The provision of what the government is calling “crucial assistance” from the People’s Republic of China is expected to make the Christmas barrel initiative an easier task.
Last Friday, a US$6 million contract was signed between Antigua and Barbuda and China for the purchase of surveillance equipment for the port.
These include systems for mobile container inspection, X-ray inspection, radioactive substance detection, baggage inspection, mobile trace explosive/drug detectors and hand-held metal detectors.
Chief Security Officer at the Antigua and Barbuda Port Authority, Jason Roberts, said that the equipment is timely, and will effectively facilitate customers and cargo at the port.
“It is in no doubt very timely. It will increase collaborative efforts with customers to easily facilitate the Christmas barrel initiative,” he said.
Under this initiative, each household will be allowed to import clothing, foodstuff and toiletries for personal use in a standard size shipping barrel or an e-container size 17.9 cubic feet, which is equivalent to a standard barrel size.
Barrels or e-containers will be free of import duty and will not attract the Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax (ABST). However, they will be subject to an EC$10 handling fee, and the 10 percent Revenue Recovery Charge on the value of the contents.
Roberts said that some of the new equipment will increase efforts with customs and easily facilitate people during the busy season.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that the relationship between the two countries has been at an all-time high, especially over the past couple of months.
“A few weeks ago, we signed off on an agreement for EC$90 million to be used for our urban renewal project in the Booby Alley area,” Browne said.
He recalled that China just extended a loan to assist Antigua and Barbuda with the redevelopment of the cargo port.
The prime minister said that with a combination of grants and loans, China has extended over half a billion dollars to the twin-island state.