The economy of Antigua and Barbuda needs a stimulus and the people need relief. That was the urgent cry sounded by Political Leader of the United Progressive Party, Harold Lovell when he addressed a press conference today.
With the tagline “Relief, Recovery and Shared Prosperity,” Lovell told the nation that Prime Minister Gaston Browne was in a position to offer relief to the struggling masses, as he promised on October 9th that he would be in receipt of US$160 million from a bond he had floated, and he would have in hand a further US$25 from the Caribbean Development Bank.
The Political Leader reminded that the Prime Minister promised relief which would flow within 30 to 60 days.
In this regard, he is calling on the Gaston Browne administration to, with immediate effect, implement a number of measures which would help to alleviate the hardships that the citizenry is facing.
One such measure, Lovell said, is increasing the ABST reduction days. This initiative, introduced by the UPP administration in 2004, took effect every December for two consecutive weekends where the ABST of 15 percent was waived.
However, since taking office, the ABLP administration abandoned the complete waiver of ABST, instead opting to reduce the ABST percentage from 15 to 5 percent. Last week, the administration announced the ABST reduction would be for one weekend only, instead of the traditional two.
The UPP Leader, in asking for a review of this policy declared, “In light of the current dire and extreme circumstances, the UPP calls on the government to extend the reduction period from one weekend to four consecutive weekends.” This, he said, “will provide a much needed stimulus for the economy resulting in increased spending and circulation of money during these very difficult times.”
The UPP Leader is advocating that the ABST reduction days should begin December 16 and occur every weekend thereafter until January 8, 2023.”
Given the inflationary impact of fuel prices, the road to relief and recovery, during the waning days of 2022, should result in lowering of prices at the pumps,” Lovell said. He further declared, “We call on the government to reduce the price of gasoline by $3.04, to pre-war levels of no more than $12.50, and to reduce diesel by at least $4.59 to the pre-war price of $12.20.”
He noted that the price of crude has tumbled on the world market, dropping from a high of $125 to currently $73.25. This is lower than immediately before the start of the war, when the price of crude was $97 per barrel on the world market. At that time, the price of gasoline at the pump was $12.50, and the price of diesel $12.20.”At a time when we are witnessing low prices of crude on the world market, it cannot be fair for the government to continue to take in an excessive amount of consumption tax. We are aware this government has collected more in consumption tax than any other administration. We call on the government therefore to have a heart and to give a break to the people of this country by immediately reducing the price of gasoline and diesel,” Lovell concluded.