The Gaston Browne -administration is being called on to “clarify” the role of the prime minister’s brainchild, the National Asset Management Company (NAMCo), in the economy of Antigua and Barbuda.
Bruce Goodwin, executive member of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) made the call in response to the shocked reaction of Taxi drivers last week when they learned that the administration plans for NAMCo and a Canadian company to operate amphibious tour buses catering to cruise ship passengers.
Goodwin declared, “We need comprehensive an detailed consultations between the private sector and the government for us to clarify nationally what NAMCo is really about and what it expects to achieve.”
According to the DNA executive member the administration has left the role of NAMCo in the economy unknown, and as a result, people do not know what to expect of its involvement in different sectors. He said no one expected the entity touted as a corporate colossus by Gaston Browne, prime minister to come “down to the areas of small businesses”.
“The joint venture is going to transport cruise ship tourists in direct competition to taxi and tour bus operators. This type of activity should be reserved solely for Antiguan small businesses. We should not be inviting a Canadian company,” Goodwin said.
He called it “unfair competition” for taxi drivers and tour operators, arguing that “the government will always have an advantage as a result of its powerful network and its ability to attract finance”. He said that meanwhile “some taxi drivers are struggling.”
Goodwin was speaking on the Big Issues on OBSERVER radio on Sunday with Jeremy Stephen, economist and Lecturer in Banking and Finance at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill, and Dr. Damien King, economist and Executive Director of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute based in Kingston.
Stephen said that NAMCo should only be engaged in industries where there is a lack of activity and a need to develop the sector and where “the government wants to steer the economy forward with a view to exiting and selling off the stock to its citizens or on a stock exchange”.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)