Like Basdeo Panday before him, Keith Rowley seems to be having some difficulty moving out of aggressive Opposition mode and into prime ministerial decorum.
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Contractors owed $116m
T&T Contractors Association (TTCA director Mikey Joseph says there is a “gluttonous oligarchy” in the construction industry which is winning most state contracts. “We have projects going to selected politically aligned contractors. We have requests for proposals being skewed to facilitate certain contractors,” he claimed yesterday during a TTCA news conference at the Professional Centre, Fitzblackman Drive, Woodbrook.
Joseph, who described the level of corruption in T&T as overwhelming, added: “We in T&T tend to take these things and laugh at them and say Trinidadians are crooked but these are serious issues. We are asking for T&T to wake up. The issue of corruption is very much alive and well and overwhelming at this time. When we could have eminent people speaking up on these things then we need to be worried as much is wrong in the construction sector.”
TTCA president Christopher Garcia, who also spoke at the briefing, said while projects were being given to foreigners, local businesses were grinding to a halt. He said: “There will be over 452 projects listed for the next fiscal year to the tune of $1.2 billion. Over the last three years all major projects have gone to foreign contractors. These include the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway, the Couva Hospital and Debe Campus.
“Yet local contractors have the ability to undertake these jobs and many local contractors are almost grinding to a halt without work. These contracts to foreigners amount to about $11 billion and from the recent trip of the Prime Minister $5 billion more dollars will be spent on additional projects.” Garcia said some contractors are owed more than $100 million for work done a year ago and this could put them out of business.
“Recently we heard that 68 contractors were owed $116 million for works that were completed a year ago. These contractors are small and spend money for these projects. A lot of these contractors have to put up security to the banks and use their homes and equipment and do the work and one year later contractors are crying they have not gotten paid. This is not right,” Garcia said. Lennox Sirjuesingh, president of the Local Content Chamber said the loans from the Chinese will simply bring more debt burden to the country.
“By giving work to a local contractor we have the multiplier effect where the profits stays here. Under the guise of government to government contracts we are seeing foreigners coming here to get jobs that locals are more than capable of. A government to government project is a loan to be repaid it is not a grant. From the last trip of the Prime Minster to China, work out the interest to be paid and it is almost $1 billion a day for the next 20 years,” Sirjuesingh said.