Its election time here in the sunny twin island state of Antigua and Barbuda. We are only days away. Tensions on the island are flaring. From the incessant booming of loudspeakers with the parties vying for our attention to politicians dueling to restore their bruised egos. Everyone has a heated opinion about what the future of Antigua and Barbuda may hold. What will our country become? How much more will we tolerate? How can we make our nation more suitable for these modern timelines? Will we sit back on the veranda and complain to our neighbor, or will we be active participants in ensuring that Antigua benefits Antiguans? Don’t let these last minute construction projects and free fetes distract you . Here are 7 Things we should remember when casting our vote on January 18th. The future of Antigua is in the hands of the people, no matter what.
You wake up on any given morning and try to flush your toilet only to realize that there is no water to take your waste down. You turn the faucet to take your evening bath after a long day at work and the dry squeak of nothingness sends you into a disappointed rage. Now you must go out in the dark of night and collect water from your tank, or even worse, go get water from your neighbor. At the start of the month, you get a bill from APUA prompting you to pay for water that was never supplied.
The problem of inconsistent water supply has plagued our nation for generations. In the modern age of 2023, this is unacceptable. Especially when all the big hotels rarely experience water shortages. How is it that visitors are more deserving of water than the actual citizens that live here? It is the indigent persons of this nation that bear this burden the most harshly. Millions of dollars have been spent building water plants, but who benefits from those investments? Where are the millions of gallons of water going? So as long as the rich can bathe, the poor can wash with spit and tears. All of the money that is spent on taxes and its still not enough to provide a consistent flow of running for every paying household. Enough with the lies, deflections, and excuses. Water is essential to life. It is an act of violence and neglect to supply water to some and not for all.
Let’s challenge our elected officials and hold them accountable to their word. We can and must do better at making sure that every household has a continuous supply of water. Every other day is not an emergency that calls for people to use their water reserves. Do not believe for one second that providing adequate water supply is too tall of a request when you pay taxes. Demand solutions. Stop accepting abuse and disrespect just because we have been abused and disrespected for so long.
Water is life. Any so-called leader who is willing to deny its citizens access to this most basic element cares nothing about the preservation of life.
- Cost of Living
The cost of living has increased exponentially since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic. This is a global reality. The price for goods rises monthly and many households are scraping by. Economic hardship is a breeding ground for crime and a plethora of other issues. While it may seem as though small Caribbean nations such as Antigua and Barbuda are at the mercy of large countries such the United States and the United Kingdom, there are ways we can drive down our costs with creative innovation. Antigua does import most of its goods, and inflation has certainly impacted prices, however, many businesses use this as an opportunity to price gouge copiously. Things like clothing, footwear, furniture, baby accessories, and basic household items are way overpriced even when considering shipping and clearing costs.
Food prices rise on a weekly basis. The price of eggs, milk, bread –the most essential pantry staples have gone up drastically. What strategies will elected officials implement to keep these food prices reasonable?
Regulation of prices on these types of goods can and should be implemented to help drive down cost of living. The price gouging is obscene.
If the government has the power to waive the electricity bill for homes and businesses for a Christmas light competition, then surely policy can be made to reduce utility bills for homes and businesses otherwise. This can benefit people long term. Christmas Light competitions are cute, at best, but don’t benefit residents of our nation in a real way.
The UPP party has claimed that the high cost of living is something they will prioritize if elected. Hopefully this not another empty ploy to gain power, but it is worth considering. Whoever is elected to lead this country should have a plan to address this issue, otherwise it could transform into larger issues that could negatively impact our economy. Surely, we would rather have people who can live without the pressures of making ends meet than a country riddled with crime because too many can’t afford to live. Choose leaders who understand how taxing the current cost of living is. Elect officials who will use their power to create sustainable strategies to ease the burden off our hard-earned income.
- Lack of Opportunities for Youth
Our youth deserve to be invested in. In fact, we could greatly benefit in investing in our youth. The return on such an investment would be invaluable. Why is our youth constantly neglected? The future of this nation quite literally depends on the next generation. While both the ABLP and UPP have taken aims to engage our nation’s youth, it is clearly not enough.
