Antigua: Opposition leader blasts 2019 budget


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Jamale Pringle

(CMC) – Opposition Leader, Jamale Pringle, Friday described as “disappointing” the EC$1.2 billion (one EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) budget presented to parliament by Prime Minister Gaston Browne.

The debate on the fiscal package is due to begin on January 28, but Pringle, the lone successful candidate of the main opposition United progressive Party (UPP) in the last general elections, said that the budget failed to address any plans for socio-economic growth for the future.

Speaking on Observer radio, Pringle said that the budget is nothing more than a repetition of the promises made in previous fiscal packages.

“Within 2019 we still hearing a budget what we heard in 2014, as in basically the same way in which the government proposed in 2014 to raise revenue for the country via the certain projects which we have seen still in a standstill mode.

“Those are the same projects they are looking to move this economy forward in 2019,” he told radio listeners.

Pringle said had he stayed home on Thursday when the budget was being presented by Prime Minister Browne, “I would have just informed people to “just read the 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018” packages.

He said the government, had prior to the last general election in March last year, sought to fool the population by starting some projects, including one in his constituency.

“All they did was to build a few buildings just before the election in terms of offices and nothing further has started…so I think it is a method of fooling the people,” he added.

In his budget presentation, Prime Minister Browne outlined new taxes and warned tax dodgers that it would not be business as usual.

Browne, who is also finance minister, said that a tax would be introduced to fund the University of the West Indies campus at Five Islands.

“One of the options is a 10 per cent tax on net profits of telecommunication companies, financial institutions and insurance companies and the country’s sole petrol distribution company, West Indies Oil Company Limited”.

He said based on analysis of the data “this tax should yield in the region of EC$15 million annually and it will be implemented with effect from this fiscal year for a period of 24 months in the first instance”.

Browne said if the tax measure is to be continued “we will,” adding “the reality is the university must be funded and it will be funded”.

He said that his administration would implement the “Prime Minister’s Entrepreneurial Development Programme (EDP)” announced last year, which will seek to provide access to funds and training for any citizen who presents a viable business plan.

“In the first quarter of this year, the EDP will be launched with an initial EC$10 million provided by the government. The ultimate aim is a revolving fund endowed with EC$24 million to provide low-interest loans for working capital, machinery, and equipment, leasehold improvements, among other things.”

Prime Minister Browne said Global Ports is committed to providing $13.5 million to fund entrepreneurship in the tourism sector as part of their involvement in the country’s economic activity.


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