Finally, we are in possession of the manifestos from the United Progressive Party (UPP) and the Democratic National Alliance (DNA). We were hoping to receive these much earlier so that we could have given them a “glance” as we did the offering from the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) but we will have to hustle through them, as there are only three more days to discuss them in these pages. That is what you get for being late but on the flip side, better late than never.
We will devote this edition to the DNA. Since they have produced the shortest document at 20 pages, cover to cover, which they describe as “a concise Vision 2040 – our architectural blueprint for the redevelopment, restructuring and repositioning of our country, economy and society.” As we pointed out before, size does not necessarily matter, it is the content that we care about.
The DNA has a bit of an advantage being the ‘new kids on the block.’ They can and have taken a fresh approach to politics which starts with a commitment “to put God FIRST in all of our endeavours.” Hard to criticise that as a starting point!
The “Policy Document 2018: Building a New Antigua and Barbuda for the Benefit and Prosperity of All” makes 15 key pledges to the voters and is the backbone to the manifesto, so with limited space we list them for you so that you get a good feel of the DNA’s DNA. So, here goes. 1) Diversify the economy. 2) Relentlessly pursue the reduction of the cost of living. 3) A new system and culture of governance (this relates to decentralisation). 4) Reducing and eventually eradicating poverty. 5) Renewable energy and alternative energy sources. 6) Transformation of the agricultural and fisheries sectors. 7) Holistic restructuring of the education structure and infrastructure. 8) An integrated and all-inclusive healthcare system. 9) Restructure the human development and social services framework. 10) Revolutionise the National Security, Justice and Legal framework. 11) Urban transformation of St. John’s. 12) Support for athletes and stakeholders. 13) Promotion of cultural and heritage awareness. 14) Revamp and revitalise all transportation systems. And 15) Create an environment for the prosperity of all.
The summary collection of policies are fairly generic, as you can see, but the DNA justifies that by stating, implementation is “depending on the conditions and characteristics of the various sectors of government that will become clearer to us when we have an insider view …” Basically, we will tell you what we can offer when we get into the kitchen and open the cupboards. And, as the DNA urges readers to peruse the document, we do the same. In fact, we urge everyone to read all of the manifestos and become informed voters. We will post them on antiguaobserver.com for your convenience.
Out of the list of topical highlights, we picked a few that caught our eyes. The party has committed to “support for indigenous and domestic investors” which is a good thing because we seem to cater more to foreign direct investment than home-grown investment. We know that there is a cultural barrier to risk but we believe that can be overcome. In the Tourism section, there is a bullet point that reads, “Cultural Tourism (to include 2 out-of-season festivals, namely the African World Music Festival and the African World Film Festival).” We certainly can embrace the concept of two festivals but we wonder if we can host African World Festivals in the Caribbean, regardless of our history and heritage. It would be similar to hearing that the Caribbean World Music Festival was being held in Kenya. Just seems like a hard sell.
Agriculture and fisheries seem to cover most of the issues in those sectors but it would have been good to see the promotion of technology to increase yields and to market harvests. In education and youth development the party certainly focused on those being educated and we are sure the educators may feel a bit left out, but everyone should remember that they have committed to a holistic approach, so we should not get caught up on highlights. Like the ABLP’s manifesto, we found that the Sports section came up short. For example, there were no plans to link sports with tourism and brand marketing. The next section, Human Development is just too-broad-a-topic to do any justice in this short glance so we will park that for now. Same for Health Care. Those are topics that could easily take up the entire 20-page document so we can understand if the highlights do not adequately address all the topics.
On to Governance and Administration and we need go no further than point to one – Constitutional Reform. This definitely gets a thumbs up from us. Justice and National security does indeed need a total revamping so we will leave it there. On the topic of Culture, Heritage and Identity, we believe that we need a cultural identification foundation so that we can eventually develop what is uniquely ours. For too long, we have ignored and abandoned our history and heritage in order to adopt others.
We are going to end on two areas that hold keen interest for us: Sustainable Development and Energy, and Transportation. We would like to see a stronger push towards the democratisation of energy production that is facilitated by the government for the people. Committing to “pursue the development of renewable energy sources” as a government is fine but if the public is not incentivised to push the adoption along, it will be a slow process. Finally, as it relates to transportation, we are happy to see that there is some thought of creating a master plan through a comprehensive road audit. This is a long overdue activity.
That said, we have reached the end of our quick sojourn through 20 pages of DNA policy highlights. We invite you to read the manifestos of all the parties and make comparisons. It is not for us to say who has the best plan for Antigua and Barbuda. That is for you to do.