Manifesto Highlights: Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party stresses on workings of government since 2014
Manifesto Highlights: Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party stresses on workings of government since 2014

Antigua and Barbuda: The Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) has launched its manifesto 2023 this week. The manifesto informed the general public about the working of the administration, along with its future plans for the growth and development of the nation and its people.

While sharing about the workings of the ABLP government, the manifesto informed that the ABLP government came into office in 2014, confronting three severe economic challenges, among others left by the UPP administration. No government before the present ABLP administration had to overcome three massive economic issues concurrently. These were: Fiscal failure with a significant fiscal gap and high loan delinquency; economic contraction of 25 percent; and banking failure, requiring $300 million of taxpayers’ monies to save customer deposits.

According to the manifesto launched by the political party, ABLP fixed the banking failure and strengthened the banking system. The Antigua and Barbuda Investment Bank failed, placing at risk the banking system in Antigua and Barbuda and the system in the entire Eastern Caribbean Currency Union to which our country is linked. Further, three hundred million dollars ($300 million) of life savings by Antiguans and Barbadians were threatened.

It further blamed the opposition and stated that this was entirely due to UPP policies, including poor regulation supervision; its own over-borrowing from the local banks; cronyism; and its inability to pay its debts. The ABLP government intervened, saved the banking system, and established machinery for guaranteed payments of the savings of Antiguans and Barbadians through the creation of the deposit protection trust.

The Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party said that the ABLP administration acquired almost 80 percent of the shares of the Caribbean Union Bank to save it from collapse. Currently, the bank is profitable and is one of the best-capitalized banks in the region. These achievements are entire to the banking and financial experience of ABLP Leader Gaston Browne, who had the knowledge and expertise to devise the mechanisms to save the situation.

The manifesto further read, “Subsequently, when in an unrelated development, two foreign banks Bank of Nova Scotia and the Royal Bank of Canada – sought to sell their lucrative financial operations in Antigua and Barbuda to foreign enterprises, the ABLP government, at the insistence of its leader, Gaston Browne, intervened to demand that these bank branches, built in Antigua and Barbuda, on money generated in this country, should be sold to local banks.”

While informing about the current situation, the manifesto read that the two local banks – Antigua Commercial Bank and the Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank that were encouraged to purchase the Canadian operations are strong and healthy, and the banking system is secure. The savings of Antiguans and Barbadians have enlarged and are safe under better-capitalized banks and rebus, supervision and regulation.

It then mentioned that ABLP Fixed the UPP fiscal failure. The government of ABLP outlined that in 2014 the ABLP inherited from the UPP and its Finance Minister. Harold Lovell, a bankrupt government unable to pay its debts, including monies owed for the supply of water, oil and electricity that were about to be cut off by the suppliers, Sembcorp, West Indies Oil Company (WIOC) and Antigua Power Company (APC), respectively. There were even occasions when APC would Initiate blackouts to force payments by a then bankrupt APUA. Antigua and Barbuda was facing a grave crisis for all of its people. The unpaid debts amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars with little prospect of any further borrowing, including from the IMF.

“Not only did the ABLP resolve this huge debt crisis, but it also successfully purchased the WIOC situation, operations and all its lands in a place of financial wizardry and partnerships that transformed the resulting in the people of Antigua and Barbuda owning all the land and the controlling shares of the company. WIOC is a significant contributor to the revenues of the State, not only by its payment of taxes on its profits but also by the dividends which the government earns from its Investment,” the manifesto of ABLP stated.

ABLP further said that even the IMF debt incurred by the UPP was delinquent. The ABLP government paid off the debt earlier than scheduled, freeing the people of Antigua and Barbuda of the harsh conditions that the IMF had imposed.