Lovell accepts challenge to debate PM Browne on CIP

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The Political Leader of the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) Harold Lovell said he will take on Prime Minister Gaston Browne in a public debate on the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) at any time.
However, he wants the debate to touch on a wider range of issues than that which the PM is calling for.
Yesterday, Browne issued his challenge to Lovell via OBSERVER media, calling on him to “defend his misinformation about the CIP” just days after the Canadian government imposed visa requirements on citizens of Antigua & Barbuda.
Lovell has since issued a number of conditions under which the debate should take place.
He told OBSERVER media, “Given the current state of the economy, the underperforming tourism sector, the high cost of living, high unemployment, rising crime, crumbling infrastructure and other pressing issues affecting Antiguans and Barbudans, it would be remiss of me to engage in a public debate with PM Browne that is limited to the single issue of the CIP.”
Lovell, a former finance minister and also former tourism minister during
the UPP’s tenure from 2004 to 2014, stressed that there is no merit in debating just the CIP.
He explained, “My views and those of my party on the management of the CIP are already widely known. We do not believe there is merit, therefore, to restricting the discussion to the programme which, now, is already in difficulty, owing to the government’s reckless actions. What is needed at this time is a comprehensive mid-term debate that focuses on the range of important issues currently affecting the nation.”
He said crucial to the debate would be the presence of another member of the Browne-led Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) administration.
“I further invite Asot Michael, as Minister of Tourism, our most important sector, to debate me on the management of that sector, in The [Snake] Pit, at a mutually agreeable time, under conditions which I will agree upon with the OBSERVER Group.”
While PM Browne is anxious for an immediate debate, Lovell, who had initially said he would make himself available for today, later said, “Given the depth of the national debate that I envision, I propose that the debate is rescheduled for July 8 to allow for the development of a proper structure, format and procedures.”
PM Browne concludes that this is Lovell’s way of backing out of the debate as he indicated that the UPP political leader would be left “embarrassed” because he cannot back up his claims about the mismanagement of the CIP.
Earlier this week, PM Browne suggested that the country lost its visa free access to Canada because of the CIP.
He speculated that the “last straw” for Canada might have been the case of an Antigua & Barbuda CIP passport holder being listed as wanted by Interpol after she travelled to Canada on the CIP passport. The prime minister did not identify the individual by name, neither did he provide any other details about that matter.
As of June 27, Canada imposed the visa requirement, stating that, “…After carefully monitoring the integrity of Antigua and Barbuda’s travel documents, the Government of Canada has determined that Antigua and Barbuda no longer meets Canada’s criteria for a visa exemption.”
The CIP law was passed in March 2013 under the UPP regime.

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