Politically, things are heating up across the region, as many countries have announced election dates, while others have already done so over the past few months. Once again, citizens are being given the opportunity to choose individuals who would best represent their interests and needs. Our sister isle Barbuda is no exception.
On March 23, Barbudans will head to the polls. They will be choosing one of two parties – the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) and the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) (Barbuda branch), both of which have shifted into campaign mode.
There will be new faces on the ticket and there will be great plans and promises made.
The platform of the ABLP, according to leader Arthur Nibbs, is to “stimulate economic development on the island.”
Have we heard that one before? Have others made such a pledge?
The fact is such a platform has been tried, but not successfully on Barbuda.
The word ‘stimulate’ implies that there must be some movement or change; a concept often misunderstood by Barbudans.
It then begs the question, how will a newly-elected Barbuda Council convince Barbudans to give economic development, dare I say change, a fair chance?
Development, as we know it, can only take place if the parties involved are willing to give, so they can in turn receive. Barbudans are reluctant to have change at the expense of losing their land.
This is understandable since everything cannot be put into the hands of foreign investors – thereby every investment must be looked at with due diligence. However, there can be no transformation of the economic landscape of the country, if the people are averse to having one blade of grass touched or one grain of sand turned.
Barbuda is a beautiful island, but like Antigua it is not rich in natural resources. Nevertheless, the island boasts of some of the most pristine beaches in the world, so beautiful in fact, that they have been able to attract royalty, in the person of the late Princess Diana at the once thriving K-Club Resort.
Sun, sea and sand, along with a rich history, once properly marketed and developed, could open the financial floodgates for Barbuda.
But will the ABLP be able to bring in the sheaves, as they are promising to do?
The incumbent Barbuda People’s Movement has announced its platform as well, promising to improve the educational opportunity for the people, while focusing on agriculture, small business development, and mainly sports and technology for the youth of the island.
Yet, of 100 fishermen on the island, only 30 make use of the state-of-the-art $30 million Artisanal Fisheries Complex, which, as one journalist puts it “was meant to improve the efficiency of fishermen’s operations and ensure quality controls were in place so Barbuda could maximise on exports and meet international standards.”
Fishermen’s refusal to utilise the complex saves them each just $400 a year – a small price to pay for quality and productivity. So, how does Fabian Jones, BPM leader, propose to get Barbudans involved in other areas of improvement? Will the new faces of the BPM be able to convert the mindset of the island’s people and will its members be able to fulfill the promises that have been made?
The reality in this economically tumultuous time is that many countries in the region are seeking foreign investment to keep their countries afloat. With that, the ruling governments must take the bull by the horn and make decisions that the people are not always in favour of.
What is yet to be seen in Barbuda is a council that is prepared to forego the people’s opinions, when necessary, for the betterment of all.