Saturday, 28 February 2009 05:10
The Antigua and Barbuda Development Bank (ABDB) has recommitted itself to being one of the main engines of growth of the Antigua and Barbuda economy.
In an exclusive interview with Caribarena, General Manager, Donald Charles says, ‘the bank’s mandate requires that it plays a meaningful role in assisting the Government of Antigua & Barbuda to achieve its national development objectives, specifically as it relates to expanding the nation’s output and productive capacity, generating or saving foreign exchange and creating employment through sustainable growth. “
ABDB seeks to mobilize and provide finance for projects that promote and facilitate the expansion and strengthen the economic development of Antigua and Barbuda. Three years ago, ABDB embarked on a restructuring exercise that focused on playing a more active role in the country’s future economic growth. To achieve this, they had to rethink their business practices and did some housecleaning like tightening finances, getting the backlog of accounting completed, auditing financial statements from 2002 – 2007. The bank anticipates that they will shortly tackle the 2008 audited financial statements. Charles added, “We have also boosted our operations in terms of training and hiring, and we also went on a very committed and focused drive to deal with our non-performing loans which have been reduced by about 50 percent.”
The ABDB will continue to focus on agricultural development, mostly in the area of food production. They recognize that there is need to enhance Antigua’s capacity for food security to reduce import bills and create new employment opportunities. Charles gave details of a project called the Antigua Black Pineapple Export project which the ABDB has embarked upon in collaboration with the Royal Norwegian Society for Development. Together, they are developing a fully integrated value add project that will provide funding for two acres of pineapple plots, under a contractual arrangement with farmers run through a cooperative. The farmers produce pineapples and sell them to the company/cooperative which will, in turn, sell the products for distribution to the largest distribution chain in Norway. Charles commented, “This project will be very good for farmers. They will not have to worry about getting material or finding a market for their produce.” A pilot project was spearheaded in December in Norway and all pineapples were sold.
In terms of the interest from the local farmers in this project, Charles indicated that twenty acres of land has been earmarked for this project in Bethesda and the first production should be forthcoming in May. Approximately $50,000 per acre is being pumped into this project and fifteen farmers have already signed up with the Antigua Black Pineapple Cooperative Limited, headed by Eustace Newton. Charles concludes, “The pineapple project in Norway will not only boost exports but will also serve to enhance tourism and bring Norwegians to our shores, especially during the summer months. Everybody who buys the pineapples is a potential visitor to Antigua and Barbuda. Who wouldn’t want to come to the island which has the sweetest pineapple in the world?”
The Antigua & Barbuda Development Bank (ABDB) was established in 1971 as a statutory development finance institution and commenced operations in 1974 to provide among other things, medium and long-term development financing to the productive sectors. Over time, the bank also provided financing for mortgages, student loans and small-micro enterprises.
ABDB is a seasoned vehicle for channeling resources from regional and international institutions such as the Caribbean Development Bank, the European Economic Community through the European Development Fund (EDF) and European Investment Bank (EIB) as well as other private sector investors/companies by way of loans, grants, lines of credit and other means to the various sectors of the economy of Antigua & Barbuda.