Antigua-Barbuda PM lashes out at UN programme

Gaston Browne.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne has accused a team from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) of “taking all the credit” for repair work to homes in Barbuda after only contributing “a few sheets of plywood”.

The incident, which has now gained widespread attention in the two-island country, occurred in Barbuda when Browne was there for a tour of repaired homes and for a launch ceremony.

During the tour he saw ‘UNDP-China Aid’ stickers on homes which were apparently worked on by the government.

They were used to indicate the homes that had been partially completed with material from the US$2 million procurement project executed through the UNDP and funded by the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

“You come and plaster UNDP sticker all ‘round de place like you did some big large amount of work? That is totally unacceptable,” the prime minister declared.

He made that statement to several UNDP officials, including the UNDP’s resident representative for Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Stephen O’Malley, who apologised and readily agreed to requests for stickers, in at least one case, to be removed.

‘Point taken’

Browne is said to have become particularly annoyed at the Hanna Thomas Hospital.

“I want them off. This is a public building,” the prime minister said.

“Don’t come and give a few sheets of plywood, when we did all the work and then come and put big sign on there as if you did everything.”

Aurelie Boukabza, the UNDP recovery adviser for Antigua and Barbuda and who was in charge of the team in Barbuda, said the “point is taken” and pledged that the team would work more closely with the government in the future to avoid a similar circumstance.

Boukabza, however, said that the donor nation, China, was entitled to some “visibility” for the US$2 million it put into the project and for agreeing to work with the UNDP in a recovery situation – something that China has not done before.

“This was a launch ceremony and we had our donor the government of China with representatives coming here,” she said.

“Donors also need a little bit of visibility. This is a very important partnership for the UNDP and the People’s Republic of China.”

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