Art and Multiculturalism Minister Winston Gypsy Peters said the previous Government wasted money to build the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in San Fernando.
Peters said if his Government was in power and he was the minister when the idea was first conceived, they would not have been a second NAPA. He said he would have upgraded the historic Naparima Bowl and put the incomplete NAPA for other uses. Peters and Minister of Planning, Economic and Social Restructuring and Gender Affairs Mary King toured the south NAPA, the Chancery Lane Complex and the Brian Lara Stadium, Tarouba, yesterday. Long delays and hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns are what the ministerial team discovered when they toured the three controversial projects undertaken by the Urban Development Company (Udecott) in San Fernando.
Peters said, however, the projects were too big to be scrapped. Following a tour of NAPA, King said the building, which had an initial cost of $205 million, was now spiralling upwards to between $280 to $290 million and was expected to cost as much as $300 million. King said the additional cost would have to be factored in the budget for fiscal 2010/2011. Peters explained the cost rose due to the stoppage of work to remove sewer lines, which were discovered after construction began. He said because the project was undertaken without the requisite approval from the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) it also had incurred a fine, the amount of which was not yet known.
Peters said he was not satisfied with the status of the project which was one year behind schedule. Completion, being undertaken by the Shanghai Construction Company, is now scheduled for next January. He said the seating accommodation for a maximum of 810 patrons in the main auditorium was unacceptable. He added: "Neither of them is worth the money for the seating capacity... this one nor the one in Port-of-Spain. "We could have built something which could have housed much more people. If you have a show in Trinidad and Tobago and you have 810 people, then you have a buss show," he noted.
However, he said, it was too late to redesign the building, which would require a lot more money. Peters said they would look at alternative uses to regain the cost to the state, but observed: "We will never be able to pay for these things. Our great grandchildren would be paying for these things. It matters not what activities you keep here, in terms of a financial return, we will never be able to do that." King, however, said they could write it off as a loss-making project.
She said they would have to conceptualise a business plan to ensure it generated income as well as a surplus since they would have to pay back the government-to- government loan borrowed to construct the facility. To turn around a profit, King suggested, the building could be used for other purposes. King said: "It can be used for conferences. We have a large auditorium-type theatre that can be used for business, as well as, Government functions, as well as drama and theatre. "We have to make it a profit machine," King, an economist, added.