Columns

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!

By Melain Alphonso

Thursday, March 15, 2018

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ST JOHN'S, Antigua — With the general election just days away in Antigua and Barbuda, the political parties have started outlining their vision for the future of the island.

For a country heavily dependent on tourism, investment in the hospitality sector is and has always been of primary importance, which is why I'm having a hard time believing the promises being made by Gaston Browne, when he has failed to deliver what he said he would do the last time his party went to the polls.

I believe in facts as opposed to loose talk and rumour which are so prevalent these days, so I still have my copy of the ABLP's manifesto from 2014. Here's what MrBrowne promised then:

“The ABLP will attract more than US$1 billion worth of tourism investment projects over five years; they will cause new capital to be injected into the economy, spurring growth and hundreds of construction jobs. “Construction, which has been all but dead under the failed UPP, will come alive. Contractors, masons, carpenters, sheet-rock experts, plumbers, electricians, roofers, painters, labourers, architects, engineers and other skilled tradesmen will experience an upsurge in new opportunities within months of a re-elected ABLP administration.”

The fact is that there has been no significant investment in the tourism sector at all, worse yet for the many construction workers he promised full employment. Having failed to deliver then, he comes back with a slew of new promises in 2018. It's not a stretch to say we've heard it all before.

In fact, YIDA and Royalton should have been nearing completion, but we are hearing they've only just started, let's hope it's not a false start. Many of these key projects are already mired in controversy. Paradise Found is being pushed ahead amidst a state-sanctioned land grab in Barbuda; while YIDA has been given lifetime concessions for doing nothing (Sandals must be doing something wrong).

The Prime Minister meantime wants us to believe that he was not forced into calling a premature election because of mounting pressure over the inability to deliver. Here's what Mr Browne says: “We are holding the election at this time because the economy is at the point of a trajectory at which it needs certainty and predictability to continue the rapid growth it experienced over the past four years.”

Why is it uncertain and unpredictable now Prime Minister? A government is allowed five years, what is the earth-shaking development that has convinced you that things aren't so certain and predictable right now.

Could it be the Oderbrecht bribery allegations? Could it be the mounting public concern about the Share Charity that was run by your wife, or the favours granted your son? Maybe it was Asot Michael's arrest by the UK authorities (a man who has returned to your slate in spite of your holier than thou pronouncement when you fired him)? Could it be the alienation of the people of Barbuda, the consorting with persons on the wrong side of the US Department of Justice?

Could it be the scandal involving the CIP and Canada's visa imposition that you brought down on the heads of your citizens? Could it be the scandals surrounding Peter Virdee and Xiao Jianhua? And these are but a few.

If these are indeed THE things that have destabilised the ground on which you walk, Mr Browne, then they are all of your doing, and will not go away post-election.

This early election has absolutely nothing to do with the economy as you would have us believe, and everything to do with your character and the embarrassment that you have brought down on Antigua and Barbuda over the past four years.

I look forward to the people of Antigua and Barbuda sending you a message onMarch 21that we are not, and will not be taken for fools! As the saying goes:Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!

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