Government and opposition differ on performance of economy as voters get ready to choose new government

 
 
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Mar 20, CMC – Prime Minister Gaston Browne says if his Antigua and Barbuda labour Party (ABLP) is returned to office in Wednesday’s general election he will seek to hold talks with the Paris Club as Antigua and Barbuda seeks to address a stock of loans dating back to 40 years.

Browne, speaking at a news conference where he announced that his administration Tuesday repaid fully, the US$117.8 million loan given to the island by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) nearly eight years ago, said that it was important for his party to be returned to office so as to ensure that the local economy is not destroyed.

In 2010, the Washington-based financial institution approved the multi-million dollar loan to the Antigua and Barbuda to support the government’s plan to recover from mounting government debt, weak economic growth, and the effects of the economic crisis.

Browne Lovell
Prime Minister and ABLP leader Gaston Browne (Left) and UPP leader Harold Lovell

Last September the country was refused a moratorium on the debt despite the natural disaster that destroyed over 90 per cent of Barbuda and incurred over US$150 million in reconstruction and recovery costs.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne, said then that St. John’s had only US$13 million outstanding and two weeks ago, the government made a payment of eight million US dollars to the IMF.

“I gave instructions…to the Ministry of Finance to liquidate the IMF loan on Tuesday. We are paying it off in full,” he said.

“It is to the credit of my government that we have been able to pay out over EC$300 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) a year in principle and interest payments without collapsing the economy and the fact that we have grown the economy consistently by five per cent per annum over the last three and three quarter years would have meant that we have really created an equilibrium within the economic system that clearly would have created enough cash flow to meet our obligations while at the same time growing the economy

“Generally speaking governments struggle to create that equilibrium much less to sustain it and that’s why it would make sense to maintain the present government because if you destroy that economic equilibrium I can guarantee you that the gains we have made during the last three and three quarter years will be reversed and we may find ourselves…where you will have a collapse economy, people losing their homes, cars, businesses being destroyed,” Browne told reporters.

But in an immediate response, the leader of the main opposition United progressive Party (UPP), Harold Lovell, a former finance minister, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that Browne’s argument “is a complete falsehood.

“It is a misguided view based on a false premise. During our term we experienced what is regarded as the worst global crisis known to mankind. During that period not only did we, as a tourism dependent country suffer a significant downturn in the tourism numbers but we also had the crash of (Allen) Stanford (the US billionaire now serving life imprisonment in the United states for operating  a Ponzi scheme).”

Lovell, who is leading the UPP into a general election for the first time, said that Stanford was the country’s largest private sector employer and “that very few countries would survive with their largest private sector employer going out of business literally overnight”.

Lovel also said the island suffered as a result of the crash of British American Insurance Company (BAICO), whose parent company, the Trinidad-based C L Financial had to receive billions of dollars in a bailout package by the Port of Spain government.

“British American held annuities valued at EC$288 million, Stanford impact on our economy was the equivalent of EC$454 million…but we were able to emerge in 2012 with the highest growth rate in the entire OECS,” Lovell added.

Browne told reporters that Antigua and Barbuda still has a “block of loans” the amount of which he did not disclose, that it has to address in the future.

He said the Paris Club loans that have been delinquent for over 40 years, “so in the new term we intend to engage the Paris Club with the hope that they can write off a part of the principle, at least some of the interest, if not all of it

“They have been resisting it but I think it is untenable for them to hold us responsible for 40 years of interest and we have been negotiating,” he said.

The Paris Club is an informal group of creditor nations that try to find appropriate solutions for payment problems experienced by countries that owe them money.

Browne said he has already indicated to the Paris Club that “we have nothing to lose (and) we expect them to cooperate.

“So I don’t see how we are going to prioritise paying those debts because when you prioritise these debts what it does it means you have less money to deal with your domestic obligations, less monies to pay salaries and wages…less money for infrastructure, less money for health care and education.

“The last thing I am going to do is allow any international organisation to burden us down with debt payment and to renegade on our domestic obligations,” he added.

Browne said it was necessarily important for citizens here to “protect the gains that we have made over the last three and three quarter years.”.

Browne called the general election more than a year ahead of the constitutional deadline saying he wanted to protect incoming projects valued at billions of dollars. But Lovell has insisted that the government had no choice but to face the electorate early because of the level of corruption and mismanagement of the economy.

In the 2014 general election, the ABLP won 14 of the 17 seats with the remainder going to the UPP.

