1. The rescue of the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Bank (ABIB) depositors’ money, without any disruption in the banking system, is the greatest achievement of the five-year old Gaston Browne administration. The new Banking Act 2014 was made law, transferring more decision-making authority to the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank. All depositors received 100% guarantees. Cash was made available to pay those with deposits under $500,000. Not a single depositor withdrew his/her funds. The full faith and credit of the Government was sufficient. Those depositors with amounts exceeding $500,000 received assurances of a payout after five years, and interest payments of 2% in the interim years
2. The Gaston Browne administration engineered the purchase of the majority shares in the West Indies Oil Company (WIOC)—including the acquisition of 130 acres of prime real estate—for US$30 million dollars, utilizing a bridging loan. The administration then sold shares in the WIOC and used those proceeds to repay the bridging loan. The land was separated-out from the core purpose of the WIOC and transferred to the National Housing Company. WIOC has expanded its operation considerably, adding more than one million gallons of storage; partnering with Rubis at the V.C. Bird International Airport to sell jet fuel; and partnering with Shell to sell fuel to cruise vessels docked at the Heritage Quay Port. WIOC has paid dividends exceeding $42 million dollars since the acquisition, and its Board has retained earnings for expansion and improvements. The purchase of WIOC was the second-most outstanding accomplishment of the Gaston Browne administration since 2014. The purchase fits squarely within the guiding philosophy of the administration, known as “empowerment capitalism.” The same tenets hold as in “entrepreneurial socialism”; however, the nomenclature was altered to avoid any confusion as to purpose.
3. The new administration in 2015 abolished personal income tax, as promised in the ABLP’s 2014 Manifesto, and the action is based on the reasoned paper submitted in April 2014—months before the June 2014 general elections—by the Honourable Gaston Browne. Despite the opposition to the plan by naysayers and the UPP mouthpiece—Observer Newspaper and Radio—the end to PIT has come without a ripple. In fact, revenues have increased as consumption increased.
4. The Administration has completed the construction of 48 homes at Dredge Bay, Villa; completed 90 homes at Paynters with an additional 70 under construction. The National Housing Company continues to employ 350 workers who are currently constructing an additional 150 homes at Denfield’s are allotted. Additional acreage has been acquired at Royall’s Estate for 200 more homes, and an additional 100 homes are to be constructed at Marble Hill Road. China has agreed to build 300 homes, as a gift to the Antigua and Barbuda people. 150 will be built at Booby Alley, the Point; 50 will be built on Barbuda; and 100 will be built in St. Mary’s South. A “build on your own property” program has seen the construction of 58 homes by the National Housing Company, all across Antigua. Two housing projects, undertaken by the previous administration, at North Sound and Follies, were incomplete and unoccupied. Since 2014, all 100 derelict homes have been refurbished and are occupied.
5. The new administration completed the repairs of several Government-owned buildings, utilizing resources earmarked for National Housing: The Old Admin Building on High and Long Streets; The Multi-Purpose Center at Perry Bay; The Fence and burnt-out building at Government House, with the help of prisoners; The Dockyard Police Station; The roof at the National Archives, which still must be re-done; The National Library was completed and opened for occupancy and use—not a bogus opening. The Nurses Hostel on Queen Elizabeth Highway has been refurbished at a cost exceeding $1 million dollars; it was undertaken by a private contractor. Evacuees from Barbuda occupied the buildings for nearly one year following Hurricane Irma. During the refurbishment of the Fiennes Institute, the residents have been transferred to the Nurses Hostel. The Clarevue Mental Hospital is currently under repair, although the resources in that case are coming from the Ministry of Works. Other government-owned buildings, including schools, the Post Office and office buildings have been repaired by workers from the National Housing Company.
6. Households owing the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) for electricity and water, up to 31 December 2013, had their arrears eliminated; small businesses were granted generous repayment terms. Hundreds took advantage of the offer, swelling the collections of APUA, rather than draining resources as the Opposition had predicted.
