(ANTIGUA OBSERVER) – Government intervention to rebuild Barbuda homes, first voiced as a possibility, now appears to be nearing the point of inevitability.
Melford Nicholas, information minister, recently said the slow pace of work on private homes meant that it was something to be considered in light of the mounting costs to house displaced Barbuda residents on the mainland.
On Monday, Prime Minister Gaston Browne put it in starker terms to OBSERVER media.
“They do not have the resources to repair the
properties. They don’t have any insurance proceeds. Whereas, in other countries, they are able to utilise the insurance proceeds to rebuild, they are totally helpless. And it now requires the government to raise the necessary resources in order to rebuild those private properties.”
The PM noted that the government was also tasked with rebuilding the public institutions and infrastructure that were also damaged by Hurricane Irma. The immediate problem ahead of those tasks is sourcing the funds.
Browne said the lack of funds has been a major factor in the sloth in the rebuilding efforts, but he is holding out hope that a CARICOM-UN donor conference later this month could help.
“This pledging conference will help us to raise resources so we can get closer to the target and that we can start the rebuilding in earnest. Now, you have to understand too that even the assessment that was done by the World Bank took an enormous amount of time. We only got the information back last week.”
The PM cautioned that raising the necessary funds would take some time since it was not as simple as “going to the bank and drawing off money.”
And on the matter of banks, the Antigua and Barbuda leader reiterated that his government was unwilling to take an offered US $40 million loan from the World Bank under the terms put forward.
“We’re struggling to pay the Barbudans EC $1.2 million a month for salaries and wages and almost invariably end up having arrears. This loan now will cause us to pay back another EC $1.2 million a month with no grace period, and the US $40 million is not going to generate any revenue. So, where am I going with that?” he stated.
“We ask them for the money to build a port. They gave us all kinds of bogus story. Oh, the assessment didn’t include the port development, and so on. So, if we can’t get a loan to fit our terms, then they could keep their money,” Browne declared.
The PM disclosed that the World Bank has released a new assessment estimating Hurricane Irma’s damage at some US $175 million, a figure which he believed was conservative in keeping with the Bank’s practice.
The government has said rebuilding Barbuda would cost upwards of US $200 million.