Declaring the GCP opened in its auditorium, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said, “What we expect today, is that as Government moves into one and a half million square feet of first class office space, there would be significant reduction of rental of private sector premises.” The plaza, he continued, is an extremely costly piece of infrastructure and Government would be the first to acknowledge there was underestimation of costs and significant management issues .
These issues, he added, “should in no way defeat the product of the vision.” Housed within the plaza are the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs; Immigration Division and the Board of Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise Division of the Ministry of Finance .
The new facility will save Government $18.3 million annually in rental and the plaza will house 3,291 public servants in stateof- the art offices, reducing the number of public officers working in unsuitable work spaces which draws scrutiny from the Occupational Health and Safety Agency and the ire of representative trades unions .
Rowley said, if Government had to rent accommodation of this quality in the city, “We are talking about a quarter billion this year. We are talking about an annual rental of about $360 million. Not that we are here for free. There would be significant maintenance cost on these structures.” Arrangements to maintain the buildings, security and other considerations will be put in place, he said. Noting there will be a number of unused buildings Government will no longer rent, he called on the owners to consider providing them for housing to the upper and lower middle class in the city. It was always Government’s intention, Rowley said, not to rely heavily on rental accommodation. Many property owners, he added, made a handsome penny renting to Government, renting in some instances, sub-standard buildings .
Noting Finance Minister Colm Imbert would have said there was 700 square feet of vacant space between the Customs and Excise and BIR buildings, Rowley said, “we are now in a position to move the Fraud Squad into those. So that the rash of unattended white collar crimes could be properly attended to.” The Finance Ministry hiring 250 people for administration of the property tax, and hiring of an additional number for VAT, will all be housed in the BIR building .
Rowley called on public servants who previously complained about poor accommodation, to show taxpayers who are footing the bill, their appreciation by improving productively and efficiency .
In times of reduced revenues, he said, Government has completed the GCP and has also done the same thing with the Brain Lara Stadium, scheduled to open on Friday. Whatever the problems were in the beginning with the stadium, he said, let it not be said that Government sank millions of dollars into nothing .
While the Plaza and stadium are big projects, he said, small projects will also be completed despite diminished revenue due to the slump in oil and gas prices. The construction of the Carenage Fish Port facility, Diego Martin Sports Complex and Bagatelle Community Centre, allowed to languish in recent years when revenue was flowing, has begun .
Touching on the ageing Portof- Spain General Hospital, Rowley said there are serious engineering difficulties there and should a sizeable earthquake hit, there could be structural failure .
“We are not embarking on building a new hospital, but we are retrofitting to deal with that real threat in our main hospital,” he said .