Antigua St John's - The growing list of crises afflicting Barbuda send the message that the old days are over, and the time has come for the sister isle to seek new ways of stepping into the future.
This was the sobering message brought by Senator McKenzie Frank on Thursday, during a telephone appearance on the Colin Sampson Show. Readers are invited to visit the to hear excerpts from the discussion.
The end of the sand mining era has radically changed the fiscal picture for the Barbuda Council. The revenue from exporting sand accounted for 30 to 40 percent of the Council’s income. The final disappearance of that economic crutch means that Barbuda is now more than ever dependent on subventions from central government.
In today’s straitened economy, this means that the island is encountering difficulties extracting funds from the national treasury.
In the opinion of McKenzie Frank, however, this should not be the case. Frank maintains that despite appearances to the contrary, the island is actually a net contributor to the nation’s financial coffers. He believes more than ever that the time is now for a serious re-think of the fiscal and economic profile.
In furtherance of this initiative, the Barbuda Council has written Prime Minister Spencer (who is also minister of Barbuda Affairs) requesting his support in carrying out an in-depth study of the island’s best fiscal and economic strategies. The Council hopes that the prime minister will approach the Caribbean Development Bank for assistance in this respect.
The Council’s letter, dated May 3, outlines nine specific areas for study, as follows:
1.The state of the island’s public finances; 2.Effective use of said public finances; 3.Development of the fisheries industry, particularly in light of recent investments in processing facilities; 4.Specific planned realistic tourism development; 5.Full utilization of lands in furtherance in developing the island’s economy; 6.Creation of private sector small business opportunities; 7.Full development of the private sector as a means of job creation; 8.Providing training for private and public sector actors in pursuit of identified economic goals - in this respect the Chinese model of state supported capitalism is suggested as an appropriate template; and 9.The Barbuda economy and the steps required to boost economic activity.
Describing the sister isle as virtually virgin territory, with great capacity for growth, Senator Frank is urging a creative approach to utilizing the land, which is held in common, in the furtherance of economic development. He roundly rejects the syndrome, developed during the sand mining era, of depending on the Barbuda Council for employment.
In short, Frank is advancing the idea that residents of Barbuda should return to their earlier culture of rugged independence, a quality sadly lost in recent times. He believes that developing agriculture and fisheries through the promotion of private sector entrepreneurship is the way forward for the island.
Affirming that the Barbuda Council and the islands' residents are ready for the exercise of transformational leadership, Frank vigorously championed the establishment of co-operative ventures in agriculture, fisheries, eggs, and poultry. He envisions Barbuda as a bread basket for Antigua, fulfilling the nation’s food needs.
This will require a transformation in the outlook of Council and residents alike, aimed at seriously promoting a culture of independence and entrepreneurship. In the view of Senator McKenzie Frank, the private sector holds the key to the future salvation of Barbuda.