Analysts wary of Browne’s Budget 2022 promises and voice concerns over hidden taxes, inflation, and over-reliance on tourism

Having heard the 2022 Budget Presentation, some local pundits are expressing reservations about the country’s new borrowings, saying that certain plans of the Government are simply not credible.

First, they tell REAL News, while the Administration plans to borrow US$200 million for the purpose of stimulating the economy, the disbursement plan provides no clarity on how, exactly, relief will reach those who most need it.

And while Finance Minister Gaston Browne says there will be no new taxes levied on the people, the analysts are concerned that the high cost of fuel and electricity are, themselves, hidden taxes. 

More troubling, they point out, is the fact that inflation – which they accuse the Administration of failing to address – is already “eating up workers’ spending power.”

Residents are complaining daily about rising prices, particularly for food, and Political Leader Harold Lovell has pledged that a United Progressive Party Administration will address this. 

He has promised to reduce the duty on imported food and remove it altogether where feasible – noting that “a government that says it can do nothing is admitting that it is impotent.”

At the Party’s second campaign rally, held Thursday night, Lovell said the cost of doing business in Antigua and Barbuda is also driving up the price of consumer goods. 

He revealed that handling of a 20-foot container incurs a cost of US$720 at our Port, whereas, in St. Lucia, it costs US$350 to handle a container of 40-foot capacity.

These are the factors contributing to inflation, Lovell says, and a responsible government must devise ways to reduce it.

In the meantime, the pundits say, the Budget Presentation did not indicate a “clear timeline on public sector wage-increase negotiations.”  Accordingly, a large percentage of the working population will continue to see its spending capacity dwindle, even as contributions to Social Security edge upwards annually.

They also took aim at the Finance Minister’s promise that the “few” who are still unemployed due to the pandemic will be put back to work this year.  The fact that “there is no plan” to make this happen makes his statement not credible, they say. 

And, added to that, they note that “over 1,000 small businesses were allowed to fail due to the Government’s lack of protection during the worst of COVID.”

Accordingly, the analysts say, Browne’s “over-reliance on tourism and lack of economic diversity” will make his promises difficult, if not impossible, to fulfill.

Meanwhile, a member of the Diaspora in Canada is cautioning Antiguans and Barbudans to approach Browne’s Budget promises very carefully. 

He notes that the Canadian Federal Government has already approved hikes in interest rates and that some degree of global recession is very likely by the end of 2022.