St. John’s Antigua- The ten-month-old Antigua Port Authority Board Tuesday announced progress with debt restructuring and an improvement in making on-time payments to more than 250 monthly and weekly paid workers.
Debt accumulated over the years amounting to more than EC $20 million, according to Port Authority Chairman Greg Walter.
Since taking up the job in August, Walter said he “begged money” from the Ministry of Finance to regularise staff payments and bring bank loans up to date.
Recalling a calamitous financial situation, the port chairman said, “The bank payments were three months in arrears. We were not paying APUA, Medical Benefits, Social Security or State Insurance.”
Local and foreign suppliers were also seeking to recover dept from the port, Walter told Tuesday’s news conference.
After receiving the first set of funds from government, the chairman said the port became more self-sufficient.
“The weekly paid people were three weeks in arrears; right now we have been one week in arrears and the monthly paid people are only eight to 10 days late with their salary,” Walter said, adding that for April only, management and board members had not been paid.
He reported that local bank payments were “up to date” and noted that the plan was to get the finances of the port in better shape.
In a bid to recover some of the money owed to the port, the board chairman said he wrote to government on Monday requesting the payment of more than 1 million dollars from the Customs and Excise Division.
Efforts were also ongoing to collect other funds owed to the port authority by other sources.
“It’s not a quick fix. It’s going to be a long process as we go forward and we ask for your patience and understanding,” Walter told interested parties who were also present at the news conference.
His comments came as consultants Adair and Associates recommended several measures including the reduction of staff numbers from 253 to 100.
The port was also told to place emphasis on retooling port workers, making improvements to some aspects of port infrastructure and modernising the tariff system.
Implementation of all the recommendations could cost in excess of US $30 million. Walter said he would turn to local banks and government to finance the implementation.