Sunday, 28 June 2009 13:58
By press release
Fellow Citizens and Residents of Antigua and Barbuda, over the last few days, the leadership of the UPP regime has blamed the country’s economic and financial mess on the global situation alone.
It is as if they were not mismanaging the country’s affairs for more than five years. It is as if they did not squander over a billion dollars in additional taxes that they imposed on the people of this country. It is as if they did not dramatically escalate the national debt of the country so that it is now more than 125% of our total production or Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Yet, when they were imposing and collecting these taxes, they said the money was being used to pay debt. Now the debt stands at an astronomical figure that simply cannot be serviced by the UPP government’s flawed policies.
We have to ask: where has the money gone?
Taxes were high and remain high. Borrowing increased even more than taxes. So where is the tax money? And where is the money that was borrowed?
On what did the UPP spend it?
We know some of the answers but not all of them. A lot of money was spent on the most expensive car park in the world which is still not open. Plenty more money was spent on sidewalks that the new Minister of Public Works has described as a disaster, and says will have to be rebuilt. And, a lot more was spent to build the most expensive small strips of road in the world at four million dollars a mile. The UPP has never given an accounting for the extremely high costs of these projects that have brought our country no benefit.
But on what else was money spent?
We have a right to ask: where has all this money gone?
When Parliament resumes, the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party will demand answers. Of course, I doubt that we will get them.
The UPP regime was totally contemptuous of the opposition and the people of this country after their election in 2004; and the same contempt is being shown after the deeply flawed elections of March 2009 which the UPP unashamedly stole. The Labour Party and its tens of thousands of supporters have chosen not to rock any boats while the petitions against these elections are pending in the Court. But if the UPP continues to ruin the economy and to continue its arrogant refusal to answer legitimate questions, we will have no choice but to march against their excesses.
We have behaved with considerable restraint in the face of the UPP’s abuse of power, but we cannot continue to keep our people from protesting in the streets if this naked abuse continues particularly as the UPP government occupies office by fraud. You will recall that on June 18th, the Ministry of Finance announced that it had issued another EC$17 million in Treasury Bills on the Regional Government Securities Market (RGSM) increasing the debt still further. But, even in that further burdening of our nation with debt, the UPP attempted to fool this nation into believing that the purchasers of the Treasury Bills were investors showing confidence in the economy.
Do not be fooled by the UPP’s chicanery.
The reason they had to offer the Treasury Bills – and the reason that the Regional Security Market supported it – was because the UPP regime had to repay the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank money that had been advanced. There was no confidence in the economy and even less trust in the UPP regime. And, while the UPP has not disclosed who the purchasers of the Treasury Bills are, the Labour Party understands that the bulk of the purchase was made by Statutory Corporations in Antigua and Barbuda. In other words, the insolvent UPP regime forced the statutory bodies in Antigua to use the people’s money to bail out its inability to meet its obligations to the ECCB.
And, it is clear that the UPP will not be able to pay back the statutory bodies any time soon. This means that they have now started on a disastrous course of endangering the ability of our statutory corporations to fulfil their obligations to the people of Antigua and Barbuda who have made contributions to them separate and apart from the taxes they pay. Soon, you may not get the benefits for which you have paid.
My fellow citizens and residents of Antigua and Barbuda, the UPP regime has brought us to a sorry pass. Our credit rating in the world is less than junk. This is why the UPP regime is pawning our country’s future to deep links with Venezuela through the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA). No commercial entity anywhere in the world will lend this UPP regime any money. Many of the commercial banks in Antigua have overstretched themselves in the lending they have made to the UPP regime, and they now live in fear that the government will not be able to repay them. They know that if there is a default in payment by the government, disaster will be upon them.
This is why the UPP regime has to beg for help from Venezuela and pledge its loyalty to ALBA. By becoming dependent on Venezuela, it is trying desperately to dig itself out of the gigantic hole into which it has plunged our country. And, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is waiting in the wings.
You will recall that before the general election last March, I said that the UPP would have to go the IMF and they would have to accept all the usual IMF conditionalities – increased taxes, laying-off public servants, freezing wages, cutting back on infrastructure development, and paying back this enormous debt that they have accumulated.
The UPP said that what I was saying was not true. They are singing a different tune today. They have begun to hint at the necessity to go to the IMF to borrow money. They told you another lie at the last election and some of you believed them and voted for them. Now a price has to be paid.
Remember that countries go to the IMF when they have run out of options. Well, apart from any gifts that Venezuela may give to the UPP in return for its membership of ALBA, they have run out of options. But, if the UPP goes to the IMF for a programme, it will be a programme of intense hardship for the people of this country – wages will be frozen and workers will be laid off.
And, since the UPP has no mandate whatsoever to go the IMF, should they do so, I will personally lead the protest against it in every nook and cranny of this nation. Let me repeat that the UPP has no mandate to go the IMF; in fact quite the opposite is true. They have a mandate NOT to go the IMF because they told the people of this country at the last election in March that they would not do so and had no need to do so. Now the truth is out.
My friends, I end this broadcast as I did my previous one by expressing deep sadness not only about the stagnation that our country now endures and the suffering that people are experiencing, but also at the failure of the hapless UPP to deal effectively with the situation. It is clear that the longer they remain in office, the worse the state of affairs becomes. Change must come soon and before the circumstances are beyond recovery.
I ask you to join with me in prayer to our Almighty God that our country and all who dwell within her will be relieved of this burden swiftly.
Thank you once again for listening.