Islands of Consensus: In an Exclusive Interview with Americas, Prime Minister Winston Baldwin Spencer Shares His Thoughts on Democracy, Education, and What the Future Holds for His Small Island Country of Antigua and Barbuda
Edwards, Ian, Americas (English Edition)
Tourism, education, technology. All necessary weapons in the struggle for development and for progress in solving the problems imposed by poverty on most countries of the continent. Oil the occasion of the inauguration of the Information, Communications, and Technology (ICT) Fest, an important initiative by Antigua and Barbuda's Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and Telecommunications, Prime Minister Winston Baldwin Spencer described for us his government's main efforts to promote education and expertise in new technologies to train the new generations that represent the future of the country. He also discussed democracy, trade, and the international fight against terrorism. "Democracy must be understood in the context of a more holistic vision," he asserted, adding, "The foundations of democracy must be built on basic elements such as freedom and certain rights and duties." And, they must be viewed in the broader context of human and economic rights, rather than just the holding of elections.
On November 1, Antigua and Barbuda celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary of independence. Its seventy thousand inhabitants will celebrate another year of separation from the British crown on those beautiful islands surrounded by water tinted an incredible blue, whose intensity is only interrupted by the perfect line of the horizon giving way to a clean sky, as blue and endless as the Caribbean Sea.
Prime Minister, I'm here in Antigua and Barbuda at an auspicious moment--to see you inaugurate the ICT [Information, Communications, and Technology] Fest. Where does ICT fall within your scheme of development and growth?
Quite frankly, we believe that it's the way to go. It's going to be the immediate, medium-term, and long-term strategy of this government to use ICT as a significant tool for the development of its human resources and, by extension, the development of the country.... And so it's a question of preparing our people to be able to find their own niche anywhere and, as you know, this revolution that is taking place with ICT is a continuing revolution, and we have got to keep up with that revolution and make sure that our people are well-prepared and properly equipped.
Tied in with all of this is the emphasis your administration has also placed on education.
Clearly, education is the hinge upon which everything else hangs, as far as we are concerned.... And the ICT arrangement is an integral part of that. That is why we have developed the concept of community-access centers, where every community utilizes the school plant and that extends to the immediate environs of the school plant, so that computers and computer technology, the Internet--everything--is made available to every man, woman, and child in this country. Over a period of time, we are hoping to set up all these centers throughout Antigua and Barbuda, bring the schools into the whole process and the community as well, bringing the school closer to the community, and vice-versa.
Where does tourism rank in terms of being a contributor to the economy?
Number one. It's the engine of growth and development for Antigua and Barbuda. Of course this is not to suggest that other sectors aren't playing their role. But clearly tourism and related services is the key economic activity in this country, and will continue to be so for some time into the foreseeable future. That is why we, from time to time look at the product and do what we call re-branding, because again you're into a dynamic situation here; things are changing in the market place. You have a process of re-branding and renewal because you have to keep up with trends and what is happening in the sector. We have concluded that in the case of Antigua and Barbuda, services are the way to go. Our economy will be driven by services--whether it has to do with hotels, tourism, or with even telecommunications service--that is where the future of this country's economy is going to lie. …