What steps have the Trinidad and Tobago Government taken to ensure that the concerns which have been raised with respect to the quality of work done by the Shanghai Construction Group vis a vis the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) are not repeated?
Have these concerns been relayed to the Government of the People’s Republic of China? Meanwhile, are there clauses in either the NAPA contract or the contract for the National Carnival Centre which will allow for the Shanghai Construction Group to rectify proven concerns at no additional cost to the Government and people of Trnidad and Tobago?
When were the Government to Government discussions held on the financing and constructing of the National Carnival Centre and the specific arrangements entered into? What other governments, if any, were approached?
An article published in Friday’s issue of Newsday advised that Shanghai Construction Group was privately announced at a General Council meeting of the ruling People’s National Movement as the contractor for the Carnival Centre, with the same procedure being employed as had been done with NAPA. Why was this announced, privately or otherwise, at a PNM General Council Meeting and not in Parliament?
In addition, will Government provide the nation with status reports on discussions re any other proposed Government to Government arrangements? Why did Government not provide taxpayers with status reports on the Government to Government arrangements in respect of the National Academy for Performing Arts, while it was being constructed? Why had it not followed the example set by then Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the late Dr Eric Williams, during the 1980 Budget Speech on November 30, 1979 with respect to Government to Government arrangements with the Netherlands.
In the meantime, in direct contrast to the Government to Government arrangements with China on the National Carnival Centre, Parliament and the country had been briefed by Dr Williams, again in his 1980 Budget Speech, on a pre-feasibility Report on an “agricultural programme for Tobago” which the TT Government planned to execute with the Government of France.
Why, then, did the current administration not show Parliament and the country the same courtesy re the Government to Government arrangements with China on the proposed National Carnival Centre which the Williams Administration had demonstrated with respect to the then ongoing Government to Government talks with the French Government on the Tobago agricultural programme? Or is it that the present administration is either insensitive or arrogant or both?
Briefing the PNM’s General Council on clearly binding Government to Government arrangements with China, not only before the matter has been raised in Parliament, is bad enough. The fact, however, that this was done several weeks ago and Parliament is still officially unaware makes uncomfortable reading. Nonetheless, the majority enjoyed by the ruling PNM assures that whenever Cabinet deigns to bring the matter before the House of Representatives its approval is guaranteed.
Additionally, Government is being tacitly dismissive of the taxpayers of Trinidad and Tobago, whose hard earned money will be employed for years to come, to discharge a multi-million dollar debt, with interest.
But why the secrecy? Is it that there are members of Cabinet, who have reservations in respect of the project’s enormous cost? Was the decision to have the issue raised before the PNM’s General Council a strategy designed to win crucial support at that level? And whose idea was this? As Lewis Carroll wrote in “Through the Looking Glass”, the situation is becoming “curiouser and curiouser”.