Prime Minister Gaston Browne has put the Barbuda Council on notice that he will be going to Parliament next week to strip it of at least two of its responsibilities.
Browne told local radio that his government will be making amendments to the Barbuda Local Government Act in order to take away the Council’s authority to mine sand and sublease land.
“We will be going to Parliament in about two weeks and we’re going to change the law and give that authority to central government. I believe, too, they have the authority for subleases. We’re going to change it and give it to the central government,” Browne said.
A little more than a year ago, the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) regained majority control of the Council and since then it has butted heads with the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) government over the economic and social direction the sister isle should take.
The recent challenge to the PM’s development plan was the Council’s request for a stop order to halt the Peace, Love and Happiness (PLH) Ocean Club project.
The twin island’s budget statement for 2020 earmarked $325 million to be spent on the PLH Ocean Club on Barbuda, and Browne is none too pleased with the latest efforts by the Council to halt the project.
“If everything that we do, they seek to create these obstacles, are we to sit back and allow them to be obstructive or do we push forward to ensure the continued advancement of Barbuda for the benefit of the Barbuda people primarily, and for all Antiguans and Barbudans?” Browne queried.
He vowed to continue to monitor the Council’s actions regarding further attempts to circumvent the wishes of the central government – and possibly effect more legal changes if necessary.
“It means that, from time to time, when [the Council] creates these legal impediments, we’ll have to make legislative changes to ensure that we advance the island,” he stated.
This year alone, PLH stated that it has sold 24 one-acre plots for development, each costing US$6 million per plot yielding a total of US$144 million.
“These people are taking some level [of] risk, of course. Even to build on Barbuda is a risk because Barbuda is a low-lying island,” Prime Minister Browne said of developers.