Despite a hand of cooperation being extended to him by the country’s head of government, Barbuda MP Trevor Walker does not appear eager or enthusiastic about the $155 million dollars in new investments earmarked for the sister isle in Government’s 2020 budgetary estimates.
Speaking with Pointe Xpress shortly after Prime Minister and Finance Minister Gaston Browne had delivered his budget address on Thursday, Walker said it sounded to him like “a regurgitation of a lot of things.”
He said his biggest concern was about two major projects that were “not mentioned at all in the budget … the first one was the [Robert] De Niro project, which is the Paradise Found project … Mr. De Niro and his people have had that land, now, for about six years. And the other one was the Dulcina project, which lease is held by Hon. Maria Bird-Browne and her family; 15 acreas of prime property. So I was surprised not to hear, at least, what’s the situation with that.”
Walker said his concern was that “those lands cannot be held indefinitely without some performance clause.”
He however conceded that “in terms of some of the other stuff for Barbuda that he mentioned – the climate resilience project with the solar panels – is of course something that we welcome.” He said he hoped it was “something that can happen this year”, as there has already been a lot of work on this project. “But I hope that can come through so, at least, all reliance on fossil fuel can be zero, and we can move forward to have a totally green Barbuda.”
Walker said he was surprised to hear that the project would include underground electric utility cables. “If that comes through, it would be even better for us,” he declared. “If you get things going in Barbuda, in terms of investments beneficial to the people, I think it can go a long way.”
On the fractious relationship between Central Government and the Barbuda Council – of which he, as the elected MP, is automatically a member – Walker hinted that they did not feel sufficiently respected. He referenced some recent squabbling over a shredder and said collaboration as to its shared use should not be a problem. “There has to be a level of decorum that is neutral between the two entities,” is how he put it. “I know it appears as if we’re fighting all the time, but we just demand some respect and some mutual understanding. Communication has to be better, or else you’re always going to have these issues.”
With Hon. Samantha Marshall recently appointed the new Minister for Barbuda Affairs, Walker said he was looking forward to a different and more agreeable approach to relations between the two islands of the unitary state – especially nowthat a Barbudan in the person of Senator Knacyntar Nedd had also been appointed Parliamentary Secretary in the Barbuda Affairs Ministry, in effect the junior minister and understudy to Hon. Marshall.
“My feeling, generally, about Dean Jonas – no disrespect to him – is that he was an interesting character who did not foster a decent relationship with Barbuda, and he had to change,” Walker stated.