Managers reports that lion’s share of Port revenues is spent in staff payments, leaving little room to service Chinese loan

Sweeping changes that could impact the staff, as well as the public,
may soon be implemented at the Antigua Port Authority.

Three officials from the Authority and the Ministry of Finance
reportedly met with the Cabinet on Thursday, July 6, to report on
the Port’s profitability and on any barriers to making the agency
more efficient. 

According to this week’s Cabinet Notes, the Port now spends 70% of
its revenue on salaries, wages and overtime. 

However, it is now facing the repayment of a US$97-million loan to
the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank), following the Port’s
recent expansion and upgrade. 

The Executive says the Port must generate sufficient revenue to
meet its monthly mortgage and other expenses; however, it is
operating at a deficit that cannot be sustained.  

Reportedly, the managers are also facing a demand for wage
increases. This, the Cabinet says, would make profitability
absolutely unattainable and render the Port incapable of meeting its
legal obligations to creditors. 

Therefore, Port Manager Darwin Telemaque says, a formal report on
reform is being submitted by a consultant; following receipt, a
decision on corrective measures will be taken.

“This sends shivers down my spine,” a businesswoman tells REAL
News. “I’m afraid of possible retrenchment of staff, first. But after all
we have heard and seen in the international news, I am terrified that
our Port could be taken over by the Chinese if we can’t pay them,”
she says.

The likelihood of Port fees being increased is also something she
must “seriously prepare for,” she says, adding that it could
determine “whether I stay in, or go out of, business.”