Prime Minister Gaston Browne has dismissed the Black Monday March by the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) as a failure, while he suggested that the UPP doesn’t stand a chance at the next polls.
He said the march, which attracted over 2,000 supporters according to the police estimate, highlighted something he knew all along.
Speaking of the march, he told OBSERVER media, “I’m not sure they even had 1,000 people. As far as I’m concerned, it was an exercise in futility. What did they gain? Not a thing other than they would have exposed their vulnerability that they do not have a lot of support and that they are fighting for political relevance.”
Having said that, the prime minister again hinted at early elections, just days after he first alluded to it during a meeting in his constituency.
“As I said to them, the elections will come like a thief in the night and when it is called there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” he said.
Give or take a few hundred, an estimated 2,000 people joined the opposition UPP to march through St John’s on Monday in protest against the policies of the three-year-old Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) government, led by PM Browne who is also the finance minister.
Browne said he’s satisfied with his party’s performance, even when it comes to its flagship election campaign promise in 2014 to build 500 homes in 500 days. Although 48 have been completed, only about a dozen homes have been handed over thus far.
A number of new homeowners received the keys for those homes on Monday, June 12 as the ABLP marked its third anniversary in office.
“I am satisfied because I have said to the people of Antigua & Barbuda early and bright that we had to abandon the initiative of building the homes in 500 days. I said ad nauseam in this medium and other media we have had to prioritise. We had to allocate our first $100 million of our revenue that were not allocated to paying wages and salaries and some other basic expenses to pay in debt,” he said.
The prime minister, who had continued to tout the project several months after being elected, said yesterday that the ABLP administration was faced with paying debts such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Caribbean Development Bank “and the Chinese to clear the arrears on the loan”.
He said had the government not paid the loan to the Chinese EXIM bank, it would have jeopardised other projects such as the construction of the VC Bird International Airport terminal and the Port.
“It was not a deceptive promise, it was a real promise and we will deliver the 500 homes before the end of the term, that is the fundamental issue, whether or not we deliver the 500 home by the end of the term,” Browne assured.