By Carlena Knight
Prime Minister Gaston Browne is of the opinion that Barbudans, after the devastation from Hurricane Irma more than two years ago, should be more thankful for the progress made thus far.
Browne was a guest yesterday on OBSERVER-AM when he spoke about the continued efforts to rebuild the sister isle.
“What I want to say to the people of Barbuda is that they must be more thankful, because the situation could have been much worse. The sheer recovery cost of US$220 million representing 100 percent of our tax revenue, would have meant that it would take several years to recover. They ought to be thankful for the progress made.”
Browne revealed that he shares equally the frustrations of the Barbudans over the slow process, but clarified that the receiving of the funds pledged by many countries is out of the government’s control.
“One of the unfortunate situations is that a lot of the funds that have been programmed have not quite yet materialized; they are tied up in some bureaucracy. We have about EURO $16 million from the European Union to be spent to continue to repair homes. We have no control over the timing even though we are being told that they are pretty close to commencing repairs to those homes.
“We have $3 million [Pounds Sterling] from the British government and that too has not yet been programmed as yet; $3 million from the Canadian government has not been programmed and that is just the reality of the pledges that were made. The pledges are only 10 percent of the overall recovery cost, and almost half of it has not been programmed as yet. Even the hospital that they speak about, there is already $1 million programmed for that by the Indian government, but again the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is handling that one [well] as the European Union fund and they are very slow in getting these things done. We share the frustrations of the Barbudan people but it’s not that efforts are not being taken to address these issues.
“We have, for example, a school that will be funded by the Dominican Republic and that should start later this year. I understand they have now gone out to tender, so it is not like things are not being addressed and all we are asking for is continued patience.”
He highlighted that the government has presented a number of documents showing the paper trail of funds spent thus far, and he accused the Barbuda MP, Trevor Walker, of trying to spread false news.
The Parliamentary Representative for St. John’s City West has also called on the opposition parties to stop undermining the development of not only Barbuda, but Antigua as well.
“Let us examine the relief and recovery that took place in Barbuda and the success of my government to prevent carnage. Not one, other than the young man who died, actually suffered from any disease or there was any fatality or any mishandling of the situation in Barbuda. It was a form of competence shown by my government that had never before seen a disaster in this region, and there are many lessons to be learned. But you know, the unfortunate thing about it is that instead of celebrating our successes, we allow all of the negative political partisan rhetoric to take root, and as a consequence we do not celebrate our successes so that they can be utilized as best practices for others.
“You all must stop it because we have accounted on several occasions. Trevor Walker knows exactly how the funds are being spent. The only thing is the auditor has not completed the audit, but there have been accounts submitted on numerous occasions, but again they continue to spread that rhetoric of falsity in order to undermine the recovery effort.
“It is deliberate, because they feel as though the slower the recovery is – and if they can stop the flow of money into the country – that they will [gain] power. There’s a form of irresponsible politics in this country that needs to stop. We need to know when to draw the line, and when there are developmental issues to address, we need to come together. You see an issue like the university and D. Giselle Isaac went and ridiculed the UWI brand and so on; we got to know when to draw the line when it comes to the development of this country.”