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Building an Economic Powerhouse Together: Antigua and Barbuda Independence 2016

Building an Economic Powerhouse Together: Antigua and Barbuda Independence 2016

Introduction

Antigua and Barbuda are two island states located between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. For many people, the two islands look like a paradise. The total population is 90,000 with a majority living in Antigua. The economy of the country is dependent on services, particularly based on the high-end tourism sector. However, the prime minister categorically affirms that plans are underway to ensure that the country’s investment is expanded to include other tourism products and properties. This plans formed the central part in the 2016 independence celebration theme which marked the country 35th anniversary. The country intends to transform itself and become a Caribbean economic powerhouse. The country largely depends on tourism. In 2008 the number of visitors from the US, UK, and Canada declined because of the global financial crisis. Furthermore, the country has had to struggle keeping its economy given the decline in the overseas investment in tourism which caused a recession from 2009 all through to 2011 (Caribbean Development Bank, 2016). With the major changes focusing on diversification, Antigua and Barbuda can become an economic powerhouse of the Caribbean region.

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Economic Plans

In June 2014, Gaston Browne took over the leadership of the country and has spearheaded economic plans geared towards total economic transformation. In just a span of one year, Browne has won a total of three billion in foreign direct investment coupled with huge hotel projects and refurbishing of St. Johns port. His objective is in three tier: increase foreign investment, increase the number of tourists visiting the country, and expansion of investment in other sectors. He has invested in Caribbean Union Bank with the aim of increasing competition with other banks. Through reduced fees and increased lending rates, the prime minister intends to boost the financial services so as to increase revenue for the government (Alphonse, 2016).

The theme of 2016 celebration is geared towards seeking for investors that would enable the country to achieve economic diversification. The other sectors that the country targets in boosting its economy include fisheries, farming, finance, and entertainment industry. Currently, the dual-island nation has 60% of its GDP controlled by tourism and the rest by other investments (Alphonse, 2016; Caribbean Development Bank, 2016). Even though it has agricultural production, this is limited to the local market and also constrained by low water supply and shortage of labor due to high remuneration in the tourism sector.

It is ideally possible for the country to achieve the vision of becoming a Caribbean economic powerhouse. By shifting focus away from overdependence on the tourism sector, the country would be able to evade continuous threat of natural disasters that adversely affects the number of tourists coming to the country. Currently, the country is increasing its investments in construction of transport and communication networks and will enable the country to arise above reliance on uncertain industries. According to the report released by IMF in 2013, Antigua and Barbuda were in the eighth position among the 32 nations that make the Caribbean region and Latin America (Alphonse, 2016). The report also stated that the country has succeeded in realizing macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability. With diversification into other sectors such as financial services, transportation, and communication, the country stands a chance of expanding its economy beyond tourism.

The prospects of economic growth still depend on the income growth of other developed nations, particularly the US that provides the highest number of visitors to this island. Antigua and Barbuda are heavily dependent on tourism and foreign direct investment. Therefore, it is susceptible to external conditions, particularly those that emanates from Europe and US. Nevertheless, with the current surge in US dollar, the economy of the entire Caribbean region is likely to increase. Along with the low energy prices which will make the current account deficit narrowed, and inflation kept low. The government is also working round the clock to boost the infrastructure of the nation so as to attract more visitors and hence more revenue.

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It is estimated that the country will experience a growth of 2% by the end of 2016 and increase to 2.7% in the subsequent years (Alphonse, 2016). This estimation is based on the increased demand for tourism, high level of infrastructural development, and lower energy import prices. The desire to become a powerhouse in the Caribbean region requires a lot of radical transformations on the plans for economic development. One of the objectives is that the stakeholder should cultivate efficiency and support innovations so as to achieve better posterity that would sweep the entire region. Some of the areas that the government will need to support include leadership, skills and development, and education. This will help in encouraging exceptional focus and wisdom in enhancing the economic prospects of the entire region as well. With the commitment of Browne on FDI, partnerships will help the country to leverage its socio-economic expansion. He is also focused on ensuring that the country gets the best governance that would encourage economic development. He has created policies in social, economic, and cultural aspects that would appeal to the well-being of the country. Besides, Browne is committed to attract investments both in quality and quantity (Caribbean Development Bank, 2016).

The prime minister has initiated various projects with the aim of making the country the best tourist country second to none. With the collaboration of other government sectors, the prime minister is geared towards the attraction of major investors that would help raise the country’s transformation and realizing national sustainable development. The construction and development business have succeeded in winning highly professional investors with the aim of boosting the value of tourism products and positioning the country well into becoming the region’s economic powerhouse. Having received approval from Development Control Authority, the construction of The La Bahia Hotel Resort & Condominiums will work in boosting tourism sector (Caribbean Development Bank, 2016).

The Caribbean countries have found it difficult to achieve sustainable growth for a while. This has been attributed to the fact that it is vulnerable to natural disasters. However, one would wonder why other SID countries with the same level of vulnerability have been able to experience greater growth than The Caribbean. The answer to this question lies on the level of productivity. The Caribbean nations, Antigua and Barbuda inclusive, rely heavily on imported goods. Improving the level of productivity is the way to boost the nation’s economic growth. Currently, the nine countries that make up the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have worked so hard to achieve free movement of goods, services, and factors of production such as capital and labor.

In the surge terrorism, it is important for the countries such as Antigua and Barbuda to enhance security. As they are largely dependent on tourism, security measures must be put in place so to ensure that visitors are not threatened.The government of Antigua and Barbuda, its investment authority and tourism authority has worked so hard to initiate projects that will allow the country to realize much more than it receives currently.

Conclusion

With the renewing focus on new investments along with diplomatic strides getting its roots in the region, Antigua and Barbuda are likely to expand economically than any nation in the Caribbean region. With the commitment of Browne to create many opportunities for wealth creation, Antigua and Barbuda will surely be an economic powerhouse in the Caribbean region. The main secret of the country’s leadership being a dedication to diverse strategies that caters for the interest of its citizens.

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