On Her Majesty’s (Not Quite) Secret Service
Anguilla’s Governor, Her Excellency, Christina Scott talks about her new role, the island’s potential and her Anguilla experiences to date.
Have you gotten used to the title of Governor?
It has taken time, but I am getting used to the formal title and the responsibilities that come with it. It’s a great privilege.
Do you find the responsibilities daunting?
Not at all! It is a big job, and an important one that matters to a lot of people here in Anguilla. It’s a job I am qualified for because I have the relevant experience. It’s a challenge, but also a personal development opportunity.
What are some of the key things you hope to accomplish during your tenure?
The key thing and I think that all the Ministers share this, is revitalizing the economy: job opportunities for young people, income for the government. The economic downturn led to lower revenues for the government, and that has implications in terms of public services, how schools are funded, and how health care is funded. My priority is to do what I can to work with the elected government here to help them come up with options and plans to improve those situations.
How is that going?
I see encouraging signs. Our tourist figures this year have been very good, so that’s an encouraging sign. I also see the number of developments that are coming on stream: Malliouhana, the Reef at CuisinArt. They’re both really important projects. Zemi Beach is moving along quite well, and other projects are happening on the island. I think that this gives reason for some cautious optimism that the economy is picking up, and investors are beginning to think that now is the right time to start reinvesting in these sorts on high-end tourist products. That is very important, so we need to make sure that we are making ourselves open for business, doing the right things to entice the right kinds of investors. We need to have the right kind of stable economy but also a stable judicial system and a stable society that makes people want to come and put their money in Anguilla.
What are the main challenges for accomplishing these things?
I’ve promised myself three months to listen and understand a bit, not rushing to any conclusions. I don’t want to judge what the next few years will be until I feel like I’ve really got Anguilla under my skin, and I’m not quite sure I’m there yet. The working relationship with the Ministers has been constructive, and the reception I’ve had from the public service and the wider society has been warm and positive. A lot of people in all parts of the system are passionate about improving things for Anguilla, and I want to harness their passion and skills in a way that delivers.
How’s your Anguilla experience been so far?
I’ve loved getting out and meeting people. I did the district tour with the Assembly members, and I’ve been around all seven districts. I’ve gone to people’s homes, businesses and schools, and it has been great. I enjoy meeting people, and I like talking, whether it’s going to the prison and talking to the inmates or meeting Johnny Gumbs, who is 103 years old. That’s where you start to piece together the current that’s running through a country.
Prior to coming here, had you heard much about Anguilla, and how is it to actually be here compared to hearing about it?
I talked to lots of people before I came out. I met with the Chief Minister several times. Also, a number of the Ministers have been through London; I was here for a few days in May to speak with my predecessor. I’ve read everything on the internet. I’ve also been reading the Anguillian Newspaper for about a year now, and it’s nice to finally come here and meet everybody. I’ve spoken to persons in Slough and people in London like Dorothea Hodge, the Anguilla representative, and Blondel Cluff, who runs The West India Committee. Their ideas have been developed in my time here.
You hear about the warmth of the people, and then you get here and find out that it’s true. That is really great.
Have you been out exploring on your own?
All over. It is very important to understand the real tourist offer, so on the weekends, I try to do something. I went snorkeling for the first time – that’s probably the most touristy thing I’ve done. I did go sailing on Tradition to Prickly Pear. That was amazing. It was such a classic experience, and they are so good at telling the story of the sloop and what it’s been used for. I saw a bit of Carnival, went out and watched J’ouvert morning, and was lucky enough to follow one of the boat races out on a police boat.
I also want to do the things that Anguillians do. The best thing I’ve done so far is join the National Trust on their turtle watch. We went down to one of the quiet beaches on the north side and saw turtles laying their eggs. What an amazing experience.
Well, I suppose having my photograph taken in the supermarket [laughs]. People came up to me and had a chat; then, they asked for a photograph. I didn’t mind it.
Maybe I should say being mentioned in a calypso song during Carnival…that was interesting. The song was about the lack of women in government. Then, it mentions that there is now a female Governor in Anguilla. I felt a bit safe, because the song wasn’t specifically about me…maybe next year they’ll write one [laughs].
Interesting things about local culture?
It’s the first time I’ve been to the Caribbean, so everything is new to me. The things I really enjoy are those that reveal the culture: the South Valley community fair, going to Anacaona [Hotel] and seeing the Mayoumba dancers, talking with people at church or watching the Brownies and Girl Guides in their uniforms. They’ve all taught me about the community.
Anguilla is known for the culinary experience. How do you find the food so far?
I usually don’t have much time to eat out, but my favourite experience so far was going to On da Rocks. They didn’t have any crayfish, but Timmy rang up the fisherman, and we waited for twenty minutes, saw the boat come in, watched them unload the crayfish, and twenty minutes later, they were on our plate. That’s the sort of experience that you can get in only Anguilla. You couldn’t get fresher crayfish than that.
Are you a sea lover?
I love the sea. I’m not used to beaches nearly as beautiful as Anguilla’s. Growing up, my memories of the sea were of sitting in the car while it rained, overlooking the beachfront, and eating sandwiches in the back of the car [laughs]. Most British people share that experience.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I am pleased to carry the responsibility of this new role. I’m not always going to get it right, but I’m keen to learn about Anguilla and not rush to any judgment. It’s my absolute priority to work with people here and listen to what they want for their country, and I will need continued dialogue; if people continue to let me know when I’m doing things well and also when I’m not doing things well, then I can know where I need to improve so that we can move Anguilla back in the right direction.