Government is intent on implementing a new outlook to undertake major road works and repairs on the island and seeks to assure the public that more road projects will be completed efficiently in due course.
According to Prime Minister Philip J Pierre, the road works will be done in phases so as to facilitate an efficient and productive implementation of the tasks.
He said the delays and tardiness to implement proposed road works along the Gros Islet Highway is a matter of grave concern, since this has resulted in lots of “unproductivity” in the vicinity of that location.
On another note, referring specifically to road works along the Millennium Highway, the prime minister recalled that he recently traversed through that area and there was some semblance of works being carried out on that stretch of road.
“The first level of resurfacing has been done on that road, and I expect to have a delegation from the Caribbean Development Bank (here) early next week for discussion,” he told reporters, at Monday’s media briefing.
PM Pierre recalled that a few months ago while visiting the site, he laid out some conditions and the contractors were given a “six-week deadline” to complete the task, which was due to be finished by this week.
“I noticed that something has happened, but I would like them to be more progressive,” he stressed. The prime minister stated that he will await the CDB delegation’s report to provide further updates on this development.
He expects the contractors on the Millennium Highway project to move at a greater pace “going forward, because something is happening”.
Pierre said that though some parts of the road has been resurfaced, nevertheless, “I’m not very happy with them, I told them so and we will ensure that the people of Saint Lucia…albeit, all being grant funds, but still the confidence of the donor agency must be maintained.
“So, we are working with them and hopefully when I get the update, next week, I will be able to provide further information.”
Speaking to the Gros Islet Highway project, he said, the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) administration has undoubtedly stated its position on that issue.
“We left government in 2016 with complete approval and loan financing for the completion of the Gros Islet Highway from Choc to Gros Islet …complete funding in place, loan in place, and everything in place,” noted Pierre. “The government changed in 2016, and plans were aborted…in favour of doing the road in pieces by Direct Award. The previous arrangement was a contranatural arrangement that had to go to Public and International Tender, (but) that was aborted.”
He said that when the SLP administration returned to power in 2021, “we decided that we are not at this time continuing with the project between Rodney Bay and Gros Islet because we thought to spend between $15 and $20 million on less than a mile-road with no plan was not a situation we could have tolerated, so we stopped it.”
Consequently, disclosed PM Pierre, government has taken up discussions with Kuwait officials “to go back to the original plan”.
The prime minister said, a statement will be released shortly, detailing “the extension of the road between Choc and Marisule that should be funded by the Kuwaitis. With the other section of road, we are seeking further finance either from OPIC or from the Caribbean Development Bank.”
He added that, the CDB has agreed to asses the matter “because the productive time that is lost on this highway is causing a strain on the productivity of the country.”
Pierre says no reason was given for the stoppage of the initially proposed road works “for a road that had been funded …the funding was there”.
He recalled that funding had also been approved for repairs to the “secondary roads and the agricultural roads …what happened is the tender for the secondary roads was out (advertised), and what that meant is that the secondary roads would have been completed and then the main highway done.”
He explained that former prime minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, during his tenure, at the time ,was not satisfied with the tender process for the secondary roads, and so, he sent it “to re-tender”, which coincidentally was due for Election Day, sometime in June 2011 and so “that never happened”.
Referring to the United Workers Party (UWP) regime, Pierre said, when the next administration took office, in 2016, “they stopped it, they cancelled the loan …the same way (that) they cancelled the loan for LED lights that had been approved by the CDB. So, they had to start afresh and decided that they would spend (funds) and fix the road in parts, and the Rodney Bay section would have cost between $15 and $20 million for less than a mile road…and so, we stopped it.”
Taking into context the urgency of the matter and restructuring phases to be implemented, Pierre added: “We hope that with what we have in place, we should start from Choc to Mariusle in a short time. Regarding the rest of the road, very soon you (public) are going to see improvements on the road surface in Saint Lucia…and next year will be the Year for Infrastructure.”
The prime minister asserted: “So, rest assured …the roads will improve in a sustainable way…and it will not be ‘Election Roads’ but roads (usable) for the people of the country.”