FEATURE: And now, the Blue manifesto

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Today, we will attempt to summarise the 40 pages of the United Progressive Party’s (UPP) manifesto into a single page.  We will say up front that this presentation will not do the document any justice, because it came too late.  And, to be fair, they all came too late!
For 2018, the UPP is promising “HOPE.” The party has cast its offer and this election as a “once-in-a-lifetime chance – to be part of the redemption and rescue of Antigua and Barbuda.”  They have focused the early part of the manifesto on what they call the “failures” of Prime Minister Gaston Browne and the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP).  There is no need to rehash them here because you hear them every day.
The party has pinned its hopes on a platform called “TALENTS” which focuses on Tourism, Agriculture, Land Use and Housing, Education, National Security, Technology and Social Programmes. Under each of these focus areas, there are highlights of the party’s goals.
In the area of “Tourism,” a lot that is being promised has been heard before, so it is pretty bread and butter stuff in order to maintain tourism as our primary industry.  It was interesting to read the opening line under “Agriculture” which said, “the UPP will make Agriculture its second priority.”  With all the talk and need for greater independence and food security, we are not sure how it can be labelled second.  Again, we would have loved to see a plan for the deployment of technology to increase yields and market harvests.
Next came “Land Use and Housing.”  The UPP got off to a good start by acknowledging that land is “a limited and non-renewable resource” and committing to an audit of remaining Crown holdings, reforms in the
allocation and use of lands, and enforcement.  There were other sweet words for those concerned about land such
as the elimination of “check your Minister” regarding lands and the reference to a “performance clause” for investors.
“Education” was as expected, even the “computer tablets for teachers and students” was recycled to be on the list.  There was also an interesting reference to an initiative that would see the introduction of a “curriculum on Artificial Intelligence.”  There is no doubt that a high-tech course would be great, but we think that getting the basics right would be better.  Before we take these giant leaps, it would be great to get the STEM subjects at the top of the performance list (we note some focus on mathematics).  Education is like any other area – get the basics right and then we can move on to the more ambitious shifts in our curriculum.
As we move on to National Security, we have to admit that the topic is extremely broad and impossible to cover in a paragraph.  That said, the revamping of the police force was a welcomed approach to the future of law enforcement and follows our advocacy for police to service communities in order to build strong relationships that put the criminals on the outside of society.
“Technology and Innovation” are areas that are near and dear to our hearts, in much the same way as is education.  We constantly preach that “the next big thing” could come from the fertile mind of an Antiguan and Barbudan if the government supports an innovative, entrepreneurial environment.  The UPP talks of a “UConomy” which they describe as a “YOU-centered, personalised approach to business,” where, “all you need is a great idea and internet connectivity.”  They also reference all the “e” buzzwords such as e-Health, e-Government, e-Learning, e-Innovation, e-Capacity-building and e-Commerce, and they promise faster, cheaper and more reliable internet with 50-100 megs to homes, businesses and educational institutions.
 Now on to the “S” in TALENTS with Social Improvement.  In this section, the UPP promises to continue their “People First” motto while renaming the “Ministry of Social Transformation,” the “Ministry of Social Improvement.” This is to be coupled with a focus that is more results-oriented.   The party promises to keep and improve many of the social programmes already in place and introduce others to cater to the most vulnerable.
With the main TALENTS platform completed. The UPP turned to specific areas such as Health, Sports, Youth Employment, International Relations, Barbuda, the restoration of P.R.I.D.E. (an acronym for a refocus on national pride).  Since we touched on sports in the two previous manifestos, we will do so again.  The UPP makes a number of promises to better sports and we were pleased to see that sports are being considered as part of the Antigua and Barbuda brand strategy.  They also pledged to place “a major emphasis on sports for the community of persons with disabilities.”
The manifesto ends with a unique outreach to the Spanish community with a one-page translation of their “Everybody Must Nyam!” (“Todos Deben Comer”) flyer which highlights the key UPP promises to the voters.   It would be interesting to poll the Spanish community to ascertain their reaction to the inclusion of Spanish in the UPP manifesto.
With that, we come to the end of our ‘glances’ at the political manifestos of the three main parties contesting the 2018 general election.  We were disappointed that we were not able to get a copy of the famous ‘Gyal-afesto’ but maybe next time.   Please take the opportunity to read all of the manifestos and become an informed voter.   Soon you will be required to do your part in our democracy and help determine who will shepherd our bit of paradise into the future.
 We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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