BBC Caribbean
March 11, 2004

Tourism project suspended in Antigua

After weeks of political wrangling in the run up to the Antigua and Barbuda elections, a controversial EC$1.6 billion tourism development project backed by Texan businessman Allen Stanford has been postponed until after the elections.

In a full-page newspaper advertisement Mr Standford said he was putting the project on hold until after the March 23 election because of the current political climate.

Member of the ruling Antigua Labour Party (ALP) and Minister of Planning Gaston Browne said Mr Stanford had taken the decision because of constant criticism from the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP).

Mr Browne said the delay would damage the economy and the blame for this should rest with the UPP.

"If UPP wins the election many investors will pull out of this country. If the UPP had a little common sense they would recognise that the economy of this country is the most significant issue for the people of Antigua and Barbuda. And they would have supported his project," Mr Browne said.

Mr Browne is one of two Antigua government ministers accused by the UPP of accepting bribes totalling $37,000 each from Mr Standford.

The ministers denied there had been any wrongdoing and the Texan businessman said he gave the money for constituency projects.

Opposition spokesman Dean Jonas said on Thursday Mr Browne’s comments were a public relations exercise for Mr Stanford.

Mr Jonas said if the UPP forms the next government the party would be willing to work with any investor.

The opposition spokesman described Mr Standford’s decision as a prudent move to allow the Texan to negotiate the terms of his investment with the next government.

"The Allen Stanford-Guyana issue has come again into sharp focus in Antigua and Barbuda with the revelation that the ALP government was going to turn over almost 200 acres of land around the Crabbs Peninsula along with some offshore islands to Mr Stanford.

"It was also alleged that Mr Stanford was also to have acquired 400 acres of land in Barbuda. And these revelations along with the whole Guyana islands fiasco has triggered massive public outrage on Antigua and Barbuda," Mr Jonas said.