Prime Minister Stephenson King delivered his rebuttal in the debate over the Appropriations Bill 2011-2012 Wednesday April 20 just before 9pm and ended minutes before midnight. King clarified the reason some umbrella projects have lump sum allocations like the Post-Tomas Recovery Programme which has been allocated $95 million in the budget.
King said, “The UN ECLAC report spoke of $907 million worth of damages. It is not a situation where the roof on your house got blown off so you can replace it tomorrow. It is a situation where we have to decide whether we can continue to drive on the Barre de l’Isle or go through a tunnel. We have to be able to do the necessary surveys to determine how we proceed from hence forth. There has been serious damage to the infrastructure and the geographical structure to the country. That is what happened. Before we can proceed and spend money we need to stop for a moment and say what are the essential things that we can spend on at this time? What are the things we need to do the necessary studies and research? We also need to examine our own plans that were there before and it will determine whether we can continue with those plans or whether we need to review those plans against the back drop of Hurricane Tomas.”
The Opposition Leader revealed in his presentation that since taking up office, the King administration have awarded direct contracts to the tune of $150 million. King chastised Kenny for mentioning the names of St Lucian contractors in the House who King believes were victimized during Anthony’s term as prime minister.
King continued, “So now he questions my integrity for having granted direct awards to these contractors. The legislation that governs direct awards was proposed by the Leader of the Opposition to find a way to circumvent the tendering process. One of the biggest contracts awarded through direct awards was that of the Bordelais Prison. $50million. The then prime minister awarded a contract to build the Bordelais Prison for $50 million and ever since that prison was built, problems-cost overruns, it’s leaking, things are happening and when you hear of jail breaks you have to ask questions. This is because of the quality of work.”
King said governments need to give the small contractors a chance and that is why his government prefers to deal with local contractor rather than favouring those from overseas.
Defending the government’s acquisition of the Daher building, King said the government and by extension the people of St Lucia now owned the property which was purchased for $27million and includes 10 acres of land at Union that government can choose to upgrade to a housing development if it so wishes.
Addressing the opposition’s criticisms on the Hewanorra International Airport Redevelopment Project, King defended the government’s position by using the Opposition Leader’s words while he was Prime Minister.
In the 2001/2002 Budget Address, then Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony, under the heading ‘Further Improvements to the Facilities at Hewanorra’, had said, “During the coming fiscal year ongoing improvements to most of the systems and services at Hewanorra Airport will be accelerated. These will include further efficiency-oriented enhancements to the passenger lounges, the airport administration offices, the airline offices and other areas of the terminal.
“The increased aircraft and passenger activities at Hewanorra, along with the inefficient design and layout of the terminal building have resulted in serious congestion problems in all areas of the airport during peak periods. Thus during the financial year, a comprehensive study will be conducted in order to ascertain future infrastructual requirements. A master plan for future expansion, which takes into consideration the growth in the demand for usage of the airport over the next twenty years, will be developed. Central issues which the plan must address include the development of: (a) A Terminal facility requirements for the next 10 to 20 years, (b) A Parallel Taxiway, (c) A New Technical Block, (d) Expansion of the Apron for increased parking. It is estimated that such a study will cost approximately 2,670 million dollars and will provide the basis for a major port rationalisation and development program.”
Exclaimed King, “But in 2011, it appears 2001 and 2002 did not exist. The Leader of the Opposition, Kenny or Tony, one of them said it. The increased activities at Hewanorra, the inefficient design and layout of the terminal building that resulted in serious congestion problems in all areas of the airport during the peak period. You [Anthony] were already complaining in 2001/2002 that the airport was inefficient. You needed to do something, build something new.”