Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves (File photo).

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Vincentians taxpayers could have this year been rebuilding and not just repairing the Official Residence of the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told Parliament yesterday that a fire broke out in November at the building, some parts of which are leaking.

“The workmen are right there now on the roof because yesterday you had some rain and a section of the place was wet down; you had to put buckets,” he said of a situation he first made public in November 2010.

“In the month of November [2011], it is the alertness of the security at the residence, which prevented a fire blowing up the place,” Gonsalves said yesterday.

‘… Since they want to talk about it, I will, in the process, put myself in sackcloth and ashes to demean myself. But I will stoop to conquer in the image of the people,” he told Parliament in response to opposition statements that too much money was being allocated in this year’s budget for the upkeep of the Prime Minister.

“In the room next to the kitchen, which has the gas and all that, they have the central equipment for the infrastructure for the electrical works … a fire occurred there.

“It was the alertness of the security – it was in the night and my 16-year-old daughter was sleeping in the room which is leaking and which is just above there.

“It would have been blown sky high. … There is much more, but I think I have said enough,” Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves said that every opposition Member of Parliament, during the Budget Debate, spoke of the EC$260,000 allocated to refurbish the Residence of the Prime Minister.

“That is an issue? Am I a man who behaves as though I am a lap of luxury man?” said Gonsalves who told Parliament that he does not drink expensive wines like other leaders and his favourite drinks are water and mauby.

He said he was not defending the building of a palace but the refurbishing of a house so that it does not deteriorate.

“It is so demeaning to speak about these things as a leader of modern, independent, sophisticated country …” Gonsalves said.

He said that while the International Monetary Fund was saying that the world economy is entering a difficult and dangerous phase, the opposition was arguing about the EC$200,000 allocated for expanding the security quarters at the Residence and a new vehicle costing EC$70,000.