As Antigua and Barbuda emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the UPP has formulated a number of strategies to ensure that residents and citizens can be more financially resilient.
The government plans to offer amnesty to electricity subscribers who are in arrears since December 31 2021, two years after the UPP recommended a 50% write off of arrears in our March 2020 COVID-19 relief plan. The ABLP’s delay in implementing both amnesty and more wide-reaching relief, caused the very problem they are now trying to fix. Further, those people who are not currently disconnected are experiencing financial hardship, without meaningful relief from the ABLP administration.
At this time, the UPP believes that lowering electricity rates is the most effective way to ensure that all subscribers can better manage their finances and avoid accumulating huge arrears.
A UPP Government will immediately reduce the fuel variation charge and mandate that the charge is reduced whenever world market oil prices drop. “The UPP will bring relief to all citizens and residents of Antigua and Barbuda. When subscribers are able to manage their bills and avoid accumulating debt, they can better direct their budgets to address the priorities that will improve their quality of life,” said Political Leader Harold Lovell.
Further, the Party believes that subscribers who play by the rules and sacrifice to pay their bills should be incentivized to continue practicing prudent financial planning and discipline.
This announcement is in line with the UPP’s comprehensive cost of living adjustment plan, which includes:
- the reduction of Customs duty on certain food items and on building materials.
- removing Customs duty on essential foods like ling fish, corned beef, sardines, pickled meats, breakfast cereals, cooking oil and others.
- raising the Minimum Wage to a National Living Wage and raise the salaries and wages of public-sector workers to a reasonable level that is in line with inflation.
- negotiating and settling a significant portion of the debt owed to small businesses and Government workers within one year.
- the repeal of the Unincorporated Business Tax and Entertainment Tax.
- expanded access to the People’s Benefit social protection programme and the improvement of all social programmes.
Addressing the ABLP Administration’s failure to provide wide-reaching relief for the benefit of many, the UPP Political Leader stated, “After collecting $11 billion in total revenue, including over $2 billion from the CIP, and after enjoying, on average, $300 million more than the UPP per year, the ABLP should have been in a good financial position to offer a stimulus or relief.”
The ABLP’s failure to deliver broad relief and stimulus measures is in stark contrast to other OECS territories. Lovell expressed indignation about the ABLP’s failure to follow common sense recommendations, saying, “The ABLP has offered naught for our comfort, despite the fact that Dominica, Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Kitts have implemented several of the very measures that the UPP recommended. This includes stabilizing the price of fuel, lowering the fuel-variation charge on electricity and intervening at Customs to remove or reduce taxes on common food items.”
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