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By Latrishka Thomas

The government of Antigua and Barbuda is now able to borrow US$13 million from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

The House of Representatives took the unusual step of meeting on a Saturday and, after debating the Companies (Amendment) Bill 2020, Prime Minister Gaston Browne presented a resolution to allow the government to take out a loan for emergency Covid-19 response support.

He explained, “This is not actual cash coming to us. This is a loan extended so we can service our existing obligations with CDB. So instead of giving us a moratorium, what they have done is that they have given us this concessional loan so that we can make the payments that will become due within the next year,” he revealed.

The Finance Minister said the loan is a generous one as the terms of financing include an interest rate of one percent per annum for 20 years, with a moratorium period of five years.

Thereafter, a second resolution was passed to authorise a grant agreement between the CDB, the government of Antigua and Barbuda and the Antigua Public Utilities Authority for the Barbuda energy resilience project, rehabilitation and reconstruction for up to £2,850,000 pounds – approximately EC$9.7 million.

The Prime Minister said this particular grant was negotiated in 2017 after Hurricane Irma devastated Barbuda. “It shows how slow the process is in terms of when the pledge is made and by the time we are able to access the funding,” he remarked.

The monies were donated by the British government to assist with rehabilitating Barbuda and, according to Browne, the government decided to use the funds to “make Barbuda the first ‘green’ island…in the Caribbean.”

He said the intention is to invest $15 to $20 million towards that goal. It wasn’t clear which currency he was referring to.

Barbuda’s MP Trevor Walker backed the resolution.

“This is something that will go a long way to not only reduce our carbon footprint but also to allow our Barbudans to pay less for energy in Barbuda,” Walker said.

He declared, “anything that is good for Barbuda I will support.”

The Finance Administration Act of 2006 provides that no money shall be raised under credit of the government except under authority of an act of parliament of a resolution of the House of Representatives.

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