The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Winston Baldwin Spencer, said his country is now well-positioned to build on gains made a through a local fiscal initiative. In a speech which outlined the country’s successes over the years, he thanked Canada for its invaluable help especially in security and called on fellow nationals to share their expertise to develop the country.
“The past three years have been among the most trying for the global economy and for our twin-island nation. We needed to create the right macro-economic platform for sustainable growth.
Though it has not been easy, the fiscal consolidation debt initiatives have borne some fruit,” Spencer said during the Antiguan and Barbudian Association of Toronto’s 31st Independence celebration, held at Panemonte Banquet Centre in Etobicoke earlier this month.
He said the programme has allowed the government to secure financial and technical assistance from international, regional and bi-lateral resources to support fiscal reform efforts, resulting in the country’s “debt service obligations decreasing significantly compared to 2009,” said the prime minister.
Spencer said the twin-island’s economic activity has been significantly constrained as their main trading partners - North America and Europe - continue to battle high unemployment, low to no growth and tight fiscal conditions.
“Having demonstrated a commitment to our fiscal consolidation program the government has garnered support from regional and international partners for other elements of our National Economic and Social Transformation (NEST) plan,” said Spencer.
He says the World Bank is working with Antigua to develop a project that will “help to improve national programmes for social protection, to support public sector modernisation and to establish programs to train and assist unemployed locals.
“In addition, as part of the social transformation pillar of the NEST plan, the World Bank has been working with the government on their Economic Action Plan, a key aspect of which, is the launch of the Antiguan and Barbudian chapter of the Caribbean Growth Forum, in mid-November, “whereby a cross-section of national stakeholders will discuss the barriers to private sector development and identifying immediate and short-term interventions to create jobs and promote economic growth,” PM Spencer explained.
Outlining a raft of successes, Spencer said construction activities are growing as a result of the government’s Construct Antigua and Barbuda initiative. He said airport construction is creating jobs and upon completion the new airport will have 26 check-in counters and 20 immigration desks.
Spencer said the construction of three new secondary schools and a modern state-of-the-art school in five islands donated by the People’s Republic of China helped to enhance the country’s education system.
The twin-islands’ Social Security Scheme - in place since 1973 - is to undergo a comprehensive review.
Spencer says a Green Economy Plan still needs to achieve “real milestones” in sustainable development, but the government will continue to champion an international forum.
He praised the country’s police force for the crime clear up rate which has been at 90 per cent for the last three years. Spencer thanked Canada for sending “timely assistance” providing skilled Mounted Police officers who worked with the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda to transform that law enforcement institution into a ‘more modern and effective force’.
“I want to say a special thanks to those officers who came and worked hard with our officers.” PM Spencer who is also foreign affairs minister, said there are plans to set up a Diaspora Desk to improve relations and create partnerships, including hosting village and community reunions, “a vehicle to foster homecoming activities and to introduce young people to their Antiguan heritage and culture.”
The prime minister took the opportunity to congratulate Dr. Karl James, from the Republic of St. Mary’s South who will be inducted into the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) for his outstanding achievements in the arts, humanities and sciences. He also extended an invitation to James to return to share his expertise.