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By Aabigayle McIntosh
The lower house of Antigua and Barbuda’s government is scheduled to commence the debate on the National Budget today after it was presented to the House of Representatives last Friday by Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who serves as the finance minister.
The budget for 2024 is worth $1.9 billion and provides an extensive overview of the country’s economy performance in the previous fiscal year, along with projections for the upcoming twelve months.
Prime Minister Browne reported a remarkable 8.1% economic growth in 2023, primarily driven by advancements in the tourism and construction sectors.
He further disclosed that the positive trend in tourism is expected to continue into the new year, with several major projects poised to commence operations and significant hotel developments.
Antigua and Barbuda’s economic growth, exceeding 8% in the past two fiscal years, positions the country in a category where only Guyana’s economy, fueled by oil and natural gas, has outperformed.
During the budget presentation, Prime Minister Browne announced that public servants would receive salary increases, with those who had already negotiated raises of up to 14% scheduled to receive an additional increment at the end of January 2024.
Despite the government and opposition failing to agree on the debate’s starting date, a division took place, and after polling each member of the House, the decision was reached to commence the debate today.
The importance of the national budget discourse suggests that the opposition is likely to attend and actively participate, even though there was initial speculation that they might abstain from the debate. It is a tradition that the Leader of the Opposition initiates the budget debate.