Major infrastructural works are set to begin in the Scotland District soon.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley on Friday signed a framework agreement paving the way for a $230 million concessional loan from the EXIM Bank of China to fund the rehabilitation of 224 kilometres of road. A total of 56 roads will be improved.
During a brief signing ceremony with China’s Ambassador to Barbados Yan Xiusheng, at IIaro Court, Prime Minister Mottley said the loan will be repaid at an interest rate of two per cent which she indicated is highly concessional, because “if we went to market, we would be repaying a lot more for the money that we are borrowing”.
She said the government of China has agreed to subsidise the difference between the two per cent interest rate and the market rate which is somewhere between 4.5 and 5 per cent.
“Our calculations would tell you that when you look at that amount over the period of 20 years, you’re effectively looking at $85 million in subsidy or the equivalent of $42.5 million US dollars. And, therefore, we want, on behalf of the people of Barbados and the Government of Barbados, to thank the people and government of the People’s Republic of China for so graciously agreeing to provide that subsidy, while allowing us then to service the two per cent interest on the US$115 million which is, by far, a smaller amount when you look at the market rates,” she said.
The Prime Minister said it is critical for her administration to follow through with the Scotland District Road Rehabilitation Project, although the country remains in an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, is managing a COVID-19 pandemic, and some citizens are still recovering from the losses sustained from Hurricane Elsa and the freak storm last year.
Mottley said when the slippage in the Scotland District – which covers a seventh of Barbados’ landmass – started more than a decade ago, it was not contained, leading to the rate of erosion worsening. She said a major tour operator had even stopped sending buses on the East Coast because of the poor conditions of the road infrastructure.
She said the project is therefore critical to the stability of a large part of the country and to those who live in the eastern parishes, particularly St Thomas, and parts of St Lucy and St Peter.
“We continue to have to shore up a large part of that part of the island. That’s why you see the Government embarked two years ago on a gabion construction and stabilisation programme, because we know well that the gabions work and that they allow us, therefore, to be able to try to stabilise as much as we can.
“But… we believe that over the course of the next few years, over the life of this project, we will do much to stabilise the Scotland District,” she said.
The Prime Minister also reiterated the Government’s intention to, as soon as possible, get the Scotland District Authority up to and running to stabilise the lives and livelihoods of the people living in the area.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Xiusheng, who expressed China’s eagerness to continue bilateral relations with Barbados, announced that a construction contractor for the Centre for Food Security and Entrepreneurship project and the Hope Agriculture Training Institute project has been selected, and the advance group is already in Barbados for the field preparation.
The Chinese diplomat said the Implementation Plan for Agricultural Cooperation between Hunan Province and Barbados’ Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Nutritional Security has been forwarded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade for review, adding that the Protocol on Sending Chinese Medical Teams to Barbados is on the waiting list for signing. [email protected]