No free homes for Barbudans – PM Browne

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The Antigua and Barbuda government will not be footing the entire bill to rebuild homes in Barbuda, Prime Minister Gaston Browne told the Parliament on Thursday.
His assertion came during debate on the Barbuda Land (Amendment) Bill which seeks to give individual land ownership to Barbudans.
“They must have some skin in the game. This idea that we just gonna give them homes for free can’t work like that. Yes we’ll subsidise the homes, and we’ve been doing all we can to raise the necessary resources so we can significantly subsidise those properties, but that has been a challenge,” Browne stated.
According to the Antigua and Barbuda leader, the campaign in the media to discredit his administration’s move to give Barbudans the option of freehold titles has affected its ability to raise funds for housing reconstruction on the island.
“At one point we had gotten the European Union to agree tentatively that the five million euros of discretionary funds that they will make available sometime in January, February of next year, that we’ll make those funds available towards building new homes.
“But then they said to us that based on all the negative press, especially in the international community, that they were not prepared to allow us to utilise those funds to build new homes.”
The PM said they have since suggested to the E.U. that the funds could go to the UNDP to be used to repair some of the less damaged homes, a request that has been met with tentative acceptance.
The UNDP has already received some U.S. $3 million from India and China to aid the reconstruction efforts.
Several articles on the land issue have appeared in international media outlets and particularly in the U.K.
“When these individuals continue to plant all of this misinformation what they are doing here is that they’re literally undermining the recovery process. They’re making it more protracted. They’re hurting the Barbudans who require help,” Browne told the House.
According to the PM, his government will not give in to the protesters.
“You think John Mussington and a handful of people can picket outside of Parliament and cause us to change our minds? Do you think that John Mussington and those who I shall not describe in this honourable House, for the fear of reprimand by the honourable Speaker, could put all of this misinformation in the international press and cow us down from acting in the best interest of the Barbudans?”
Thursday’s sitting saw protests outside the Parliament building and in front of the Barbuda Council office in Barbuda.

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