of them. If things had gone south, how could he escape the wrath of the people? (Witness the recent finger-pointing). Thank God MP Pringle stood on principle and did not compromise his inner moral compass and convictions.
MP Pringle reminds us of Robert Le Hunte of Trinidad and Tobago, who resigned on May 16, from the Road to Recovery Committee (RRC) which, much like our ERC, was supposed to chart the way forward for Trinidad post Covid-19. Apparently, there were some policy differences between Le Hunte and the committee members, and rather than ‘go along to get along’ in the cause of unanimity, the good Le Hunte quit the RRC. In parting he declared, “My resignation was as a result of professional conflict on policy positions.” Bravo!
Manifestly, Le Hunte is a rare breed, bordering on extinction. Our own Pringle is of like ilk. May their tribe increase!We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.