7. The new administration, shortly after June 2014, granted amnesty to thousands of immigrants who were previously told that gaps in their lawful residency required them to commence their seven-year qualifying period in order to meet the eligibility for citizenship. Many would later qualify and became citizens of Antigua and Barbuda. The unfairness and injustice evinced by the policy of the previous administration was tossed into history’s dustbin. The administration also determined that a waiver of work permit fees for CARICOM nationals during the 6 months of 2014—July to December—would ease the burden on our CARICOM brethren and encourage every non-national worker to register. Thousands took advantage of the waiver and came forward to regularize their worker status in Antigua. Again, the revenues of the Labour Department would increase eventually, rather than witness a decline, as had been predicted by the Opposition.
8. ABS–TV has 70,000 followers on its Facebook Page and is the most reliable source for information and News. Its move to high definition has also spurred an interest in the quality of its broadcast, and its news program draws more viewers and listeners than any other media house in Antigua and Barbuda. This turn-around has come about despite public criticisms by other media houses and media personalities.
9. The administration eliminated the $5 weekly charge for student inclusion on the daily School Meals Programme. This policy formed a part of the ZERO HUNGER Programme that the administration implemented across Antigua and Barbuda. Regardless of the parents’ ability to pay, all students across 29 Schools are fed 5,756 hot meals daily, at no cost to the parents. Free School Bus System picks-up and delivers hundreds of students daily to and from their assigned schools, at no cost to parents.
10. The new administration faced default on the $320 million dollar repayment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) upon taking office on June 12, 2014. The outgoing administration failed to make the June 6, 2014, payment and there were no plans in place to make the payment. Despitethe poor start, the IMF Debt was repaid by March 2018.
11. The transformation of the St. John’s Harbour has begun. The $97 million dollars, secured by the administration on behalf of the Port Authority, through the China Ex/Im Bank, are already being paid over to the contractor. Construction at Rat Island is far advanced; the new administration building is close to completion. Before works began at the Deepwater Harbour, $23 million dollars were spent to make the cruise port ready by December 2, 2016, to receive the Quantum Class ships.
12. An agreement has been entered into with Global Ports Holding and Royal Caribbean to enable the Oasis Class vessels to dock at Antigua by December 2020. GPH will spend US$84 million dollars to dredge the harbour further, to widen the channel and the turning basin, and to build new shops and other entertainment facilities along the new waterfront area. Heritage Quay, now 30 years old, will also be upgraded by the GPH firm. GPH has agreed to partner with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines; they will build a land-based entertainment Center costing millions of dollars. Carnival Cruise Lines will increase the number of calls at the St. John’s Port. A pointless lawsuit has been initiated by the Opposition in an effort to slow the progress.
13. The University of the West Indies has agreed to place the 4th UWI Landed Campus at Five Islands, St. John’s, ANTIGUA. The core building has already been constructed, though built for a secondary school, and expansion of the building complex on the lands at Five Islands is already planned. In its 71st year, in September 2019, the UWI will add Antigua and Barbuda as the venue for its most recent campus, following Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados as the other three. The Attorney General and the Minister of Education attended the May 30, 2019, meeting of the Technical Committee and report that the document establishing the Fourth Campus has gone to the U.W.I. Chancellor for signature.
14. The administration determined that it would encourage automobile ownership, in order to provide economic opportunities for many and to supplement the public transport system that operates within certain fixed hours. Used automobiles enjoy at least 50% waiver of duty and environmental levy when imported for personal use. Car ownership has soared, creating new possibilities for many families previously without autos. Additionally, the insurance companies, the finance companies and the petroleum distributor have experienced a boom in new customers and sales, resulting in windfall profits.
15. The plan to curb crime has succeeded. More vehicles have been provided to the Police, making the Police highly visible in the day time and at night. Allowing promotions to take place and by changing the leadership, higher police motivation and performance—and lower crime—have been achieved. The promise to strengthen the Police Force has also occurred; more trainees have been recruited. More jobs, especially for young males in construction, have significantly reduced the number of idle males who once slouched around street corners.
