November 26, 2006
This is the second year as Minister responsible for Tourism that I have had the opportunity to participate in these activities marking Tourism as the primary industry contributing to our economy development. The theme this year is the same as last year, namely, “empowering Anguillians for service and ownership”. The fact that the Board, the Ministry and the Hotel Association has agreed on repeating this theme points out the significance which we all attach to empowerment as an ideal for our economy as a whole.
About three weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at the opening celebrations marking the thirtieth anniversary of the Caribbean Commercial Bank. And I seized that occasion to point out that empowerment has always been the cornerstone of Anguilla’s vision of national development --- and that in fact the defining statement of this ideal was made by the Father of the Anguilla Revolution, the Hon. James Ronald Webster when he proclaimed: “we do not want to become a nation of waiters and busboys”. Implicit in that early vision was that Anguillians wished to be professionals, leaders and owners in their national development. We should never in my view, become tired of hearing that message repeated over and over again.
While we have undergone a series of transformations since 1967, one can always sense the underlying desire among Anguillians, whether on the street corner, the various forums and platforms, the radio and television talk shows, the churches, the social gatherings --- to become significant players and stakeholders in our island’s future.
In 1978, shortly after the ministerial system of Government was introduced to Anguilla for the first time, the Government of the day published a draft Tourism policy to set out the general aims and objectives of the Government of Anguilla in developing the tourism industry. It is instructive even at this time to quote the general objective outlined in that policy document. “Government is committed to the balanced development of tourism as a major generator of income, employment and growth in Anguilla. The natural assets of the territory will be utilized to the best advantage to create a diversified industry which is responsive to the market trends and growth in demand in North America, Europe and the Caribbean Sea. It is Government’s aim to see that the industry provides the product and services demanded by visitors while at the same time guiding its development so that the people of Anguilla can obtain substantial long term benefits and play their part fully in the progressive expansion of the industry.”
Even this early policy statement maintained the focus of full participation by Anguillians in their development and the public consultations which followed this draft policy document strongly reiterated this theme --- a theme which is certainly in keeping with the early vision of our revolutionary leaders.
Recently, Anguilla has become the place to be for investment in Tourism facilities internationally. That position is based principally on our success as a player in the luxury market --- but also as an outcome of deliberate efforts by the Government since 2002 to attract investment in the sector through incentives for the delivery of a golf course facility, expansion and improvement of our airport facilities and continued improvement to our ports and road infrastructure. It enabled me to truly say in my 2005 Budget Address that, “Anguilla was open for business” A year later in my 2006 Budget Address I focused attention on the real challenges of success.
We are now in that period of challenge and while our tourism industry continues to grow the need to create a stable social environment to secure ongoing success must become our main preoccupation. That environment must be one which allows Anguillians from all walks of life to feel a part of that development and to get the opportunity for full expression of their potential both in service and ownership of the industry.
The demands of our community are diverse. It therefore means that at any time leaders will be required to respond to a variety of needs. These can range from training opportunities for our people to be able to access the job opportunities which will become available --- to access to financing for local entrepreneurs wishing to be involved in the provision of both products and services for the tourism sector. Government must be the facilitator in all these situations using its own resources as well as those of its partners in the private sector, including stakeholders in the industry itself to address these needs. And citizens as a whole need to be sensitive to the importance of cost recovery based on a tax regime which ensures that resources are available to Government to carry out these critical functions.
Bishop Brooks in his introductory remarks today at the Church Service opening Tourism Week at St Augustine’s made a very revealing statement about the issue of empowerment. He said in essence “you cannot force any one to be empowered if they do not wish to be --- it has to do with ones and I would suggest a people’s psyche --- that is, their mental state of mind.” History makes us expect that Anguillians will never falter from the strong culture of empowerment which pervaded our early experiences in difficult times. There is however much cause for concern.
In my address at the CCB thirtieth Anniversary Celebrations I made some observations which I feel compelled to repeat on this occasion. We are inundated by investors from all parts of the world, immigrant labour from the most unexpected places, projects which are changing the face of Anguilla. If to quote an old adage “we cannot be expected to eat our cake and have it too” then we must be sure to derive sound nourishment from the feast. Our sacrifices for development must be to derive a better outcome for all our people. Not only jobs --- but real empowerment.
It is surprising that in a lot of ways we have lowered our sights. Too many of us in leadership positions do not put our trust in the potential of our own people to achieve great things. We become too suspicious of the motives of our fellow Anguillians; we question the honesty and integrity of men and women with ideas often unfairly; we sometimes even wish misfortune on those who seek to dream; we close our minds to change and stand in the way of progress. We blame others when very often we should be blaming ourselves for not taking the initiative --- even when we have the clear advantage. These are some of the impediments which place constraints on our ability to realize our full potential as Anguillians --- but there are lessons in our history and heritage which can guarantee success.
I believe that the psyche of Anguillians is one of pride in our heritage and an enduring ambition to be the best at whatever vocations we seek to pursue. We have always sought to remain an empowered people --- to seek to be anything else could be even considered un-Anguillian.
It is with this clear understanding that as Minister responsible for Tourism I endorse the theme of this week “Empowering Anguillians for service and ownership”. I believe that it requisite that we seize any opportunity to advance the cause of empowerment when it becomes available. Anguillians have always had the will to find a way.
We as a Government are happy to assist every Anguillian to achieve the goal of empowerment in both service and ownership we believe that national empowerment is not an option but indeed a right.
Let me take this opportunity to congratulate those persons involved in Tourism at all levels who have made Anguilla a premier destination and encourage all of you during this week to reflect on what needs to be done to take us to even greater levels of quality service and ownership in this the main vehicle of our national development. With these brief comments I now take great pleasure in declaring this Tourism week open
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