The Honourable Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda, Gaston Browne, along with the Hon Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Charles Fernandez, met on the evening of Friday October 3, 2014, with nationals and friends of the twin island state residing in Toronto and surrounding communities.
The reception and town hall meeting for the Antigua & Barbuda Diaspora was held at the plush Easton Chelsea Toronto Hotel, located in the heart of downtown Toronto, Canada.
The evening was organised by the offices of the Consulate General of Antigua and Barbuda, and was well attended by individuals who came out to hear what Prime Minister Browne and his colleagues had to say regarding their plans to involve the Antiguan Diaspora in the future development of the island.
Having won the recent June elections in the twin island state, resoundingly beating the UPP party, the government of Prime Minister Browne has been making prudent and practical steps to get the affairs of the country in order, according to the Prime Minister. Thus, his visit to Toronto is part of wider North American visit to include the United States, where his government’s aim is to reach out to the Diaspora towards being active participants in the future growth and development of Antigua & Barbuda.
Prime Minister Browne stated during his presentation to the members of the Diaspora, that the intention of his government is to work towards making his country an economic and social powerhouse within the region. Hence the way things are looked at has to be from a global perspective. He stated; "When you do things you must do it properly. We must understand within the region that all competition is global. So we must operate globally."
The issue of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was also prominent throughout the Prime Minister’s presentation. He spoke of the projects that are taking place under the sponsorship of the Chinese Government. He also made references towards new deals that have been signed with Chinese based investors to build leisure and tourism facilities on the island.
PM Browne was quizzed during the question phase of the meeting about the seemingly heavy reliance on foreign direct investment; towards which he responded that the reality within small states like Antigua & Barbuda is that there is not enough capital located locally to harvest development on any monumental scale. Liquidity is not as robust in local financial institutions stated the Prime Minister. Thus it is crucial to seek investment from outside. They key, he says, is to ensure that on issues such as infrastructural projects, the labour is also comprised of local workers so as to ensure that jobs are created with impact locally.
His desire to improve the economic and social conditions of persons less well off was also a key theme that came out of the Prime Minister’s presentation. What was most notable was when the Prime Minister stated; "Many of us have presided over our own dis-empowerment, and in fact, we have presided over our own children's children dis-empowerment due to bad cultural practices. We must take responsibility for our development by start helping our own. We must help, share, support. We have a significant amount of work to do as black people to develop our own."
Due to his frank presentation and also his direct answers to questions that were posed to him, Prime Minister Browne was commended by a member of the audience who praised him when he mentioned; "You are one of the most candid politicians from any country that we have ever heard speak."
Accountability and transparency says Prime Minister Browne will be key to his administration, and he has started he says to ensure this is enshrined in the way his government does business.
The development of Antigua & Barbuda says Mr Browne is not for any one particular set of persons, but must be a wholesome approach to involve both those at home and the Diaspora. He also mentioned that his aim is not take from the rich to give to the poor in his drive for a more equitable wealth distribution, but rather his desire is to create the environment so those at the lower end of the social scale can also be empowered.
The evening with the Prime Minister and members of the Antigua & Barbuda Diaspora ended on a high note after a robust question and answer session where scores of probing questions and also congratulatory messages were expressed to Prime Minister Browne and his team.
Congratulations to the offices of the Consulate General for a well-organised event.
Click here to view pictures of the reception and town hall with the Prime Minister and his delegation.