By Carl Joseph
Having been told the news of the government’s intention to pay $4 million to contractors within a matter of months, Barbudan contractor James Gerald is expressing a mixture of both joy and relief.
“It’s good news and I am overwhelmed by it,” he said when Observer broke the news to him on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the Cabinet decided to pay the outstanding monies owed to multiple contractors for their work done in Barbuda in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2017.
“All unpaid sums are to be verified once more by NODS and the Ministry of Works and all payments made within months,” stated a recent release from the Cabinet.
Gerald said that he completed a total of 16 home construction and repair projects awarded to him by the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) when restorative efforts began in 2018.
When Observer visited the sister isle last month, Gerald said the amount still owed to him was over $260,000.
“For me alone, they owe me over $265,000 and I know there is another contractor that has that same figure like me and there are other contractors that they owe over $100,000… it’s a lot of money…they owe over a million dollars,” he said.
He also named around 12 other contractors on Barbuda who have been anxiously awaiting their payday.
The Cabinet release explained that, “Many donors also specified that their monies were contributions towards the purchase of building supplies, and that the labour inputs were to be met by Antigua and Barbuda.”
Speaking at Thursday’s Cabinet press briefing, Cabinet spokesman, Minister Melford Nicholas, addressed the near two-year lag in payments to the contractors.
“As [NODS] undertook a number of these renovation and restoration projects, the expectation was that they would have gotten support from a number of donor agencies. And to an extent, upon that promise, they were able to get a number of contractors to provide credit, such that the immediate work could get done,” Nicholas explained.
The “let down,” Nicholas said, came when many of these international donor agencies did not make good on the pledges they made after Irma.
“It took a visit last year, at the United Nations General Assembly to actualise some funding that the Indian government had promised to Antigua,” he said.
Nicholas also pointed to a ‘pledge concert’ held in New York City last year that has yet to turn over any of the monies raised to the government.
Nevertheless, he said the payout would be financed through the central government.