Mon, Jul 16, 2018 - Page 5 News List

In Barbuda, China ‘filling void’ left by West

AFP, CODRINGTON

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne acknowledged the “extremely daunting” task of rebuilding.

When the government pleaded for help in Irma’s immediate aftermath, “China was among the first to respond,” Browne said.

For years, China has been expanding its presence in the Caribbean, providing loans, donations or investment to build roads, port facilities, government buildings and even stadiums.

Analysts have said when US private investment in the area waned after the financial crisis of 2008, Chinese investment surged.

Last month, Antigua and Barbuda became the first country in the eastern Caribbean to sign a memorandum of agreement to work with China’s ambitious “Belt and Road Initiative” establishing closer trade and diplomatic ties.

Beijing is “filling the void” left by the US, Browne said.

“They treat us with benign neglect,” he said of US officials. “I guarantee the US did not give us US$100,000 after Irma.”

A fact sheet provided by USAID said the US had provided US$800,000 for “interventions in Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica” as part of US$21.6 million spent on regional hurricane recovery.

It did not provide a breakdown for Barbuda.

Other pledges of help included 5 million euros (US$5.9 million at the current exchange rate) from Europe and £3 million (US$4 million at the current exchange rate) from Britain, Browne said.

“We have not been able to avail ourselves of those funds, and it’s not for lack of trying,” he said.

“Venezuela, despite its problems, gave us US$3 million and Cuba, one of the poorest countries, gave us rice and sugar, and sent a vessel here,” Browne said.

However, 10 months after Irma laid waste to the island, Barbuda’s weary residents seem unconcerned about who precisely paid to fix their roofs.

They are just happy to be home.

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