Housing Minister Maria Browne addressed recent concerns regarding the allocation of over $400,000 for the purchase of palm trees as part of a tree-planting beautification project along the Friars Hill main road.
Minister Browne began by emphasizing the expanded role of the National Housing agency, stating that it has evolved beyond its initial focus on constructing homes.
The agency has diversified its efforts to include public building projects across the nation, contributing significantly to government initiatives, particularly in times of urgent need.
Additionally, the National Housing agency has undertaken an urban renewal and development aspect, aiming to enhance the aesthetic appeal of Antigua and Barbuda.
One of the notable projects under this initiative is the highway tree planting beautification project, which involves the planting of beautiful palms along the Friars Hill main road.
Minister Browne acknowledged that the original plan was to procure Royal Palms for this project.
However, due to the significant cost associated with these trees, the funds allocated for this purpose had to be repurposed.
“National Housing has been engaging in various public necessities, including renovation and construction, beyond the scope of its initial mandate,” Minister Browne explained. The agency’s expanded responsibilities have led to a reallocation of funds, ensuring that they are utilized to address pressing public needs.
The decision to repurpose the funds was made after they were initially designated for the purchase of Royal Palms from a certified plant nursery in Florida, approved by the Ministry of Agriculture. Minister Browne clarified that the intention was to source high-quality trees to enhance the beauty of the designated areas.
The minister also highlighted the substantial costs associated with purchasing large, mature palm trees, emphasizing that a single tree over 10 feet in height can cost thousands of dollars.
The repurposing of funds reflects the agency’s commitment to fulfilling its broader mandate, including addressing public necessities and contributing to the overall development of the nation.
Minister Browne assured the public that transparency and accountability remain paramount in the agency’s operations.
She encouraged citizens to stay informed about the various projects undertaken by the National Housing agency, which plays a crucial role in both housing and broader public development initiatives.
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