IMF defends Antigua policies in response to Gaston Browne’s scathing attack
A senior official of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Tuesday defended its policies towards Antigua and Barbuda after the island’s new government launched a scathing attack on the Washington-based financial institution.
IMF Deputy Director of the Western Hemisphere Department Adrienne Cheasty was forced to abandon her prepared speech as she responded to remarks by Prime Minister Gaston Browne that the IMF was responsible for the economic situation now facing the island.
“I think that presentation would be kind of silly in light of the prime minister’s frank and direct discussion<’ she said, adding that the IMF programme had helped avert a financial crisis in Antigua and Barbuda.
‘We stand very firmly behind all the difficult measures Antigua and Barbuda has taken since the global crisis started. Antigua has an IMF programme, it met the targets under the programme, it achieved success, it averted the crisis which was so messy so deep, so costly that thank goodness these difficult decisions were taken,” she said
The IMF official acknowledged that the island took “difficult steps to retain stability and not maybe spiral down into financial crisis”.
Browne addressing the Economic Business Forum and Book Launch hosted by the Antigua and Barbuda Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ltd. and IMF Western Hemisphere Department, also indicated that his administration would not be seeking to enter into a new agreement with the Washington-based financial institution.
The former Baldwin Spencer government had entered into a 36-month Stand By Agreement (SBA) with the IMF in 2010 for an original amount of US$121.9 million with the Washington-based financial institution indicating in June that the aims of the programme were “largely achieved despite considerable challenges”.
It said the fiscal deficit dropped from 18 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009 to just over one per cent last year.
But Browne, whose Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ALP) came to power in the June 12 general election, said that programme failed to improve economic situation and is partly to blame for stagnating the economy.
He said the IMF had damaged the investment climate and slowed the inflow of foreign direct investment and that the lending agency had worsened the cash crisis that it was meant to solve.
Browne said he was not happy with the repayment terms of the IMF loan and that under no circumstance would Antigua and Barbuda enter into a second agreement with the IMF.
He told delegates that his new administration was already in talks with Venezuela for a loan to pay off the IMF “in short order” and that he was seeking a US$150 million from China, a move he said he was certain the IMF would not approve.
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