People's National Movement (PNM) Tobago Senator Shamfa Cudjoe has taken issue with statements made by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar at the People's Partnership rally last Saturday in which she criticised the BOLT (Build, Own, Lease, Transfer) arrangements set up by the Tobago House of Assembly for two Tobago projects.
The Prime Minister has called for the two projects — the $250 million Bacolet aquatic centre and indoor sport complex and the $143 million Milshirv THA Administration complex — to be stopped and a probe conducted.
"I see the Prime Minister pulled a Section 34 on us, where she pulled out one part of the BOLT agreement saying that the building goes back to Milshirv. That is not so. That provision speaks to if the THA breaches the contract. If you don't pay the rent then the property goes back," Cudjoe said.
Cudjoe said a lot of noise was being made about the BOLT transactions negotiated by the THA. But she said, the THA was not being given funding for its projects and it was prohibited by the Minister of Finance from borrowing money. "The THA has been renting left, right and centre...even from the relative of a government minister," she said. She said the Division of Agriculture and the Marine Environment had been renting all over the place because it was not being given enough money to build its own offices. "It is high time the THA builds its own properties," she said.
She said BOLT was used by several governments including the UNC and PNM to finance projects. "BOLT is something very normal and legitimate," she said, citing the Unit Trust headquarters, the current Ministry of Works building as projects which were financed by BOLT.
"So it is good for Trinidad but it is not good for Tobago," Cudjoe said.
She said the THA was not afraid of any investigation. She said the THA received "independent and professional guidance" for its projects from reputable companies like Hamel-Smith and Company and Peter Forde "who would have advised the THA".
Cudjoe criticised the Tobago allocation in the budget. She said in the 2013 development programme the Minister of Finance had allocated $1 million for the construction of the Tobago Complex for the Division of Tourism; $300,000 for the Youth Professional Programme, $500,000 for the building of a mall ("you can't even build a proper home with that") and $200,000 for the scholarship programme in Tobago. She said these allocations were way below what was required.