The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) has approved a further US$50 million in loans to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, taking the amount approved so far this year to US$66 million.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said on Sunday that about US$30 million of the amount will go to housing repair and reconstruction.
“Because we haven’t done all what is to be done in relation to recovery after La Soufriere,” he said on WE FM.
“We have done it substantially but we have more to do and also to help low-income housing and Lives to Live programme, housing programme across the country,” said Gonsalves, who returned to the country on the weekend after attending the first Saudi Arabia-CARICOM Summit in Riyadh.
“Then we have a substantial number also for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of buildings in respect of education — some rehabilitation of primary and secondary schools, for the construction of a Union Island TVET centre, and for the construction of a Brighton secondary school,” he said.
He said that Union Island, in the southern Grenadines, has been calling for a technical and vocational education and training centre for some time.
“… we have to strengthen our technical vocational educational training, which we have been doing remarkably over the last 22 years plus, but we have to do something down in Union Island.”
He noted that East St. George is the only constituency in the country that does not have a secondary school so the government wants to build one in Brighton.
“Then a lot of health facilities. In addition to the $6 million I was talking about in the first tranche, we want to construct a polyclinic in Calliaqua on the site where the Calliaqua clinic is.
“We have to do the reconstruction of the Byera Health Centre. We want to do one down in Paget Farm and we want to build one up in Redemption Sharpes. I’d given that promise in the Parliament.”
Earlier this year, Parliament approved the borrowing of US$16 million from the SFD. Gonsalves said US$6 million of that amount will be spent in the healthcare sector.
“A centrepiece of that is a modern health centre which we will construct in South Rivers and we will do some repairs with some monies out of that US$6 million because the US$6 million is more than for South Rivers — to do things like in Colonarie and Park Hill and Diamond and so on.”
The other US$10 million is for “cultural, artistic hubs, including lots of physical facilities, including a place for a national orchestra, for dance, for a recording studio, for theatre and so on and so forth”.
The prime minister said that some of the US$50 million will go to sporting facilities, “including something at Stubbs to strengthen that and also improve there but also, very importantly, out at Diamond — the further development there at Diamond and some other money is in relation to some community building facilities”.
He said that the government will put in an additional US$7-8 million of its own money.
“So, you’re talking about a number 57, 58 million dollars US, which is a big number in addition to the first 16.”
The prime minister said the US$66 million has been approved at the level of the credit committee of the SFD.
“And within the next couple of weeks, they will be approved at the executive board of the Saudi Fund and they will come here with the agreements, hopefully early in December, that we can sign them and then we take them to Parliament shortly thereafter. And once that happens, we get going,” Gonsalves said.
He noted that Saudi Arabia also has investment funds, adding “and we go into that source also and do work with them and with the private sector”.
The prime minister said he had “a good session” with the Saudi minister and vice minister for investment.
“And there was a session also with companies introducing themselves to us and the major projects from an investment standpoint now, not the state borrowing money to do government projects.
“But a project like another cruise ship [berth], a modern one, which could accommodate larger vessels where the old port is located … and with attendant facilities including cultural and sporting facilities, indoor.”
Gonsalves said his government wants to have a private-public partnership in this regard.
“We have a lot of land there — valuable land and also to link with the [proposed] tunnel underneath Cane Garden Point and towards the modern city at Arnos Vale, where the anchor project, as we intend it, the $270 million-dollar acute referral hospital which, should begin sometime hopefully by February or thereabouts.”
The prime minister said his government has intended for construction to begin this year on the acute referral hospital.
The problem with the acute referral hospital funding, we have to match two sets of funds,” he said, noting that more than 60% of it will come from the world bank at 1% interest over 45 years.
Then, there is a further 30-plus per cent funding through the OPEC Fund for International Development.
He said that while this is a soft loan, it is “not as generous” as the World Bank.
“And I tell you this, to have two sets of funding entities and each of them have its own set of rules and sometimes to reconcile them is time consuming,” the Gonsalves said.
“You know and when you think you over the hump with one, there’s something else which arises. But we’re now over all of these things and we’re on our way.”