Leave a Reply

Newsletter

Archives

by STAFF WRITER
 
 
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Mar 20, CMC – Prime Minister Gaston Browne says if his Antigua and Barbuda labour Party (ABLP) is returned to office in Wednesday’s general election he will seek to hold talks with the Paris Club as Antigua and Barbuda seeks to address a stock of loans dating back to 40 years.

Browne, speaking at a news conference where he announced that his administration Tuesday repaid fully, the US$117.8 million loan given to the island by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) nearly eight years ago, said that it was important for his party to be returned to office so as to ensure that the local economy is not destroyed.

In 2010, the Washington-based financial institution approved the multi-million dollar loan to the Antigua and Barbuda to support the government’s plan to recover from mounting government debt, weak economic growth, and the effects of the economic crisis.

Browne Lovell
Prime Minister and ABLP leader Gaston Browne (Left) and UPP leader Harold Lovell

Last September the country was refused a moratorium on the debt despite the natural disaster that destroyed over 90 per cent of Barbuda and incurred over US$150 million in reconstruction and recovery costs.

Insert Ads Here

Prime Minister Gaston Browne, said then that St. John’s had only US$13 million outstanding and two weeks ago, the government made a payment of eight million US dollars to the IMF.

“I gave instructions…to the Ministry of Finance to liquidate the IMF loan on Tuesday. We are paying it off in full,” he said.

“It is to the credit of my government that we have been able to pay out over EC$300 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) a year in principle and interest payments without collapsing the economy and the fact that we have grown the economy consistently by five per cent per annum over the last three and three quarter years would have meant that we have really created an equilibrium within the economic system that clearly would have created enough cash flow to meet our obligations while at the same time growing the economy

“Generally speaking governments struggle to create that equilibrium much less to sustain it and that’s why it would make sense to maintain the present government because if you destroy that economic equilibrium I can guarantee you that the gains we have made during the last three and three quarter years will be reversed and we may find ourselves…where you will have a collapse economy, people losing their homes, cars, businesses being destroyed,” Browne told reporters.

But in an immediate response, the leader of the main opposition United progressive Party (UPP), Harold Lovell, a former finance minister, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that Browne’s argument “is a complete falsehood.

“It is a misguided view based on a false premise. During our term we experienced what is regarded as the worst global crisis known to mankind. During that period not only did we, as a tourism dependent country suffer a significant downturn in the tourism numbers but we also had the crash of (Allen) Stanford (the US billionaire now serving life imprisonment in the United states for operating  a Ponzi scheme).”

Lovell, who is leading the UPP into a general election for the first time, said that Stanford was the country’s largest private sector employer and “that very few countries would survive with their largest private sector employer going out of business literally overnight”.

Lovel also said the island suffered as a result of the crash of British American Insurance Company (BAICO), whose parent company, the Trinidad-based C L Financial had to receive billions of dollars in a bailout package by the Port of Spain government.

“British American held annuities valued at EC$288 million, Stanford impact on our economy was the equivalent of EC$454 million…but we were able to emerge in 2012 with the highest growth rate in the entire OECS,” Lovell added.

Browne told reporters that Antigua and Barbuda still has a “block of loans” the amount of which he did not disclose, that it has to address in the future.

He said the Paris Club loans that have been delinquent for over 40 years, “so in the new term we intend to engage the Paris Club with the hope that they can write off a part of the principle, at least some of the interest, if not all of it

“They have been resisting it but I think it is untenable for them to hold us responsible for 40 years of interest and we have been negotiating,” he said.

The Paris Club is an informal group of creditor nations that try to find appropriate solutions for payment problems experienced by countries that owe them money.

Browne said he has already indicated to the Paris Club that “we have nothing to lose (and) we expect them to cooperate.

“So I don’t see how we are going to prioritise paying those debts because when you prioritise these debts what it does it means you have less money to deal with your domestic obligations, less monies to pay salaries and wages…less money for infrastructure, less money for health care and education.

“The last thing I am going to do is allow any international organisation to burden us down with debt payment and to renegade on our domestic obligations,” he added.

Browne said it was necessarily important for citizens here to “protect the gains that we have made over the last three and three quarter years.”.

Browne called the general election more than a year ahead of the constitutional deadline saying he wanted to protect incoming projects valued at billions of dollars. But Lovell has insisted that the government had no choice but to face the electorate early because of the level of corruption and mismanagement of the economy.

In the 2014 general election, the ABLP won 14 of the 17 seats with the remainder going to the UPP.