Jack hands out $1.5B
By Richardson Dhalai Thursday, June 30 2011
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Site clearance: Tractor operators clear the site at the Golcondo roundabout, San Fernando yesterday, marking the start of the construction of the high...
Five months after Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar turned the sod, Works Minister Jack Warner yesterday handed over $1.5 billion to the National Infrastructure Development Company, (NIDCO), to finance the start of the construction of the $7.2 billion highway between San Fernando and Point Fortin.
Warner presented a replica cheque for $1.5 billion to NIDCO president Dr Carson Charles, which represented the first of four tranches of the $7.2 billion financing, at the Golconda Roundabout, San Fernando.
Addressing an audience of representatives of Brazilian contractor Constructora OAS and local La Brea-based contractor, Namalco, Warner criticised his detractors who claimed Government had difficulty in sourcing finance and predicted the project would not get underway.
He quoted the Bible, the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, verses one to eight, which says, “There is a time for everything; there is a season for every activity under the heaven.’
Warner then included his own verse which he directed to the Opposition saying, “and I want to add; ‘A time to talk and a time to shut up’.”
“I want to tell...the Rowleys of this world, today is a time to shut up because we are here today to make the first payment to NIDCO who in turn would sit down with the OAS people and do the necessary formal signing,” Warner said. “We are giving them the first payment, the first of four payments, $1.5 billion and in case those detractors don’t know what that means, $1.5 billion which we did not have to borrow,” he said, adding, “that money came from our own local resources.”
During the question and answer session in which he was asked why Government had not borrowed the money, he said for the “next three payments we shall look for borrowings either inside or outside the country.”
“And if we don’t feel to borrow, we pay again from inside, that is our business. The fact is that at no point in time shall the lack of finance, at any time, be a reason for this work not to continue,” he said. “You do not borrow money if you have, I don’t understand that kind of maths if you have the money, why borrow it?”
He added, “You have money for infrastructure and development, you have money for salaries and pensions, you don’t take development money and pay salaries and pensions.”
Debe/ Point Fortin Highway Action Committee president Edward Moodie asked about the compensation to persons who have to relocate from areas in the path of the highway construction.
Moodie hoped it would not take as long as the ten years Oropoune residents had to wait for compensation to relocate for the Piarco Airport, noting many still had not yet received any money.
Warner assured compensation shall be fair and prompt.
“We shall make sure that when we relocate the people, as far as possible, their culture, their religion, their flora and their fauna, all of that shall be taken under consideration,” he said.
Warner also stated that the highway would be used as a benchmark for future highway projects saying “if things go well,” the next highway would be from San Fernando to Mayaro.
More than 200 persons have been employed on the project and the figure is expected to peak at an estimated 7,000 persons.