16. The Administration adopted new Cannabis legislation in 2017 that permitted each household to plant four cannabis trees, and each person 18 years or older to lawfully carry 15 grams of the plant substance on his/her person. The primary object of the legislation is to ensure that youth are not convicted of drug offenses that would forever cause them to be excluded from being issued visas to either study in, or visit, certain states. The secondary object was to ensure that the Court’s calendars are not clogged with cases that have caused harm to no-one. The Cannabis industry promises to be a boost to agricultural production and to medical marijuana products that are to be offered for sale.
17. The amount of water now flowing through the pipes has doubled since 2014 June. More than 6.5 million gallons of potable water are desalinated daily. APUA delivers more than 7 million gallons each day. The installation of a 2 million-gallon-per-day reverse osmosis plant at Barnacle Point has significantly increased the output capability of APUA’s Water Division. Another reverse osmosis plant will be constructed at Bethesda, by the Japanese, in order to enable many farms in that area to have access to sufficient water daily during periods of drought.
18. The promise to attract more than US$1 billion in investments in 5 years has been surpassed. Nearly $3 billion dollars’ worth of tourism investments have been invested, and more investments are still coming. 12,000 new jobs have been created since June 2014. More investments, more jobs, less taxes.
19. Materials for manufacturing have been relieved of ABST, RRC and Customs Duties. Presently, equipment and tools and machines receive the same treatment. The manufacturing sector in Antigua has declined because of the high cost of inputs, and the relatively high labor costs. By reducing the tax on inputs, when the goods are expected to be exported, the manufacturing sector enjoys an advantage that acts as a fillip to growth.
20. The ABLP promised to bring supplementary appropriations before the Parliament. Supplemmentals for the 10 years of the UPP were brought by the new administration before the Parliament in May 2016. The parliamentary reporting has remained constant.
21. The Plan To Fix MSJMC has worked: the administration ensured that the hospital is stocked with medicines and supplies; $30 million dollars of new diagnostic equipment purchased; six successful kidney transplant operations were conducted there, and more are planned. Other medical procedures, privately available in Antigua, were introduced at MSJMC when they were not before; an ophthalmologist has been hired, and there are doctors available with regularity. The ABLP promised a competent and experienced management team; Dr. Duncan and the new team, hired by the Board of MSJMC, have turned the performance level of the MSJMC around dramatically.
22. The Party promised to review the arrangements with the Cancer Center, and it did. Many Antiguans who, as cancer patients, required radiation treatment and chemotherapy have been successfully treated there instead of having to go abroad. OECS citizens are treated at a reduced cost, making medical tourism a reality in Antigua.
23. Expanded five school plants by making available 1,000 new chairs and desks for students at formerly cramped high schools. Jennings, All Saints, Princess Margaret, Antigua Girls High and Clare Hall Secondary School have all had their school plants enlarged. Improved the delivery of education, teacher comfort, and better spaces for administrators. The Gaston Browne administration built the Sir Novelle Richards High School at Tomlinson’s for EC$14 million dollars in two months and one week; the CDB estimated the same construction to cost US$14 million and would take 2 years to construct. The Administration has set-aside $9.3 million in 2019 for the repair and upgrade of schools across the country, in order to ensure that teachers, students, administrative staff and others work in acceptable conditions.
24. The administration planned to make and keep our country a green energy state. Already, 10 megawatt of green power have been secured for Antigua and Barbuda. The plant within the airport compound produces 3.5 megawatts; the government buildings have been outfitted with plants that add 3.5 megawatts to the green energy production. Barbuda has had 3 megawatts added to its generating capacity, although Hurricane Irma trashed the plant and caused the administration to have to begin again.
25. The job-creation exercise through Youth Skills Training has been renewed. More than $4.5 million dollars have been spent annually on this program since June 2014. Meantime, new hotel rooms in refurbished and new properties have hired several hundred youth, relieving the administration of the additional resources required to employ many.
