Barbudans have voiced mixed feelings to promises made by Prime Minister Gaston Browne on Monday night, at a town hall style meeting at the American University of Antigua (AUA).
PM Browne pledged to provide better homes, infrastructure and jobs to Barbudans in the reconstruction of the sister island.
He told hundreds of displaced Barbudans that the cleanup aspect, which is scheduled to begin shortly, would last about three weeks, after which they will be allowed to return to salvage what was left of their properties.
He told the large gathering that EC $800,000 has been deposited into the account of the Barbuda Council to cover wages of council workers that were outstanding prior to Hurricane Irma’s landfall.
The prime minister also said that arrangements have been made with the premier of Monserrat to make that island’s ferry available along with the Barbuda ferry to transport Barbudans to and from the hurricane ravaged island.
Other promises made by PM Browne, include: subsidizing the rent of private properties for Barbudans who can afford to move out of shelters; construction of concrete properties with concrete roof with piles going down into the bedrock; a better seaport; a new airport; most of the resources raised will go into infrastructure; assistance will be given to repairing homes but emphasis will be placed on building new homes that are resilient; the new homes will reflect quality such as those that are currently being constructed at Dredge Bay with underground conduits and concrete roads.
“We are feel satisfied with what the prime minister said tonight,” said one Barbudan. “It was a good meeting.”
Another individual said: “I know the prime minister is going to do his best to help make us all feel comfortable and assist us with what we are doing.”
During the meeting, PM Browne stressed that opportunities will be provided for Barbudans to be independent during the rebuilding phase of their island.
“As the opportunities are created we want Barbudans to seize them. The idea is not for Antiguans to exploit these opportunities but reserve them for Barbudans.
“So, when we are rebuilding the properties we expect Barbudans to be given the first choice. Those of you, who are in a position to acquire equipment, we will support your acquisition, so when the rebuilding starts we will look to your equipment rather than import equipment from Antigua.”
However, one resident dismissed the prime minister’s rhetoric as “all politics” because he failed to outline a detailed strategy for the reconstruction of the island.
“Tonight, it was a set of politicians doing their stuff,” the disgruntled Barbudan said. “We are still waiting to hear from the people who are technically knowledgeable about the situation in Barbuda. We want a concrete thing done with Barbudan input so we can move forward; we still listening for the plan.”
Others expressed hope that the prime minister honours his promises.
“We have heard some very positive things tonight and so let’s just hope Prime Minister Browne keeps his words and it is not a political sham,” one person told the media.
Another said: “I thought it was a good meeting and the prime minister put out himself. We just hope he sticks to what he said and helps us with the way forward.”
Those, who attended the town hall meeting were also given the assurance from the prime minister that funds raised towards the relief process will not be misused and “every cent collected will be accounted for … and published in the newspapers”.