Barbudans can expect a significant boost in economic activity, new job opportunities and increased incomes – the exact words of a promise made to them by the nation’s Prime Minister and Minister for Finance.
Hon. Gaston Browne – whose pride in being a man of his word is well embodied in one of his favorite catchphrases, ‘Promise Made, Promise Kept’ – was on Thursday 23 January 2020 delivering his annual budget address to the elected House of Representatives in a typically packed Parliament Building.
The 76 page document containing the address is titled simply, GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL. Its presentation was punctuated by frequent loud and prolonged applause from the public gallery, something which House Speaker Sir Gerald Watt had announced, at the start of proceedings, would be permitted.
Under the subheading of TRANSFORMING BARBUDA IN 2020, PM Browne was careful to state that his government’s “plans to secure even greater progress in Barbuda” would be achieved by “working in cooperation with the Barbuda Council.”
He went on to itemize the projects that the ABLP administration intends to implement as being the following: rehabilitation of the Barbuda Community Centre; repair and furnishing of the Barbuda Council Administration Building; construction of a new Disaster Office; construction of a Multi-Purpose Centre which will also serve as a Disaster Shelter; expansion of the Reverse Osmosis Plant and storage tank; and development of agricultural infrastructure.
According to the Finance Minister, “The estimated value of all the projects, which will either be completed or advanced on Barbuda in 2020, is $155 million – not including the private sector developments.”
He said a master plan for the future development of Barbuda will be created in full consultation with residents of the sister isle, and will be informed by what he termed “crucial environmental studies”.
Also, “a project under the auspices of the Prince’s Foundation and funded by Ambassador Calvin Ayre will construct up to 20 homes on five acres of land in the Louis Hill area. The beneficiaries will be Barbudans whose homes were [destroyed by] Hurricane Irma” in 2017.
The Prime Minister disclosed that another project – funded with a $15.5 million grant from the European Union – is due to start in a matter of days to rebuild 150 homes that suffered major damage during Irma’s passage.
Preliminary land clearing, geotechnical soil investigations and building layout works have been completed in preparation for pending construction work at the 15-acre lot earmarked for the new Holy Trinity Primary School – a project jointly funded by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and the Dominican Republic. It will result in 16 classroom spaces, administration offices, a cafeteria, a security booth, secure parking, and recreation spaces for basketball, tennis, soccer, and cricket.
Barbuda is to also benefit from a $20 million renewable energy project – funded primarily by a grant from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – and expected to generate one megawatt of electricity, which will be sufficient to power all of Barbuda during daytime hours. According to the Prime Minister, battery power will be added systematically in the future, making Barbuda an island powered completely by solar voltaic energy.
Pointing out that improved access to Barbuda was essential for the island transformation and development – especially in the area of tourism, Prime Minister Browne said it was with this in mind that his government would complete a new airport costing $55 million on Barbuda in 2020 in order to facilitate such access.
In terms of private investment, PM Browne said the developers of the PLH Ocean Club have made considerable progress with their project – resulting in many residents of Barbuda benefitting from employment opportunities during the year just past.