Saturday, 25 February 2012 02:30
By Colin Sampson
Antigua St John's - “It’s like being in a tunnel with no light.” That is how Barbudan businessman and political activist Lindy Burton describes the current state of affairs on the sister isle.
Barbuda, Burton said, is “gone”. Referring to the Barbuda Council as “a lost cause,” he referenced a laundry list of woes (lack of unity; a failed economy; non-existent tourism; the absence of proper docking facilities; the awful environmental and economic rape called sand-mining; and inadequate sea and air links).
Characterizing the island as being “caught in a downward spiral,” Burton laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of the members of the Barbuda Council - past and present. The Council, he insisted, is non-functional to the point of being an embarrassment to the island.
Burton made his comments on the Colin Sampson Show. Readers may visit the Caribarena.com video archive to hear the complete discussion.
It is not that Barbuda does not boast people who have the potential to do a better job of running the island than the current crop of Council members.
Burton maintained that the island is actually rich in capabilities and skills, both at home and abroad. In his considered view, however, as long as the leadership of the Barbuda Council remains in the hands of a particular clique, Barbuda will continue to spiral down its long, lightless tunnel.
It is for this reason that, in the face of so much historical mismanagement by the Council, Lindy Burton is calling for an end to the continual recycling of the same failed Council membership. He wants the pool of talent widened to include younger Barbudans who can make a better contribution to the island’s development.
Burton believes that Barbuda’s condition represents a case of “the blind leading the blind. He noted that the recently resurfaced roads (some never completed) are deteriorating because of lack of maintenance. In the meantime, fishing vessels cannot access the vaunted fishing facilities so foolishly sited in the lagoon, because the draft there is too shallow.
As things stand at present, with the Council itself wracked with internal problems, 90 percent of the workforce is unproductive, opportunities in small farming are being ignored, and the small business sector is languishing from neglect of the economy.
So desperate is the Barbuda Council for revenue, Burton reported, that it has resorted to re-mining areas already mined for sand. Coastal areas already mined have been so deeply excavated that for any construction to be done, Barbuda would have to import rocks and stone.
At this point, Burton paused to reflect with wry regret over the incongruous and tragic picture of Barbuda, having exported so much sand for so little benefit, and being forced to import rocks to save itself from physical decline.
At the same time, products that Barbuda used to export are being imported. An extensive coconut plantation has fallen into ruin.
As further evidence of the Council’s drift, Burton noted that a lawless attitude has developed to the utilization of land for home building.
He pointed out that if unchecked, this uncontrolled development has the potential to interfere with plans for future rational development of the island’s patrimony.
In the meanwhile, all regulatory activity has ceased. The place, he said, has become a free-for-all. All ruminants have practically died out, and fisher-folk have openly resorted to the illegal and environmentally damaging practice of using chlorine bleach on the reefs for a quick and easy catch.
Burton also made a strong case for changes to the land-holding laws on Barbuda. He identified the inability to sell land outright to investors as the greatest hindrance to economic development on the island. He also wants to see agriculture rise, and sees freehold ownership as one way to empower farmers.
Calling the Barbuda Council “a mess from its inception,” Burton supported Senators Mckenzie Frank and Arthur Nibbs in promoting urgent reform of the Barbuda Local Government Act. “Who will advance the change agenda?” he asked. As if in reply to his own question, he said, “Barbuda is not sleeping it is the Council that is asleep.”