Columns

The figures don't lie; Gaston Browne invents his own reality

By Frank Solomon

Thursday, March 08, 2018

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The online Caribbean News Now, a fake news site which acts as the mouthpiece of Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne, shamelessly prostitutes itself by trotting out a stream of baseless claims and misinformation meant to deceive the unsuspecting.

In a brainless article titled “Sandals meddling in Antigua-Barbuda elections”, the website quotes Browne as claiming that Sandals “excludes everyone but the owners”, and branded the island's most respected resort “all-exclusive and not all-inclusive”.

That assertion is not only an outright lie, but demonstrates a complete lack of respect and a dismissal of the almost 700 Antiguan and Caribbean nationals who work with Sandals Grande Antigua, many of them for over 25 years.

A few facts should suffice to dispel this falsehood which emanates from the fevered imagination of Mr Brown and his cohorts.

The extensive economic footprint of Sandals, based on taxes, employment, local purchases, local contracts, entertainment, taxis and tours, amounts to EC$96 million annually, with the job numbers broken down as follows:

459 Antiguans

43 OECS nationals (6%)

119 Caricom nationals (18%)

20 Other nationals (3%)

The above percentages reflect that Sandals has only three per cent of its entire workforce on work permits; all others hail from joint treaty islands such as Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia, Guyana, Dominica, St Vincent & The Grenadines & Jamaica.

Sandals locally purchases:

657 k of eggs per year or 1,500 per day

34 k of pineapples per year of consumption or 660 lbs per week

35 k of bananas per year or 700 pounds per week

14 k of cucumber per year or 280 pounds per week

720 50-lb bags of flour per year

700 bottles of water per day purchased from “Premium Beverages”, the local distribution company

260 cases per year of English Harbour Rum which is currently in all resort bars

36 k taxi transfers per year or 55 movements per day

EC$5 million in local contracts for 'beach cleaners/night cleaners through third-party maintenance

436, or 51 per cent of all weddings in Antigua, are hosted by Sandals Antigua, with local beneficiaries being florists; steel pan and other entertainment entities; local church ministers and local government fees.

In addition, Sandals Foundation, the charity arm of Sandals Resorts International, contributed EC$1.95 million directly to Antiguan communities last year. It spent EC$590,000 on hurricane relief; $460,000 on education benefiting the Villa Primary School playground and the Antigua Girls High School for the construction of a multi-purpose court.

The foundation donated 3,400 books on going Scholastic "Reading Road Trip”; construction of a music room and pagodas at

Willikies Primary; refurbishing the library at Cedar Grove Primary and construction of a multi-purpose court at Clare Hall School.

$640,000 was spent on other community programmes involving two Intensive Infant Care units donated to Mount St John's Medical Centre, where 300 babies were saved; Hosted cricket academy's Rockersville/Greys Green Basket Ball League; and the annual Christmas Toy drive giving over 2,000 toys to children.

Several of these wild claims made by the website are worthy of special note. It says, for example, that Sandals produces its own water. What it hides from the public is that while in some instances that is the case, Sandals also buys water from the public utility.

In fact, Antigua is one of those islands classified as water-scarce which means that the Government should actually be commending Sandals for taking pressure off the grid, leaving it free to supply water to households and local businesses.

The claim that Sandals has made demands to import 75 'so-called' limousines in Antigua and St Lucia is another outright and deliberate lie. In both countries, Sandals has not applied for any cars or transfer vehicles, and has never made a request or submitted for a license. But Browne can easily prove his claim by providing the evidence of the applications to which he, as prime minister, has access, certainly in Antigua.

So while Caribbean News Now seeks to shine a spotlight on the Jamaica Observer which merely reports the news, it is indeed unfortunate that this particular website has allowed itself to be used in such a manner.

But what more can be expected of a mouthpiece which has no respect for the truth? Browne knows that these claims are patently false. That he trots them out anyway suggests that his intention is only to deceive the people of Antigua and Barbuda, in the hope of securing another term in office.

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