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Howai: No IDB $$ for Point Fortin Highway

By Asha Javeed

Finance Minister Larry Howai says the government never made a formal request to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to fund the $7 billion highway.

"I am advised that the government only had preliminary discussions with the IDB and did not make a formal request. By the time the discussions started with the IDB the government was ready to commence the project and the IDB would not have had time to do a detailed evaluation of the loan request," Howai told the Sunday Express yesterday.

The Point Fortin Highway project was announced in the People's Partnership's first budget in 2010. At the time of announcement, then Finance Minister Winston Dookeran said the highway would create jobs for the country's languishing construction sector.

The government subsequently announced that it would fund the project from the Treasury.

To put the cost of the highway in perspective, its cost is equal to the cost of the country's Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP). The cost has been revised twice- from an initial $5.2 billion at October 2010 to $7.2 billion by January 25.

The government had only expected to spend $1 billion in acquiring 400 properties.

President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Luis Alberto Moreno has previously said he was approached by the government about funding the project but they only "talked about it".

"Yes we have talked about that project, but we are focusing all of our efforts on the $300 million project that would restore many of the highways in the country, both in Trinidad and Tobago," Moreno had said.

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