Browne admits that Central Gov’t is servicing most of Port Authority’s loan since not enough profit is being generated

While the Port Authority loan from the Chinese Export/Import
(EXIM) Bank reportedly is being serviced, Prime Minister Gaston
Browne admits that those payments are being met primarily by the
Central Government.

The Government has borrowed US$98 million from the Chinese
institutions to redevelop the Deep Water Harbour.

A few weeks ago, the deputy general-secretary of the Antigua and
Barbuda Workers’ Union, Chester Hughes, implied that the loan had
fallen into arrears and the bank was threatening to take action.

Hughes also implied that the Browne Administration had been
served with a demand notice during a recent meeting with EXIM
Bank officials.

During the sitting of the Lower House on Thursday, July
27, Opposition Leader Jamale Pringle questioned Browne, the
minister of finance, about the allegations. 

In response, Browne admitted that the Antigua Port Authority is not
generating sufficient cash flow to service the principal sum. In fact,
he added, he does not believe the Port is generating enough profit
even to service the interest.

As a consequence of this dilemma, the prime minister said, the
Cabinet has ordered a review of the Port’s operations to determine
its sustainability and to make sure it will be able to cover all its
obligations going forward. 

The prime minister also confirmed that the loan is in arrears –
which, he said, is a result of the shortfall in revenue during the
COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, he claimed that an arrangement has been worked out to
have the arrears cleared. 

Meanwhile, responding to questions raised by Barbuda MP Trevor
Walker, Browne denied allegations that the Government’s loans for
the airport and hospital are in arrears.
Rather, Browne said, loan payments for the airport are up to date.