Antigua gets US$50m from ALBA to pay state workers
Published: Friday | August 14, 2009
Antigua has received US$50 million from a regional trade bloc to help pay back wages of public employees as the island battles a financial crisis, officials said Thursday.
The money comes from a bloc called ALBA, pioneered by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Antigua anticipates half the funds would be considered a grant and the other half a loan, Finance Minister Harold Lovell said. Details of the hastily made arrangement will be worked out next week in Caracas, he said.
Hundreds of state workers who have not been paid since July will receive the money by weekend, Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer said.
Antigua's Venezuelan ambassador, Javier Lopez, did not provide details about the arrangement, but said the infusion shows how small Caribbean nations can work together in a crisis.
It is the first time Antigua taps into the funds of ALBA, which it joined in June.
Antigua is scrambling to repair its financial image after the director of the island's financial regulatory commission was accused of accepting bribes in a US$7 billion Ponzi scheme with Texas businessman R. Allen Stanford.
The government has hired a public relations firm and also sought help from a regional agency that monitors money laundering.