The youth need programming and recreation that will prepare them to be successful in the modern world. Gone are the days where the youth are just bodies of a labor to fuel the tourism industry and public sector. The government needs to invest in programs that will teach skills such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). We live in a world that is moving rapidly due to technological advancements, our youth should not be left behind in this. We need programs that will empower our youth with financial literacy, business management, and trades. A highly knowledgeable and skilled work force is a mark of civilized and fruitful society. We need a future of skilled, competent people. A future generation that is well equipped to function in a fast paced, high tech world. A world where entrepreneurship is essential to survival. There needs to be better outreach to engage youth in every district and parish.
The youth are bored. Their hands are idle.
Perhaps a youth division in parliament. This could help amplify the needs of this very important demographic and should be considered. The voice of the youth demands to be heard. The future of this nation depends on it. Choose leaders who know the value of our youth.
- Violence Against Women and Children
Crimes of a sexual nature runs rampant in our country. In the year 2022 alone, there were at least a dozen reports of rape or sexual assault. How many incidences go unreported? The alleged perpetrators range from big politician man to bus drivers, down to teenage boys. Some of these rapists are getting a slap on the wrist for committing such heinous acts. Nobody seems to care about the victims even when they are as young as five years old. What kind of wicked spell are we under for our country and culture to condone this predatory behavior. People will say “well, it happens in other places.” This is a gross deflection because we are talking about Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua needs a Sex Offender Registry immediately! It should not be up for debate. The only reason why a Sex Offender registry would be up for debate is due to the amount of people in high positions who would be found on that list.
This Registry needs to be a priority. Our women in children are in danger, because predators know that the law is in their favor. There is no negative reinforcement to curve sexual assault and the law is way too lenient when it comes to these crimes. The punishment for selling weed is heavier than the punishment for raping an innocent body. This is shameful. There is a notable culture of silence and deflection regarding these matters.
Calls have been made to address the prominence of sexual related crimes from youth advocates and instead of it being addressed, debates about semantics and legal jargon have taken place. Although these crimes are sensitive and must be investigated on a case by case, sexual assault needs to be dealt with the heaviest hand of justice. We demand a national sex offender registry, now! No more delays. We as a nation need to send a strong message to perpetrators of this category of violence. We have a culture of silence and victim blaming. Adults would rather blame the child for “seducing” a predator before we condemn the pedophile.
The (dis)Hon. Athill Dean Jonas made some questionable comments in 2020, arguing that we should be lenient in situations where a 12-year-old consents to sex with a 27-year-old. We didn’t forget what you said, sir. Absolutely deplorable. Children cannot consent to sex! These statements are coming from so called leaders. Women and children in Antigua cannot be safe while our leaders loosely express such dangerous sentiments. Rape and pedophilia apologists. There is a reason why these crimes are tolerated and we must say “no more”. Choose leaders who will protect the women and children who are prey to sexual crimes.
- Parks and Recreation
Antigua would be so much more beautiful if we had playgrounds and recreational green space. Our beaches are lovely and there is no match to nature’s landscape, however public recreational grounds could greatly enhance the allure of our island. Parks and recreational greenspace can add lots of value to our nation. It can increase real estate value, increase revenue for the country, and create jobs. What we consider the “botanical gardens” is truly an eye sore. If we invested in parks and recreational space in our communities, it could improve the health and well-being of our citizens. People would be encouraged to go out and exercise. Pet dogs could be walked safely. These spaces could also add more beauty in areas where beauty is needed. Those big, dry empty fields could use a makeover. Antigua is small, but there is still so much empty land and abandoned fields that could us some TLC in the form of an investment.
Play structures for childhood development, benches for eating and reading. Outdoor gyms. Spaces like these can increase community involvement and play a role in the development of our youth. It can promote our culture by providing space where we can showcase art, music, and theatre. Parks and recreation could greatly enhance our tourism product outside of hotels, making Antigua a place that Antiguans can also enjoy.
There should be a community center in each parish. Community centers that provide programming and enrichment for the youth and elderly. Community centers where people can access resources, information, and hold meetings with politicians.
Choose leaders who are willing to invest in recreational spaces because they fully understand how it can fortify our nation.
This election, we really can transform our nation. We need visionaries, not just managers who repeat strategies from decades before.
- Roads and Infrastructure
Not much to be said here. The roads are terrible. Why is it that only when election season is around the corner, the roads get any attention? Some of these roads are so bad, it is a public danger. Crabbe Hill on the south side of the island is horrific to drive on. Every vehicle that passes on that road is putting their life at risk. We need leaders who will take these issues serious. One fatality is too much and not worth the risk.
