Government inks deal on another tax-free Special Economic Zone that will occupy acreage in Jennings and Five Islands

The Gaston Browne Administration reportedly has given away large plots of land to foreign interests for the establishment of another special economic zone – this time in two locations: Five Islands, where 304 acres have been allotted, and Jennings, where 245 acres will be surrendered.

Algernon “Serpent” Watts, the United Progressive Party Candidate for St. George and radio host made the revelation on his “Snake Pit” programme on Tuesday night, October 5.

While detailing the licensing agreement – which involves an entity known as the Western Imperial (Wisez) – Millennia Montague Development Antigua (MMDA) Ltd. – Watts says this Administration seems bent on giving away the country.

He points out that this Government has not learnt any lessons from the YIDA development project, which has not seen any activity for some time now.  

Even YIDA’s champion, the Prime Minister, who promised a $2 billion investment over 10 years, has been forced to admit that it has not lived up to expectation.

According to what Watts shared, the incentives and concessions being given to this new group will remain in force during the life of the Antigua and Barbuda Special Economic Zone.

These concessions are applicable to the MMDA, the licensee, and to any entity it approves to operate a business or industry in the Zone.

Watts further notes that, based on the YIDA Licence Act, any more-favourable concessions that are granted to another investor will automatically apply to the YIDA group.

Meanwhile, the MMDA agreement also grants to the investor a one-time licence into perpetuity for food, beverage, liquor, entertainment, hotel and casino.  This is effective 365 days and 24 hours a day for the life of the operation of the Zone.   

Watts says that Wisez is responsible for setting up the board and the management committee, among other entities.  These will be duty bound to set up a one-stop shop that delivers the government services required for operating in the Zone. 

This, the Agreement claims, is being done to simplify procedures for business operations and promotion of the project.  It is also reported that the Zone is being established to attract domestic and foreign direct investment.

Interestingly, however, although the Zone will be exempted from the payment of all Port taxes and import duties, it will be permitted to sell its goods on the local market.

This agreement was gazetted as of September 23, 2021.

While residents were distracted by the Government’s vaccination mandate and focusing their attention on other issues, Watts says the Browne Administration was moving to give away a significant portion of the people’s patrimony.