26. The administration identified and began nurturing talent in sports and culture. Miguel Francis, for example, was made attractive to the UK sports only because he had performed exceedingly well. Alzarri Joseph has become a West Indies Fast Bowler, in the tradition of Anderson Roberts and Curtley Ambrose. Rahkeem Cornwall is a giant who makes runs each time he takes to the wicket. Four Island Girls rowed across the Atlantic when the challenge was laid down by the Prime Minister. Their safe return to Antigua after 47 days at sea was hailed as an outstanding achievement by the entire nation.
27. Cricket in Antigua has returned to its former glory, thanks to the Gaston Browne administration. Support for West Indies cricket has been heightened; and, test matches are being played at the Sir Viv Richards Stadium. The national embarrassment of having the shortest Test match ever, after 10 balls were bowled, when sand was discovered as the material used in the outfield, during a February 13, 2009, match between England and the West Indies, still reverberates. It was very much a reflection of the incompetence of the UPP administration. Antigua lost its place as a Test Match venue. The Gaston Browne administration is now partnering with the West Indies Cricket Board (Cricket West Indies) to own the Stanford Cricket Field, and to have the WICB build a new Headquarters building just outside of the Sir Viv Richards Stadium. The Women’s W.I. Cricket team was exceedingly successful, despite adverse remarks by the Opposition prior to the games. The Sir Vivian Richards Stadium was full to the brim on both the Thursday and Saturday, November 1st and 3rd 2018.
28. The Administration vigorously defended the Citizenship By Investment Programme (CIP), in the face of unpatriotic attempts to end its viability by the Opposition. The administration vigorously marketed the CIP programme, increasing the revenues to more than EC$700 million non-tax revenue dollars in five years; the Minister reports every six months to the Parliament on the uses to which those revenues were put. Despite the entry by two other Caribbean jurisdictions into the CIP Market, and their race to the bottom by lowering the cost of citizenship acquisition to US$100,000, Antigua and Barbuda has done exceedingly well, the reports show. A special program costing US$150,000 per file has been written into the law; it allows new citizens—supporters of the UWI Fourth Campus—to add to the endowment which universities require in order to stay viable.
29. In December 2018, Bank of Nova Scotia attempted to sell its interest in nine Caribbean jurisdictions, including in Antigua and Barbuda. The Gaston Browne administration has insisted that a consortium of local banks ought to be made the offer first; a vesting order, required by law, would not be signed by the Minister of Finance until such time as the offer is extended to the local banks at the same price as the intended purchaser. That sale has not yet been consummated. Reversal of the original decision to sell to a firm from outside the ECCU region would be regarded as a victory for the Antigua and Barbuda people.
30. The creation of NAMCO (National Asset Management Company) to receive dividend payments from the Government’s investment program, has been adeptly managed and the resources judiciously dispersed. NAMCO’s monies have been further invested in the building of a new hotel, invested in a dredging company that has already secured millions in dredging contracts, purchased the unfinished Sunshine Hub and Car Park for a fraction of its construction cost, and continues to earn dividends from WIOC and State Insurance Company.
PROMISE MADE. PROMISE KEPT.
Outstanding Achievements In The Past Five Years: June 2014 to June 2019:
31. The number of students receiving support from both the Prime Minister’s Scholarship Program and the Board of Education Loan Program has increased exponentially since the June 2014 date. Resources from both the 25 year-old Board of Education Act 1994 and the Citizenship by Investment Program 2013 have swelled the total amount available each year to more than $30 million dollars. Students may choose to go to China, Cuba, Estonia, Morocco, Russia, the U.S., and even the U.K., utilizing the supplementary financing provided by the scholarship program. When the Fourth Landed Campus of the UWI is established, a fraction of the resources allocated to the programs will be diverted in part to meet UWI obligations.
32. The Administration has initiated an Entrepreneurial Development Fund in order to make capital easily available to those who are willing to risk their own resources to develop new businesses. The funding is not intended to support merchandising of imported goods; rather, funding will go to those enterprises whose principals will create new products and new services that will enlarge the economic well-being of the country. The resources have been transferred to the Caribbean Union Bank and a special window for the loan of the funds, at a very low interest rate, has already been agreed.
