Honourable Asot Michael
Minister of Tourism, Economic Development & Energy
Government of Antigua and Barbuda
June 01, 2015
The 21 Club, New York City
Honorable Prime Minister Gaston Browne,
HE Ambassador Aubrey Webson
HE Ambassador Gilbert Boustany
Mr. Robert De Niro, Economic Envoy
Mrs. Grace Hightower DeNiro
Mr. Stephen Hunter, CEO & President, Sunwing
Captain Paul Vernoski, American Airlines
Our Travel Partners
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen… good evening.
I could not be more thrilled to be here because just like you, I was brought up to believe leaders are made, not born - - - and if your actions inspire others to dream more - - - learn more - - - do more - - - and become more - - - you are a leader.
I believe that no one can be completely ready for the office of Prime Minister - - - but after 10 years of a stagnant economy, Antigua and Barbuda needed a leader who was willing to face the storm head on - - - and that’s the leader with whom I share this program this evening and have the honor to introduce to you - - - the youngest Prime Minister in the history of our sovereign and independent Antigua and Barbuda, the Honourable Gaston Browne.
But before I introduce the Prime Minister, I’d like to thank our Economic Envoy, Mr. Robert De Niro - - - and Mrs. De Niro - - - for joining us here this evening. Ours is a relationship which - - - because of Bob’s outstanding record of achievements - - - brings countless advantages to our country.
Mr. DeNiro’s appointment is of critical importance to building our nation’s economy and to further enhance and broaden the investment portfolio in Antigua and Barbuda.
Thank you Bob.
We ambitiously have investment opportunities in Renewable Energy - - - to include Solar, Wind, and Geothermal.
Investment opportunities in the Financial sector - - -including Offshore Banking, Registration of Ships and Yachts, Private Air Line Registry, International Business Corporations and Internet Gaming.
We have gone even further and created a Free Trade Economic Zone - - - to facilitate light manufacturing industries - - - and really - - - any other project that may be of interest to an investor.
As the Minister charged with the portfolio responsibilities for Antigua and Barbuda’s Tourism, Economic Development, Investment & Energy - - - let me assure you - - - particularly our partners in the travel industry - - - the travel executives - - - and the travel media that took time out of their busy schedules to be here with us this evening - - - that we have adopted a number of new programs which have resulted in unmatched success in this, our first year of government.
We are truly proud of the many new developments that you will soon have in your portfolio to promote and sell to your clients - - - the new developments are too many to speak of in detail this evening - - - but suffice it to say that our aggressive policy of new property developments will add another 2,500 rooms to our room inventory in two years. We have:
§ The new Beaches Resort by Sandals Resorts International with 400 rooms
§ The Sunny Hill Group, recently announced they will be opening another 400-unit project
§ The Hodges Bay development, a 79-suite resort
§ Callalo Bay - - - a 5 star luxury hotel development spearheaded by His Excellency, Sheik Tariq Faisal Alqassemi of Dubai - - - and the Sheik is also building a Public National Park for the people of Antigua and Barbuda to enjoy
§ Barbuda Belle – our newest hotel, is eco-friendly offering guests the opportunity to enjoy eco-luxury on one of the greenest islands in the Caribbean, where guests are guaranteed peacefulness and the opportunity to embrace nature without altering comfort. This new establishment opened just last weekend
§ Pearns Point, $300 million US investment. 70 resort condominiums, 70 exclusive residential villas and a 5 star hotel.
§ And the largest development of all - - - the $1.2 billion Guiana Island Resorts project that is being done by the Chinese investment firm, Yida Investment Holdings.
We have some very exciting news to share with you this evening. The Government is signing, here, tonight, an agreement with the Sun Wing Group for 400 Million to build an additional five-star hotel on adjacent property to the Royal Antiguan. The project will see the construction of a “Royalton” hotel complex with 500 rooms, multiple restaurants, a casino, disco, full service spa, tennis courts and theatres. It will also include the construction of 200 mixed-use condominiums. We will have the official signing of this new joint venture after the Prime Minister speaks.
We are also in the final stage of completion of a new Airport Terminal that will open in September, that will give us the capacity of accommodating up to 2 million passengers a year, with multiple VIP rooms, 3 first class departure lounges, genuine duty free shopping and 4 air bridges for ease and speed of boarding and disembarking flights - - - this will be the most modern airport in the Caribbean - - -and with that, we are welcoming increased airlift from all over the world.
In this market - - - the United States - - - in addition to the air service we now enjoy - - - we have excellent airlift from American Airlines - - - United Airlines - - - Delta and US Airways and brand new service on Jet Blue Airways, with 3 additional flights per week starting on November 5th.
And for the Travel Counselors with clients that would rather cruise, our cruise sector is again redeploying their efforts to provide the very best port experience in the region.
To this end, our government has delivered on a major promise to its cruise line partners by signing a $200 million agreement to modernize our St. John's port and harbor. A total transformation of the port facilities and downtown St. John’s will include a modern marina, hotels, condominiums, and high-end designer shops. The government is open to negotiations to facilitate these design and development plans with our cruise line partners or potential partners, who are well respected in the industry with significant ties to the cruise sector.
