Sean Bird begs public to pay attention to Hughes’ allegations that Port Authority’s EXIM Bank loan is in trouble

The public needs to pay greater attention to the recent allegations
about the Port Authority loan that were made by Chester Hughes,
the deputy general-secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Workers
Union (ABWU), says Sean Bird.

In response to derogatory comments made by Prime Minister
Gaston Browne about Port workers, Hughes asked whether the
Government’s reluctance to increase their salaries is connected to
the status of its loan from the Chinese Export-Import (EXIM) Bank. 

The Union official also alleged that, during a recent meeting with
Bank officials, the Government was served with a demand notice for
payment on its loan, said to be US$98 million.

Bird, the United Progressive Party (UPP) caretaker for St. John’s
Rural East, describes Hughes’ allegations as a bombshell that needs
to be further brought to the public’s attention. 

If EXIM Bank executives had to travel here to meet with the
Administration, he says, it shows that Antigua and Barbuda is truly
in dire straits.

Acknowledging reports that the Chinese Government has seized
port operations in other countries that have failed to meet their loan
obligations, Bird says the possibility of that happening here is
Meanwhile, PM Browne has not commented on the veracity of
Hughes’s claims, to date.

However, a UPP official tells REAL News that the state of the
country’s finances is, indeed, cause for alarm – particularly after the
news that the United Kingdom is withdrawing visa-free access.

The official notes that most of the Government’s non-tax income is
derived from the Citizenship by Investment (CIP) stream. “When
the programme is further stripped of its travel privileges, it loses its
attractiveness,” she says, “and Antigua and Barbuda loses revenue.

“Loss of revenue means the inability to service debt – and then the
Port Authority, and all of us, will really be in trouble,” she says with
a sigh.