On Friday, June 13, Antigua and Barbuda's Prime Minister Gaston Browne signed an agreement with China's Yida International Investment Antigua for the development of a $750 million project to build a massive casino resort.
As reported by a note published on Antigua and Barbuda's government official website, the deal came at the end of an eight-hour long negotiation and includes the construction of five-star hotels, a golf course, 1,300 residential units, shopping facilities, a modern conference center, and a casino over 600 hectares of land.
"I promised the people that my administration would bring the type of investments to the country that will transform Antigua and Barbuda into an economic powerhouse and I am serious about that promise," Antigua and Barbuda's PM Browne stated in a press conference.
"This Memorandum of Agreement is the result of our determination to work in the interest of the people of the country,” Browne continued.
As included in the memorandum, the Chinese investment group represented in Antigua and Barbuda's capital city of Saint John by its director Yida Zang is now supposed to proceed with the purchase of the 600 hectares of land where the project will be built.
The land, which includes the 184-hectare Guiana Island and its surrounding areas, was previously owned by R. Allen Stanford, the Antigua and Barbuda-based Ponzi-scheming financer from Texas who was arrested by U.S. authorities back in 2009.
The deal comes right one day after Browne's election as the country's Prime Minister, and is supposed to be the first step of an aggressive program announced by the leader of the country's Labor Party.
During his campaign, Browne has in fact often referred to his strong determination to adopt specific policies in order to increase the amount of foreign investments directed to Antigua and Barbuda, especially in the field of tourism.
"The work has just begun," Browne said on Friday right after his election as Prime Minister. "The country is in dire straits and requires the effort of all, the entire population to join our efforts to move forward. We must remain a strong united nation in order for us to achieve our goal of rebuilding the nation."
During the lead-up to the 2014 election, Browne repeatedly mentioned the fact that a victory of the Labor Party would open the country's doors to consistent investments from China's Yida International Investment Antigua — investments that apparently will go well beyond the deal signed on June 14.
According to what the country's Antigua Observer reported on June 10, the Chinese investment fund in fact has plans to inject over $200 million a year for the next 10 years into Antigua and Barbuda's economy.
Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Immigration and Labour, Steadroy Benjamin, who also took part to the negotiations that led to the agreement, commented on the signature of the deal by saying, "We were elected convincingly by the majority of the people of the country and we are committed to live up to our promises."
"One major promise is to provide jobs. This project will ensure that we move people from unemployed to being employed," Benjamin continued, stressing the importance of reinforcing the country's economy through the development the country's tourism industry.
Photo courtesy of the official website of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda