ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Tuesday January 30, 2018 – Prime Minister Gaston Browne did not mince words when he accused the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) of seeking to take credit for work it had not done in the recovery efforts in hurricane-hit Barbuda.
While thanking the UNDP for its assistance, outlining that the organization came with certain skills that have been beneficial to the rebuilding process in Barbuda which was decimated by Hurricane Irma last September, Browne expressed concern about what he described as opportunism.
After receiving a briefing from the technicians on the ground and observing a number of homes and buildings under repair by his government, he objected to UNDP stickers being plastered on the properties. Browne said that gave the impression it was the UNDP that had done the bulk of the work, when it was the government that had done so.
“My government will not tolerate any form of opportunistic promotion. You cannot have that type of opportunism during a disaster. I know that the international organizations are looking for a certain amount of promotion, but not at the expense of the people of Barbuda. I was very disappointed when I saw UNDP stickers on buildings that were substantially completed by my government,” he said at a ceremony in Barbuda to commence a project which involves the UNDP and at which officials from the organization were present.
One of the examples pointed out by Browne was the Hanna Thomas Hospital which is being repaired by the government but had UNDP stickers on its walls. The Prime Minister said that was a case of opportunism.
“We do not want a situation where the domestic population gets the impression that the government is not making a contribution but that everything is coming from abroad,” he insisted.
Browne also expressed some other concerns about the UNDP’s involvement in the Barbuda recovery.
He said his government was very disappointed that the agency had to procure building materials that were shipped out of Barbados, instead of sourcing them locally.
“It doesn’t matter where these materials emanated. The fact that they had to go to Barbados suggests that it would have been a more expensive venture. I believe that one of the objectives in any post-disaster venture is to ensure that you purchase as much material as possible locally to stimulate the local market,” the Antiguan leader said, urging the UNDP to change its policy and purchase building materials in Antigua.
“We cannot have a situation where entities outside of Antigua and Barbuda are benefitting from the profits while our people are left behind,” Browne insisted.
He added that there should also be a labour component so that Barbudans could get jobs and benefit from the development.
While Browne expressed disappointment in the UNDP, he was full of praise for the Government of China which he said was quick to respond and made US$2 million available to assist the government in repairing 250 roofs that were damaged by Hurricane Irma.
He said China has been a close ally of Antigua and Barbuda and has assisted in almost every sector of the country’s development.
“There is no area that China would not have contributed to our development during the last 35 years since we established diplomatic relations. This relationship is the most important relationship for Antigua and Barbuda,” Prime Minister Browne said.