July 18, 2008
Eustace: Can we afford this?

Arnhim Eustace, Leader of the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), sent a warning to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves that he will be removed from Government.{{more}}

Eustace, in a broadcast to the nation last Tuesday night, accused Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves of failing to present the true cost of the construction of the Argyle International Airport.

The Opposition Leader explained that on Sunday, July 13, 2008, the Prime Minister struggled to make his presentation at the ground breaking ceremony for the construction of the airport.

“It was undoubtedly his worst presentation ever. He rambled from pillar to post without any coherence in his direction, and at the end of it all, we still do not know how the airport is to be financed,” said Eustace.

He called on the Prime Minister to publish the MMN report of 2005, which dealt with matters pertaining to the proposed project and accused the Prime Minister Gonsalves of not presenting to this country any signed agreement to show how the airport is to be being financed.

Also, Eustace used the opportunity to accuse the Government of leaving out critical elements in the estimates. He noted that the estimates of 2005 presented by the Government are inconsistent and lack integrity.

Eustace said the Government’s Budget of 2005 for the construction of the International Airport at Argyle was EC$480 million, but a recent Budget done by Stewart Engineering on the request of Eustace, estimates the airport to cost in the region of EC$1.1 billion. He added, by the Government’s own admission, the budget has already increased to EC$547 million.

“Gonsalves is perpetrating the biggest deception against the people of this country in its entire history,” said Eustace.

The Opposition Leader said with the exception of Trinidad and Tobago and the Republic of China on Taiwan, the Government does not know where it will find the rest of the monies. Eustace estimates the grant element of the project to amount to EC$200 million or just over that.

“Going on Gonsalves budget which without counting the increased cost that we have funding of $480 million, where would the other $280 million come from. How can you undertake the largest project in the history of this nation and three years later after the grand announcement in 2005 we still do not know where the money is coming from?” said Eustace.

He said the national debt of this country now stands at just over EC$1 billion. However, he is predicting the national debt will jump to approximately EC$1.6 billion on the basis of the Airport Budget put forward by the Prime Minister.

Eustace explained that the Stewart Engeering estimate is close to the truth and according to the figures put forward the national debt will go to EC$2.1 billion in the next few years.

“Can we really afford this with decline in tourism, decline in agriculture, increase in oil prices, high inflation, deteriorating health care and increase in crime? These figures are catastrophic. Very, very, serious figures indeed,” said Eustace.