As a consequence, I am pleased to let you know that we are welcoming new cruise lines including P&O Cruise Lines - - - with her 4,000 passenger vessel, Britannia - - - Aida Cruises, that will have their Aida Amar call on St. John’s - - - Costa Cruises’ Costa Favalosa also has Antigua on their itinerary and the venerable Norwegian Cruise Lines has their Norwegian Breakaway with berths for four thousand passengers also calling on St. John’s.
With regards to the cruise sector, the sister island of Barbuda has not been left behind. Cruise Barbuda - - - if you have not yet heard, we are developing Barbuda as a designated ecofriendly destination where we only allow small cruise ships to berth off-shore - - - then tender their passengers to Barbuda’s stunning pink sand beaches.
And I’m delighted to share with you that for the first time - - - the first time ever - - - we have a record of 12 vessels visit Barbuda this past cruise season.
The Prime Minister is also very aggressively promoting our twin island nation as the world’s most attractive option for acquiring a second citizenship by foreign direct investment in our country.
Our Citizenship by Investment Program.
And with you influentials here with us this evening - - - It would be remiss of me if I did not make mention that our Citizenship by Investment Program is not only internationally respected for its high integrity - - - we amended the legislation to be in compliance with the highest international security standards - - - while ensuring that it remains competitive.
These reforms are being widely commended - - - in fact, our Citizenship by Investment Program is now often recognized as the best and most attractive of its kind globally.
But to the matter at hand - - - introducing our Prime Minister.
Ladies and gentlemen, this evening is a good evening.
Yes - - - it is a good evening because we are honored to be here with you.
It is a good evening because we are celebrating the anniversary of our first year in office.
It is a good evening because we are delighted to share with you that under Gaston Browne’s leadership our first year in office has been a landmark for Antigua and Barbuda’s economy - - - evident by extraordinary accomplishments in tourism, economic development, investment and energy.
I want to let you know that for this early success I am thankful to our Prime Minister for his leadership, because it has made my job as the Minister - - - with responsibility for tourism, economic development, investment and energy - - - challenging and rewarding.
So, as I introduce him, allow me to share with you a modicum about the PM himself.
When the Honourable Gaston Browne was born 48 years ago, Antigua and Barbuda was emerging from colonial rule and a mono-crop economy based on growing sugarcane.
For more than 300 years, Antigua and Barbuda produced sugar and sea-island cotton for export to Great Britain.
By the time our current Prime Minister took his first breath, tourism had begun to replace sugar as the economic mainstay - - - the United States had also begun playing an important role in developing the infrastructure of Antigua - - - the U.S. built two military bases on Antigua, beginning in 1942.
Americans constructed a large runway, and dredged a port in order to dock supply ships. These infrastructural projects became civilian operations when the war came to an end in 1945.
And following the arrival of the USA on the shores of Antigua, new possibilities emerged.
New wealth enabled schools to be built, and a very smart Gaston Browne - - - despite the challenges faced - - - has always pursued academic excellence and made the very best use of his intellect. That is why Prime Minister is so keen on establishing the reality of the University of Antigua and Barbuda within the next 3 years.
He has always been very gifted - - - very smart - - - he was very good at math, the basis of excellent cognitive thinking and intelligent decision-making.
Nonetheless, Gaston’s life as a teenager was extremely tough.
As a result, he is familiar with the struggles of the poor and vulnerable - - - but he will tell you that he believes there were some benefits for him starting off in humble beginnings.
It has motivated him to prepare himself - - - physically and academically - - - to acquire the skills that would be of service not only for his own survival and advantage - - - but more importantly - - - to uplift and empower all the people of Antigua and Barbuda.
His is a true success story - - - one whose intelligence and resilience has propelled and equipped him to lead.
A student at the City Banking College in the United Kingdom - - - he gained a first degree in banking and later pursued studies at the University of Manchester - - - earning an MBA in Finance.
A banker by vocation, he managed a banking group comprising a domestic bank, an offshore bank and a trust company - - - and owns and operates a number of successful private businesses - - - while also serving on the board of several private and publicly owned corporations.
A strident and unrelenting fighter for the rights of the people - - - despite his persuasive activism and successes - - - he remains humble and accessible to all - - - serving continuously as a legislator for the past 15 years - - - five of which he served as our country’s Minister of Planning and Trade.
He is well-grounded in the realities and the priorities of his country, as was demonstrated on the morning following his swearing-in as Prime Minister - - - June 13, 2014 - - - when he signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the huge Chinese conglomerate I spoke of earlier, the YIDA Investment Group.
That act defined his strategy as Prime Minister.
He has set out to attract foreign direct investment to Antigua and Barbuda, in large quantities.
He knows that the solution to joblessness and unemployment in Antigua and Barbuda lay in imported capital.
He also knows that profits - - - or the return on investment - - - must be assured in order to make the investments work.
Financiers have now come to us from the United States - - - Europe - - - Canada - - - China - - - South America - - - and they are investing.
They are investing because they are assured that everything will be done to ensure an extremely favorable tax environment with a package of attractive concessions and incentives for potential investors. You can be assured of a helpful government and a proactive Prime Minister who will do all that is necessary to bring success.
Antigua and Barbuda is very fortunate to have this youthful, energetic, highly intelligent, deeply-caring man as its Prime Minister.
Ladies and Gentlemen - - - it is both an honor and a privilege for me to introduce the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda.
Ladies and gentlemen - - - I give to you, Prime Minister, the Honorable Gaston Browne.