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A work crew repairs a section of the Mandela Highway in Gibson Corner on Feb. 2, 2024.
A work crew repairs a section of the Mandela Highway in Gibson Corner on Feb. 2, 2024.
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Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves says that the road repairs being done across the country is not for the benefit of people arriving for the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

He told Parliament on Thursday that each year’s budget contains money for road repairs and there are additional resources for road repairs around St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) this year.

“It is inappropriate to suggest that those form part of the CELAC bill any more than the road being repaired in Calliaqua form part of the CELAC bill or the roads being repaired in Fair Hall form part of the CELAC bill, or the roads being repaired in the Marriaqua Valley form part of the CELAC bill. So, I think that it would be disingenuous to suggest that it is for the CELAC benefit,” he told Parliament.

SVG will next week Friday, March 1, host the Eight Summit of Heads of state and governments of CELAC at Sandals Beaches Resort in Buccament Bay.

There has been extensive patching of road, and cleaning of the roadside, including the pruning of overhanging trees ahead of the summit.

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Responding to questions in Parliament, Gonsalves told Leacock that SVG does not benefit financially from its membership of CELAC, noting that the regional bloc does not give grants or loans to its member countries.

$1.5 million allocated to CELAC presidency

Gonsalves said the 2024 budget includes a capital allocation of EC$1.5 million under the heading “pro tempore president of Community for Latin American and Caribbean States”.

“The note for that allocation states ‘to facilitate secretarial duties for the pro tempore Presidency of the community for Latin American and Caribbean States CELAC including the recruitment of translators and purchase of equipment,” the finance minister told Parliament.

“That equipment includes, among other things, vehicles that will have utility well beyond the conclusion of the summit. We are grateful to the Sandals Resort where the event will be hosted for agreeing to host this summit even before their official opening date.

“We’re also grateful for their commitment to host certain ceremonies and social events at their expense as part of the summit event,” Gonsalves said.

Camillo Gonsalves
Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024.

Gonsalves, a former permanent representative of SVG to the United Nations, said the “benefits of investments in foreign policy, in leadership, in vision and in advocacy cannot be placed on a balance sheet as cost here, profit here”.

He said that interrelationships between and among foreign policy initiatives are complex and cross cutting “and often result in benefits that it would be inappropriate for us to draw causal relations to one thing to the other”.

The finance minister noted that SVG is a small country with 110,000 people.

He pointed out that in recent years, SVG has become the smallest country to be president of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, to be on the United Nations Security Council and the smallest country and the only Caribbean country to be the president of CELAC.

“We maintain those positions over annually one position after the other, which has kept St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the global spotlight and given us unprecedented access to the movers and shakers of the global order.

“The benefits that we have attained and achieved are apparent to those willing to take the time to look because there is a correlation between our own activism and some of the advancements that we have enjoyed in recent years, but it is not our place to put a cost-benefit analysis of that nature on those investments.”

He said his government is well satisfied that the money invested in leadership, in advocacy and in shaping the global agenda is money well spent in the interest of the humanisation of the people of SVG.

$1.7 million for road to resort not part of summit bill

The minister said the government budgeted EC$1.7 million to pave the road from Duncan’s Furniture in Pembroke to the door of Sandals resort.

He, however, said this was done as part of a commitment made “unrelated to CELAC and that is part of our commitment made as part of our agreement with the Sandals Resort that if they’re building this resort down here, the government must build a road to the place and that that is being funded by a grant by the Taiwanese government”.

Benefits are in-kind rather than cash?

St. Clair Leacock 3
MP for Central Kingstown, St. Clair Leacock speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024.

But Leacock, in a supplementary question, said:

“Am I correctly interpreting our benefits from the CELAC membership are fundamentally of and in kind as against cash nature, and in that regard, that our costs to the facilitation of this very important meeting in another few days is contained in that $1.4 million not to include all those works seemingly related to repairs, fixing of verges, hedges and ancillary work and they are all in $1.4 million?”

Gonsalves told Parliament that BRAGSA, the state agency responsible for road repair is free “to rearrange its road repair schedule to facilitate this or that pothole on route from the airport to CELAC.

“It is something that is done — whenever you invite somebody to your house you make sure that your house is in good shape before you invite them in your house.

“It is not accidental but I’m saying that it is part and parcel of what was announced as a road project. So, I don’t think that — certainly those repairs that you were mentioning are not part of the $1.5 million,” Gonsalves said.

“What is part of the $1.5 million is equipment, hosting costs, transportation — we’re going to have over 350 people coming in, we’re going to have to move them from point A to point B including the purchase of some vehicles; some assistance to our security service.”

Road cleaning
There has been extensive road cleaning, including the pruning of trees along the roadsides in recent weeks.

Enhancements to police to protect leaders

He said that with about 25 presidents and prime ministers in this country at once, the police will require some enhancements to security equipment.

Enhancements that we don’t need to discuss in an open forum, but have been procured to ensure the safety and security of some of these very important world leaders who will be visiting St. Vincent and the Grenadines and to represent the assurances that we give to them that they will be well taken care of,” Gonsalves said.

He said the additional benefit of some of that security equipment is that it will also be useful and beneficial when SVG host matches in the T20 Cricket World Cup this year.

 “…  and we are going to anticipate multiple visitors to our shores and the need for heightened security in some cases,” he said.

One reply on “Road repairs not for benefit of CELAC summit – Camillo”

  1. Amazing how they can conveniently miss a massive hole road over the drain on the buccament main just before the clinic, but then again who cares

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