By Aabigayle McIntosh
The government of Antigua will act as a guarantor for a substantial loan of EC$168 million that will be used to support the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA).
The financial assistance is intended to strengthen APUA’s distribution network and carry out critical infrastructure improvements.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne led the initiative, which was initially approved by the Lower House in 2020.
The local utilities company secured the loan through a consortium of banks, with ACB Caribbean at the forefront. Most of the funds will be allocated to APUA’s Telecoms Unit to drive projects such as the Fiber to Home initiative, re-piping work, and sub-sea cable installations
“That will help to reduce the cost for APUA, in some instances, we have found that the other telecom operators that are retailing to APUA have charged extortionate prices, making it difficult to pass on any savings or to keep broadband services at a lower rate.
“At one point Antigua and Barbuda had the highest broadband rate within the Caribbean and I want to commend the Member of St Johns City East who, through his skillful negotiations, would have gotten those prices down and we would have seen some reduction in broadband services,” Browne explained.
The government is in talks with a private firm to partially privatize water services.
Browne suggests that a public-private partnership may be more efficient than solely relying on public production of water.
“It is well known that the private sector tends to be more efficient than the public sector. We have invested over 100 million dollars so far in the water infrastructure in this country but I can tell you we are particularly pleased with where we are and I feel that some of the inefficiencies are a result of the public structure,” Browne said.
Minister with responsibility for Utility Melford Nicholas said, “Since taking up the office they have not been able to access the vast majority of this money.
The development that is taking place inside APUA was primarily being done through direct support of the injection from the CIP and from the cashflow
Minister Melford Nicholas, who is responsible for Utility, has revealed that the majority of the money allocated to his office has not been accessible since he assumed the position.
The development work carried out by APUA has been largely funded through direct support from the CIP and the cash flow generated by APUA’s customers.
On the other hand, the Opposition Leader, Jamale Pringle, is pushing for greater transparency regarding the water issue.
He has demanded that government officials provide clear information to the public on the matter. Pringle has also proposed the establishment of an agency to handle water distribution, with APUA managing it.