Rowley: T&T can’t afford new port

-Chinese company to build

(Trinidad Guardian) The Government’s decision to construct a billion-dollar new port facility at Sea Lots is being met with strong condemnation by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley who described it as “ill conceived” and “unnecessary.” Rowley also called on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to rethink her decision, saying the plan would only sink the country into billions of unnecessary debt. He said the Prime Minister should aim on easing the congested routes especially along the East-West Corridor.

On Monday, Minister of Housing, Land and Marine Affairs Dr Roodal Moonilal said the project was to be built under the terms of a government-to-government arrangement with China. The three companies short-listed for the project are: Shanghai Construction Group, China State Construction Company and China Railway Construction Company. No date has been set for the start of the project.

The plan for a new port facility was initiated by former prime minister Patrick Manning. At that time, however, Rowley said the country could have afforded to do that. “This was a PNM project and it was initiated in a time of plenty, when it appeared that the country had huge amounts of revenue for a sustainably lengthy period,” Rowley added. He said since the People’s Partnership Government assumed office, the country has had repeated deficit budgets, which was an indication that all was not well with the economy.

“We are now seriously in debt and it shows a project of this magnitude, which would cost the country billions, is ill conceived at this time.” The Opposition leader also demanded that the Government implement the procurement legislation as promised when it took office. Accusing the Government of wanting to award contracts “left, right and centre,” Rowley said this was another example of failed campaign promises.

“I don’t know what precedent the Government is following, but the PNM is demanding that the Government stop the awarding of all major contracts until there is procurement legislation,” he said. “This was one of their campaign promises and they have failed to fulfil this. “Government is  only interested in awarding contracts that are unnecessary and it would be  another opportunity to carry out corrupt practices.”

Port-of-Spain mayor Louis Lee Sing, however, welcomed a new port, saying it would generate investment and create employment. But he warned that the relocation must be done in a comprehensive manner to ensure the needs of the people were met, and must take into consideration proper access to transportation and infrastructure.

He said: “The city has to expand at some time and we must recognise this. We still have people using latrines and this is not only in east Port-of-Spain but in different parts of the country and we cannot feel good about this. “There are some places in this country I don’t feel proud as a citizen.”

Chairman of the East Port-of-Spain Development Company Paul Solomon, contacted yesterday, was unaware of Moonilal’s announcement. Solomon, whose purview includes Sea Lots, said the minister had no consultation with him before making the announcement. He said, however, there had been ongoing consultations with residents on a number of issues, including a new port facility.

“These consultations have always had the residents in mind. It is not to move them out but rather develop the area with the residents remaining there. Everything must be done in a holistic manner,” Solomon added. Moonilal said part of the plan entailed the construction of an apartment building close to the area.

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