Antigua-Barbuda in talks for handover of US base
The Antigua and Barbuda government is entering into the second stage of negotiations for the handover of the US military base — both land and assets — to the government. The US apparently informed the former prime minister, Baldwin Spencer, nearly two years ago that it would be closing the base; however, that information was kept a secret.
The entire Antigua and Barbuda Cabinet, including the cabinet secretary and the chief of staff, accompanied Prime Minister Gaston Browne to the US air base on Tuesday, for a tour lasting more than three hours. The visit was intended to allow the decision-makers to get a first-hand assessment of the buildings, the machinery, the water and electrical supply systems, and the 217 acres of land that will become the property of the Antigua and Barbuda government by late summer 2015.
The tour of the base was led by the commander of the base, an Air Force lieutenant colonel who was given a one-year contract last October. Officials from the US embassy, the US State Department and the Washington US Trade Office were present to answer questions, or to convey the concerns of the Antigua and Barbuda government back to their superiors. The commander frequently took notes of the demands and enquiries, and he promised to provide answers within a reasonable time.
The prime minister has already indicated that an assessment will be undertaken to determine the best use to which to put the new asset. Browne has clearly indicated that the asset must be put to productive use and not become a burden on the treasury. The cost of maintaining the many buildings, machinery, vehicles and other assets will require resources. This asset must generate revenue, the prime minister remarked.
The base was built in 1942, though improvements were continuously made so that very few of the original structures remain. A large underground water catchment remains in working condition, and more than five megawatts of power can be generated on-site, so that the base supplies its own water and electricity. Eighty Antiguans are currently employed there.