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World Bank loan terms for rebuilding Barbuda not in best interest of island — Browne

Friday, October 20, 2017

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ST JOHN'S, Antigua (CMC) — The Antigua and Barbuda Government says it wants to renegotiate a US$40-million loan which the World Bank had approved for rebuilding Barbuda that was severely damaged by Hurricane Irma last month.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne, speaking on Observer Radio here, said the terms and condition of the loan from the Washington-based financial institution are not in the best interest of the island.

“Forty million dollars over 10 years, but as far as we are concerned the term is too short and we have asked them to reconsider and perhaps consider up to 20 years with a five-year moratorium,” Browne said.

Browne, a former banker, said that the Government is also asking the World Bank to reduce the interest rate from the 3.5 per cent to one per cent.

“We have asked them to reconsider the terms and they said they will put it to the board and will get back to us,” Browne said, defending the request of his Administration on the basis that the loan would be funding projects for the rehabilitation of Barbuda that was declared inhabitable following the passage of the Category Five storm on September 6.

He said the funds would also be going into non-revenue earning projects.

“If it were grants, we would push for some more, but we have to be careful in terms of how much we borrow, because it is not only about borrowing as you have to have the capacity to repay.

“What we are saying with this particular loan is that most of the funds will be going into non-revenue generating resilient infrastructure. For example, in Barbuda we will be putting the lines underground. We will be replacing all of the wooden posts with concrete posts and technically speaking, they will not be creating any funds, any revenue, so again we have to make sure we do not overburden the Treasury, because at the end of the day we have to pay it back,” Browne indicated.

After the passage of the hurricane, the prime minister had said that more than US$100 million would be required to rebuild Barbuda, home to an estimated 1, 600 people.

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