Prime Minister Gaston Browne has warned of the dire economic consequences that could follow if Antigua and Barbuda remains closed for an extended period of time.
Already Browne says the country’s revenue has dropped by over 70 percent in the last month. He has also said the the government will now resort to borrowing to pay salaries and wages in the public service. Out of the 85 million projected, Browne predicts that Antigua and Barbuda will only be able to collect 25 million.
Browne who is also finance minister said ‘The longer we continue to be in a position of lock-down, the more consequential the economic fall out will be.”
Speaking on radio over the weekend, the country’s leader said “there are many people who are trying to get back to work and who are trying to start back their little small business so they can survive.”
He said even though there are a plethora of social programmes in place, “our people have their pride, they want to work, they want to generate their own money, they don’t want no food package from the government or from private organisations.”
Browne told radio listeners that there has to be a balance between the health situation and the economy.
“So having stabilized the health situation. Having been literally in a good place and not to become complacent, we now have to look towards relaxing restrictions in order to allow for a systematic opening of businesses and ultimately, the full opening of the country’s economy,” the Prime Minister said.
“And let me make the point here too, we don’t have the luxury of some countries to remain closed for two, three, four months.
“If we were to lock down this country for six months of nine months or more as some people would have it, it would be economic carnage in the country,” Browne warned.
He said, “…we have to make sure we do not, under one hand, resolve the health situation and then we do not pay any attention to the country’s economy and allow it to go into free fall.”
The prime minister is also warning that if the country remains on lock down mode retrenchment of public servants could become a reality.
“We are trying our best not to retrench public servants, trying our best not to put them on days, we are trying our best not to lay them off, but clearly if we keep the country in a state of lock-down we will have no choice,” he said.
Browne is hitting back at critics who are “second guessing us because we started to relax some of the restrictions, they must think again.”
He said United Progressive Party leader Harold Lovell is out of touch “because if he stays home all day and masturbates intellectually he still gets his 13 thousand.”