The new AUF government: (L-R) Evans McNeil Rogers, Curtis Richardson, Chief Minister Victor Banks, Evalie Bradley, Cora Richardson-Hodge, Cardigan Connor (Photo: Anguilla News)
By Ken Richards
Anguilla’s opposition Anguilla United Front (AUF) handed a heavy defeat to the incumbent Anguilla United Movement (AUM), taking six of the seven seats in Wednesday’s general election in the tiny British overseas territory.
The AUM won no seats – the seventh was taken by independent candidate, lawyer/businessperson Pamovan Webster, who defeated the man who led the incumbent party into the election – medical practitioner Ellis Lorenzo Webster.
Outgoing Chief Minister Hubert Hughes was not a candidate in the election but had predicted a landslide for his AUM.
"I now have reserves of $30 million dollars in the fund. I have a surplus situation. I never had to borrow to pay my civil servants... I have a situation where Anguilla is growing faster than any other state in the region," he said.
Victor Banks was sworn in as Chief Minister of Anguilla on Thursday April 23, 2015. (Photo: Anguilla News)
Chief Minister-elect Victor Banks, a former finance minister, speaking to WINN FM on Thursday, dismissed the claim that the economy was doing well under the Hughes administration.
"There’s definitely been no growth of significance for the past five years, so the economy cannot be doing well. We have a situation where there are a number of non-performing loans in banks. It has increased over the years because people can't meet their commitments. Many people have been out of work for years, and many people have been underemployed, working two or three days per week rather than [working for] a living wage,” he said.
Banks said that Hughes' statement did not add up.
"The fact is if the government had been able to balance its budget that would mean the overall economy would be doing well,” he said.
The new head of government says stimulating the Anguillan economy will be a key priority.
"We have been very welcoming to investments. We've always had a very professional approach to dealing with people who come to our country and invest in our country. We've always try to find ways and means incentivize persons who are involved in the job-creating sector – the private sector which includes local and foreign... we're also looking at diversifying the economy, moving away from just focus [the] narrow focus on tourism, and diversifying within the tourism economy as well as other aspects of our country that still have been underexploited,” Banks said.
The Hughes administration had been making noises about taking Anguilla into political independence. Banks says that is not an immediate priority for his administration.
Banks and his new Cabinet were sworn in on Thursday afternoon. Friday was declared a public holiday in Anguilla.
Republished with permission of West Indies News Network