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THE ULTIMATE VISION! By Alvette “Ellorton” Jeffers

posted 22 Oct 2019, 09:26 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 22 Oct 2019, 09:27 ]

Image result for antigua and barbuda protestsThere has been a noticeable uptick in the number of protests since 2018. They are not the earth shattering kind political apparatchiks prefer and activists clamor. Though they are not yet capable of altering the socio-political landscape, they are, nevertheless, evidence of the impossibility of the system to adequately meet the people’s needs, made worse by a bumbling administration.

I have been paying close attention to Observer’s coverage of protests in Antigua and Barbuda and the Paper has been exemplary in its reporting of them. The latest demonstration by ten women seeking Prison reform, reported in the September 27th issue, magnifies the growing discontent and points to the stark existence of life in Antigua and Barbuda.

The crumbling, diseased Prison is just the extreme representation of the crisis. Long before the women for prison reform staged their protest, government employees have been engaging in temporary work stoppages since 2018. And it continues to date with the Nurses Association airing the frustration of all who work in that profession, according to Observer of 2nd October 2019.

It seems always that the unhealthy and stressful conditions under which work is performed top the list of public workers’ concerns, followed by unpaid wages in the form of back pay and discrepancies in raises or overtime. And the volume of displeasure is amplified by Pensioners who are never certain of the date they will receive their pension.

Reinforcing the existence of a general discontent are the demonstrations by by the Faithful Nationals in support of Barbuda’s land claim and against the Global Port Agreement, an Agreement which announces that Antigua and Barbuda can be had on the cheap.

Since Irma devastated the island in 2017, Barbudans continue to fight for Nationals very existence. Why is there this haphazard and ineffective approach to solving problems or in some instances an avoidance of problems, leaving them to linger and, therefore, requiring in the end more resources to solve?

Why do some types of infrastructural problems keep recurring and continually contribute to increasing levels of public distress and escalating aggravation? Why the politicians’ constant flippancy in response to the citizens’ demands for amelioration of their grievances?

It’s tempting to say that the government acts out of spite or deliberate indifference to afflicted communities because they refuse to comply with its questionable objectives. For Barbudans, this might
contain more than an ounce of truth. However, the more convincing evidence lies in Antigua and Barbuda’s political economy. Just recently, Prime Minister Brown boasted that China had injected more than one billion dollars, consisting of grants and loans, into the economy. Were it not for this investment, the island’s infrastructure would be in an underdeveloped state. He is even anticipating China’s help with The University of the West Indies, Five islands.

Some months ago, the government admitted that shortfalls in revenue collection were contributing to its failure to pay Pensioners on time. In 2017, the PM worried publicly about the negative impact the temporary closure of Sandals would have on government’s ability to meet its budgetary obligations. The government clearly lives from hand to mouth and in such a fiscal environment, when deadlines are stated for the completion of public projects, they are always unreliable and hampered by unexplained overruns.

It is not only the fluctuations of economic investments which influence the ability of governments to raise revenue. The present structure of property ownership and economic relations impose certain policy choices on the government.

Were it to adopt a fiscal regime unfavorable to the economic elite but which buttresses its revenue collection, the power which the elites derive from its control over the country’s strategic resources, permits it to impose its will on the government by withdrawing resources from the economy or pass its cost unto an already deprived, over taxed and agitated population.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne
Despite the Prime Minister’s perennial blustering, he is quite aware of the constraints the transnational economic elite places on his ability to intervene in the economy. The problem is made less governable when the political governing elites’ political ideology and interrelated business interests fortify the primacy of capital, local and foreign, over everything else.

The slow or no repair of bad roads, the dilapidated prison, the crumbling office buildings, poorly managed water and electrical systems, rising cost of living, low or stagnant wages, late payment of social security and pensions, a problematic health care system, the lack of human resources in Barbuda and the uncertainty surrounding the source of funding for the University of Antigua and Barbuda, all manifest the truth that the power relations in the society which is bolstered by the economic and property relations influence both the realization and the distribution of income in Antigua and Barbuda

What can and cannot be done, despite governments’ finagling, is ultimately directly connected to the limitations placed on its capacity to raise capital to meet the social requirements of a modern population.

Even when it attempts to raise capital through State endeavors, its low capacity and inefficiencies present hurdles a corrupt government bent on enriching its own members and extended families cannot overcome. Antigua and Barbuda’s structural woes will continue and there will always be need to protest but the protest can only be effective if all the protestors realize that they share a common enemy; and that is an economic structure which is not responsive to public good and politicians incapable of or uninterested in taking a revolutionary course.

You, the people, must insist upon a new economic structure that has as its objective, not just the satisfaction of material needs. It must allow the further development of your managerial skills that will be indispensable in meeting the challenges that will accompany the development of the economy. To realize these goals, political influence over the creation and use of resources in the society is a prerequisite. One cannot proceed without the other. Therefore, when protesting, consider this your ultimate vision.