WASHINGTON, USA — Antigua and Barbuda opened a new chapter in its relationship with the World Bank by signing its first multi-million dollar loan agreement with the financial institution. The US$10 million loan will finance the country’s public and social sector reform activities for the next five years.
Minister of Finance Harold Lovell and World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean Sophie Sirtaine signed the loan agreement on Wednesday at the Bank’s headquarters in Washington, DC.
In April 2012, the World Bank granted a project preparation advance of US$980,000 to start the groundwork for the public and social sector transformation (PSST) project. On June 5, 2013, the World Bank’s board of directors approved the loan for the five-year project. The government can now intensify implementation of the PSST project, having formally executed the loan agreement with the World Bank.
The project supports the national economic and social transformation (NEST) plan, the country’s 2010-2014 strategic response to the global economic and financial crisis and the 2010-2013 public sector transformation strategy.
Antigua and Barbuda demonstrated its commitment to improve macro-economic management with the development of the NEST Plan and, in particular, by implementing its fiscal consolidation programme with financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and other development partners.
Antigua and Barbuda’s successful implementation of its fiscal consolidation programme and the government’s adoption of public financial management reforms cleared the way for the World Bank to provide much needed assistance for public and social sector initiatives.
Under the loan agreement, just over US$4 million is designated to support the introduction of active labour market programmes to increase employment opportunities, skills and earnings of citizens between the ages of 17 to 50 years. Under this project component, the One Stop Employment Centre (OSEC) will be fully operationalised to offer employment services to job seekers.
A little over US$1million is allocated to strengthen public institutions for the strategic management of government policies. US$2.5 million is earmarked to fundamentally modernise human resource management to improve capacity, systems, legislation and policies for the management of an integrated public service. The efficiency and effectiveness of social protection programmes will be improved with just over US$1 million, with a focus on targeted benefits and establishing a national beneficiary system. The remaining funds are to support the operations of a project management unit, including annual financial audits and process evaluations.
The US$10 million loan is to be repaid over 30 years, with a five-year moratorium on principal payments.
Management of the public and social sector transformation project falls under the remit of the project management unit based in the ministry of finance, the economy, public administration, public broadcasting and information. Other key implementing ministries and departments for the PSST project include the department for social policy, research and planning in the ministry of health, social transformation and consumer affairs, the labour department in the ministry of national security and labour, the public sector transformation unit and the establishment department in the ministry of finance, economy, public administration, public broadcasting and information and the cabinet secretariat.