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PM: Govt seeks $5b loan from China
Government is seeking the assistance of China President Xi Jinping and that country’s Premier Li Keqiang to have $5 billion in loans for this country approved speedily. So said Prime Minister Kamal Persad-Bissessar during yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference at her office in St Clair. It was the PM’s first official report to the country on her official five-day visit to China last month. She said her People’s Partnership Government had requested almost US$775 million to finance six new special economic zones and a new trans-shipment port and dry dock at La Brea to be expeditiously processed in fiscal 2014 by the Export-Import Bank of China.
Persad-Bissessar said both Chinese leaders provided their personal assurances that the loan applications would be urgently processed. The construction and completion of these projects by March next year, she said, “will bring significant economic benefits, including new economic infrastructure to spur the diversification of the economy and accelerate the development of the maritime economy.” She said the two countries signed three memoranda of understanding and a protocol during the visit. One was on the issue of national security. The Government, she said, considered the acquisition of long-range vessels to aid in crime interdiction efforts given T&T’s insular nature and porous boundaries. “Acquisition of assets for the Coast Guard is currently one of the priorities of the Government,” she said. In response to questions, Persad-Bissessar said the decision to acquire the vessels was not taken on the spot in China but had been actively considered for about a year and a Coast Guard audit team was established to look at the feasibility of acquiring the vessels and other equipment.
She said the Government was seeking to purchase long range patrol vessels, coastal patrol vessels, interceptors and floating platforms. These platforms would be strategically located around T&T to allow for the Coast Guard to respond at the shortest possible time. She recalled that a technical team visited not only China but South Korea, the Netherlands and Colombia to search for the right vessels to serve the naval and border security needs of the country. The PM added: “If a purchase is made from China or from any other country, it will be in accordance with the agreed criteria and technical requirements as well as the professional opinions and recommendations of the team.” She said the MOU on energy co-operation seeks to foster green-energy initiatives in T&T and the Caricom region. It will facilitate co-operation on scientific, technical and policy aspects of energy efficiency and clean energy technologies through the exchange of ideas and information, the PM added.
Specifically it will seek to establish joint ventures and partnerships in the field of oil and gas exploration and production and downstream energy projects and assessment of the potential for the supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to China. An MOU for co-operation in the field of sport was signed, along with one on air services and a health protocol for Chinese doctors to work in this country.
Members of the Coast Guard Audit Team
• Commodore Anthony Franklyn - Former Chief of Defence Staff
• Dr Badree Maharaj - Knowledgeable on military assets
• Courtney Lange - Naval architect
• Capt Hayden Pritchard - Commanding Officer Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard