Despite convening the Economic Recovery Committee (ERC), Gaston Browne has failed to lay out a viable economic plan. This concern was captured in UPP Leader, Harold Lovell’s Pre-Election Address, where he made the following remarks:
Like most countries, the presence of the global pandemic was felt in Antigua and Barbuda, where lives, jobs and opportunities were lost. But the Browne Administration was still financially better off than any administration before it, in Antigua and Barbuda, even in their boom years. That is a fact that the Prime Minister, himself, has stated and documented in the 2021 and 2022 Budget Statements. Browne claims that tax revenues still yielded high returns and CIP still made significant money. At the same time documents show that borrowings still continued without let-up.
After collecting $11 BILLION in total revenue, including over $2 BILLION from the CIP, and after enjoying, on average, $300 million MORE, per year, in revenue than the UPP collected, It is unjustifiable that in 2023, after more than EIGHT years of supposed prosperity, the people of Antigua and Barbuda still living struggling to make ends meet.
During the worst of times during the pandemic, there was no stimulus no relief and over 1,000 small and micro businesses went under, further weakening the safety net of Social Security.
Interestingly, other Caribbean islands introduced various relief and recovery measures. Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and St. Kitts implemented several of the very measures that the UPP recommended to bring relief to our people.
• Stabilizing the prices of fuel.
• Lowering the fuel-variation charge on electricity.
• Intervening at Customs to remove or reduce taxes on common food items.
These ideas and recommendations put forward by United Progressive Party were virtually ignored. However, as the election date approached, Prime Minister has offered indiscriminate write-offs that, essentially, penalize those who have played by the rules and sacrificed to pay their bills.
Further, Browne has been borrowing to pay salary increases and is trying to convince the electorate that this is feasible and sustainable. Many see the write-offs at Inland Revenue, APUA and the hospital are “largesse” handed out by a government that – all of a sudden – cares about the people.