Vehicles take a serious beating when driving over and around the enormous potholes that take up massive real estate on our roads. Fix them not because you want power and votes, fix them because they are dangerous. The roads are just atrocious, and everybody knows it. The conditions of the roads contribute to the high cost of living because Antigua is densely populated with vehicles – vehicle owners spend extra dollars on maintenance.
The water and electricity supply systems as aforementioned are due for an upgrade. The number of times you find APUA workers fixing pipes in the road and the water situation does not improve. It is a waste of energy, because the root of the problem is not being addressed. Our systems of communication and commerce must be modernized. Antigua is decades behind and we have a lot of catching up to do.
August 8th, 2021 is a day that has gone down in history. The Antiguan government waged a war on the people exercising their right to peacefully protest. The police became violent and struck the first blow. Gatherers were peaceful and well within their right. Innocent children were maimed because of a cowardly government that disrespects democracy and freedom. Antigua is supposed to be a democratic nation. On that day, it was made clear that this ship is run by a dictator. A dictator who demands obedience or be met with the consequence of violence.
People were fighting for their right to CHOOSE what to put in their body. They were fighting for bodily autonomy. All over the globe, innocent people were forced to choose between getting a vaccine with unknown side effects or loosing their livelihoods and being treated as second class citizens. People lost jobs, people were locked inside their homes, prohibited from travel, the elderly were left in isolation, we were prohibited from gathering with our relatives. NEVR FORGET how hard they coerced and pushed the jab. Remember the curfews. Grown people being told they must tap home at 6pm. NEVER FORGET what humanity was put through. Lots of you were complicit and fell victim to the aggressive propaganda. Some of you did your part to treat other humans like rabid dogs for choosing not to put that mysterious serum into their bodies. This was a very nasty period in history, and the story is still unraveling and unraveling fast.
Now, less than two years later after the vaccines have been distributed, people are dying suddenly in droves, children are being diagnosed with myocarditis like never before. Thousands of people are reporting life altering injuries after taking the vaccine. Healthy, young athletes are dropping during games. More and more, we see that we have been lied to by doctors, “experts” and government officials. The atonement for these crimes against humanity will be steep.
The Antiguan government desecrated the trust of the people. The Antiguan government made a mockery of democracy and shattered our rights to peacefully protest. The Antiguan government implemented the strictest covid restrictions in the Caribbean region.
- Shady Foreign Affairs
Antigua has a quite a thick reputation for shady foreign affairs. This is a place where billionaires and millionaires come to play hide and seek. The Citizenship By Investment program in particular raises an eyebrow. No doubt, it has generated millions of dollars’ worth of income, but it doesn’t appear that the income is going back into the country. As outlined in the program, applicants have the option of investing in real estate, business, or the National Development Fund. In 2021, the Prime Minister has reported that the program had generated 46 million dollars in revenue. While this program is clearly bringing in an abundance of wealth, instead of re-investing that income to repair infrastructure, our leaders are feeding their own bank accounts and fattening their wallets.
The condition of the country is a direct reflection of its leadership. Like most Caribbean islands, Antigua is divided into two separate worlds. There is the laid back tropical paradise, lined with turquoise waters and beautiful flora. Then there is the humid hellscape, where the native local population struggles to make ends meet and work like slaves to fuel our tourism product.
Once upon a time, Antiguan passport holders enjoyed visa free access to Canada. Since the inception of the CBI program, that privilege was stripped away from us. Now, we must go through giant hurdles to travel to Canada.
International criminals like Mehul Choski and the like are enticed by the CIB program. Because wealthy people can just buy a citizenship, it’s a perfect hideout. It also weakens the leverage of our passport. Regular, Antiguans become a liability and our access to the global community gets restricted. Their win, our loss. We need a government that can ensure that Antiguans win, too. In politics, corruption is the order of the day. At the very least, ensure that the people get a piece of the loot.
This time, let’s hold our elected officials accountable. They serve us, not the other way around. Mek dem work! Let them prove they are worthy of our trust. Hold each and every one of them accountable. Do not be distracted by the concerts and the fetes. Do not be intimidated by the thuggery and arrogance exhibited by these ministers. Without the people, they have nothing. No more empty promises. As citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, we are just as responsible for what we tolerate and allow. Please remember that too. The complacency is at an all time high. While you keep these 7 things in mind, a great leader once said “ask not what your country can do for you, but what YOU can do for your country.” The choice is ours… our children, and grandchildren depend on it. CHOOSE WISELY.
With love for Antigua,
A concerned citizen.
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