The son of Ghanaian immigrants to the UK, Conservative Kwasi Kwarteng took only 12 years to rise from being a little-known politician to Chancellor in his close friend, Liz Truss’ new government.
In doing so, Kwarteng became the first black man in the United Kingdom’s history to hold the prestigious position, which despite his background as an economist, many think he was ill prepared for in respect of his experience.
Kwarteng has also, unenviably, become the second shortest serving Chancellor in UK history serving only 38 days before his “mini budget” involving sweeping tax cuts created panic in the country’s economic circles and a crisis of leadership in the new Truss administration.
He barely missed becoming the shortest serving Chancellor by a mere 8 days, a record held by another Conservative, Iain Macleod, who died 30 days after assuming the position in 1970.
On Saturday morning, Prime Minister Browne said former finance minister under the Baldwin Spencer administration, Harold Lovell was Kwarteng’s parallel here in Antigua and Barbuda.
“PM Baldwin Spencer promoted the financial neophyte Lovell, who had no prior experience, or qualifications in finance and he collapsed the economy.
“A weak Baldwin Spencer bought into Harold’s slick lies and excuses instead of firing him, after several years of contracting [the] economy.
“This is [a] classic case where ambition and competence were misaligned.”
The prime minister’s comments on Saturday followed an announcement on Thursday by the UPP’s leader that, if elected, his administration intends to dissolve the National Asset Management Company (NAMCO) and make other sweeping changes to the National Housing Scheme (NHS).
“The UPP will suspend, audit, then dissolve NAMCO and pursue a more relevant private sector-led development strategy.
“Any funds in NAMCO will be transferred to the consolidated fund,” said Lovell.
He also accused the Gaston Browne administration of engaging in “waste and inefficiency” in the management of public resources by providing subsidised housing for nationals at a cost of EC$100,000 to $150,000 through the NHS.
While he did not explain the details of his plan or how it will all work differently than the programme now in place that he heavily criticised, he broadly stated that a UPP administration would merge the NHS and Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHAPA) to create a “transparent and accountable new housing entity”.
Earlier this year, Lovell said a UPP government will move to introduce a rent-to-own housing initiative which would offer homes for $900 a month, $100 more than the base payments for the ABLP government’s no-frills low income homes which are being sold outright to the public.
This is a recycled vision, however.
During the UPP’s two terms in office, a similar rent-to-own programme, which never materialised, was also dangled before the electorate.
In its ten years in government, the UPP, in fact, only constructed ten homes.
Prime Minister Browne also refuted the claim that NAMCO is poorly managed or that there is a lack of transparency.
A thorough analysis of NAMCO’s financial statements up to 31st December, 2018 was prepared and signed off on by the country’s Director of Audit, Dean Evanson, in a report dated 9th May, 2022.
In the report, as of 31st December, 2018, the company’s total liabilities were listed at EC$9,718,020 against its total shareholder’s equity of EC$47,891,618.
Browne went on that any attempt to sell off a successful national asset in NAMCO was a “crack-head” leadership move.
“Lovell promises to sell off Namco’s assets, like a crack-head leader,” said Browne. “[The] implications of this amputation: WIOC, State Insurance, Halcyon Hotel, Jolly Beach Hotel, Carn Park, and shares in ECAB, CUB, Blue Ocean Marine, and even APUA PCS when the corporatisation is completed, will [be] sold at a heavy discount.”
Browne continued that the UPP leader was erroneously condemning his ABLP government for “spending too much money on the people”.
“Just imagine the job losses and pauperisation that will be repeated by Lovell,” Browne said. “These are the enlightened political ideas of a political dinosauric.”