Antigua and Barbuda is now positioned to become a major service centre capable of providing key services to the Eastern Caribbean.
According to Prime Minister Gaston Browne, the country will be marketed as a centre for education, health tourism, to include stem cell therapy, cargo transshipment and other services.
Browne said the government has spent the last two years preparing the necessary infrastructure to provide these services.
He made the disclosure on Monday night during the second instalment of the Public Advocacy Series organised by the University of the West Indies, Five Islands Campus.
“In order to transform this country into an economic powerhouse in the Eastern Caribbean, we must have the socio-economic infrastructure in place.
“We did not sit on our hands during the COVID-19 pandemic; we undertook the task of putting in place the necessary infrastructure to support the services we wish to offer as a country,” PM Browne stated.
With an eye on establishing Antigua and Barbuda as a centre for health tourism, Browne said the government has spent millions of dollars on developing health infrastructure.
“You would have seen that we have built out our healthcare infrastructure so that today, we now have three beds to one thousand of the population which is one of the highest ratios in the world. In fact, the average worldwide is about two beds. There are some countries where that ratio is even lower. If you were to add the beds in the field hospitals, that number increases to four per thousand.
“Additionally, we have recently completed two polyclinics at Villa Area and Glanvilles,” he said.
Other developments include repurposing the NTC into a hospital and the establishment of the Infectious Disease Centre.
The government has also invested approximately US$100 million in upgrading the St. John’s Harbour to transform it into one of the best and most modern facilities in the Eastern Caribbean.
“We were able to build out both the cargo port and the cruise port. In fact, the cruise port is nearing completion, the dredging is 95 percent complete.
“There have been some delays because of swells but this should be completed in a matter of months.
“At the cargo port, we have transformed that facility and now we are seeking to establish a transshipment centre for goods destined for other Caribbean territories,” he said.
Other infrastructural developments include the ongoing road programme in which the country’s main highways are being resurfaced.
Other areas of major investment have included improvements to the education system, including the establishment of the UWI FIC, upgrades to all secondary schools and improvements in the quality of technical education.