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Government Expenditure
Bad investments follows bad planning

Bad investments follows bad planning

Dear Editor/Newsroom,

Dr Keith Rowley recently signed a cooperative agreement for the construction of a dry-docking facility in La Brea, between our Government and the China Harbour Engineering Company Limited (CHEC), a Chinese company with a decade long record of multiple corruption scandals and fraudulent governmental transactions.

In 2009, Chinese Firm CHEC’s parent company, China Communications Construction Group (CCCC), was blacklisted by the World Bank over fraudulent practices. Then in 2011, Arafat ‘Koko’ Rahman, the son of the former Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Khaleda Zia was jailed for six years for laundering money he received as kickbacks from CHEC. In 2012 a forensic auditor of the Jamaican Government revealed breaches of existing procurement guidelines in awarding contracts awarded to CHEC. In 2012 in Uganda, CHEC was awarded a contract to build a standard gauge railway in the eastern part of the country and was implicated in the inflation of this railway construction project resulting in parliamentarians demanding a corruption investigation into the 2012 contract award. In 2013 CHEC was stopped from building and operating a major port facility in Cayman Islands, West Indies, when the British Government blew the whistle over improper procurement arrangements.

In the face of ongoing multiple fraud allegations/corruption scandals, and being blacklisted by a credible and internationally recognized financial institution (World Bank), why has Dr Rowley signed a contractual agreement with a company with such a track record? Why has the Rowley Government deferred the implementation of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property Act which would regulate and prohibit any fly by night contractual awards?

Sri Lanka disregarded the warnings of their feasibility study and were then forced to hand over Hambantota Port to China through a 99-year lease, to repay their staggering debt. Despite tens of thousands of ships passing by along one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the Hambantota Port had drawn only 34 ships in 2012 and yet Na-tion-al In-fra-struc-ture De-vel-op-ment Com­pa­ny Lim­it­ed (NIDCO) Chair­man Her­bert George trumpeted that “13,000 ves­sels tra­verse the Pana­ma Canal an­nu­al­ly”, adding that “T&T could ben­e­fit from this mar-itime traf­fic” without even conducting a feasibility study. ‘ Is NIDCO even aware of the Sri Lankan disaster or the value of a feasibility study?

In addition to the other loans acquired from China over the years what is Dr Rowley’s contingency plan if we cannot afford repayment? Some recent loans from China include in 2005 – TTD 160 Million concessional loan; in 2013 – TTD 1.8 billion for the Couva Children’s Hospital; in 2018 – TTD .75 Billion for the development of the Phoenix Park Industrial Estate, Point Lisas. Can we afford these massive loans when every institution in our once thriving economy is collapsing?

Environmentally, this dry-docking scheme will destroy over 66% of the Rousillac Mangroves which supports our most economically viable fishery. Is the Rowley cabinet even considering the environmental impact of this dry-docking facility on our 8000 already directly employed Gulf of Paria fishery stakeholders?

Is the Rowley cabinet disregarding our environmental laws that protect our mangroves (No Net Loss Policy) and disregarding our Environmentally Sensitive Species (ESS) Rules which protects the habitat of ESS species, such as the recently designated Scarlet Ibis, our National Bird, which nests in these mangroves? Is Dr. Rowley predicting the outcome of the Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC), even before applying and obtaining approval from the Environmental Management Authority (EMA)?

Is it advised that on the verge of economic collapse that we should invest in an industry to which the Government has a failed track record and in which every single state owned company is draining the public purse?

As a nation we must be guarded against investment planning where politicians wake up each day and hatch a plan saying “let us go do this…let us go do that”

What is the national development plan for Ports and Harbours? Is there any? Do we need more ports? Is there a lucrative market in ship repair? Has any Government shown state enterprise profits for any entity? Until officeholders are held personally liable and accountable for national financial disasters, bad investments will continue to follow bad planning?


Gary Aboud Corporate Secretary Fishermen and Friends of the Sea

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