Antigua PM calls on EU to provide funds for projects in Caribbean

ST JOHN’S, Antigua (CMC) – Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer has called on the European Union to provide funds for two projects in his homeland and St. Kitts-Nevis which he said will have an immense impact on the tourism sector.

Spencer said the projects — the restoration of the St John’s Cathedral in Antigua, and the Brimstone Hill National Fortress in Basseterre -– had already been submitted to the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) Directorate under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) CRIP Multi-Country Programme.

“The project seeks to restore two important historical landmarks in Antigua and Barbuda and St Kitts and Nevis that have a significant bearing on both countries’ tourism product,” he told visiting European diplomats, telling them that the restoration project in Antigua is being financed through local fund raising efforts.

“However, the Cathedral restoration programme is in dire need of an urgent injection of donor resources to enable the first phase of the work to be completed. I therefore, use this opportunity to call on the EU to look at the overall project and see how best it could be financed,” he added.

Spencer said that his country was grateful to Europe for assistance over the years, saying “for us, the EU is an important partner who continues to contribute significant financial and technical assistance, grant aid to develop the different sectors of our economy.

“The EU has been there through our good times and bad times. Of particular note, is the nine million Euro (One Euro=US$1.29 cents) support that we obtained from the EU to help mitigate the effects of the severe global fiscal and economic crisis.”

He said under the present 10th EDF, the EU has contributed Euro 3.4 million towards Public Finance Management reform and support to non-governmental players.

“We were also the only country within the OECS to have even received a top up, 600,000 EUROs for the implementation of ASYCUDA at Customs as a result of the positive Mid Term review.”

Spencer said in the area of Education, the EU has financed a number of initiatives, including but not limited to, an education sector study; expansion and equipping of the Antigua and Barbuda Institute of Continuing Education as well as the Hospitality Training Institute; Drug Demand Reduction Programme; construction of the Science Block at the Antigua State College and rehabilitation of its Engineering workshop; restoration of the seawall at the Nelson Dockyard, and construction of the Ferry Docking Facility in St John’s.

“These are all tangible development projects which impacts positively on the lives of our people and country as a whole.”

Prime Minister Spencer, who is also preparing for a general election later this year, told the visiting diplomats that “you have come at a time when as a democratic nation, we are preparing for general elections.

“Participatory democracy is a tradition rooted in the fabric of our society and each citizen will have the opportunity to vote for the candidate and government of their choice when the date is announced. You would have noticed the colourful billboards and advertisements in the newspapers; loud speakers advocating on behalf of the Political Parties and Public Rallies; all features of a free and open democratic electoral process.

“It is beyond doubt that as a small and vulnerable nation, with weak and underdeveloped economic sectors, limited productive capacity, that we require friendly countries and partners to assist with our sustainable development agenda,” he added.

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