We will conclude our glance at the 2018 Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) manifesto, “Vision 2023 and Beyond …” beginning with the party’s plans for public sector workers. After blaming the United Progressive Party (UPP) for all of its woes, the ABLP has made some grand promises to public servants that may actually prove problematic as they have the potential to alienate employees in the private sector.
According to the ABLP, the public has “had to shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden associated with the economic and financial downturn.” It is a bold, election-season statement that seems nothing more than someone’s opinion. No evidence is provided and no studies referenced. To correct the perceived wrongs, the ABLP will offer a number of exclusive incentives to public servants. The first is a $10,000 housing grant “to assist with the down-payment on the purchase price of a home from the National Housing and Urban Renewal Company.” So, not only will the buyer get a subsidised home, but he or she will get a grant to help buy a subsidised home. He or she will also get concessions on the import duty on new and used vehicles once every five years, because you can’t have a home without a car, right? Nice and good if you can get it, but we cannot see the private sector taxpayers cheering that proposal. What about them?
And that’s not all! They are further breaking down the public servants into the segments that are more deserving than others (and the private sector workers). The ABLP states that “priority access to homes, provided through National Housing, will be given to teachers, nurses, members of the Antigua Barbuda Defence Force, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda.” And if they are not interested in the subsidised home, then they will get to skip the line at the Construct Antigua Barbuda Initiative (CABI) via a special window “that will allow fast-track access to the incentives.” Not only that, they will be eligible to receive “concessions on the importation of household furnishings and major appliances to furnish their new homes.”
Hooray for the public servants. Private sector employees … please go to the back of the line.
We are going to deliberately sidestep the education section because education is one of our pet peeves and we would need time and space to do it justice. That said, we note that there is yet another laptop initiative seeking to put a laptop or tablet in every teacher’s hand. Haven’t we been there and done that? And what happened to that e-textbook programme? We threw quite a few dollars behind that initiative, didn’t we?
Moving on to sport and culture was a bit of a let down. It was devoid of any specific plans and seemed to focus on name-dropping. Hint: if you are going to drop names, at least tell us how you helped Jack and or Jill’s sports or entertainment career. Then there was the reference to establishing “fully-equipped recording studios at strategic points in the country.” Huh? What? What does that even mean? Who owns them? Who operates them, etcetera? And if that was not head-spinning enough, the ABLP intends to “promote the film industry locally and seek to attract Hollywood and Bollywood film makers to make films in Antigua and Barbuda.” Wait! What happened to our US$125 million investment for 5 feature films to be shot in Antigua and Barbuda? You remember that huge announcement?!? What happened to our money and the projects that were supposed to materialise? Maybe the man spearheading the investment project, Antigua and Barbuda Ambassador-at-Large and Special Consultant to the Prime Minister on the Citizenship by Investment Programme and Investment, His Excellency Dr. Joseph ‘Joey’ John, could be of some assistance in providing us with an update.
The next few pages saw the ABLP touch on important areas such as gender equality, child abuse, the rights of differently-abled people, pensioners and foreign policy. The party also touched on the greening of Antigua and raised the seemingly never-ending, vexing issue of a new cemetery. Apparently, yet another study has been commissioned from local and international experts for the realisation of a new cemetery in the next five years. The cemetery has been discussed for so long, we sometimes think that the consultations are with the dead, hence the reason we continue to wait. Many of us will die before that cemetery becomes a reality.
In chapter 4, the ABLP concluded the manifesto with a return to how they started. Under the title “Rebuilding Together: Making Our Country Better For Good,” they criticised the UPP for its stewardship of the nation and promised to make things better.
So that is it. The fourth installment of our quick glance through the ABLP manifesto for the upcoming election and its plans and promises for the next five years. We invite you to read it for yourselves and come to your own opinions. Become a well-educated voter and vote for what you think will be best for our nation. Reject the trinkets being handed out by those seeking to influence your vote. If they cannot persuade you without “a gift with every vote” then they are not the candidates that should get your precious “X”.
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