On March 21, Minister Gaston Browne of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) held a press conference in which he announced that the Islands of Antigua and Barbuda’s debts to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had been paid in full. Gaston directed the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank to pay the $4.4-million-dollar balance. The entire amount owed was $118.5 million.
Browne was quoted by Caribbean360: “It means therefore that from today we will no longer be indebted to the IMF and that would have signalled to the international community and to investors that the Antiguan economy is strong.”
The IMF loan was requested to “support the government’s plan to address rising debt, weak economic growth, and the effects of the economic crisis.” The loan was bid for in 2010 under the administration of the United Progressive Party (UPP) headed by Baldwin Spencer with Harold Lovell holding the title of Finance Minister. Lovell is now the leader of UPP.
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The cleared bill comes just in time for elections in Antigua and Barbuda. Browne explained: “It so happens that we would have paid it down to $12 million on the eve of elections, so why not pay it off and get the credit going into elections? So I will accept that it is politically opportune to do it at this time; I’m not going to hide from that. But the reality is it was done and it will ultimately benefit the people of Antigua and Barbuda.”
He followed up asking: “So I want to ask the people of Antigua and Barbuda a very simple question: I want to know if they’re going to support the leader and the party who took them to the IMF or the leader and the party who took them out of the IMF?”
Browne also solidified a deal in which Venezuela would be responsible for paying a significant portion of its half a billion dollar PetroCaribe bill; He was sent confirmation from Venezuelan government officials.
Elections for Prime Minister were held on March 22. Browne won 15 out of 17 seats as confirmed by the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission (ABEC). Browne commented: “Whereas we have our differences, I say to you that those differences should not result in any form of permanent division. So we must be able to forgive those who would’ve offended us. There were many offences during this campaign, but at the same time, I say to you that uniting this country is quintessential to its socio-economic development.”