The government has announced its intentions to “restructure the delivery of engineering and professional services in the public sector” if it does not see improvements in the Ministry of Works.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves made the announcement on Monday, resulting in an accusation from the opposition one day later that the government was criticising staff at the ministry but not the minister of works.
In his budget address on Monday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said that although commendable work is done by many of the professionals in the Ministry of Transport and Works, “it is to be admitted that some of them are not sufficiently pulling their weight; this is unacceptable.
“I am urging enhanced professionalism and diligent work on a timely basis by all professionals in this Ministry and others to get the work done.”
Gonsalves told Parliament that he is watching carefully, this year, the performance of the professionals in the Ministry of Transport and Works.
“I intend to meet with them shortly for a frank discussion. If I see no sufficient improvement, my government will restructure the delivery of engineering and professional services, in the public sector. I expect our professionals in the Ministry of Works and elsewhere to lift their game markedly,” he said.
In his response to the budget on Tuesday, Leader of the Opposition, Godwin Friday, said he did not see Minister of Transport and Works, Sen. Julian Francis, applauding as his colleagues did, when Gonsalves made the announcement.
“He was quite silent because he knows, Mr. Speaker, where the buck stops.
“If you are criticising the professionals in the ministry, the minister can’t be immune to that criticism,” Friday told parliament.
“So maybe that comes in more, how should I say it, discreet circles?”
Gonsalves’ observation came as he discussed the issue of roads in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The prime minister said that too many of the nation’s roads “are in an awful physical condition”.
He said his government has invested more monies annually in roads and bridges, and done more construction, reconstruction and repairs on roads and bridges than any other government in the nation’s history.
“Still, resource and other limitations have constrained even more work on our nation’s road infrastructure. Road building, reconstruction and repairs are very expensive,” Gonsalves said, adding that, for example, the rebuilding of the South Leeward Highway — which is running almost a year behind schedule — costs some EC$3 million per mile.
In the 2017 Budget, the recurrent allocation to Roads Bridges and General Services Authority (BRAGSA) amounts to EC$12.5 million; and the capital expenditure earmarked for roads and bridges in 2017 totals EC$51 million.
Among the principal capital road infrastructure projects for 2017 are: South Leeward Highway (EC$6 million); National Disaster Rehab on Road and other infrastructure (EC$16.3 million) financed by CDB and the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Spring Village Bridge and River Defence Project (EC $8 million) financed by the Government of Mexico; Village Roads and Feeder Roads (EC $5.8 million), the initial roll-out of a $90 million project financed mainly by the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development and the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID); North Windward Highway Rehab (EC $1.5 million); Phase 2 Murray Road Rehab (EC$1.2 million); and Congo Valley Road (EC$700,000). Additionally, $6.7 million, funded through the United Kingdom government’s Export Guarantee Arrangement, is allocated for the restoration/refurbishment of numerous pieces of the heavy-duty equipment at Argyle that are to be transferred to BRAGSA for road works.
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