For a little island, Anguilla sure has a big history. After what seems to be the standard beginning of just about any American (North, Central or South) country's history (Amerindians, in this case Arawaks and Caribs, followed by the usual "Christopher Columbus slept here" and so forth), we enter the colony period.
The story again is common...
English from Saint Kitts colonized it, circa 1650. If they weren't under attack from Indians, they were under attack from the French, probably other European explorers (they all seem to enjoy plundering!).
By 1667, though, Anguilla history stabilizes with the Treaty of Breda. (Don't worry, this gets much more interesting soon!) Anguilla is in British hands from now on. It didn't stop France from giving a few more attacks the good old college try, but they failed.
Anguilla is administered by the British Government through Antigua. They tried slavery-based plantations, but the soil was too poor. Good thing, too. If you visit other Caribbean countries (most are rainy, fertile, mountainous), you still see plantations. They are a reminder of the brutal slavery existence.
Visitors often notice that Anguilla has very little racial tension. Some historians believe it's because slavery was almost non-existent compared to the others.
Britain places Anguilla under administrative control of St. Kitts. Anguillians resent this, St. Kitts being unaware and uninterested in the needs of Anguillians. The seeds are sown.
The Emancipation Act of 1833 abolishes slavery (which officially ended in 1838). The few plantation owners, who had already given much land to the slaves due to the low yield, give or sell the rest and return to Britain.
Anguillians suffers greatly under the St. Kitts arrangement. Anguillians become impoverished due to self-interest of St. Kitts. Anguillians become increasingly discontent, requesting direct relationship with Britain, which went unheeded.
Tensions mount between Anguilla and St. Kitts. Threats made by the eccentric, destructive Chief Minister of St. Kitts, Robert Bradshaw. Matters are coming to a boiling point as Anguilla continues to lead a subsistence existence, living off meagre farming and fishing (prior industries (ex., salt, cotton)
Britain grants Saint Kitts-Nevis full internal autonomy ("Associated State"), with Anguilla incorporated into the new dependency, ignoring the hostility between impoverished Anguilla and the people of St. Kitts, which ran the show.
Anguillians protest this new incorporation, which represented now-official and certain future deepening of their poverty... no paved roads, no industry, no electricity, no pipe-borne water, no telephones and no port.
Anguillians expel the 15-man St. Kitts-directed police force, demand direct links with Britain.
Referendum on Anguilla's secession is held. 1,813 votes for secession, 5 against. Peter Adams President of first legislative council. He is deposed when he agrees to take Anguilla back to St. Kitts, replaced by Ronald Webster
One-year agreement negotiated. British official (Tony Lee) exercises basic administrative authority, along with the Anguilla Council
No conclusive agreement reached on island's governance. "the Anguillians ceremoniously usher Lee off the island" (Time Magazine).
Second referendum yields a vote of 1,739 to 4 against remaining in association with Saint Kitts. Anguilla declares itself an independent republic, Ronald Webster as President.
British envoy (William Whitlock) arrives in Anguilla with a proposal for a new interim British administration. By all accounts, he is prepared to offer what Anguilla had requested in 1967, but also wants a new and indefinite administration by the Britain.
His arrogant conduct on the island is described in many accounts... delivering curt speeches, throwing leaflets at crowds, snubbing local head of government. William Whitlock and the rest of the delegation are forced out Anguilla by end of day.
Britain invades Anguilla ((population of 6,080, 35 square miles) with 2 British frigates and 100-300 troops (estimates vary), including the crack "Red Devils" of the 16th Parachute Brigade ("Operation Sheepskin"). Automatic weapons at the ready, most Anguillians were just waking up.
The mighty military force is met by a few children and journalists (the invasion was expected). Demonstrations followed. Not a shot was fired in anger.
World press heaps scorn on Britain, calling it the "Bay of Piglets." Time calls Britain "the world's Keystone cops."
Other good coverage of the invasion...
One war correspondent cables Fleet Street from the "battlefield"...
"I say, chaps, the natives are friendly."
The invasion turns out to be tremendously successful... for the Anguillians.
Britain had given Anguilla what it needed most, a world stage. Anguillians welcome the exposure and the resulting direct talks with the embarrassed British Government. For once, Anguillian needs would be heard.
Click here for a charming story from this time told by British officer Taff Bowen (AKA "Dickiebo").
Most troops leave. Army engineers improve public works. Relationship between troops and Anguillians is a happy one. Britain had never understood that Anguilla did not consider them the enemy. Anguilla merely needed liberation from St. Kitts.
Prime Minister Edward Heath's Conservative government concludes that colonial status (independent of St. Kitts) for an unspecified period was the best course for Anguilla. The Bill is quietly passed in the British Commons to make Anguilla a direct colony.
Peace is restored. Negotiations continue towards greater independence.
