“We recently concluded an agreement with respect to the NAPA project for an extension to that project,” Dookeran told Newsday moments after attending the opening ceremony for the Third China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum held at the Hyatt Regency, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain.
Asked to explain the purpose of the extension, Dookeran said the loan was to pay off remedial works.
Additionally, the Finance Minister disclosed that the Exim Bank was in further discussions to fund a series of infrastructure projects.
“We are in fact discussing with the Chinese Export-Import Bank, financing of some infrastructure projects,” Dookeran said. He did not give details. The $207 million loan exceeds all previous estimates of the cost for remedial works for the Academy, which has two outlets — in Port-of-Spain (completed) and in San Fernando (pending). It was not clear whether the figure would relate to both facilities.
A 2010 dossier, prepared by the Artists Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago, had the estimated cost for remedial works at $83 million. That report, drawing on off-record artist and construction industry sources, had detailed flaws in the Port-of-Spain campus of the academy: including problems with stage areas, including a questionable orchestra pit and analog audio system, and questions over backstage facilities. A comedian who performed at NAPA Port-of-Spain had sustained serious back injuries and was almost paralysed after falling into the orchestra pit.
The Finance Minister yesterday said he welcomed a series of policy measures announced by the Chinese Vice-Premier HE Wang Qishan, including a $6.3 billion loan to the region, as well as a $6.3 million donation to the Caricom Development Fund (CDF), as one of several initiatives to be unfolded over the next three years.
Of the donation to the CDF, Dookeran said, “that particular proposal is for the Caricom Development Fund which Trinidad and Tobago also contributes to. So it will add to the coffers of CDF, the purpose of which is to deal with issues of poverty and issues of social safety net and we welcome that initiative.” He did not disclose whether there were any immediate plans for Trinidad and Tobago to draw from that fund. Dookeran also gave an update on the status of another Caricom fund.
“The Caribbean Petroleum Fund is now depleted, largely. It is still there but it does not have substantial resource,” he said when questioned about it.
Dookeran said it was now imperative that TT deepens its ties with China.
“In the first instance China has now emerged as a very significant player, especially in light of the recent tremors and uncertainties in the world economy,” he said. “China...is now an economy that we will have to rely upon.
It is in that context that it is very appropriate and timely for Trinidad and Tobago to start to intensify its relationship with China and we will do so in three broad areas.”
“One area has to do with the question of the financing of infrastructure. The second area has to do with the export of our products to China and particularly with respect to the growing tourism industry .
“Thirdly it would deal with the private sector forging new links for exportation of their own products and for the transfer of equipment,” he said.
Of last week’s marathon debate to raise some statutory debt ceilings by $16 billion, Dookeran expressed optimism that the ceilings were raised.
“I am happy that the debt ceiling legislation was passed by both houses of Parliament and hope the possibilities for us will go forward,” he said.
“As the Chinese proverb goes: moving forward and moving slowly is better than staying standing.”