33. A Joint Venture Capital Fund has also been created to assist those already in business but who need additional capital to expand their offerings. Again, merchandising of imported goods is not included. This fund is not loan-based. It results in a portion of the business being transferred to the venture capital fund, equal to the percentage of the value which the fund supplies. That quantum of the business can be re-purchased from the venture capital fund whenever the owner determines that s/he no longer needs the fund’s participation.
34. A Homeowner’s Improvement Fund has been initiated, utilizing resources from the Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP). The homeowner with very low income whose home is in need of repairs may, after receiving an estimate of the repairs, borrow a maximum of $50,000 (fifty thousand dollars) repayable in 10 years. The object is to make certain that houses which are subject to significant damage during a hurricane can be repaired and strengthened before the hurricane so that damage can be minimized.
35. The H.A.P.I. (Home Assistance Program for the Indigent) program has been designed to ensure that those who have suffered a catastrophe can be immediately helped by the deployment of the State’s resources. HAPI has rebuilt the homes of indigent villagers that have been destroyed by fire and who possess no material resources to start all over again. The elderly, whose incomes are fixed and trifling, have also been assisted by the program, to fix their homes so that they may live a dignified life.
36. The Anti-Plastics Concert held on June 1, 2019, was the result of the leadership shown by Antigua and Barbuda’s Legislature which placed a ban on plastic bags, including plastic spoons, forks and cups. The legislation would also enforce a ban on the importation and use of Styrofoam utensils, including food trays. So impressed is the international community with the administration governing Antigua and Barbuda, its aggressive approach to ending the plastics scourge, that the President of the General Assembly selected Antigua for the anti-plastics concert which was a resounding success.
37. Contrary to the law, the outgoing administration denied newborns their birth certificates when their mothers failed to pay for the delivery services at the Mount St. John Medical Center (MSJMC). The administration wrote-off the debts owed to the Mount St. John Medical Center (MSJMC) by new mothers, such that they could receive the birth certificates for their newborn children. The previous administration prohibited the issuance of the birth certificates of the newborn citizens until the MSJMC fees were paid. That unlawful policy was ended after June 2014.
38. The Knuckle Block Sports Complex, to be named the Baldwin Spencer Community AND Sporting Center, and the two Poly-Clinics under construction, attest to improved relations with the People’s Republic of China since June 2014.
39. The Chinese gift of agricultural implements and skilled scientists have ensured that many farmers learn new techniques and new scientific methods for increasing agricultural yields. The Administration has secured more than $400 million dollars in technical cooperation and loans from the People’s Republic of China in 5 years.
40. The Youth Empowerment Education Program (YEEP) has been a tremendous success, providing many youth who dropped out of High School to complete CXC subjects and to be tested under the CAPE. The numbers continue to swell allowing more youth to gain certification upon completion of Math and English, especially.
41. The V.C. Bird International Airport retains a tier 1 status. Many security investments and other kinds of improvements have caused the airport to be highly rated, bettering several of its Caribbean counterparts.
42. The last INCSR Report, following challenges by the Antigua and Barbuda diplomats in Washington, D.C., was partly complimentary. The uncovering of false reporting and rumor mongering caused the U.S. Government to reverse its many previous designations of Antigua and Barbuda as a major money laundering and drug trafficking center.
43. Sexual Offences Model Court has been established in Antigua and Barbuda; it is the first of its kind in the Eastern Caribbean, will serve as the model for others to follow. Instead of causing years to pass before a trial can be held, the model court will cause a speedy trial when memories are fresh and witnesses are still able to recall facts clearly. Justice will then be achieved in these sensitive cases.
44. The Crown Prosecution Service Act takes the prosecution of criminal cases away from the Police and place prosecutions in the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions. It had long been deemed and affront to justice to have the Police determine whether there were sufficient facts to prosecute. The Office of the DPP will now determine this, following the collection of evidence by the Police.
43. The frequency with which Parliament meets has been meeting creates a new record in the history of modern Antigua and Barbuda. At least once per month, sometimes more often, the Parliament is convened in order to address glaring issues that beg for the attention of the law-makers.
