[www.inewsguyana.com] – “Disappointing, confusing and tragicomic” is the description that Public Works Minister Robeson Benn has given to statements attributed to Alliance For Change’s (AFC) Vice Chairman, Moses Nagamootoo, on President Donald Ramotar’s securing of US$50 million line of credit from India.
Responding via letter Minister Benn said that any “balanced read of the very article which contains Mr. Nagamootoo’s statements along with the experience of the traffic situation which the Ogle – Eccles project will address speak volumes as to the urgent necessity for the project’s intervention. It is, therefore, disappointing and confusing that Mr. Nagamootoo, an experienced and ‘veteran’ politician would condescend to describe, as quoted directly” … fly by night ideas that are being floated” – the very idea that he too deemed as necessary in paragraph 6 in the said article”. The AFC member had ridiculed the loan agreement in an article carried by the Kaieteur News of January 12, 2015.
The opposition politician also had harsh words for the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) Expansion Project, and according to the minister, added this to his unique idea of “fly by night projects”. Minister Benn said that one can conclude, therefore, “that a runway extension of 1,000 metres for aircraft capacity increase and safety assurance, and a 17,000-metre square modern, efficient, and new terminal building are not at all necessary following Mr. Nagamootoo’s thought process on these matters”.
In the letter, the minister explained that Nagamootoo continues to deliberately mislead the public as to the reasons the Government of Guyana accessed (China Exim Bank) Bank Loan funds for the CJIA project. The reasons were and remain, he said, were that it was sorely needed and that the China – Caricom Summit in Port of Spain Trinidad presented a final time bound opportunity to fund it on advantageous soft loan terms.
Minister Benn recalled the AFC’s own ideas on an airport expansion project came from its lead person on finance and infrastructure, Gerhard Ramsaroop who suggested that the CJIA be abandoned and a new airport constructed on the West Bank of Demerara, at Sandhills. It was noted that this would result in the loss of investment funds sunk into CJIA, and the replication and extension of the airport’s infrastructure. This would also see a new road and a new upstream Demerara River Bridge, which would also have to accommodate oceangoing river traffic. All of this would likely result, Minister Benn noted, in a project that is five times greater than the current US$150 authorised project.
The opposition executive’s opposition to the acquisition of a new ferry to complete the current fleet was also criticised by the transport sector minister. He emphasised that no one should argue with the need to secure a new Northwest ferry. “Besides the fact of the current fleet assets being quite old, the accommodations and enroute times are very unsuitable and tedious, respectively, for this service. This discussion has been oft repeated both in the media and in the National Assembly where last Mr. Nagamootoo was an active participant”.
Minister Benn expressed his hope that the AFC is not now again setting its sights on “shooting down another vital project which provides the life line transport link to Amerindian communities as occurred with the opposition’s refusal for Budget 2014 where Hinterland Aerodromes and the Amerindian Development Fund amongst others fell victim to the combined opposition’s hatchets”.
Minister Benn reiterated that funding obtained from the BRICS grouping (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) has very advantageous and concessional terms, and that “these projects by their very nature in transiting the funding and project cycles, require feasibility and engineering design studies all of which involve consultation”.
He also reminded of the fact that the AFC had initially voiced support for the same CJIA expansion project. “Mr. Nagamootoo may wish to intimate: why – after having been consulted and provided with all the feasibility and engineering studies for the Cheddi Jagan International Airport Expansion Project and having benefitted from the debates and interventions in the National Assembly, – the combined opposition, of which the AFC is a very vocal member, refused further funding for the project in 2014, after having approved the project… What discovery propelled the attempt to hold up or kill a vital national project that would see cheaper airfares, efficient travel and an opportunity to enhance our tourism and transport networking attractiveness?”
Minister Benn also recalled what he said was the, “visceral negative criticisms from sections of the media and opposition circles when Guyana undertook, with Indian Government Funding, to build a new cricket stadium, at Providence, to International Cricket Council Standards”. He further noted that the stadium fulfilled its intended mission for Cricket World Cup, “combined with the reality of an exemplary facility that is enjoyed by all, for a variety of cultural and social events, is a testimony to the fact that what Nagamootoo deems as “fly by night” PPP/C Government projects result in solid, viable, enduring projects, on solid ground, benefitting all Guyanese”.
In closing the minister said that with regards to the seeming uptake of additional public debt, Nagamootoo should recall when, as a Minister of the first PPP/C government in 1992, he was amongst those at the Cheddi Jagan Cabinet, who wrestled with the seemingly hopeless problem of having to spend 93 percent plus of all revenues to service debts.
He stated emphatically that the initiatives of the kind being undertaken are “designed to energise the national economy”, and urged Nagamootoo not to turn his back on the “only certifiable success he has had in politics – the period when he was a PPP/C stalwart”. (GINA)