As Antigua and Barbuda celebrates our 40th anniversary of political independence, we are duty bound to pause to reflect on our developmental journey. Where are we, as a people and nation, and what can we celebrate? Where is our nation heading?
At the stroke of midnight on November 1st, 1981 at the Antigua Recreation Grounds, Antiguans and Barbudans stood tall and proud as the union jack was lowered and our flag was hoisted, signaling our newly minted status as an independent country in the comity of nations. We were filled with unbridled optimism as we recited our motto, “Each endeavouring, all achieving”, which represented the promise of a people forging forward together in unity of purpose towards self-determination.
Forty years later we must ask ourselves whether those lofty development plans have been fulfilled? Whether the aspirations of our people have been achieved? Whether we have been true to our motto and have lived the words so eloquently expressed in our national anthem? On fair and balanced review, the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), concludes that Antigua and Barbuda ought to have been further along developmentally, that our people’s dreams have been largely unrealized, our economy remains overly dependent on tourism and our governments have failed to create the enabling and sustainable environment in which creativity and innovation can thrive particularly among our youth. Sadly, decade after decade, we witness the escalating brain drain occasioned by the fact that our college graduates are unable secure employment upon returning home which continues to impede and stymie our development as a nation.
Infrastructurally, we can boast of the construction of Redcliffe and Heritage Quays, Hotel construction along Dickenson Bay, Indian Creek, Mamora Bay, Old Road, Jolly Harbour, the VC Bird International Airport, the Government Office Complex, the Ports where yachts dock, the Sir Lester Bird MSJMC, the Cancer Center, the UWI Five Islands Campus, Nelson’s Dockyard, the Sir George Walter Highway and Friar’s Hill Road, and the PLH Project in Barbuda. Yet, the masses remain impoverished, our schools and majority of our community clinics are relics of the 20th century, our public servants are more demoralized than they have ever been. What is certain is that we cannot continue on this downward trajectory!
Forty years later, government continues to struggle to provide reliable, basic services to our citizens and residents. These include electricity and water services, a well maintained road network, properly resourced community health care services particularly in rural communities, sustained environmental health services, street lighting facilities, modern school plants, a sense of safety and security in our country, a well-equipped national sporting complex.
As we move forward as a nation, we need a revolutionary collective change in attitude; discipline, productivity, efficiency, commitment and the determination to redesign a robust, diverse and all-inclusive economy. We invite our people at home and in the Diaspora to imagine an Antigua and Barbuda where true democracy thrives and is seen at all levels of leadership and decision making. Further, to envision a revolutionized educational system designed to meet the development aspirations of our people and our country, a buoyant private sector capable of offering sustained employment to our people, the preservation of our patrimony for future generations, and regular public consultations designed to achieve the long overdue Constitutional reform fashioned by the people.
The DNA is committed to leading the renaissance for a new Antigua and Barbuda underpinned by the principles of transformational leadership and where the diversification of our economy, the redevelopment of our communities and the repositioning of our society are at the epicenter of this new vision!
We can do this!
Happy 40th Independence Antigua and Barbuda!