By any measure, the last ten days have been good for our Prime Minister, Gaston Browne. It was a welcome respite from the “Murphy’s Law-itis” that the nation had been experiencing of late. Seemed, “whatever could go wrong, was going wrong,” and the administration, never mind its blither and blather, was beginning to look like the “Gang that couldn’t shoot straight.” First, there were the schoolchildren tales of our passports in the hands of . . . er, well . . . “international persons of interest” that threatened to undermine international confidence in that most sacred commodity. But, we were told, “Don’t pay dem no mind, is children melee!”
Of course, this was preceded by the shaky grand opening of the Royalton Hotel, and the resulting poor reviews from a number of underwhelmed guests. Seemed, the Royalton had become a metaphor for so much in our fair state – a grandiose promise that fails to live up to the hype and the expectations.
Also, our government did not distinguish itself with the mangrove debacle in the North Eastern Marine Management Area (NEMMA). Indeed, the utterances from those in high places who routinely pay lip service to the cause of the environment, but whose hearts are far from Mother Nature, was cringe-worthy. Who could not be dismayed at the mendacious and flippant way in which officialdom defended and justified the way in which nature was sacrificed at the altar of development at Crabb’s and other areas?
And who could not be equally dismayed at the extant ‘hot mess’ on our two major road corridors? Even card-carrying members of the ruling party – those who have seen precious little that is good, but who have yet believed, were beginning to have pangs of doubt. Seemed, everything was fast becoming an albatross around the neck of this administration.
Then the rains (good news) came – literally! Apparently, a weather system had stalled over our fair state and the windows of heaven opened – a welcome relief for our parched and thirsty land. According to the weather folks, upwards of five inches fell in some areas, like Bethesda, and nearly thirty feet of water was deposited in Potworks Dam. To God be the glory!
Then there was the UN and Norway-sponsored PLAY IT OUT TO PHASE IT OUT concert which featured several top international and local artists that put little Antigua out front on the world stage. Of course, some of the local environment hypocrisy in officialdom was not lost to many, but the overall aims and vision of the concert were indeed laudable, and we salute our government and the organizers for taking the lead on the grave matter of single-use plastics and their clear and present danger to the environment.
Then came news that Barbados was relinquishing the greater portion of its shares in LIAT to our government – a Gaston Browne government that was insistent that LIAT not fail. According to our PM in a statement last month, “Considering that there was a decision to collapse LIAT and to have a smaller operation, the government had to move to protect the interest of workers and the local economy.” Of course, it is not clear exactly what are his plans for LIAT’s turnaround as a viable business entity, whilst delivering on our CARICOM dream of cheap and easy regional travel. Plus, how this new undertaking will all be paid for is also still unclear, but we certainly salute the unswerving commitment on the part of our PM, and we wish him well. The old business model is untenable, and new measures will have to be put into place. Our PM knows that.
We do not wish to get ahead of ourselves re the final approval from the holdout Barbados government on the matter of the UWI Five Islands campus. But from all reports and appearances, we have addressed the financial concerns raised by the Bajans, and according to Information Minister, Melford Nicholas, “We can go to the next level. We have the financial muscle to be able to do it. We have a commitment from a credible competent university. They have told us what the gap is, and we are prepared to go to work and to deal with it.” We here at NEWSCO are all for expanded tertiary education opportunities, and notwithstanding some legitimate reservations and unanswered questions, we trust that our government will make a success of this worthy goal.
When such noble ideals as a less-contaminated environment, cheaper movement of people and services by way of a viable airline, and expanded tertiary education opportunities move from being a dream to a reality, it is a good thing, not only for Antigua and Barbuda, but for the entire region. Seems, there is a light at the end of the ‘Tunnel of Bad News’ here in our fair state. We certainly trust that that light is not the headlamps of an oncoming train!
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