Opposition leader uses budget to defend his administration

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Leader of the Opposition Baldwin Spencer has vehemently defended the record of the United Progressive Party’s (UPP’s) 10-year administration (2004 – 2014) in the face of what he called “a distortion of the facts” during the 2017 Budget Debate.

When he rose to make his contribution, Spencer declared that “a great deal of effort has been made by [the ruling] administration to “create in the minds of the people the idea that the UPP did not do anything good or right in this country”.

Spencer noted the 2016 growth rate of 4.3 per cent given by Prime Minister Gaston Browne and said it was “a remarkable growth rate that was achieved” but added, “The prime minister said they inherited the country in 2014 in total shambles. In 2014 the growth rate under the UPP was 4.7 per cent.”

Spencer, who was prime minister throughout the UPP tenure, criticised the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) for its governance prior to 2004. However, he said that it was an achievement for his government to have made economic strides during its first three years in office.

He also mentioned a number of what he described as continuing concerns affecting the country, ranging from the collection of waste to the cleaning of public areas, but did not say much on the matter of the budget.

On January 20, Browne outlined a $1.2 billion 2017 budget in which the Ministry of Education Science & Technology got the largest allocation of any ministry at $98 million. Additionally $106 million was earmarked for capital expenditure and debt payments were budgeted at $476 million.

The recurrent revenue projections for 2017 are budgeted at $935 million which was stated to be 10 per cent above what was budgeted in 2017 and tax revenue comprising direct and indirect taxes will account for about 79 per cent or $742 million, while non-tax revenue of $193 million will make up the remaining 21 per cent.

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