PM Browne wants better relationship between the Government and the Chamber of Commerce

Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff

Prime Minister Gaston Browne wants a better relationship with the Chamber of Industry and Commence; Antigua and Barbuda’s leading private sector umbrella body.

Last Thursday, Browne addressed members of the Chamber during a luncheon at the Sandals Grande Antigua.

Browne told those gathered that the relationship between the government and the Chamber “has not been the best”.

He said “in many instances, the Chamber of Commerce has had acrimonious relationships with various administrations. I recall going back to the Lester Bird administration that the relationship was an extremely sour one in which the then president used the Chamber of Commerce as a platform to promote his political agenda at the time,”

Browne said his remarks were not geared at stirring up further controversy, but to understand that the Chamber of Commerce is a very important institution.

“It is important in terms of the role of its members in economic activity, as well as contributing towards the development plans of the country. We do understand that people have their political biases. We understand that people have their political alignments, but when it comes to dispensing the work of the chamber, it must be mindful that it is representative of a broad cross-section of Antiguans and Barbudans with different persuasions, including political persuasions”, he added

Browne claimed that the role of this chamber has lost support over the years because of politics.

“The Chamber doesn’t have the type of support and it’s not quite held in the esteem, the high esteem in which it was once held many years ago. And I believe that it’s because of these types of partisan articulations that would have undermined the integrity of the chamber to some extent”, he added.

Meantime Browne recommitted his administration to working closely with the Chamber and all business people in this country.

“We’ve just gotten a new mandate and we recognize that we have to bring the entire society together. So, notwithstanding our political persuasion, we all have a contribution to make to national development. We have established a vision of transforming this country’s economy into one that will be a very vibrant economy to make Antigua and Barbuda an economic powerhouse within the Caribbean. And when you look at the performance of my administration, I believe that we are well on our way,” he said.

Adding, “but I want to state here that the economic performance of my administration would have been as a result too, of the contribution of those in the private sector. The public sector contributes an average of about 20% of the GDP. The rest of it is private-sector-driven. So, when we speak about the growth within the country’s economy, it is the collective effort of all of us”.

Browne said despite the blow from Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine, the country’s economy continues to improve.

“You have seen the expansion of the cruise port facility, the cargo port between those two would have spent $540 million. Even our road network has improved considerably. We continue to expand the country’s economy by attracting a significant number of investments. And, where as I commend those who have been investing. The reality is we could do better in terms of more domestic investments”, he said

The private sector was also admonished to work in partnership with each other.

“And that is one of the appeals that I want to make here today for us to partner as a people. More partnerships within the private sector, and more public-private sector partnerships to grow the country’s economy robustly this year, whereas the central bank is projecting a 9.4% rate of growth. We believe based on the various projects that are taking place, that we can grow the country’s economy by over 10%. But we must be able to sustain that level of growth”, he said

He believes also that Antiguans and Barbudans can grow this country’s economy by double digits on a sustainable basis, and that perhaps in the next 15, or 20 years, this country’s economy could be bigger than that of Barbados.

“We need to stimulate more domestic investments. Now, there are many, I’d say, unexploited opportunities within the economy, and we want to ask those of you who are inclined to invest to look beyond even your core business and diversify into other areas, because as I said, again, there are many unexploited opportunities,” he added.

Opportunities are available in agriculture, according to the prime minister, irrespective of how difficult the sector may appear.

“As we seek to achieve food security, food sovereignty, there’s a need for greater investments. So, we could achieve some level of food security within our country. There are also many opportunities associated with the blue economy, even fishing as an example. We’ve been involved over the decades in artisanal fishing, which is not sustainable. And I know that they are individuals in this country with wealth who can partner and get involved in fishing for the pelagic species,” he added

The prime minister also brushed aside suggestions that foreign investments attracted better concessions than locals. He said the law provides equal levels of concessions. However, he noted that the larger the investment, the more attractive the concessions.

Browne called for more regular dialogue with business leaders, noting that he is always available to meet with them to discuss areas of mutual concern and benefit.

1 Comment

  1. Mae

    PM Browne stops selling out our rich agricultural farm that we must cultivate for feeding ourselves. You keep talking about food security and you’re still hindering local Antiguans from gaining agricultural lands to lease. Stop being a torn in side of the native-born. Give the people the land to cultivate! These same agricultural lands can provide employment opportunities. You as farmer Browne know that farming does bring employment opportunities.


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