Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst, government chief of staff, expressed his disappointment in the United Progressive Party’s Public Relations Officer, Damani Tabor, and what he deems as Tabor’s misleading of the general public.
Hurst’s response follows claims made by Tabor on Observer AM last week that the overdraft facility arrangement between the government of Antigua and Barbuda and the Caribbean Union Bank (CUB) was an indicator that the government is broke.
“He evidently doesn’t understand how overdrafts work. I heard him on the radio myself and I was very disappointed that he said those things. He could have been more intelligent, but it strikes me that he always aims to be among the lowest intellectual group. I don’t know why he does that. It strikes me as being very dishonest,” Hurst said.
He explained that the true rationale behind the setting aside of the overdraft facility was the government’s preparation in case of an emergency such as a hurricane or any other natural disaster.
He further said that, in the event of an emergency, $5 million would be immediately available to the government.
Hurst pointed out that it is best to have the facility in place now than to wait until an emergency actually occurs. He also revealed that the cost of the arrangement is approximately five to six thousand dollars per month, and he made it clear that if there is never an emergency, then the facility will never be used.
Tabor had pointed out last week that the late payment of civil servants, the reluctance to negotiate the back pay of public servants, failure to come to an agreement with unions on public servant’s pay increases and the many unpaid contractors are indicators that the government knows that it will be needing the overdraft facility sooner rather than later.
He attributed the government’s dire financial situation to its alleged mismanagement of government programs such as the Citizenship by Investment scheme, and he insisted that the overdraft facility is just a secondary plan in case the government falls short in paying pensioners or public servants.
The government of Antigua and Barbuda owns 80 percent of CUB after investing $30 million in that institution a few years ago. This was a move that was heavily criticised by opposition parties and members of the public.