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Opposition: Antigua could return to IMF

St. John’s — Leader of the Opposition Gaston Browne is warning government could be forced to renew its arrangement with the International Monetary Fund as it faces increased difficulty meeting financial obligations.

“Antigua & Barbuda will remain in an IMF programme for at least another three years because the government is not in a position to pay them,” Browne said.

“Clearly the government is not in a position to pay. So what the IMF is going to do is that they are going to roll us over into a next IMF programme.”

In June 2010 government signed a US$117.8 million stand-by arrangement with the IMF. The SBA ends this June, soon after which government will have to begin repaying the loan.

Information from the IMF website, as of September 2012, indicated that each disbursement must be repaid in eight equal quarterly installments beginning three and a quarter years after the date of the disbursement.

While the United Progressive Party administration has prided itself on managing the government budget without letting go any civil servants, Browne warned that the IMF may call upon the government to take more stringent policy decisions.

“They will include the sale of assets (and) retrenchment, the typical IMF one-size-fits-all approach,” he said.

Specifically, Browne referred to government’s obligations to Venezuela through the PetroCaribe initiative and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas.

According to government’s 2013 budget, Antigua & Barbuda, under the PetroCaribe agreement, was able to purchase fuel valued at more than $535 million.

Approximately 40 per cent or $214 million of that amount was converted into the form of a concessional loan to be repaid over a 25-year period at a two per cent annual interest rate.

The budget statement said that the PetroCaribe agreement contains a “debt compensation component” that offers borrowers the option of paying for fuel with local goods and services.

It said discussions were ongoing about how Antigua & Barbuda’s tourism and educational products may be traded to as payment on the nation’s invoices.

Browne said such an arrangement would not be feasible. (Antigua Observer)

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