Finance Minister and West Kingstown MP spar in  Parliament over roads expenditure
From Left: Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves and West Kingstown Representative Daniel Cummings
April 6, 2023

Finance Minister and West Kingstown MP spar in Parliament over roads expenditure

A bill for an act to authorize the government to secure a loan to assist in financing the National Secondary Roads Improvement programme and for connected purposes was passed in Parliament on Tuesday.

The US$45 million will be used to fund the programme that is scheduled to begin this year.

Minister of Works, and Deputy Prime Minister, Montgomey Daniel, first spoke about the major three year roads rehabilitation project on radio last year.

The project will be supervised by the Taiwan firm, Overseas Engineering and Construction Company (OECC). However, Tuesday’s debate was not without its heated moments.

One such instance occurred between Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves and Parliamentary Representative for West Kingstown, Daniel Cummings over a comment made during his contribution to the debate.

Cumming, said that Gonsalves was presenting the measure in such a way as to give the impression that the Road Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Project will conclude in 2025, when it will in fact continue to 2027 leaving EC$15 million to seemingly “evaporate”.

Rising in response to the comments of his Parliamentary colleague, the Finance Minister said the comment by Cummings was “a blatant attempt to mislead the House of Assembly”.

He pointed out that a discussion was held prior to the 2023 Budget on securing a loan from the Government of Taiwan to invest in road rehabilitation and reconstruction in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

“…First in the Estimates debate and then in the Budget debate we discussed extensively the fact that this particular loan would be one of the ten [pillars] of the Capital Programme of the Government, not only in 2023 but in 2024 and 2025… we expressed on multiple occasions that we were engaging in 2023 in a road rehabilitation and reconstruction programme that would exceed on the capital side, EC$50 million, and…roughly half of that would be financed by this particular loan…”, Gonsalves said.

He noted as well that “Budget 2023 establishes a three year EC$120 million dollar National Road Rehabilitation Project to be funded by a soft loan from the Government of Taiwan, supervised substantially by the Taiwanese firm Overseas Engineering and Construction Company [OECC], and utilising Vincentian subcontractors”.

Gonsalves added that in year one of the National Road Rehabilitation Project at least EC$27 million dollars of the EC$120 million dollar total will be spent in 2023, with the remaining expenditure split over 2024 and 2025.

“ The first year which is this year 2023, we plan to spend a little over $25 million dollars, in 2024 we plan to spend about $35 million dollars, and in 2025 you have 40 [million ]on the books.”

After this interjection, Cummings still expressed disappointment that nothing was mentioned about the remaining money in the roads budget.

“A project costs 125 million dollars, and you say the first year is 25, 35, 45; my maths tell me that is like 105, and no explanation whatsoever. Even that is contingency…this is not a simple matter, you’re talking millions of dollars, $15 million dollars disappeared out of the 120. It is not accounted for in your presentation. I have to say it evaporated…”.

Rising on a point of Order Gonsalves noted that the Budget document contains projections for the years 2023-2024 but…it goes on…to say that the completion date for the project is 2027. A number of secondary roads are earmarked to receive attention under this project.