Britain agrees to allows Anguilla to become a separate British Dependent Territory (what is today called a "British Overseas Territory."
Anguilla has a Westminster-style system of government with a British Governor, an Executive Council and an elected House of Assembly.
Tourism is introduced to the island.
The first luxury hotels changed the economy forever, creating employment in construction and tourism.
Anguilla enjoys increasing prosperity as a little-known-but-beloved destination for high-end tourists, including many billionaires, entertainment stars and other celebrities, yet also accommodating a wider market with a variety of inns, villas, hotels and other accommodations.
Recession begins. It reaches "emergency status" in Sept-Oct, 2008, with a massive credit crunch that threatened the world's financial system.
Nations around the world poured trillions of dollars to bail out large banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions to prevent such a collapse.
Bad governance by major countries had permitted fraudulent practices such as sub-prime loans. Warnings to this effect had been ignored.
The "little guy" is made to pay for those practices. I'm not only referring to the middle class people of the developed nations, but the little countries like Anguilla that did not cause the problem. We just pay the price...
High-end tourism drops and business investment in Anguilla dries up.
During the 2008-2009 winter, Anguilla was the hardest hit of all the Caribbean islands (approximately 20-25% drop in tourist dollars according to the Eastern Caribbean Bank - likely due to high net worth individuals suffering losses in net worth, income and jobs).
All major developments stop. Unemployment jumps. Anguilla has no social network to support them. Anguillians are a resourceful people, often running one business (or more) while holding a job. But the depth and severity of this impact has pushed many to the brink, all due to the drop in tourism and construction...
Tourist income stabilizes, but at levels that are still well below the record years of 2006 and 2007. Major projects under development remained halted.
The combination of increased expenses (built up during Anguilla's boom years), combined with a dramatic drop in income by Anguilla, results in large deficit budgets.
Tourism and development, both so critical to Anguilla's future, continue at low levels until the rebound begins in December, 2010. We pick the timeline up...
New government, the Anguilla United Movement, unseats the previous one, the Anguilla United Front. It's hard to stay in power in a recession. Corruption rumors abound - no proof is ever uncovered, but these played a role in the change of government.
By the time elections were held on the 15th February, the recurrent deficit or shortfall had risen to EC$89,000.000 with an accumulated deficit of EC$200,000,000 (including the depletion of EC$40,000,000 reserve).
The new government presents an emergency budget (previous government had not delivered a budget prior to the election). It was rejected by the British Government because it was a deficit budget, despite the fact that...
The government theoretically shuts down if a budget is not approved by April 30 of any given year. Emergency meetings with the British Governor extend that date to June 30.
The second budget attempt, presented at the end of June is accepted by Britain, including authorization by Britain for Anguilla to borrow $50,000,000. This, too, was a deficit budget. The British Minister also gives Anguilla 3 years to balance its budget at this time.
Starwood Capital Group buys the US$300,000,000 mortgage from Citigroup Inc. for approximately US$100,000,000. This rescues Viceroy, which was the only major development to reach completion, but which is now financially insolvent.
This guarantees current and increased employment. The sale will add approximately EC$10,000,000 in taxes to Anguilla's coffers. And occupancy taxes will add more.
Viceroy Anguilla currently leads the way in Anguilla's current resurgence. After a tentative opening and ramp up during the 2009-2010 winter, including several problems, Viceroy Anguilla is at near-100% occupancy. It is primed to have a banner 2010-2011 season.
Viceroy extends the market reach of Anguilla and generated tremendous publicity for the island (has become a celebrity haven). The higher end of the travel market is more secure in their jobs and with their investments in an economy that appears to be stabilizing.
This combination of events is resulting in a strong return of tourists. Release of statistics for the Christmas/New Years period should show that Anguilla is close to pre-recession levels. Going forward through 2011, hotels and villas are booked at high-occupancy rates through to April-May. Early indications show promising signs that summer bookings will be strong.
The financial importance of bringing a major new development on-stream, fully functional, is obvious.
Two other major developments are coming back on-stream, with similar acquisition of debt...
1) December 15, 2011 - The Temenos project
Completion of the Temenos deal by Cypress Equities is subject to government negotiations to revise the development plans. To quote a Cypress representative...
"The biggest thing that needs to be accomplished is the negotiation of the memorandum of understanding with the government of Anguilla, which is going on right now."
2) January 10, 2011 - Jumeirah/Nicklaus Jumeirah, the Dubai-based luxury hotel group and member of Dubai Holding, has signed a management agreement to operate a luxury resort hotel and residences, together with a golf course to be designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus.
Both developments have Viceroy-level potential impact.
Smaller projects are being announced. For example, Solaire has broken ground. And, in terms of large-scale projects, Malliouhana is near completion (set to open November 2014).
Anguilla's future looks bright.
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