The United Progressive Party (UPP) is hoping that Thursday’s Budget Presentation will shed light on some of the loan agreements into which the Gaston Browne Administration entered during its previous two terms in office, says General-Secretary Shawn Nicholas.
On March 2, Browne is scheduled to present to the Lower House the Appropriations Bill, 2023, which should outline how much money his administration intends to collect and spend this fiscal year.
During its last term, the Government took out a number of loans – including a disputed $500-million bond – and the UPP is expecting to hear more about these in the Budget Speech.
Nicholas, who is the Senate minority leader, says the UPP wants what is best for Antigua and Barbuda, and it is concerned that, in the current financial crisis, the Browne Administration continues to increase the country’s borrowings.
Following the presentation of the 2023 Budget, she says, she is hoping to have a clearer picture of how deeply in debt the country is; how its money was spent; and on what it was spent.
Senator Nicholas is also expecting that the prime minister, who is also the minister of finance, will announce measures to reduce Antigua and Barbuda’s debt stock.
Nicholas says the public sector, which is bursting at the seams, remains a major concern, and so she wants to know what the Administration will be doing to address this situation.
She says the private sector needs to be incentivized, which will allow it to take some of the employment burden off the public sector.
Accordingly, the UPP general secretary says her Party would wish to hear the Government’s plans for broadening the investment opportunities now available to business owners.
Additionally, Nicholas is hoping that Browne will speak to his administration’s plans for improving the public-health system, which is plagued with issues, including the infrastructure of the clinics and the lone public hospital.
Meanwhile, as more and more emphasis is being placed on The University of the West Indies (UWI) Five Islands, Senator Nicholas notes that the public primary and secondary schools are being shortchanged.
But if students do not meet its matriculation requirements, she points out, the expansion of the University will be of little value to local young people.
The Government’s Throne Speech, delivered on February 20, was ridiculed by many residents, who dismissed it as regurgitation, a history lesson, and self-promotion by the Labour Party Administration.
Observers tell REAL News they, too, are waiting for the Budget Speech to say exactly what residents can look forward to – or not – this financial year, given that the Browne Administration just received a new mandate in the January 18 polls.