Browne touts new investment model in Independence address

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As Antigua and Barbuda celebrates 36 years of independence from British colonial rule, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has taken the opportunity to tout his vision for a new investment approach led by the government.
The PM turned to the constitution for the foundation of what he termed “entrepreneurial socialism” in his Independence Day address to the nation.
“The people of Antigua and Barbuda respect the principles of social justice and, therefore, believe that the operation of their economic system should result in the material resources of their community being so distributed, as to serve the common good …. ” Browne said.
According to him, it was the advancement of those principles that led to the government-driven initiative which he promised to outline in a document in the coming weeks.
Browne said it was intended to fill the entrepreneurial void created by inadequate domestic capital formation and a risk-averse culture among other things.
“It will be accomplished by government putting money and other values or valued assets into joint ventures with private sector partners, to create a capital base that many companies cannot manage on their own,” the PM said.
Noting recent criticism from an overseas private entity, the Antiguan leader said the entrepreneurial socialism approach would endanger no private sector investment which adheres to the country’s laws.
The new approach allows for private sector majority control and leadership by professional managers while giving the government a minority stake in enterprises from which it could garner tax revenues and dividends, Browne outlined.
He cited the West Indies Oil Company as an example of the success that could be realised from the model saying the company pays taxes and dividends amounting to some $15 million annually.
Turning to the devastation wreaked on Barbuda by Hurricane Irma in early September, Browne reiterated his appeal for the international community to rethink its eligibility criteria for aid to high income small states beset by disasters. Antigua and Barbuda has been classified as a high income country by the World Bank and as such does not qualify for Official Development Assistance from the wealthiest nations.
“This is an extremely cold, uncooperative and unresponsive position of these wealthy nations, one that we continue to fight globally, in the interest of all vulnerable small island states. 
“And, abroad we will continue to carry that banner at the front lines of the war against climate change and global warming internationally,” Browne declared.
He thanked Antiguans for opening their homes to their countrymen from the sister isle and also to Dominicans who sought refuge here after Hurricane Maria decimated that country.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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