Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler today made a passionate and spirited defence of Government’s handling of the controversial Cahill Energy plasma gasification project, insisting that it was not done in secret.
Responding to Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) charges during debate in Parliament that the deal lacked transparency, Sinckler maintained that the necessary investigations were carried out before a contract was signed with the Canadian company.
He assured parliamentarians that research was done to determine if Cahill’s claims about the technological capabilities of the scheme were “accurate or near accurate”, whether or not it is safe “or relatively safe” and whether or not it was affordable.
“And I say to this Parliament today, from the best of my knowledge and from my involvement, all three of those basic principles were examined and found to be in the positive or plus column,” Sinckler insisted during debate on a resolution to acquire 27.1 acres of land in Vaucluse, St Thomas for the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA). The BLP has contended that the land is for the $700 million waste-to-energy plant to be constructed in the same district.
The minister accused the opposition of giving Barbadians the wrong impression about the project, and said there was no truth to rumours that the agreement had been shrouded in secrecy. In fact, Sinckler said he spoke about the project during last year’s Estimates debate.
“I have watched this debate about Cahill go all over the place. It has gone from a blatant accusation that four Ministers entered into some secret deal . . . to that we did not tell the country about it and that the country only came to know about it through the leader of the Opposition.
“During the Estimates debate, I said in this Parliament that the Government of Barbados was in negotiations and had concluded preliminary negotiations for the possible investment of US$350 million in a plant to do plasma gasification
waste-to-energy in Barbados,” Sinckler emphatically stated.
“Now I don’t know how it is that it can be claimed more than a year later that this administration was hiding something from anybody, when I got up in this Parliament and alerted the Parliament.”
Sinckler argued that while much fuss was also being made surrounding the concessions being given to Cahill, those concessions were not exclusive to the Canadian company.
He said Sandals resort, among others were also granted similar waivers.
“You would get the impression that we are giving Cahill more concessions that we have ever given to anyone else in the history of Barbados,” he lamented.
“The same argument was brought against Sandals, because they didn’t want the Sandals investment either…but now that investment has been made, the property has been built, the workers are there, the investment is coming in, the foreign exchange is being earned, we aren’t hearing anything about that.”
The BLP and critics of the proposed project have repeatedly called on the Freundel Stuart administration to release the details of the memorandum of understanding with the Guernsey-based company to the public.
Stuart has said that no decision had been taken on the plant, insisting that Barbadians ought not be alarmed. Speaking at the monthly meeting of the St James South constituency branch of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) last month the Prime Minister promised to engage the public at the appropriate time.
“You are hearing a lot of incoherent noises on this issue. I speak to you tonight as the Prime Minister of Barbados. Do not get worried about it because nothing on this issue is going to happen under the cover of night. Just take it easy.
“We will engage the population and we are not going to take any decisions that are inimical to the best interest of Barbadians. We are not going to take any decisions unless we can say that we have benefited from the best possible advice,” he said at the time.