St. John’s Antigua- The closure of Coco Point Lodge in Barbuda at the end of the tourist winter season, last week, has raised concerns that the cash-strapped Barbuda Council will face further financial woes.
The fear was expressed by Chairman of the Council Kelvin Punter, who said several hotel workers, though not more than a dozen, are expected to join the council in order to secure an income to provide their basic needs.
While some of the hotel workers have already approached the council, Punter said he expects more will follow when the few workers remaining at the lodge are sent off at the end of May. The hotel is expected to reopen in late October or November.
“One of the two operating hotels closed last week, so that puts a lot of pressure on the council with everybody looking for a job. Some of the workers that went off to work with the hotel actually came back out to the council and with sand mining not going on anymore, we are also further cash-strapped,” Punter said.
Punter said the council proposed new measures just over a week ago and he hopes the plans get under way as soon as possible so the body can meet its expenses.
“Wages (weekly paid workers) are behind by three weeks and we are looking at paying another week’s wages (yesterday) and I hope we can do that and also be able to pay on Friday to bring it up to only two weeks outstanding,”
Salaries (monthly paid workers) for the month of April have not been paid as yet, but Punter hopes it would be done by tomorrow.
The weekly payroll is about $168, 000 while the monthly payroll is approximately $300, 000.
The Barbuda Council employs 419 people, which represents about 80 per cent of the working population on the sister isle.
Meantime, Deputy Chairman of the Council Fabian Jones is of the view that the body can continue to manage its expenses using monies from sand already mined and waiting to be sold; the Antigua & Barbuda Sales Tax (ABST) to be collected from the two hotels in Barbuda for March and April; and the transfer grant from central government.
Jones said government has only handed over half of the amount of the grant for the first quarter of the year.