BBC Caribbean
March 8, 2004

Bird promises more jobs

Antiguan Prime Minister Lester Bird launched the manifesto of his ruling Antigua Labour Party on Monday with promises of lower cost of living and full employment by creating new jobs.

The ALP leader also promised to curb crime, invest more education and attract new employment.

Mr Bird also pledged to provide to create a healthy environment for doing business by reducing taxes and less red tape.

The 56-page document is entitled The Road Map to Antigua and Barbuda's Continued Progress.

On an issue of international relations, the Antiguan leader criticized the opposition for allegedly accepting a campaign contribution from the Taiwan government.

He said the Antiguan government had already established a fruitful relationship with the People's Republic of China, and if the opposition was to promised Taiwan any favours it could lead to a strain in the relationship between Antigua and Barbuda and China.

Mr Bird said this is unacceptable in light of China's commitment to give Antigua and Barbuda $US20 million to construct a new cricket stadium for the 2007 Cricket World Cup that is being held in the Caribbean.

"We have already spoken to the People's Republic of China and they are very upset about it," said Mr Bird.

"We cannot have a situation where they are spending all this money to build a stadium for us, and giving us all this assistance and then we turn around and have a situation where we now discover that the UPP has taken, I gather, EC$1 million from them in the last election, I don't know whether they got anything for this election.

"The reality is they now have an IOU for Taiwan," Mr Bird said.

UPP leader Baldwin Spencer denied the charges and called on Mr Bird to prove his allegations.

"I categorically deny any such association with these people and furthermore, I challenge Lester Bird to prove what he's saying to the people of Antigua and Barbuda," Mr Spencer told BBC Caribbean Service.

"As far as I am concerned, if he's making this bold statement, he ought to be in a position to prove what he's saying to the people of Antigua and Barbuda," he said.

"It's not for me to prove anything, it's for him to do that because he's making the charge."

Antiguans go to the polls on March 23.