ST. JOHN’S: Gaston Browne, 47, became the fourth and youngest ever prime minister of Antigua & Barbuda after he was sworn into office last Friday, one day after the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party’s (ALP) landslide victory in the
Attorney Steadroy “Cuttie” Benjamin was also sworn into office as the ALP returned to power after a 10-year hiatus. A decade ago, the ALP was swept away by the United Progressive Party of former Prime Minister, Baldwin Spencer.
The ALP won 14 of the 17 seats while Spencer, his one-time deputy Wilmoth Daniel and newcomer Joanne Massiah were able to prevent a total sweep of the polls.
Before a significant number of supporters and relatives, Browne, a businessman and former banker, took the three oaths of office swearing to uphold the laws of the country.
An emotional Browne, who cried soon after being sworn into office, said the composition of his new administration would be known soon and there would be some changes to existing ministerial portfolios.
He said there will now be a minister of foreign affairs, investment and tourism “to provide a one stop shop” for attracting investments and employment opportunities to the country. Browne said emphasis would also be placed on the socio-economic development of the youth, whom he described as “the present, the future and we have a very impressive program for youth empowerment and it will start with a number of youths to serve in the governance of the country, in the Senate and various boards”.
Browne had campaigned on a need to turn around a stagnant economy, high unemployment and crime and said his new administration would provide opportunities for putting nationals back to work, noting that youth unemployment was running as high as 40 per cent.
He reiterated that his new administration has set an impressive vision for Antigua & Barbuda to transform it into an economic powerhouse.
“The country is in dire straits and we must remain hopeful for a bright future,” said Browne. “We have the capacity to achieve that vision to make Antigua & Barbuda the envy of the Caribbean. We have the capacity to create full employment. We have the capacity to attract investment to grow this country.”
Browne reiterated that he is dedicated to serving the people of the nation.
“I will lead a team that will be the servants of the people and I will be a Prime Minister who is not divorced from the people but dedicated to serve,” he said. “I say to every Antiguan & Barbudan that we will honour our commitment to you. We will not betray your trust. We pledge to work in your interest. We are the people’s hope and aspirations. We will hit the road running.”