PM Browne and Cabinet tour US Base
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda – 10th March 2015……….The administration of Prime Minister Gaston Browne is entering into the second stage of the negotiations for the handover of the US Base—both land and assets—to the Government of Antigua and Barbuda. The USA informed the former Prime Minister, Hon. Baldwin Spencer, nearly two years ago, that it would be closing the base; that information was kept a secret.
However, once the information of the base closure was communicated to the Honourable Gaston Browne, as Prime Minister, a few months ago, he set about to squeeze the most from the departing US Department of Defense. The new Prime Minister has been doing his best to get the most that the Antigua and Barbuda people could realize from the planned closure.
The entire Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda, including the Cabinet Secretary and the Chief of Staff, accompanied the Prime Minister to the US Air Base today, Tuesday, March 10, 2015, for a tour lasting more than three hours. The visit was intended to allow the decision-makers to get a first-hand assessment of the buildings, the machinery, the water and electrical supply systems, and the 217 acres of land that will become the property of the Antigua and Barbuda Government by late Summer 2015.
The tour of the US Base was led by the Commander of the Base, an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who was given a one-year contract last October 2014. Officials from the US Embassy, the US State Department and the Washington US Trade Office were present to answer questions, or to convey the concerns of the Antigua and Barbuda Government back to their superiors. The Commander frequently took notes of the demands and enquiries, and he promised to provide answers within a reasonable time.
The Prime Minister has already indicated that an assessment will be undertaken to determine the best use to which to put the new asset. Prime Minister Browne has clearly indicated that the asset must be put to productive use and not become a burden on the Treasury. The cost of maintaining the many buildings, machinery, vehicles and other assets will require resources. This asset must generate revenue, the Prime Minister remarked.
The base was built in 1942, or 73 years ago, though improvements were continuously made so that very few of the original structures remain. A vast underground water catchment remains in working condition, and more than 5 megawatts of power can be generated by machines, so that the base supplies its own water and electricity. 80 Antiguans are employed there. -end-