Prime Minister Gaston Browne listed the achievements of his Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) since coming to office in 2014. His statement comes as the country prepares for general election that is likely to be called ahead of the constitutional deadline of June 2023.
During an address at the convention on Sunday, Prime Minister Browne said that his government spent millions of dollars to advance education, health care, and housing, in addition to providing duty- and tax-free exemptions.
“I am honoured to lead the ABLP, the strongest political organisation in this hemisphere,” said Browne, who has repeatedly asked supporters to be ready for a general election.
He informed cheering supporters that the government has offered student grants totalling more than EC$240 million for preschool to university education.
Other expenditures on education included the development of the majority of secondary school facilities and the building of the fourth landed campus of the University of the West Indies at Five Islands, which he referred to as the crown gem of the country’s education system.
Browne stated that significant sums of money had been spent on improving and expanding the health care infrastructure. With more than EC$300 million spent on over 1,000 subsidised homes and more than EC$250 million in duty-free and tax waivers to facilitate car ownership, home ownership, and capital purchases for small business growth.
The ABLP, which won 15 of the 17 seats in the Parliament in the 2018 general election, endorsed its slate of candidates on Sunday, with the chairman of a Suitability Committee, Hilroy Humphreys, telling supporters that the incumbent Member of Parliament for St. Peter’s, Asot Michael, was deemed unsuitable by two of the panel’s three members.
Humphreys noted that the committee’s authority was limited to making recommendations, leaving the final selection of candidates to the convention.
Foreign Affairs Minister and ABLP Chairman E. P. Chet Greene stated in his speech that the party’s record of accomplishments over the previous eight years demonstrates its viability.
“We enacted measures to keep our economy afloat and to continue paying government employees and pensions, despite the fact that the economy had shrunk by more than 20 percent and the government had little or no money. We battled hard to ensure that at least one member every home was compensated,” he explained.
According to Greene, people are now back at work, hotels have reopened, and the country’s entry points are buzzing.
“It is undeniable that our economy is rebounding back, despite the blows inflicted by COVID-19, and only because the government of our great ABLP once again stood to the challenge of safeguarding our nation’s economy and ensuring the welfare of our people,” he continued.
The principal competitor of the ABLP will be the United Progressive Party, which gained one seat in the 2018 election.