Tuesday, 08 May 2012 02:30
By Alex Holder
Antigua St John's - Deputy Leader of the Opposition Gaston Brown says he is not so much surprised as he is “alarmed” at the fact that Antigua and Barbuda has fallen so dramatically on the Foreign Direct Investment Scale, loosing over $300 million according to the last report.
Speaking on the issue on Sunday, Brown said the latest report from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) on FDIs in the region for the previous year provided further evidence of the country’s significant losses in the area.
“What really is shocking is that we moved from a high under the UPP government of about $361 million in FDI, down to a low last year of $64 million. That would mean a drop of about $300 million and I have to say that in itself is alarming,” Brown said.
In 2010, Antigua recorded better numbers in Foreign Direct Investment.
Brown also pointed out that other countries in the region, like St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which appear to be consistent in attracting FDIs in excess of $100 million annually, even though these countries might record an over all reduction in income. These countries are now finding themselves in a better financial position than Antigua, having once been lagging.
The ALP Chairman noted that in the past Antigua made a priority of investment but the government of the day continues to have notable difficulties in attracting FDIs, to the detriment of the country.
“We find now that other countries that previously were lagging, they are now attracting investments significantly larger than investment of Antigua and Barbuda…” Brown said.
“You have to take into consideration that Antigua and Barbuda historically has been at the head. We have always attracted more Foreign Direct Investments than these other countries. And with all the difficulties, one would have believed or expected that Antigua and Barbuda, at a minimum, would have at least remained at the head. We have seen a complete role reversal here, where, having been at the top of the table, we are now at the bottom of the table. That is serious cause for concern.”
He said the situation is now reflecting in the standard of living in the country, where again, Antigua is slipping.
Brown questioned how much longer the government would blame its failure in this department on the shoulders of the previous government, which has been out of office for eight years and former knight R. Allen Stanford and even the global financial crisis which other islands in the region seem to weathering better.
“It is always somebody else’s problem… it is never the government’s problem. And until they take responsibility… get out of their cocoon and become more assertive and get out there to attract Foreign Direct Investments the country will continue to decline,” Brown stated.
Further, Brown said the continued decline in economic performance would ultimately have an effect on the country’s standings in attracting investments down the road. With that, he suggested that the Hadeed and other wealthy families in Antigua consider chipping in to stimulate the economy and assist in its growth, through infrastructure provided by the government.
In the meantime, Chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority Dr. McChesney Emanuel told Caribarena that the economic citizenship program in St. Kitts and Nevis is one of the pillars of its financial success. And he is one of the first to openly support the proposition that has long been carried by Gaston Brown to have the program implemented in Antigua. Dr. Emanuel called the program an added incentive to investment.
“The government of Antigua is committed to citizenship by investment program. Investors are looking for added incentives. We have to look at what our competitors are doing,” he said.
But Dr. Emanuel was not all supportive of Brown’s position as he challenged the notion that the government’s continued blame on Stanford and the global recession should be somehow forgone.
He said, almost predictably, that Stanford and the recession have indeed had notably negative impacts on the local economy and the recovery process was still on going. He also cited Internet gaming and other financial service programs that have affected the country through job loss and revenue income.