PR- The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) is alarmed that PM Gaston Browne has, in a written correspondence dated March 23rd, 2020 to at least two global leaders, expressed his fear that “serious social upheaval…increasing unemployment, poverty and crime particularly in drug trafficking” may likely result as a result on the COVID-19 pandemic if his request to them for “an emergency assistance economic package for Antigua and Barbuda” is not met with a favourable response. In seeking to bolster his request for money, the PM further warned that his predicted “social turmoil” would also lead to a mass exodus of Antiguans and Barbudans “seeking refuge elsewhere”.
The contents of the letters are a clear admission that long before the coronavirus, the economy of Antigua and Barbuda was in free fall and heading for certain “collapse”. This despite Gaston Browne’s touted stellar management of Antigua and Barbuda’s economy over the last five (5) years. Clearly, his boastful utterances were nothing more than a smoke and mirror illusion often witnessed in magical performances by Houdini himself or, the fables often read about in fairy tales. Since 2015, for successive years, PM Browne declared that he had grown the economy steadily to the point where our country’s exponential growth was second in the Latin American hemisphere and first in the OECS sub-region. Repeated challenges by the opposition parties that his declared GDP growth were fictitious were met with Browne’s favourite retort that we were living in “an economic powerhouse”.
How then, did we suddenly become a pauperized country overnight running cap-in-hand with the proverbial begging bowl outstretched seeking financial relief from European and Arab leaders? What happened to the surpluses recorded by state enterprises such as NAMCO? Where did all the millions derived from non-tax revenue from peddling and selling our passports like a cheap commodity go? It is obvious that the Gaston Browne Administration has engaged in unprecedented squandermania of colossal proportions and, now finds itself without options, ideas or solutions to manage successfully the COVID-19 pandemic or devise creative and innovative social and fiscal incentive packages critically needed by the people and businesses adversely affected by our new reality.
By comparison, our neighbours within the OECS have rolled out steadily some of the most impressive incentive packages for their citizens while the people of Antigua and Barbuda continue to wait in vain for the Labour party government to provide the much needed social safety net to the most vulnerable, the thousands of recently unemployed as well as, the fiscal incentive packages to be granted to businesses community. In essence, the people require a hands-up.
Given the government’s admitted failures to manage our country as evidently expressed in these letters, the DNA calls on PM Browne to come clean with the people and urgently address the nation regarding the true state of our economy, readiness of the health facilities and personnel to combat the escalating numbers of infected persons on island by the coronavirus, the commencement of COVID-19 testing at our newly certified testing facility and the opening date of the isolation unit at the Holberton Hospital.
Lastly, the DNA demands that Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, cease immediately from painting a horrible image of our people to potential international donors! DNA’s Political Leader, Joanne Massiah stated, “imagine, our leader has referred to us as opportunistic drug traffickers and pending refugees seeking to flee our country for greener pastures at the earliest opportunity and who could threaten the safety and security of other nations and their citizens. Gaston Browne should be ashamed of himself and needs to apologize to the citizens and residents of Antigua and Barbuda!”
Our people are resilient and have weathered many storms and adverse situations and who have bonded together and emerged stronger. We are committed to our nation’s motto, “Each Endeavouring, All Achieving”.