Terrence Ollivierre, the parliamentary representative for the Southern Grenadines has called for equity in the development of ports in the Grenadines, particularly as government prepares to execute the million-dollar Port Modernisation project on mainland.
The project, which is estimated to cost over US$200 million has been described as one of the largest capital projects this country as ever seen.
Lawmakers, on Monday, July 25 passed a bill that would authorise the government to borrow 25 per cent of the funding, or US$62 million from the Export Import Bank of the Republic of China (on Taiwan).
“We are not against the development of the port on the mainland, but we are saying there should be equity…” Ollivierre said in his contribution to the debate, during which he highlighted the deplorable conditions of wharfs on the Southern Grenadines islands of Canouan, Mayreau and Union Island.
“You’re developing Kingstown, putting this nice facility, but when you have anybody jump on a boat and head down to the Grenadines, then there would be a stark difference if we don’t include the development of ports on the islands of the Grenadines.”
The parliamentarian advised that should this happen, it would appear as though persons are living in two countries: “one with such glamorous, good facilities and the other one as if to say the people are neglected…”.
There are plans for the Port Modernisation Project to be executed in three stages: construction of the primary cargo port, the construction of an inter-island port, and the construction on an intra-national port to facilitate movement between and among the Grenadines islands.
Finance minister Camillo Gonsalves said the new port is urgently needed and will assist in developing commerce, inter island trade and tourism by freeing up existing areas for future tourism development.
But Olliverre argued that economic development needs to be looked at, not just in Port Kingstown, but in the Grenadines as well, which has a significant role to play in the development of this country.
He noted that though significant development is taking place on Canouan, the wharf remains in a state of disrepair, making it difficult for ferries and other boats to dock, and for persons to board.
The parliamentarian added that persons have suffered injuries as a result of the lack of facilities when boats are trying to dock.
He added that yachties who anchor at Canouan apparently have difficulties going ashore to buy supplies, which not only impacts tourism but local businesses as well.
“I have been here from time to time talking about the Canouan port. When it is dry, you wouldn’t like to be there because when it is dry, and it is windy, it is like you are in the Arab desert. Dust. When it’s rainy, it’s muddy and people cannot use it as they should and they have to be jumping from puddle to puddle in order to get to use the facilities in a way that is comfortable for them and this cannot be right,” Ollivierre said.
The representative for the Southern Grenadines said the islands are also a part of the nation, and “we too deserve what is happening on mainland”.
Speaking on the port in Union Island, Ollivierre said it “has far outlived its usefulness”.
“When one ferry goes, if you have two ferries working on the same day, they cannot dock up at the same time so the other one has to idle outside before the other one finish it business and leave, before that can go inside. That sort of development is not really contributing to the economic development of the people of the islands if this is how the conditions which they have to live and survive,” he said.
Ollivierre again stressed the need for equity, noting that this kind of significant development needs to be happening all across the country, and not just on mainland.
“We look at Kingstown, we cannot develop it alone but we also need to look at the Grenadines and bring them along so when people come to St
Vincent and the Grenadines, they will be pleased with the product we have not only a Kingstown, but also in the Grenadines, catering to the economic development of the country on a whole…” he said.
Several other parliamentarians also contributed to Monday’s debate on the Port Modernisation (Loan Authorisation) Bill 2022 before it was passed that night.
Contributions came from both sides of the House including from Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves; Deputy Prime Minister Montgomery Daniel; agriculture minister Saboto Caesar; tourism minister Carlos James; parliamentary representative for West Kingstown, Daniel Cummings; representative for Central Kingstown, St Clair Leacock and representative for East Kingstown, Fitz Bramble.