By Shermain Bique-Charles
Government may have to repurpose monies set aside for other projects to repair the extensive damage that last November’s heavy rainfall caused to the country’s road infrastructure.
It is estimated that the cost to repair the damage surpasses $200 million.
The Caribbean Development Bank (CBD) agreed to make funds available to every affected Caribbean country given the harm done to their infrastructure during the torrential November 9 and 10 rains.
But the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Lionel “Max” Hurst, told Observer that the government could not access additional funding from the CDB because the bank previously gave loans of close to $300 million for the country’s road rehabilitation programme.
“They aren’t going to lend us $200 million. They have already made loans available of $269 million for our road programme. It is from that subscription that we are using to repair the roads that were damaged by the November inundation,” Hurst revealed.
Furthermore, he said the government is way over its head in borrowing.
“We have no intentions of increasing the borrowings without knowing how we are going to repay and the CBD was not a grant. It was intended as loan money that would become available,” he added.
In November, a newly formed tropical disturbance caused drought-busting, Hurricane Lenny-type rainfall across parts of Antigua, dumping more than 14 inches of rain in some areas.
Climatologist Dale Destin said at the time that the event was quite extreme, if not in amount then certainly with respect to intensity. According to him, in 24 hours, two-and-a-half times the month’s total rainfall inundated the island.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne had said early on that Antigua and Barbuda would have to “paddle its own canoe” regarding the millions needed to finance the redevelopment of infrastructure damaged by the heavy rains.
He had said his administration was already seeking to raise at least 10 per cent of the funds needed, and appealed to motorists and other road users to bear with the government.
Browne, who is also the country’s finance minister, said that it is difficult to receive grant funding as well as loans at low concessionary rates.