Antigua St John's - Finance Minister Harold Lovell has challenged those who seem to praise the possibility of Antigua and Barbuda potentially losing millions of dollars in investment because of “petty issues” and “political divisiveness” to think outside the box and look at what is best for the country.
He said on Wednesday that the easiest thing for anyone to do is to criticize, especially in politics, and while in opposition they would seem to have all the answers to the country’s dilemmas.
“The world today is a very different place from the world of 10 years ago," the minister said. "The world has changed dramatically. And it means that the options that we have before us are in many cases very, very restrictive. This is not a time for us to simply trot out what may seem to be easy solutions. This is a time for us to do the right thing."
The minister noted that his comments followed political interferences from Member of Parliament for St Phillips North Robin Yearwood to bar the development of a hotel by Gordon “Butch” Stewart on Long Bay beach.
But veteran ALP Member of Parliament Robin Yearwood has rejected the minister’s statements, and maintained that neither the ALP nor himself has never stood between any development and Antigua.
He said his only concern is when that potential development stands to short-change the people of the country.
“The citizens must come before any development initiative… At least 70 percent of Long Bay beach has been given up for development and anything more would undoubtedly take away from the people and other investments that depend on Long Bay for its guests,” Yearwood said.
He added that neither the ALP, nor the people of his constituency, had said from the onset that the developer has enough land to facilitate the proposed development.
To date, Yearwood said the ALP has never seen the plans.
“Our party is one that encourages investors. We go to seek them. But at the same time," Yearwood said, "you have the laws that must govern development. There was no community meeting about the development, but here it is that we must give up our last and only beach in this area used by all people of Antigua and Barbuda. The developer has at least 60 percent of the beach, what more should we give up? I deny that we are trying to block investment."
Minister Lovell had noted that the government was of the opinion that some of the investment options that exist today are of great importance, and if the country fails to take advantage of these investments, it would not be able to move forward in the desired way.
“When some people can rejoice that projects intended to benefit Antigua and Barbuda in terms of the injection of capital, for example the Beaches project, which promises to inject some US$100 million into this economy, creating jobs for our people…. Creating opportunities by way of increased government revenues and generally creating the basis and the platform for growth.
"When people can celebrate that this project may be in jeopardy simply because of political divisiveness, we realize that we still have a long way to go in terms of bringing the message that the challenges of the future are too great for us to b looking at some of the petty issues.”
The finance minister and chairman of the governing United Progressive Party (UPP) said the time has long come for officials to come to a solution oriented toward reconciliation and solutions.
“This is not the time for games," he said. "This is a very serious time in the history of Antigua and Barbuda, and its either we are going to go backwards or we are going to go forwards. But the time for games is not now. This is the time when all Antiguans and Barbadians need to buckle down, look to the future and recognize what we are trying to do."
He said the government of the day is trying to create employment, keep people working and develop “a solid foundation for the future,” and although some decisions may be tough today, it is necessary, as the technocrats making these decisions can “see the light at the end of the tunnel”.
“What we need is the type of political leadership that does not only look to the next election but looks to the next generation,” he said.
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