Friday, December 15, 2017

JCC: Govt has broken transparency promise

The People's Partnership Government has broken its promise to ensure transparency and accountability with mega projects in particular a multi-billion dollar development plan for Invaders Bay, says Afra Raymond, president of the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry (JCC).

Some 70 acres of reclaimed land located in the vicinity just behind MovieTowne complex and the Mariott Hotel is to be developed by the private sector.

The reclaimed land belongs to the State.

Raymond and other heads in the construction sector held a press conference at the Professional Centre Building, Port of Spain yesterday where they vented their anger over the lack of transparency and what seems to be a pre-decision that businessman Derek Chin would be given this multi-billion-dollar development project.

Chin is the chairman of Multi Cinemas Limited, the operators of the MovieTowne cineplex chain.

"It seems like a continuation of what happened in the past administration where the biggest secrets are decided in private," said Raymond.

Their concerns, he said, were raised at an unsuccessful meeting with Planning Minister Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie and Trade Minister Stephen Cadiz on Monday where the Ministers were adamant that they would not repeal the Request for Proposal (RFP) that was placed for the project.

Tewarie said yesterday that the Request for Proposals for Invaders Bay project had gone out and it is expected that construction will start in one year.

Raymond noted that this project is estimated at some $5 billion and will be the second largest project in the country next to the $7 billion Point Fortin highway project.

He said there was a six-week deadline to submit proposals and noted that several issues with respect to the RFP were vague.

Raymond said "terrible mistakes" were made in the past with the Piarco International Airport and Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT) and Government must learn from the past errors.

Dr Rae Furlonge, president of the Association of Professional Engineers of Trinidad and Tobago (APETT), referred to the public outrage over the billion dollar rapid rail project and questioned whether this Government was heading in the same direction and making the same mistakes as the PNM.

He also noted that the RFP revolves around Chin's Movietowne. The Express tried to contact Chin for comment, however, calls to his cellphone went directly to his voicemail and he did not return any messages.

"Everything (the project) is surrounding a particular development that is existing in the area," said Furlonge.

"What does that have to do with the requirement for the 70 acres of land?" he asked.

He referred to a Guardian newspaper report in July this year where Chin spoke of his plans to develop an entertainment mecca on the same lands.

"Lo and behold six weeks later we are seeing a tender about the very area that he's so proudly speaking he has been lobbying Government for, so, that's a little troubling," he said.

He also read from the People's Partnership manifesto where they promised that all development will take place with order and transparency.

"We are not seeing this being reflected at all," he said.