After weeks of campaigning against the BOLT (Build Own Lease Transfer) arrangement for the MILSHIRV $143M THA Administrative Complex at Lowlands in southwest Tobago, the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) has now come out in support of the arrangement.
“The concept of BOLT I have no problem. We are not challenging the question of the BOLT issue at all. We don’t have a problem with the concept,” TOP leader and Minority Leader Ashworth Jack told last Thursday’s plenary sitting of the House of Assembly.
Jack said from time immemorial Tobago has not been treated as equal partners and went on to ask: “How we arrive at the best position for projects in Tobago in the light of the shortfalls of successive central governments? How do we put procurement in place to militate against malpractices while we discuss the issue of procurement for BOLT?”
The Minority leader said his party was asking for procedures for transparency and accountability to be put in place to ensure there was no wrongdoing.
Jack was making his contribution to the debate on a Motion by Finance and Enterprise Development Secretary Dr Anselm London on capital formation in Tobago. The Motion was accepted by the House but not before Chief Secretary Orville London hit out at the TOP for misleading Tobagonians on the MILSHIRV project.
He accused the Minority Leader and his party of distorting and manipulating information for political gain to further their political interest and showmanship pointing out that the Minority had deliberately put incorrect information on the MILSHIRV issue in the public domain and when this was corrected by the Executive Council they repeated the process with more misinformation.
London recalled that the Minority had first questioned the price of the land saying that it was the most expensive piece of real estate and they backed down when they were told it was valued by the Central Government’s Valuation Department. Further, London said they had not responded when it was brought to light that the Minister of Finance had confirmed that the nearby Friendship Estate and the Tobago Race Club Lands which they said could have been used to build the complex, had not yet been paid for by the Central Government.
The Tobago Chief Secretary said what was most revealing was that after making all their accusations on their public platform the Minority Leader was not able to provide a shred of evidence to support his accusations.
London noted that it was insulting and significant that the Minority Leader did not have the graciousness to remain in the House for the responses of the Majority spokesmen when they made their contributions, a practice which he has done with frequent regularity.
In asking the House to approve his Motion, Dr London said capital formation was essential to the development of any identifiable economic and political space, including the island of Tobago. He noted that allocations by the Parliament have fallen woefully short of the island’s genuine development needs, as articulated in its annual budget submissions to the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Dr London said over the past 12 years or so, written and oral representations had been made to various ministers of finance by the PNM administration in the THA for it to borrow on the capital markets as provided for in section 51(b) of the THA Act, in order to finance expanded capital formation on the island.