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BARBUDA: THE DEFERMENT OF A DREAM By Alvette E Jeffers

posted 16 Oct 2020, 14:09 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 16 Oct 2020, 15:50 ]
Alvette E. Jeffers was a member of the Antigua Caribbean Liberation Movement (ACLM) from 1971 until 1979. From 1974 until 1979 he  served as Editor of its newspaper, the Outlet. He studied labor and public policy between Empire State College and Cornel University. 
Barbudans build their own homes. Yet housing construction on the island is not touted as a contributor to its development. Valuing this activity could help to dispel the malicious lie that “Barbudans do not want development” for themselves.

Peace Love and Happiness (PLH), a subsidiary of the American owned Discovery Land Company (DLC), has acquired several hundred acres of Barbuda’s land to build houses on. The Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (A&BLP) Government, with use of exaggerated superlatives, praises the project as a major “development.”

Economists can debate which activity has the greater impact on the GDP. What is indisputable is that Barbudans and PLH employ labour and purchase material from Antigua and Barbuda’s suppliers. The transportation and energy sectors also benefit. These interconnected transactions have a measurable impact on the GDP.

The houses have identical use values too. They are only distinguished by the exchange value PLH attaches to its houses. This potential exchange value is what can determine whether or not PLH remains in Barbuda. If the request for houses weakens and profits are undermined, PLH will find something else to do in another part of the world that has a pliable government, similar to the one that exists in Antigua. Because of this, Barbudans should not be ushered into a situation where living is dependent on the whims and fancies of the rich and famous, who are like migratory birds with enough money to nestle anywhere that is hospitable.

I am making the point that PLH is not providing Barbudans with any unique skills usable for the development and transformation of their lives. Barbudans are already builders. Therefore, any employment PLH offers would be quite rudimentary. Everyday people are literally forced into the situation where they have to function at another’s behest in order to just get by. This is a vicissitudinous existence for many whose lives are made subordinate to the political and economic imperatives of governing elites, foreign entities and PLH in Barbuda.

It is not “development” for Barbudans or Antiguans if both are wilfully denied opportunities to gain mastery over their lives and resources. Their authentic “development” begins when they have acquired 
PLH project 'in compliance' with environmental and planning restrictions -  Antigua Observer Newspaperthe knowledge, skills, advice, and part of the social capital to make what they have work for them and the generation that follows. This is the do it yourself principle and it is the single, most important social process through which people can gain a deep sense of pride, self-confidence and an authentic life.

No one knows the hour when this revolutionary moment will arrive. Until then, PLH will continue to transform Barbuda’s landscape. Those who believe that only what is foreign is good, will see an aesthetic value in PLH’S temporal structures and hail them as the arrival of Barbuda’s “development,” even redemption.

Barbudans, however, have their own sense of beauty. They appreciate and value the natural beauty that permeates the environment, which no naturalist painter can match on canvas. For this reason, a lot of time and energy is invested in preserving this wondrous gift nature has offered them; and Barbudans are understandably resentful of the several philistines who, because they lack similar sensibilities, are unmindful of the destructive impact their economic activities can have on the entire ecosystem.

Barbudans remain on guard constantly because investors who were in Barbuda ostensibly to develop it left after returns failed to justify business expenditures. Nothing is assured in this period of economic and political uncertainties. PLH may suffer a similar fate like those who preceded it and Barbuda will be where it was before it came. One can only hope that if that time comes or even if it does not, the environment remains viable so that Barbudans will be able to pursue their own model of sustainable development. They will have to do it because PLH is developing Barbuda for PLH and its parent company DLC. PLH cannot do it by itself. So out of necessity, it must employ Barbudans to provide their rich and famous clientele the pampering they have been promised.

This prearranged condition defers the dream of Barbudans’ forebears who imagined a time when their descendants would gain full mastery over their environment as the enslaved in Antigua imagined for themselves and their heirs. There was a moment when this was possible, but the dream was instantly made unattainable when the AT&LU government decided to look outward for a stimulant to spur Antigua’s internal, economic growth. That decision marked the period when foreign, economic control of Antigua was intensified.

VC Bird monument
VC Bird has himself admitted to this causation. In an interview, carried in the 50th Anniversary of the Union magazine he says that it was “a good thing” that the government bought the land “because we were then able to give out a lot of sites for the hotels that we have today.”(pg. 20) Those who had the ambition to be “masters” in their own houses, were transitioned into servants or facilitators of the rich, both infamous and famous.

That decision continues to have a negative impact on the people’s consciousness. It continues to reinforce the false concept, that we have to remain dependent on others to do for us, even those things we can do for ourselves. Limited as they are, Antigua and Barbuda’s tangible and intangible resources do not preclude us from managing our own development.

The essence of all economic relations comes down to who tells who what to do. And following that, who decides what is done with what is left over after all other deductions are made. Thirdly, what is the goal of the economy?

For now, those decisions were not given to us. To undo that, we have to correct that fatal error VC Bird made in the 1960s. For that to happen, development must become internally driven but managed by everyday, working people with support from all professionals, especially those who are educated with public funds. We cannot achieve this goal if Gaston Brown’s government continues to give away land, beach front properties and concessions to the one percent. This fortifies their dominance over Antigua’s economy and its direction.

The discussion around who governs land in Barbuda is really an amplification of the greater debate as to who should direct development in Antigua and Barbuda and what its aims are to be. You would think that a person as enlightened as Professor Henry of Brown University would see this connection instantly. If he did, he would not have said that Barbuda’s communal land system was an “anomaly” that needed to be aligned with Antigua’s land rights. (Political Review (WPR) April 24th, 2018).

His position undermines his statements in his book on “The Life of V.C. Bird.” In it, he states, the following: “the consolidation of external control over our beachfront and coastline,” has to end so that we will have something left to support our own, self-directed development. He warned that if that did not happen, “only another working class revolution would return our sovereignty to us.” (Henry, p221)

Henry wrote those words eight years before his interview in WPR. He approved of Brown’s brand of “socialism” which he said was “a competing ideology.” He should have known, if I knew since 2017, that Browns’ dubious brand of “socialism” would not block the privatization of Barbudans’ communal land and lead inevitably to the “external control” of their beachfront and coastlines. Gaston Brown never concealed his intentions.

Since Henry’s interview in the WPR of 2018, Gaston Brown has removed the “anomaly” which characterizes Barbuda’s communal land system; and he has made it clear, in word and deed, that this process of “external consolidation” will intensify. PLH, in Barbuda, is proof of it. However, we must remember that Henry has given us an antidote for this eventuality, and it is the “working class revolution,” even though he said they were too fractured to undertake the leadership of the redevelopment of the economy. While Professor Henry works out his glaring contradictions, we must continue to believe that the workers and everyday people of Antigua and Barbuda have the capacity to redirect the development of Antigua and Barbuda. It just has to be put to them consistently until they seize the moment 
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