Prime Minister Freundel Stuart says job number one remains jobs for his ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP).
And with the economy currently tottering at 0.5 per cent growth, the Prime Minister and other senior Government officials today met for a total of six hours with a focus on the economy –– in particular more than a billion dollars worth of projects –– that could generate much needed economic growth.
Emerging this afternoon from the project review meeting of Cabinet Ministers and senior public servants at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Stuart did not discuss any specific job numbers, but he told Barbados TODAY he was generally satisfied that Government’s capital works programme remains on track.
“Obviously, we connect project implementation with growth in the economy and the generation of jobs; therefore it is important that we monitor what is happening to ensure that we achieve the objectives which we are setting for ourselves. So the various ministries reported and we got a sense of how we are doing project execution-wise,” he said.
In the context of ongoing economic constraints, the Prime Minister also said he was “comfortable” that the various ministries within his Government were doing their best to ensure that outstanding projects were executed “with the requisite dispatch and without any unnecessary impediments”.
He noted though, that many start-ups were not without challenges. In fact, he pointed out that some pre-dated the current DLP administration, which took office in 2008.
“From the time we came into Government we found departments asking for extensions, asking international lending institutions for extensions because of preconditions that have had to be met that are not always met, because of other constraints within ministries or sometimes a lack of inter-ministerial collaboration, but generally speaking I think we are on target,” said Stuart, who chaired today’s meeting.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Infrastructure Committee of Cabinet, Dr David Estwick, revealed that major projects earmarked under his Ministry of Water Resource Management and totalling about $1.4 billion were progressing well.
“I think coming out of today’s meeting was generally good progress in regards to where a lot of the projects are, implementation process and so on.
“I was very happy and pleased to report in regards to the Barbados Water Authority’s (BWA) progress,” said Estwick, while reporting that of six projects under consideration, “significant progress” had been made overall.
The first project, the BWA’s state-of-the- art Pine Headquarters, was the first to be completed at a cost of $65 million and will be officially opened in ten days.
The three main ionics water system, which runs from the Belle, St Michael to the Bussa Roundabout; from Fort George to Searles, Christ Church and from Brittons Hill, St Michael to Providence, Christ Church has also been completed.
Estwick also revealed that the St Philip water augmentation programme should be completed in two weeks.
A fourth venture, the Inter-American Development Bank-funded water and sanitation upgrade programme is to be completed next month at a cost of $140 million, the Minister added.
“Part A has been completed and Part B is now being done all around Barbados . . . and then we are talking about the West Coast Sewerage Project and we are now working through the Ministry of Finance to make sure we can get that funding arranged from the Chinese Government.
“I am quite pleased that the management of the Barbados Water Authority and obviously in working relationship with the unions and the Ministry of Finance and other partners and other ministries, we have been very successful.”
Estwick further disclosed that over 70,000 metres had been changed under the $40 million Smart Meter Project, which targets 110,000 homes.
“So we talking about significant investment and significant job opportunities that would have been created across Barbados. So I am happy that at least in terms of being able to keep people employed, we will be able to hold the number of persons under the Smart Meter Project under the IDB water and sanitation,” added Estwick.
The Minister of Water Resource Management also reported on the US$600 million West Coast Sewerage Project, which is to be funded by China.
“The objective here is that, I understand the stress of the Ministry of Finance, they don’t want to have large loans bunching and creating additional strain on the debt to GDP ratio and international credit rating; sovereign ratings and so on. So they have a challenge to work that out considering we would have just gone through Parliament for the funding for the Sam Lord’s Castle project,” the Cabinet Minister pointed out.
“We have to be able to manage these projects very, very carefully and to ensure that whichever projects we bring onboard, that the project has a component to generate its own revenue to take that pressure off the budget of the State,” emphasized Estwick.