ANGUILLA TO LOSE MILLIONS FROM CLOSURE OF HOTELS Wants UK Aid Up To $16.5 Million Or More

anguillian
By anguillian October 23, 2017 11:51

 

 

portIn last week’s edition, The Anguillian stated that a number of small hotels, as well as some restaurants, were now open for business while the bigger properties would not opening in the near future as a result of the onslaught of Hurricane Irma. Cap Juluca, one of the large properties, is not included in this list as it is closed for some fourteen months for refurbishing and expansion.

With the closure of the other large hotels for an indefinite period, probably well into 2018, Chief Minister and Minister of Finance, Tourism and Economic Development, Mr. Victor Banks, said this would have “a negative multiplier effect on the economy.”

He was at the time giving an update about the recovery efforts in Anguilla and the way forward following the hurricane. He said: “The members of my Ministry of Finance have estimated that we could have a significant revenue shortfall resulting in a recurrent deficit of some 16.5 million dollars by the end of the year – based on the various projections and assumptions that we have made…The projections are for an overall deficit (capital and recurrent) of some 45.35 million EC dollars. This is significant. It means that we will have to go in our reserves to make sure that we meet important government expenditure – as well as the subventions in various statutory bodies like the Health Authority and the Community College.

“It is noted that the suspension of the ANGLEC share sale, where proceeds were to be somewhere in the region of 23 million dollars, is also calculated in that figure of 45.35 million dollars in the overall deficit.”

Mr. Banks continued: “The overall damage and losses to Anguilla are so severe that they require financial assistance from the UK Government. As Anguilla’s administering power – in the short and medium term – we want them to assist us in protecting jobs, livelihoods and incomes, and prevent a full-scale economic and social crisis because that would be the direction in which this kind of situation would be heading. Our mind set is to turn this negative into a positive by securing for Anguilla the economic and social infrastructure required for sustainable development.

“The British Government is the administering power of Anguilla and we recognise that in the case of a number of other territories they have had to give them support for their budget for a very long time. The event [volcano eruption] in Montserrat took place twenty years ago and Montserrat is still on grant aid – 60 to 70 percent of its budget – twenty years later. There is something wrong with that and we, in Anguilla, do not expect that as a result of this hurricane we should find ourselves in a situation where we are grant-aided in any way for an extended period of time.
“We are only requesting support for this year of 16.5 million dollars – may be 20 million dollars at the top end and next year probably (that’s not yet estimated), but we are sure we will need that kind of budgetary support as well. We do not intend that this kind of support should be extended too far into the future. We hope to come out of this thing, if the right decisions are made, in 18 months to two years. We are saying the only way to avoid a long term dependency is by doing the right thing under social and capital infrastructure at this time.

“We are requesting the UK Government to provide a recurrent budgetary support line to Anguilla as the need arises over the next 12-18 months… The UK Government needs to provide grant funds to enable the Government of Anguilla, in turn, to provide grants to persons who are not financially able to renovate and reconstruct their homes. The UK Government is also being asked to provide grant funds to enable the Government of Anguilla to provide a capital injection into the Anguilla Development Board which, in turn, can loan these funds at concessionary rates to enable persons to renovate and reconstruct their homes…The UK Government should also be willing to provide a grant for the Development Board to provide loans for small businesses to repair and reconstruct their facilities and to replace inventory.

“On the social infrastructure side, the six primary schools and the secondary school were damaged as we all know. Thankfully, the students have now returned to school. There is a shift system at the Albena Lake-Hodge Comprehensive School which cannot be allowed to continue for more than twelve months so we are looking forward to finding a solution for that within that period so that we can return to normalcy.

“The hospital has also been damaged and it is important for it to be replaced by a modern and fit-for-purpose facility. On the economic infrastructure side, the Anguilla Electricity Company, which is majority owned by the Government of Anguilla, suffered extensive damage to its transmission and distribution network. In fact, it is estimated that it will take up to six months to fully restore electricity to the island. We are trying to work that down by a request which we have already put to the engineering division of the team that came here, and they recognise the importance of the restoration of electricity island-wide so that our tourism plant can be up and running. The earlier that happens, the more we will be in a position to generate income to support the services we need to provide for the people of Anguilla.”

Mr. Banks further stated: “The fact that the distribution and transmission network is down, means that we need to respond to that as quickly as possible. Hurricanes, such as Irma, are expected to be in the future the norm rather than the exception, and it is prudent that if Anguilla is to be rebuilt stronger and more resilient, then an assessment has to be made to the cost of putting electricity in key areas underground. This is expensive, but is critical, and something needs to be done. We have requested the British Government to provide grant assistance to fund that kind of assessment.

“As you know, if that investment is made by the Anguilla utility company as a loan, it will have to be passed on to the customers. We are hoping that, in the interest of creating a more robust distribution system and service, the British Government can provide a grant for that project.”

Other projects, for which Chief Minister Banks is seeking the British Government’s assistance, include port development. “Blowing Point is our main gateway for tourists,” he observed. “The port has suffered considerable damage and the facility has been demolished because it would cost a lot more to rehabilitate that facility than building a brand new and fit-for-purpose one. It is important that the British Government gives us some support to do this.” He also reported having had discussions with senior British Government officials who indicated the UK Government’s support for the extension of the Clayton Lloyd International Airport.

The Chief Minister said the intention is to extend the airport runway “to a length that would support and enhance Anguilla’s immediate national security needs thus reducing Anguilla’s reliance on its neighbours for economic security” in terms of getting visitors to the island.
Road development is another area of assistance that the Anguilla Government is asking the UK Government to help finance. Mr. Banks singled out The Valley Road Master Plan as the primary project for funding.

Meantime, while emphasing Anguilla’s need for UK Government’s assistance, Mr. Banks acknowledged several contributions to the island in the wake of Hurricane Irma. He listed the donors and donations as follows: The Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Agency: 18 million dollars, the equivalent of 4.9 million pounds; Eastern Caribbean Central Bank: one million EC dollars; Caribbean Development Bank: 200,000 US dollars; the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines: 50,000 US dollars; and the Government of St. Kitts-Nevis: 400,000 EC dollars.

Mr. Banks stressed that while this regional assistance was welcomed, Anguilla’s hurricane recovery process requires intervention by the British Government.

Soon after Hurricane Irma, the British Government announced an inclusive aid package of 62 million pounds for Anguilla, BVI and Turks and Caicos – as well as an additional 25 million pounds for them, and also Dominica which was later devastated by Hurricane Maria. While the Anguilla Government understands the British Government’s concern for the other territories, it is making a case for direct financing for the island and its people as outlined above.

anguillian
By anguillian October 23, 2017 11:51

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