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PM takes control of $7.2B highway project
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has taken control of the $7.2 billion Golconda to Point Fortin highway extension project. Persad-Bissessar has appointed a Cabinet committee—which she heads—to oversee the construction of the highway. Three other Ministers—Housing and Environment Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, Local Government Minister Chandresh Sharma and Minister in the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure Stacy Roopnarine—are on the committee which also includes Minister of Works and Infrastructure Jack Warner. The highway extension project will impact on areas within the constituencies of Ministers Moonilal, Sharma and Roopnarine, and also the PM’s Siparia constituency.
The mega project falls under Warner’s purview. Warner handed over a $1.5 billion cheque to the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) on June 29, to commence construction of the project five months after the Prime Minister turned the sod. The cheque, Warner said, was the first of four payments taken from Government resources and not borrowed as initially planned. He admitted, however, that the second payment was not yet available but assured the project would not be halted.
The mega project is being constructed by Constructora OAS and sub-contractor Namalco. Construction of the highway includes 18 cross roads, eight interchanges and eight bridges.
The project is expected to generate some 10,000-plus jobs. Local contractors promised piece of the ‘pie’ It was in January, Warner promised local contractors that they would not be left out of the construction boom. Warner assured contractors that 40 per cent of the mega projects would be awarded to them. The minister maintained that national contractors must earn the right to get work on Government’s major construction projects over the next few years. Warner made the comment after touring the industrial complex of Coosal’s Construction Company in central Trinidad.
He stated: “Our intention is to give the local construction industry a minimum of 40 per cent of the contract on the highway to Point Fortin but it would be given to those who deserve it. The contractor has to earn the right to participate.” One such contractor, Warner said, who has earned that right is Coosal’s Construction Company Ltd. Coosal’s executive chairman Sieunarine Coosal had said a ministerial visit should form part of the pre-qualification process for companies seeking contracts. The company is at present involved in major road works along the Solomon Hochoy Highway.
Moonilal: Highway extension biggest in history
Confirming the setting up of the committee, Leader of Government Business Dr Roodal Moonilal said the aim was to assist with the process. “The highway to Point Fortin is a major infrastructural challenge; Maybe one of the biggest in our history and it involves about 10,000 residents of south Trinidad, hundreds of households, farmers, commercial and private properties and infrastructure issues. It is really complex and we needed to have a team in South to ensure that the highway is built and construction takes place in a timely basis.”
Moonilal said the three MPs appointed on the committee constituencies fall within route of the highway.
The constituencies are—Oropouche East, Oropouche West and Fyzabad. Moonilal said officials from Nidco and the Ministry of Works and various community groups are also on board. “There is an ongoing procedure in terms of the construction of the highway. MPs that are so affected because their constituencies fall within route of the highway are on the committee. We have a team that meets regularly to look at the issues in terms of the relocation matter and some of the legal obligation that the Government has to contractors,” Moonilal said.
Warner: I have no problem
Warner, meanwhile, said he was aware the Prime Minister is head of the committee. “The terms and reference of the committee in some ways were designed by me and if the committee is to supervise and to have oversight that the highway is built within budget and time I have no problem with that. “The committee is really to look and see the people who are to be relocated are not compromised in any way and to see that the highway and to see the constituencies of the MPs where the highway passes are not affected,” Warner said.