The Antigua and Barbuda government says it may suggest to some of its creditors that they consider taking a haircut even as it remains confident that it would be able to meet its obligations to pay the debts owed as well as meet the increased wage and outstanding arrears to public servants by the end of this year.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne, in a two-hour television interview on the state-owned ABS Radio and TV on Sunday night, said that his administration is banking on receiving at least US$25 million from the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) as well as other sources of funding including floating a US$200 million bond.
Browne said he hopes the CDB funding will become available within the next “30 to 60 days” noting that a planned board of directors meeting of the region’s premier financial institution a month ago had not taken place.
“So, we expect that sometime this month or next month that they will have this board meeting,” he said and the US$25 million made available to St. John’s.
“We have earmarked those funds for certain funding including giving public servants an increase,” he said, adding that he would not want to pre-empt the negotiations with the trade unions.
“A negotiating committee was established in 2018 and you would recall we gave a five percent and we are now negotiating the final amount. I believe initially there was a proposal for seven percent which was rejected by the various bargaining agents and we have asked our negotiating teams to increase the amount.
“So I am hoping that within the upcoming weeks they will come to some agreement and we will have a formal proposal before the Cabinet which we stand ready to accept,” he said, adding “it will be retroactive and we certainly put the arrangements in place to also pay the back pay…. before December 31, 2022”.
Browne said in pursuing other initiatives to fund socio-economic projects, his government has floated a US$200 million bond acknowledging that the island had not fully recovered from the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Browne suggested that some creditors “suggest that they take a haircut and then pay off the balance,” adding “we want to make a significant dent in the outstanding payables so that we can have more monies in the economy and even to fuel more robust growth…”.
He said while the economy is predicted to grow by 7.5 percent next year, “when you look at the plethora of projects coming on stream and the fact that the public sector itself will be poised for spending more money within the domestic economy then it means we should be in a position to even exceed those seven and a half percent”.