Antigua and Barbuda’s recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic when the entire world was brought to a screeching halt, was as a result of a number of ‘decisive actions’ taken by the government.
That’s the assessment of Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Sen. Samantha Marshall as she introduced the 2023 National Budget in the Upper House for debate.
She said the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) concluded that the Antigua and Barbuda economy grew by over eight percent in 2022, a mere two years after the outbreak of the pandemic. “I have to commend the prime minister and his cabinet for the work that they have been doing. This is because during the pandemic, there were a number of critical decisions made, they were not popular decisions, but they were decisions that helped bring us to where we are today with 8.5 percent growth,” she declared.
Sen. Marshall recalled that some regional leaders even questioned Prime Minister Gaston Browne when he declared that he was re-opening the airport. “Even our own people questioned whether the government was allowing COVID-19 to enter into the country. We did not bring COVID-19 but what we brought was a sustainable tourism industry for Antigua and Barbuda,” she stated.
Looking at the performance of tourism over the past year, Sen. Marshall said the industry grew by over fifty percent from 2021 to 2022. She also revealed the tourist arrival figures for the cruise industry – over 300-thousand – and for the stay-over visitors – over 265-thousand.
In terms of the yachting sector, she described the industry as very important to Antigua and Barbuda, adding that the sector contributes more to the economy than the cruise industry.
In her response, Minority Leader, Sen. Shawn Nicholas, who noted that the government has been promoting the idea of increased economic growth, questioned whether this growth has been felt by the ordinary men and women in the country.
She also spoke of the exogenous shocks that affect the economy and prices in the country, she is of the view that the government ought to take measures to relieve consumers of the rise in prices.
Making his maiden budget presentation, Sen. Caleb Gardner spent time focusing on the government’s policies as they relate to youth development. He said the administration of Prime Minister Gaston Browne has implemented policies that have had positive effects on young people in the country. “From 2014 until now, we have seen the impact of this contribution on the development of young people. This includes the development of a National Youth Policy for Antigua and Barbuda, completed in 2021,” he indicated.
Among the policy objectives was the inclusion of young people in the decision making process of the country as is evidenced by the number of young people in the Senate. He also pointed to the establishment of a 4th landed campus of the University of the West Indies at Five Islands and the long-term beneficial impact it will have on Antigua and Barbuda.