While ardent Premier Dr D Orlando Smith supporters like Mark Vanterpool insist that legislators should ‘stop wasting time’ but rather back the Recovery & Development Plan, Opposition legislator Julian Fraser and government legislator Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull have maintained that they have issues with contents of the plan.
Among other things, they raised concerns about insufficient details and/or planning of the document that is now being debated in the House of Assembly.
Loans, grants and even public-private partnerships are three of the major ways this now-$580 million recovery plan will be funded. But, Fraser said — besides the $65 million the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) is lending — government has given no evidence of any other lenders in the plan.
“We should have had a list of banks already that are going to lend us the money, what are the general conditions of these [lending] institutions for borrowing, and what are the government’s obligations. [That is:] how many years we talking about down the road and some form of projections as to how we are going to pay back,” Fraser said.
He sarcastically added: “But, no, we in the House of Assembly are supposed to be so reckless and we are supposed to just sit here and say ‘yes’ [to the recovery plan]. We’re not supposed to ask any questions, we are not supposed to raise any concerns or anything. We are just supposed to sit here and say yes.”
Who are the engineers?
Fraser also said there appear to be no assurances that the various infrastructures to be built under the plan will be constucted ‘resiliently’ and in a way that will mitigate against future natural disasters like Hurricane Irma.
“Who are the engineers that are going to engineer our infrastructure and that is going to engineer to the standard that is necessary to sustain another disaster? Fraser questioned. “We’ve [borrowed] monies from CDB and claim that CDB has standards. But, when you look around and you see the structures that has been constructed [through them], they are no different from the ones we had before. But, what is for sure is that we spent the money and got to pay it back.”
“Those are the realities we got to be looking at — spending the money, how it’s being spent, and what’s the product you’re going to get from the monies that you’ve spent.”
He further raised concern that residents seemingly will not benefit directly from the millions that will be used to fund the plan.
“They (locals) are not going to be your engineers, they are not going to be your contractors,” Fraser said while making his contribution to the debate on the plan on Tuesday.
Government legislator Turnbull concurred with the opposition member’s sentiments.
He, too, had concerns about what he believes to be little to no inclusion of locals once the various recovery and development projects begin.
Turnbull said: “There are some very unclear issues within this plan and the setup of what we are doing that we have not discussed and that we have not layed on the table.”
He noted Vanterpool’s recent statement that legislators need to ‘get on with approving the plan’ because the territory’s infrastructure has been in desrepair for more than a year now.
Turnbull, however, said: “None of it will be fixed until we (the House of Assembly) fix the details [of the recovery plan].”
Delores Christopher and I were also in agreement
The first-term palimentarian then used the memory of recently-deceased legislator, Delores Christopher, to note that she, like him and Fraser, was against the passing of the Recovery and Development Act back in March.
Both Turnbull and Fraser have made it clear that they are not against borrowing or against the recovery effort. They said they just want to see the effort done in a manner that does not negatively affect the territory.
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