Nothing to be excited about. That’s how the member of Parliament for All Saints West Anthony Smith has described this year’s $1.8-billion-dollar budget presented by Finance Minister and Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
Smith, in his first-ever presentation to Parliament, said however, if the government needs help from the Opposition, they are willing to help. “Just ask,” he said
He said he is not impressed with suggestions in the budget that it needs to tighten up its grip on concessions for instance, yet the government boasts about an economy on a rebound.
He said businesses plummeted during Covid-19, over 900 of them coming out after a general election would have expected more in the budget.
“The business community especially had hopes…and we are saying to this honorable house that this is all the government has to offer, after such a hard time, a third term government, I don’t think this is adequate…I say to the members on the other side…we are willing to help and all you have to do is just ask,” he said.
Residents in Antigua and Barbuda he said were at a greater disadvantage than others where the blow from Covid-19 is concerned, which is why Smith believes reducing concessions was a bad idea.
“The people of Antigua and Barbudan went through a rough patch, in many cases, worse than a lot of countries because 60% of our GDP comes from tourism….and the first thing the government wants to do is cut concessions and exemptions from the people of Antigua and Barbuda…I don’t agree,” he added.
According to Smith, nothing about the budget was optimistic, agreeing that there needs to be tightening up but it shouldn’t affect the people he said.
He said the government could look at political appointments and others.
“This budget is certainly sending a double message because on one hand, we are celebrating that we are doing so well but on the other hand we are here talking about tightening the grip. And the persons we are tightening the grip on are the most vulnerable”, he said.
Smith said the government failed to provide a stimulus to residents during the pandemic. He claimed that during his election campaign, residents were concerned about having food on their tables and money in their pockets
To sum it up, Smith said this year’s budget failed to provide hope to the less fortunate in the country.