The State of the Economy in 2014
The ABLP has been in office for less than four years. It inherited an economy in shambles from the UPP. Between 2009 to 2014, the economy contracted by an annual average rate of 3.4 percent in the worst period of mismanagement our nation has ever witnessed.
Our country suffered three years of negative growth. Cumulatively, that amounts to a regression of 21 percent. Simply put, nearly a quarter of Antigua and Barbuda’s economy or more than $800 million in value went up in smoke, burnt by searing incompetence and maladministration.
Additionally, the country was plunged into financial sector instability, high unemployment, mounting taxes, high cost of living, and shockingly bad governance, including a consuming sea of insolvency among several government statutory bodies.
It is a matter of public record, that the UPP bankrupted our nation and, to try to bail out its abject failures, took on an IMF structural adjustment programme in 2010, borrowing $320 million.
And, while the UPP administration sucked over $800 million out of the economy; it also borrowed huge sums of money, applied stringent taxes to already overburdened tax payers, caused businesses to close, new investment to halt, unemployment to rise, mortgage and loan defaults to increase, and poverty to expand.
They decimated our country and the living standards of our people.
Undaunted, the ABLP leapt to the task of making our country better for good, improving, uplifting and advancing our economic and social circumstances for the benefit of all.
A list of those achievements appears below:
1. ABLP REBUILT THE ECONOMY
Despite severe challenges, in less than four years, the ABLP government has:
• Restored the $800 Million in value, that the UPP, and particularly Harold Lovell as Finance Minister, demolished.
• Put the country on a firm trajectory of growth. In 2016, Antigua and Barbuda was the fastest growing economy in this hemisphere at 6.5 per cent.
• Notwithstanding the effects of the September 2017 hurricanes, in that year our nation regained its enviable place as the largest economy in the OECS sub-region; larger than other countries with bigger populations than ours.
Despite every trial, in less than four years, we have enjoyed economic growth that halted the decay in our economy and set us on a new course to prosperity.
This is a country recovered from the way down. This is a country reset, and on its way up.
2. ABLP TURNED THE NATION FROM DEBTOR TO OWNER
The UPP left the nation an empty Treasury and demands that were plenty in June 2014. The UPP did not pay suppliers for goods and services they contracted. Despite all the taxes they imposed, they had borrowed so much and introduced so many wasteful projects, which were not revenue-generating, that they had no money.
The country was burdened with a debt stock of approximately $3.7billion with a repayment schedule of over $430 million annually. The debt to GDP ratio was 104% – indeed, the country was bankrupt.
The ABLP government accomplished the following:
- Saved the country from defaulting on the IMF debt and the dreadful consequences that would follow. The UPP indebted our nation to the IMF to the tune of $320 million. The ABLP has currently reduced that debt to $20 million.
- Reduced the debt to GDP ratio from 104% to 75% today, giving the government more space in which to devote monies to human improvement and infrastructural development; and will settle it in full shortly.
- Turned Oil debt to asset ownership by the people: The West Indies Oil Company was owed more than $80 million and was threatening to discontinue supply of oil. The ABLP government bought WIOC without a cent of taxpayers’ money through a creative public sector-private sector partnership that not only transferred wealth to the people of Antigua and Barbuda, but gave taxes and dividends to the Treasury, amounting to $15million over the last two years.
- Turned debt for water supply to another people-ownership benefit: SEMBCORP Antigua Water Ltd – was determined to cut off supplies to the entire country in 2014, because the UPP administration owed more than $22 million and offered no repayment plan. The ABLP extinguished the arrears, absorbed SEMBCORP into the Antigua Public Utilities authority; thereby again turning our people from bad debtors to owners. Another $25 million has been invested in reverse osmosis technology and capacity to meet all of our water needs, resulting in an aggregate investment of $45 million in improving the water situation.
- Recovered the unfinished and abandoned Car Park: This was not only a huge eye-sore in our nation’s capital for years, it was also a huge debt that the UPP incurred, giving no benefit to the people. The ABLP government purchased the unfinished car-park property valued at US$25 million for US$6 million and, in another public sector-private sector partnership with local persons, we are transforming the building into a multi-purpose car park and office complex, that will both save and generate revenues.
- Protected Depositors Money; Saving the Banking Sector: ABI Bank was bankrupt and on the point of collapse. The ABLP government resolved the ABI Bank issue and stabilized our financial sector, thereby saving over half-a-billion dollars of our people’s deposits. In addition, the ABLP Government paid approximately $17 million in workers’ benefits to staff of ABI Bank, which they would have otherwise lost. And the government invested $30 million to stabilize and rescue Caribbean Union Bank. Today the people of Antigua and Barbuda own approximately 80 percent of the shares of that bank and it has already become an important institution in our financial sector.
- Negotiated the Solution to Crippling Antigua Power Company Debt: The UPP government also left the country with a huge debt of $221 million in compensation to the Antigua Power Company. It was a debt that this nation would have struggled to pay, and which could only have been managed by not spending on health, education and other social welfare sectors. By negotiating a creative and innovative solution of using a Power Purchase Agreement, the ABLP saved the people of our country a net sum of approximately $200 million which can be used for social and economic advancement.
Ten years of UPP reckless liabilities have been turned into ownership and earnings for the people of Antigua and Barbuda under the ABLP in under four years.