Barbuda left in lurch despite $2 billion in aid for hurricane-hit Caribbean

For most who attended last week’s high level conference in New York to raise funds to rebuild hurricane-battered nations, the effort was a resounding success, with more than $2 billion in loans and grants pledged by Western donor nations and multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, but it has now become clear that one of the hardest hit islands will receive much less than expected to help it begin to pick up the pieces.

Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, says that the cabinet is disappointed that Antigua’s smaller sister isle, Barbuda, will only receive less than 10 percent of the monies pledged, grant aid in particular. Approximately 95 percent of the properties on the island received severed damage from Hurricane Irma, and all of its more than 1,500 residents had to be evacuated to nearby Antigua, where most are still marooned, jobless, homeless and uncertain about their future.

Browne told the Observer newspaper that the twin island federation is now facing some very hard truths as only approximately 7 percent of the grant aid will head the way of the federation. Of the $2 billion pledged at the conference at United Nations headquarters last week, approximately $1 billion came from the Inter-American Development Bank in the form of concession loans.

“My understanding is that it is about $1.2 billion in pledged of which $1 billion was pledged by the IDB,” he said. “Those are loans. We are not members of the IDB. Secondly, the Netherlands pledged $700 million for their overseas territories. So that the remainder of about maybe $450 million, that is the portion we will share.”

Experts had placed the rebuilding costs for Barbuda at in excess of $200 million but at Browne’s reckoning, Barbuda will not come close to receiving anything like this sum unless the powers that be decide by fiat that it and Dominica, similarly pulverized by Hurricane Maria, should share most of the estimated $450 million that is left after deducting what is going to the Dutch islands. Dominica is also not an IDB member. Total recovery costs had been estimated at $5 billion. It was the first time that the region had experienced the wrath of back-to-back Category 5 storms.

Officials and experts say this phenomenon has to perhaps now be treated as the new normal, because there was evidence even before 2017 that annual storms were increasing in intensity.

But even as officials try to reorganize rebuilding efforts quickly before the 2018 season begins next June, officials are poring over the actual contributions made by each nation or financial agency, including the U.S., which donated a mere $4 million even as it struggles to rebuild Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Apart from the Netherlands, the European Union offered $352 million, the World Bank $78 million, Canada $30 million, China $27 million, Mexico $12 million, Italy $4.3 million, the United States $4 million, Japan $1 million, Kuwait $2 million, India $1 million, Venezuela $1.2 million and Belgium $1million.

Others, such as Chile, Denmark, Colombia, Haiti, New Zealand, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Romania, Serbia and Portugal all came in with amounts ranging from $500,000 to $20,000, as in the case of Serbia. Haiti offered $250,000.

The bloc also said that the IDB has pledged up to a billion dollars in infrastructural loans, and Venezuela chipped in with $1 million in debt forgiveness among member nations. The bloc has said that revised estimates of damage and reconstruction needs top $5 billion.