"FORBES" enjoys an excellent reputation for investment reporting and forecasting that has earned it respect around the globe.
Consequently, when a contributor like Kenneth Rapoza repeats claims by a senior research analyst from U.S. Trust Bank of America that a country is on the threshold of future prosperity, investors may well rely on such claims.
According to the Forbes article "These Middle Income Countries Are Poised To Become Rich" Ehiwario Efeyina reports that after tracking 215 countries, the World Bank has included the tax haven island state of Antigua & Barbuda in its "new rich list" based on a GDP per capita of just under US $13,000.00.
Apart from the question regarding the basis for the quoted figure, observers must also wonder about the source of this new found wealth.
It will not be from the banking sector after the Stanford debacle, especially as the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank now virtually runs the country.
It will not be from Tourism, following the rise in the crime rate. Apart from old-standing investment partners such as Butch Stewart, no new foreign investors have risked undertaking any resort venture after the expropriation of the Half Moon Bay Resort property, for which the Government still refuses to make payment, in spite of several Court Orders to do so, including a recent one from the Privy Council.
There is no manufacturing or production, no natural or mineral resources and very little agricultural development on island.
Will the goose laying golden eggs be Antigua's shipping register, which is now being watched with greater care after several illegal cargoes were found on its flagged vessels of convenience?
Could it be a result of e-gaming, some of which needs the special character and nature of Antigua's style of government? Or will this magical economic renaissance rely entirely on another game of chance, the newly introduced Citizens by Investment Programme, aka Passports for Sale?
While no one asked any of these questions, the article itself may well have now played the role of the "final straw" in the debate that heated up the last days before elections on Antigua & Barbuda. Both sides spun the issue to fit their particular narrative. Both used Forbes' reputation to bolster their individual spin.
On 12 June 2014, the Antigua Labour Party swept fourteen out of the seventeen Parliamentary seats, allowing only the ex-Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and his old-time friend and deputy, Wilmoth Daniel, plus a first-time elected parliamentarian, Joanne Massiah, to act in Opposition.
After ten years of disappointing rule by the United Progressive Party, the public's desire for a "change" has ignored a number of warning signals - a phenomenon, which has occurred in recent memory in other countries with most unfortunate and even tragic consequences.
Once again, a newly elected Prime Minister promises the dawn of a new era. In this new Valhalla, personal income tax will be a thing of the past. Foreign investors will line up with coffers of dollars and developments will sprout like caci trees on the Island's landscape.
Everyone will participate in the new plenty, just as Forbes predicted, and there will be plenty of it!
However, electors can only hope that the first official action taken by the new Prime Minister is not an indication of what that "it" is likely to be.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who has officially reserved the position of Minister of Finance has appointed the Honourable Steadroy "Cutie" Benjamin to be his Administration's Attorney General, Minister of Justice, Minister of Legal Affairs, Minister of Immigration, Minister of Public Safety and Minister of Labour.
In addition, Browne has already announced a parliamentary review of the terms for the Citizens by Investment Programme "to make it more competitive." Although he added that "Iraquis and Iranis" would not be allowed to participate.
Benjamin fulfilled the duties of Attorney General during several years of a previous ALP administration. However, in 2008 he was charged by the Commissioner of Police with knowingly providing false information on behalf of a "friend", thereby, committing a summary offence as determined by the Forgery Act.
Rather than deal with the facts, which Mr Benjamin confirmed had indeed occurred, he filed an interlocutory application for a Judicial Review of the Commissioner's charge, on the basis that the Director of Public Prosecutions instructed the Commissioner not to file the complaint. The matter reached the Privy Council earlier this year, which denied the application on the legitimacy of its basis on 16 April 2014.
It is not only the facts of the matter, which raise concern about the character of the individual appointed as the Chief Legal Counsel to the Government, but the Appeal itself, in which the now Attorney General argued that a Director of Public Prosecution, answerable only to the Attorney General, has the legal right to instruct the Commissioner of Police on which cases to file and which to drop.
That thought does not augur well for the judicial process in Antigua. Nor does the fact that "Cutie's" appointment has provided him with immunity from continued prosecution of a case of passport fraud!
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