45. Separation of Police and Fire Departments has taken place in virtually every Anglophone Caribbean country. Antigua and Barbuda has lagged behind. The new administration has had the first reading of the Bill to make the separation permanent.
46. The new Standing Orders governing the behaviours of members of both
Houses of Parliament have been completed and are to be adopted. The
existing Orders date back to 1967, or more than fifty years, and urgently
47. The Labour Department has initiated a Human Trafficking Division that focuses upon those who are forced into all manner of labour. Those who are of the view that they may act as virtual enslavers, compelling women and children especially to engage in unwanted labour shall not escape the arms of the law, the new administration has indicated.
48. Two drafters were the entire complement of lawyers responsible for drafting legislation. The new administration has increased that number to 10 drafters, making new laws more readily available to a demanding government.
49. The establishment of the Public Trustee allows for indigent defendants and others without the ability to secure legal representation to turn to a service that provides public defenders at no cost.
50. Evidence from overseas, for criminal matters, can be included at trial in order to speedup trials and to ensure better justice. The Evidence Public Provision Act also allows electronic evidence to be admitted, providing that adherence to certain guidelines are strictly followed.
51. The Prison Extramural Officer: Where a magistrate believes that the convict ought to be imposed non-custodial sentences, that judicial officer is armed with the authority to sentence the wrongdoer to hours of community service or other types of non-custodial sentences.
52. The administration twice increased the minimum wage to $8.20 from $7.50 per hour. Security Guards are paid a minimum of $9.20 per hour.
53. Personal Injury awards have been increased under law from $10,000 to $250,000 because of the insufficiency of the smaller amount. Justice is achieved by increasing the liability that would ensure an injured person a reasonable opportunity to care for him/herself following injury.
54. The administration has named the youngest Foreign Service Officer to Morocco as First Secretary, in the Embassies of the Eastern Caribbean States located in the Kingdom of Morocco. Although he serves under the Ambassador from the OECS, every opportunity exists for him to move into a senior post in due course, given his youth and enthusiasm.
55. Long-term lease program for farmers, launched in April 2019, allows farmers to lease land at peppercorn rate for the purpose of earning our nation the food security for which it yearns. All manner of new incentives have been added to encourage more farming in the state.
56. In January 2019, Antigua & Barbuda launched its Sexual Offences Model Court to improve the handling of sexual offence cases nationwide. The Antigua & Barbuda Support And Referral Centre (SARC) provides support to the sexual offenses model court by providing psycho-social care and advocacy services to all complainants in sexual offence matters. The SARC is the first of its kind in the OECS, and the relevant services are offered under one roof. Those victimized by the crimes of rape, sexual assault, human trafficking and domestic violence and all gender-based violence now receive professional, fast and effective help along with a 24 hour hot line.
57. The UNOPS Science and Innovation Park Headquarters is a think-tank for young innovators across the state. It is fully equipped with the facilities and technologies to harness and mould innovative ideas for goods, services and products. The Park has since been used to develop Project Jaguars—to develop a tracking system to keep an eye on the Sargassum Seaweed before it gets to our shores and ruins our beaches. The use of a predictive system along with a statistical algorithm to predict when the Sargassum is likely to arrive on our shores.
58. Summer Internship Program introduced by the Ministry of Education, ensuring that Secondary and Tertiary-Level students from Government institutions are provided temporary Summer employment within Ministries, learning the value of work.
59. The administration paid $51 million dollars to thousands of government employees in back pay who were owed unpaid increases, dating back to 2003 to 2008, and 2014 to 2018.
60. The Gaston Browne administration ended the 2009 requirement for certificates from the Inland Revenue Department, the Board of Education, the Medical Benefit Scheme, the Social Security Board to be supplied to Customs by brokers and companies before goods can be cleared. The end to that onerous requirement—proposed by the IMF to the outgoing administration in order to achieve compliance—was welcomed by businesses; the owners and managers regard the cancellation as creating an improved business-friendly environment. The “ease of doing business” has been made much easier.