Scores of Barbudans staged a picket outside the Antigua Commercial Bank (ACB) on Thames Street yesterday, demanding that the financial institution “move with haste” to re-open its branch on Barbuda.
The protest took place despite a release this week from the financial institution regarding the resumption of services on Barbuda.
ACB’s branch on the sister island, like many other buildings, was destroyed when Hurricane Irma devastated the island.
Althea Nedd, the main organiser of Wednesday’s picket, said ACB’s customers on Barbuda, including senior citizens, are forced to travel to the mainland to conduct simple transactions such as cashing cheques and depositing or withdrawing monies. She said this is becoming increasingly difficult due to the high cost of travel from Barbuda to Antigua and back.
“We wanted to send a message to the Antigua Commercial Bank that it has been one year and six months since the passage of Hurricane Irma and we still have no access to the bank. We are very fed up, it is overbearing. The turnout was great, we brought a contingent of about 30 people [and] we were joined by other Barbudans who are living in Antigua,” Nedd said.
Earlier this week, the bank issued a fully paid advertisement indicating that the onsite service at the original Barbuda agency location will be restored by June 2019.
ACB said that the restoration work on the building would start in April and the estimated completion time is eight weeks.
General Manager of ACB Joanna Charles was also quoted as saying: “Our bank remains fully committed to providing banking services to our loyal customers in Barbuda. We sincerely apologize for the delay in reopening the agency. However, it was necessary that we took time to re-think our strategy to ensure that reopening will be mutually beneficial to all stakeholders. It was also necessary to ensure that the services such as telephone and Internet that support banking today, were stable and reliable.”
Charles also noted that, “Once the restoration and ancillary works are completed, we will commence a limited service in the first instance.”
Nedd told OBSERVER that Barbudans are aware of the notice, but are concerned about its timing, since the bank has missed repeated deadlines.
“Why didn’t they post the article six months or a year ago? I believe they posted the article because they heard we were coming over to Antigua to stage the protest and they wanted to put something out there to calm us down,” Nedd said.
She also stated that no official from the bank attempted to address the Barbudans during yesterday’s protest.