THE construction of a number of local sporting and health facilities with a $1.8 billion loan from China will employ at least 50 per cent local labour and materials in most aspects, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal said yesterday.
Trinidad and Tobago has entered into the loan agreement with China Exim Bank, an export/import financial institution which in 2011 offered over $6.3 billion in loans to the region in an effort to deepen its ties with the Caribbean.
Work has already begun on some phases of the country-wide project, which will include the George Bovell III Aquatic Centre, a cycling velodrome, a tennis centre, three multi-purpose sporting facilities and the Children's Hospital at Couva.
The Aquatic Centre and cycling velodrome will share a compound with the Ato Boldon Stadium at Couva, which is also set for refurbishment. Earthworks are about 40 per cent complete on the compound of the stadium.
Moonilal, asked about the People's Partnership's previous declarations that it would avoid the use of foreign and Chinese expertise and labour, said a clause has been entered into Government's contracts with the Chinese that stipulated the use of at least 50 per cent local content.
The work being carried out at this time was being done by local contractors, Moonilal said, adding that as far as he was aware the stipulations applied to the Children's Hospital.
Finance Minister Larry Howai, also speaking at a signing of the loan agreement yesterday at the Hilton Trinidad, St Ann's, said sufficient financial returns were expected on the projects and disbursements for the loan will end in early 2015.
Sport Minister Anil Roberts said he could extol the social benefits the sporting centres would have, but instead chose to focus on the business aspect.
The returns justified the project and his ministry aimed to create economic "growth poles" through sport, he said.
The aquatic centre was long promised, as were some of the other sporting facilities. The project would also employ hundreds of locals during and after construction, Roberts added.
Also present was outgoing Chinese Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago Yang Youming, who described the project as yet another bond between the countries.