Government will go on the local market to raise $900 million to complete 27 schools across the country.
The announcement was made on Friday by Finance Minister Colm Imbert at a joint press conference which was attended by Education Minister Anthony Garcia and Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis at the Ministry of Finance, Port-of Spain, as they tried to bring the population up to speed with the status of incomplete schools, 27 of which they intend to wrap by next year.
Imbert dismissed reports that the People’s Partnership government had built, outfitted and commissioned 106 schools during their tenure.
He said when the People’ National Movement government assumed office in 2015 there were 118 incomplete schools they inherited.
“Most of them are in a total state of disarray.”
To complete these schools, Imbert said it would cost them $2.8 billion.
The Government, Imbert said has since paid out over $700 million in school construction “and we haven’t even scratched the surface.”
Last May, Robinson-Regis said she held discussions with Education Facilities Company Ltd (EFCL) and Education Ministry regarding the issue of outstanding payments owed to 30 contractors.
EFCL was assigned responsibility for the procurement of designs, construction and management of projects under the Education Ministry.
In tallying the figure, Robinson-Regis said the summary of debt to contractors’ claim was $918 million, while claims by consultants amounted to $90 million.
“In some instances, we did not see contracts but they (contractors) brought action against EFCL because they claimed monies were owed.”
She said one creditor petitioned the court to have EFCL’s bank account frozen.
Despite this, Robinson-Regis said they were able to verify and pay $65 million owed to contractors.
In going forward, she said the Government is working to have 27 priority schools completed.
The schools comprise four ECC centres, 13 primary and ten secondary.
The EFCL, Robinson-Regis said still owe contractors $561 million to complete the 27 schools some of which have been vandalised.
Among the new schools to be constructed are Toco Secondary which would cost taxpayers $200 million while the St Phillip Government is tagged at $36 million.
Parents of students of Ramai Trace SDMS Primary School who have been protesting religiously will have their school completed in eight months’ time at a cost of $36 million.
Imbert said the Finance Ministry has raised a $400 million bond on the local market to make payments to creditors and litigants against EFCL.
Of this figure, $300 million has already been paid out.
“To complete the 27 schools is $917 million. We will be going to the market to raise that financing as well. We have no choice. But we just can’t leave the projects there.
“So having already raised $400 million to deal with old debts we will be going forward to raise another $900 million on the local market to complete these 27 schools.”
Imbert said they would raise the money via a bond issued by First Citizens Bank with facilitation by other banks.
“What we have been saddled with is the scenario where we are duty bound to complete the schools already started which is going to cost $3 billion. It has stymied the PNM’s construction programme, having to be saddled with a $3 billion bill with 100 incomplete projects.”
Imbert said it was impossible to complete all 100 schools which would have to be done on a phased basis.