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Browne and Mottley: Shapers of the regional future (commentary by Sir Ronald Sanders)

By Sir Ronald Sanders)

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Mottley (left) and Browne

Prime Ministers Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda and Mia Mottley of Barbados are two of the Caribbean’s young and dynamic leaders, both workaholics with clear and determined visions for the betterment of their countries. Each of them is a committed regionalist, notwithstanding insinuations to the contrary in sections of the regional media.

Because of their relative youthfulness, their experience at young ages as ministers of government and parliamentarians, and now the arduous, often lonely, task that they have seized with both hands of heading governments, inevitably their actions will shape the Caribbean region of the future.

Sir Ronald Sanders

Under conditionalities set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that she could not avoid, Prime Minister Mottley is grappling with rebuilding the diminished Barbados economy that she inherited when her party was elected to govern in 2018. Those are circumstances that Prime Minister Browne knows well. He came into office, at his first election as Prime Minister in 2014, to a legacy of Antigua and Barbuda in the firm grip of the IMF’s austerity measures, a high debt to GDP ratio, a banking crisis, high unemployment and a sense of despair in the society, particularly the business sector. Those conditions, apart from the crisis in the banking sector, are very similar to those with which Prime Minister Mottley is wrestling.

The two Prime Ministers have much in common and experiences from which they can learn in order to jump hurdles successfully.

Prime Minister Mottley’s arrival in the councils of regional decision-making and the institutions of governance was warmly welcomed by Prime Minister Browne. His admiration for her continues, despite differences in their leadership styles. Those differences in style should not be mistaken for divergences from substance. And, no non-existent rivalry should be conjured by any who thrive on portraying difference as division.

Given Antigua and Barbuda’s distinctive political culture, Gaston Browne has adopted a style of open disclosure and comment on all things, big or small. He operates on the basis of being proactive in providing information in order not to be reactive when information is dispensed in his society, not always accurately. Barbadian governance follows a pattern of utilizing institutions, such as parliament, and more formal structures for disseminating information, although the Barbados media was highly critical of former Prime Minister Freundel Stuart for the infrequency of his public explanations.

Prime Minister Browne’s open disclosure of matters surrounding the regional airline, LIAT, and particularly policy dissimilarity with Prime Minister Mottley, has been characterised as the basis for a feud. There is no such feud.

The policy dissimilarity between the two Prime Ministers over LIAT arises from the urgency of Barbados reducing debt, and the equal urgency in Antigua and Barbuda of maintaining employment. It does not result from any divergence over the vital importance of the airline to tourism in the region and to regional integration

The boundaries set by the Barbados Economic and Recovery Transformation plan, if it is to be strictly followed in all things, give the Barbados government little leeway to incur further debt. Indeed, the strategy is to reduce debt.

So, Ms Mottley has indicated that Barbados cannot, in its present financial situation, support the recapitalization of LIAT as envisaged by a Caribbean Development Bank-sponsored report.

By the same token, LIAT employs a relatively large number of people in Antigua (including many non-Antiguans). Their dismissals would have a harmful immediate knock-on effect in the Antigua and Barbuda economy. Thus, Mr Browne favours the recommendations of the report.

In the circumstances, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has offered to assume responsibility for certain of Barbados’ debt obligations in relation to LIAT in return for a transfer of shares. In turn, the Government of Barbados has agreed to enter negotiations along the lines of the offer in broad terms.

The challenge before the two governments is how, in good faith and genuine cooperation, they can settle arrangements that: reduce Barbados’ debt; does not swell unemployment in Antigua; and fulfils the joint objective of maintaining regional air transportation to continue to serve tourism and the social and business travel of the Caribbean’s people.

There should be no doubt that the elimination of LIAT will affect all the many countries that it now serves, including Guyana whose oil and gas industries will demand increased air transportation.

The region has seen many other airlines come and go since 1974 when the present incarnation of LIAT occurred. The names are now distant memories, but to recall some of them: EC Express, RedJet, Caribbean Star and a brief appearance by American Express.

No private company has hung around to deliver the air transportation that is needed regionally from St Kitts-Nevis in the North to Guyana in the South.

LIAT (1974) Ltd was formed and supported by CARICOM Heads of Governments because they knew the intrinsic truth that an economically integrated and strong Caribbean society could not be built or sustained without regional transportation. Over those 45 years, LIAT has become a West Indian institution, comparable to the University of the West Indies and West Indian cricket in their contribution to strengthening West Indian roots and enhancing West Indian identity.

It is worth noting that the governments of the Bahamas and the Cayman Islands have annual allocations of resources to their airlines, because they fully appreciate the importance of their airlines to tourism and the needs of their people.

Jean Holder, an integrationist who has been a key person in regional tourism, including 15 years as the Chairman of LIAT, makes the following point that all governments would do well to remember: “Governments already subsidize every aspect of land-based tourism on the grounds that it is a critical export industry earning foreign exchange. If hotel rooms are one leg of tourism, then air transportation is the second leg without which it cannot stand.”

LIAT remains vital to the Caribbean generally and to Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados. It is well within the intellectual capacity and creativity of Prime Ministers Browne and Mottley to give teams, representing their two governments, a mandate to ‘negotiate within a framework of co-operation’. Such a mandate would satisfy the imperatives of their economies while maintaining their joint goal of enhanced Caribbean integration.

In the collaboration of these two relatively young, strong and hardworking leaders, the region’s future could be shaped for better.

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This article was posted in its entirety as received by stlucianewsonline.com. This media house does not correct any spelling or grammatical error within press releases and commentaries. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of stlucianewsonline.com, its sponsors or advertisers.

3 comments

  1. The subtext of this piece of pure drivel is that regionally, some do not know the difference between management and leadership. If so, Jamaica would not have scuppered the Federation only to see its action leading to the devaluation of its dollar. Even the OECS dollar, today, has a higher parity exchange rate. Foolishness is foolishness, even it's of a higher order.

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  2. 05/26/2019
    I Proclaim on the rooftop that the “King is coming”! I announce to the ends of the earth, that the “King is coming”. And that the days of Noah are here. “Prepare ye the way of the Lord and make straight his paths.” Tell all the world that I am coming back soon. “I am coming for those who have laid their burdens down”. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
    The father says: The smile that you almost lost is returning never to be removed again. Break out the celebration and see what has manifested in this day, week and even in this month. Answers are coming quicker, for Heaven is closer to earth than you have imagined. Ask and you shall receive, declare, create in me a clean heart; oh Lord. Stand and prepare to match, for a land that was not yours will fall into your hands. You are no longer bound, and your voice will shatter the schemes of the enemy. Old wounds are healing in an instant. Years of walking in grief and loss will vanish at my command.
    Stand at the ready, life as you know it is about to change forever. You are a new creation and it is fully time for the old ways to be completely removed. What you have asked me to clean up in your life is coming right now with an unseen force and you will be caught up in my glory forever changed in an instant. You have thought many flaws and sins will remain as a blemish, but I am your Lord and I will deal with even that stubborn issue for you. Just continue to give over to me your heart, mind and soul. I will make a way when you believe that you were permanently damaged goods. There is nothing that I would not do for you, you are my precious child. I am also at the ready for you, my voice will stop anything that I desire. What do you desire me to do for you? You have all the rights and membership as any citizen of Heaven. You are not waiting for one day someday, today is your day.
    * These are the words of –Yahuwah and his son Yahushua Mashiach.
    God the Father, the Great King wants his name to be promoted in the four corners of the earth. Repent now; get baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, those of you who are in the valley of decision. Do not procrastinate any longer but go ahead and choose God, for when the door and the books are closed no one will be able to enter in. God is sending warnings after warnings. We are in the End Times and he does not want ANYONE to Perish. Time is running out, get saved now while you have time. He is the only way to salvation. Amend your ways and you will be allowed to remain in the land. Let those who have ears to hear and those who have eyes to see. Repent now! Remain strong, be bold, courageous and steadfast in your faith.
    Credit to Brother Shomrim Ben Yahshua for my reference, may God bless you my, brother.

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  3. I admire them both as leaders and taking bold strides to implement changes in a pool of followers who sit on the fence and wishing for changes to come. We need more leaders in the Caribbean than just those two. May they continue as trailblazers for many to emulate, particularly the youth.

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  4. Abigola Kidashi

    Who cares what this man thinks...I don't think His Highness Mr. Saunders would know his ass from his elbow or done a real days work ever. Another Caribbean elite full of hot air with their nose in the trough.

    (7)(4)

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