Job creation, and finding ways to rebuild the economy were top on the agenda when the United Progressive Party held its final leg of a public forum in New York on Monday night.
They also talked about economic diversification while engaging Antiguans in the diaspora.
Opposition Leader, Jamale Pringle, reiterated the importance of the Diaspora as a stakeholder group in supporting the development of the country.
“Apart from their traditional roles as boosters of our economy, our nationals in the Diaspora contribute significantly to achieving our national aspirations, beyond their financial contributions. We want to support your interests and rights and to strengthen your ties to the land of your birth or ancestry,” Pringle said.
Meanwhile, Leader of the UPP Harold Lovell says a UPP administration would establish a Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and that the Consulate Office would be reinstalled to serve the needs of nationals in the North East region.
He also supported the rights of Diasporans to participate in the electoral process and committed to help streamline the voter registration process.
“We will put the structures in place to facilitate the Diaspora in coming back home to vote and we will simplify the process so that they can take advantage of opportunities for investment or homeownership as well. When we are masters of our destiny, we strive to become ambassadors of our country, because we recognize that we are no longer doing it for other people but ourselves,” Lovell said’
The panel also responded to questions from the audience on a range of topics including the status of agricultural lands, the public accounts committee, the state of healthcare and education systems, child protection, and social programs.
There was concern about infrastructural development in areas such as water, roads, and affordable housing.
The Political Leader also highlighted some of the UPP’s major accomplishments while in office. He took the opportunity to refute false claims made by the ABLP two weeks ago at a New York town hall meeting, that the UPP had not secured any hotel investments during its tenure.
“In politics, a certain amount of exaggeration might be expected, but it is mind-blowing that the Gaston Browne administration would tell such outrageous lies when the evidence is there for all to see,” Lovell said.
The Political leader pointed out that while the UPP was proud of its record in tourism, there would be a shift to diversifying the economy by creating linkages between other sectors such as agriculture, culture, technology, and education. He encouraged nationals from all disciplines, particularly those with expertise in the aforementioned areas to assist in nation-building, by transferring the knowledge and skills that they have acquired.
The theme of the initiative was “Partnership for Investment and Nation Building.