Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer has warned that 2009 will be a challenging year for Antigua and Barbuda, as economies around the globe are in free fall.“Emerging economies, particularly for tourism dependent economies such as ours, will not escape. It is projected that starting from the second quarter of 2009; our region will face significant declines in tourism revenues;
with consequent job loss. The decline has already started. Layoffs in the industry are already widespread in the region.” The Prime Minister said.
However the PM said against the bleakest horizons, possibilities and opportunities exist for the country.
“In the most challenging circumstances, over the last four and three quarter years, the productive partnership between the Antiguan and Barbudan people and the UPP Government has succeeded in continuously moving our country forward. We have succeeded beyond all expectations.” Spencer said.
He pointed out the work done by the UPP administration since taking over the reins of power have resulted in a much needed boost to the Antiguan economy.
“The speed and effectiveness with which the UPP Administration succeeded in turning things around; in laying the foundation for a fresh start, and in generating growth - with meaningful numbers of new jobs - has been the envy of our Caribbean neighbours.”
The UPP government shaped up to the country’s financial obligations on a local, regional, and international level.
The party is also credited with clearing debts to institutional creditors whom the previous government had snubbed over many years.
“One of those institutions was the Medical Benefits Scheme, which the Government owed $500 million over a number of years. Shaping up to our debt obligations was critical in restoring trust and repositioning Antigua and Barbuda in a positive light with the local and international investment community. A key priority in that effort was to bring relief to local contractors and other local suppliers whose invoices for goods and services provided to the government had long been ignored.” The prime Minister pointed out.
The countries chief servant said his administration proceeded to shape an investment climate conducive to profitability and job creation and the expansion of small business.
“This generated a cadre of new micro and small business operators, who have become significant contributors to the national economy, while creating wealth and new jobs. A large number of those new businessmen and business women are young Antiguans and Barbudans venturing into business for the first time.” Spencer said.
The prime minister said as a priority, the government removed some of the burden parents and guardians face in equipping their children for primary and secondary school.
“We have greatly expanded the opportunities for university education for our young people graduating high school. And we have done a number of tangible things to honour our senior citizens; and to make them a little more comfortable in their golden years.” The Prime Minister said.
The UPP Administration also removed import surcharges and taxes, including the sales tax, from a continually expanding basket of food items and other essential consumer items.
“In the extensive safety net the government has in place, we protected some seventy percent of income earners from paying income tax; and we have been adjusting the personal income tax to provide increasing relief to those taxpayers.” The PM added.
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