Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley slammed the Opposition, as he yesterday defended the $1.17 billion cost for the construction of the new Tobago Terminal and the land acquisition associated with this project.
Responding to a question during yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Question Time from Couva North MP Ramona Ramdial, the prime minister dismissed Opposition assertions that the cost was exorbitant. Ramdial had asked that he explain “the exorbitant increase” in the estimated cost of the terminal from $500 million to $870 million.
The prime minister said $500 million was a “notional line item approximation” used by the minister of finance about three years ago.
To use that figure as “an exorbitant increase” is to “misunderstand and misrepresent” the situation, the prime minister said.
He added that when the drawings were available and the project properly conceptualised and the engineer’s estimate could then be established, the engineer’s estimate was $881 million.
He said when the project went out to tender, the contract price became $870 million as a result of the bidding process.
“I take careful note of the fact that my colleagues consider this construction of $870 million as exorbitant. They didn’t find it exorbitant to leave $1 billion in the field in Beetham on a useless waste water treatment plant, they didn’t find $921 million exorbitant to leave with OAS Construtora when they removed the clause from the contract for the Point Fortin Highway to allow OAS to go away with $921 million. And of course, this facility for Tobago is a facility for Trinidad and Tobago because it brings Tobago’s economy as a contributor into the national economy as we grow the tourism product. We don’t find it exorbitant at all, we find it a very useful investment in the nation,” he said.
In response to a question from Oropouche West MP Vidya Guyadeen-Gopeesingh, the prime minister said in addition to the construction cost of $870 million, there was also a land acquisition cost which was estimated at $300 million.
Asked by Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal whether the Government believed it was value for money to spend over $1.1 billion for a terminal, the prime minister said yes, because the Government anticipated there would be significant growth in tourism in Tobago, and to facilitate that growth the island needed a modern terminal to handle a larger number of travellers and larger aircraft.
“Anybody who professes to have any interest in Tobago would know that the existing facility is an encumbrance and a hindrance to growth, and I can’t understand why my colleagues on the other side have a problem with constructing a terminal building in Tobago for $870 million, but they had no problem giving OAS $921 million. And you (Moonilal) were part of it! And you could say what yuh want, the people of Tobago will get their facility and this Government will ensure that it is built,” the prime minister thundered, to loud desk-thumping support.
During the general uproar that followed, with members shouting across the floor, Indarsingh accused the prime minister of “ramajaying”.
The Speaker intervened, asking that the “outbursts” cease.