PM debunks claim of using disaster funds for political campaign

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By Shermain Bique-Charles
[email protected]
Prime Minister Gaston Browne is debunking suggestions that a U.S. $40 million dollar loan being sourced from the World Bank could be used as part of his party’s political campaign.
United Progressive Party Chairman D. Gisele Isaac said yesterday that she doubts the money being borrowed will go towards rebuilding Barbuda.
“I think it can be used to put some funds into the campaign,” she said, adding that she has no trust in the current administration.
But Prime Minister Browne said Isaac’s statements reflect exactly what the UPP would do if they were in the exact situation.
Browne used the word “criminal” to describe members of the UPP, saying “this is clearly the sentiments of a criminal mind…evidently, evil thinks what evil does”.
The prime minister said, “I cannot see how funds from a loan facility managed with World Bank procurement mechanisms as well as the oversight of the bank could be utilised for campaign funding.”
The World Bank is lending Antigua and Barbuda U.S. $40 million but the prime minister has asked them to renegotiate the loan.
He said the interest rates are too high and the payment span is too short, especially as the money will not go into any income generating projects.
When the World Bank lends money to any country for rebuilding following disasters, there must be proper monitoring and accountability.
According to information, the bank instructs the country to ensure that every receipt and payment is documented and presented to the bank before further payments could be made.
The monies are disbursed in installments.
Meantime, Isaac said she is also worried about the government’s ability to repay the funds that they intend to borrow.
“Given the sluggishness of the economy, I wonder what their plan is to pay back. I hope that they won’t just borrow and wait,” she said.
The UPP chairman added, “I hope that the government acts responsibly because regardless of who is in power, public debt is paid by the public.”

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