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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves speaking at the swearing in of Senator Benarva Browne at Government House on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Photo: Facebook/Lance Neverson)
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves speaking at the swearing in of Senator Benarva Browne at Government House on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Photo: Facebook/Lance Neverson)
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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has outlined to the public the work that he has identified for Senator Benarva Browne, who was sworn into office on Tuesday.

Browne, a 33-year-old, town and country planner, has replaced Julian Francis, 71, as senator and minister of urban development, energy, seaport development, seaport administration, Grenadine affairs and local government.

Speaking at the swearing in ceremony at Government House, on Wednesday, Gonsalves noted the EC$650 million port that his government is building in Kingstown.

“And she has a direct involvement and oversight with that, in addition with the Ministry of Economic Planning and the Office of the Prime Minister.”

He said the state owns a lot of property toward the western end of the city, which he said “is going to be the centrepiece of urban development in the western end of the city.

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“In the middle, there are already conceptual designs and they have been reproduced now into detailed designs and the funding has been made available for the Little Tokyo Bus Terminal.”

He said that towards the eastern end of the city, after the middle of 2025, the projected completion date for the port, “we have the most expensive real estate would be made available for further development, including cruise ship pier, where the car boat comes in, a number of shops for ourselves and tourists and for a big cultural centre with the performing arts”.

Gonsalves said that the government has done “preliminary work” on a tunnel under Cane Garden point — an election promise dating back a decade — which, he said, would link to “the modern city at Arnos Vale, which is being built”.

He said that in November the government would begin the EC$270 million modern referral hospital, which would be “the anchor project” at new city at Arnos Vale.

“And, we will be spending between now and June about US$12-13 million to upgrade the sports facilities there where we commenced the upgrade already,” Gonsalves said.

He said there will also be work on the river that runs outside the sports complex, which convey water from the fountain mountains to the sea.

“We have built the bridges at Fenton and we are now doing the roads,” he said, adding that the government owns “beautiful lands for development” in the mountainous area.

“… when the water runs off there, it is going to come down into the [Arnos Vale] River so we have to strengthen the drainage,” he said, noting that the government has promised to relocated quarters at Pole Yard, Arnos Vale.

“And we would do houses in the same way we have done houses everywhere, when this government does relocation.”

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Senator Benarva Browne at her swearing in ceremony at Government House on Wednesday, July 12, 2023. (Photo: Facebook/Lance Neverson)

Gonsalves said that Browne also has to address matters in other towns, including in Calliaqua on the south coast.

“In relation to the clinic, the modern clinic, which is to be built there, they have to do over the police quarters, police station.”

In the east coast town of Georgetown, there is a market which is projected to costs over EC$3 million, Gonsalves said, adding, “There’s development by the private sector, the credit union”.

Work would be done in Buccament and Layou on the southwest coast “because of the spillover from the tourism”, Gonsalves said, adding that work has already started at Jackson Bay in Layou.

“And then over in Peters Hope and into Barrouallie and then Chateaubelair — from Petit Bordel down to Chateaubelair there are several important infrastructure projects. We have done the port and we are doing other things there. We have done some bridges and we’re doing the big administrative centre there.”

The prime minister said there are “lots of things to be done in the Grenadines, but I just give a synopsis and the public will see the way we do our work.

“We don’t wait until we finish the port in Kingstown to begin to think about doing other things in the city. We already put them in train because we know what will happen,” Gonsalves said.

“And this magnificent young lady would be at the centre of all these very exciting developments, bringing to bear her energy, her sharpness of mind, her acuity, her training, her discipline, her ease with working with people and her quiet charisma.

“We are very blessed to have Benarva Browne in this capacity and I want to thank her very much.”

Browne is coming to the government as part of the usual mid-term reshuffle that has characterised the Unity Labour Party administrations since coming to office in March 2001.

Sources in the know tell iWitness News that Browne joins the government as a potential candidate for South Leeward.

She reportedly outpolled other people who had interest in representing the ruling party in the district, where the opposition New Democratic Party’s Nigel “Nature” Stephenson consolidated his win, securing a third consecutive third-term in the 2020 polls by lead of 505 votes.

Gonsalves told the ceremony:

“Just to indicate how or government and our party works: this afternoon at three o’clock, I will introduce her to the executive, central executive of our party. And I will explain fully to the party all what we have been doing in this regard. I’ve been in consultations with many leaders in the party outside of the Cabinet and to bring them aboard in relation to other prospective changes.

“Because in politics, in governance, we have to understand this is a bird which flies with two wings, one is called government and one is called politics. If the bird flies with only one wing, it would land in the widening gorge. So, we have to have the bird flying with the two wings, so that it can soar.”

He noted that the only aspect of Francis’ former portfolio that Browne would not take up are airports development and airports administration.

Gonsalves has assumed ministerial responsibility for those, saying, “I gave full consideration for these matters, and thought that the heavy lifting which has to be done with the other areas, you will need to focus on those.”

The prime minister named the personnel in the various offices and departments with whom Browne will interface in performing her ministerial duties.

“So we give you a tremendous team. And I’m sure that you would listen well, you will study the briefs carefully, very attentively and you will address the matters of policy and advise your Cabinet colleagues and your prime minister accordingly as to what you want to see done,” the prime minister said.

“In Parliament, you have some important legislative items as I indicated to you. You have to work very well with the Honourable Attorney General’s chambers and the drafts persons in respect of a bill which would split the regulatory functions of the port authority with the management functions at the moment they are fused.

“So that you would learn very quickly, I’m absolutely sure, the rules of the House and I know you have a patience and a calm and that you will be able to deal and address quite efficaciously all the slings and arrows of misfortune.”

Gonsalves told Browne that she would find that “the public will support you very strongly.

“And those who may wish unfairly to tread on your toes would find that they have a darling of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And if they seek to trespass rudely or unfairly, it would be to their detriment.

“Congratulations again. I am so happy to welcome yet another child, another woman, young woman of the education revolution to the Cabinet of St. Vincent and Grenadines.”

Browne joins in the cabinet, Senator Kensal Peter, who is minister of foreign affairs.

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