House of Assembly – Leader of the Opposition standing and Chief Minister directly opposite (seated).
ANGUILLA–The Anguilla House of Assembly met on Friday afternoon, September 14. The agenda covered verbal and written responses to questions submitted prior to the Assembly Meeting by Leader of the Opposition, Palmavon Webster to Chief Minister and Minister of Finance, Victor Banks, as well as the vote on three Motions and six Bills. Due to prolonged and lively discussions throughout the proceedings which went on for five hours, it was agreed that the parliamentary session would adjourn and reconvene on Friday, September 28, to address the remaining business.
In the question section of the meeting, Opposition Leader Webster asked Chief Minister Banks a series of questions relating to the Anguilla Residency by Investment (ARBI) programme. She aired concerns about the programme and its implications in regard to the local economy, land ownership and society in general. She questioned the due diligence process and the Fast Track Period that was proposed. She asked if lands had been already earmarked for the programme; how the government would allay fears of Anguillians who believe their dream of owning land and building homes/starting families may be lost as a result of ARBI; the number of further public consultations to be held prior to implementation of ARBI; and steps to be taken to ensure reduction of unproductive expenditure of the revenue generated through ARBI.
Banks said the fast track relaxed period would be for six months and that any non-belonger currently a legal owner of property in Anguilla valued at the minimum requirement of US $ 750,000 could apply for ARBI. He explained that this was a gesture of appreciation for persons who had qualified for the programme by virtue of their existing investment.
Banks said lands for the programme had not been earmarked and investment would be based on available real estate that falls within the criteria. The programme is designed to assist the existing real estate market. He stressed that the ARBI fast track process is for those property owners who already meet the investment criteria, and that monies paid into the Capital Development fund would place Anguillians in a better financial position to realise their dreams. He said there would be at least one additional consultation meeting with the public prior to the first phase.
In reply to the question concerning how government planned to reduce expenditure, Banks said government continued to employ measures in an attempt to reduce expenditures, such as restricting personnel emoluments so they don’t exceed 45 per cent within the given year, and a freeze on hiring with a few exceptions such as government leasing. His response was challenged by Webster, who stated numerous other areas such as rental vehicles, building demolition pay-outs and retirement benefits that should be looked at for possible expenditure restrictions, and indicated that she intended to provide a formal list of these areas to the House.
Webster also asked questions relating to the closure of the Anguilla branch of the CIBC First Caribbean Bank effective January 31, 2019. Banks based his responses on the press release that by then everyone had seen and understood. He said the bank was dealing with customers’ support and concerns.
Three motions were presented, discussed and approved. They included a duty exemption for goods that support the Madroka Anguilla Lottery operation. The second motion authorised the Minister of Finance to borrow, on behalf of the government of Anguilla, an amount of EC $25,110,000 to convert the short-term facilities at National Caribbean Bank of Anguilla and Eastern Caribbean Central Bank to a long-term loan in order to restore fiscal stability and build resilience. The third was that a committee be formed to consider support to the elderly and incapacitated persons, those to whom the nation is indebted for its national heroes and other persons who have made an exceptional contribution to the nation. Lastly, after much debate, the Bill for International Business Companies, (Amendment) Act, 2018, was passed and will go forward along with the Bill for Insurance (Amendment) (No. 2) Act, 2018.