Minister for Communications and Works, Gregory Bowen has accused the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) of being elated over the decision of Australia to withdraw funding for the construction of a new Parliament building for Grenada.
Addressing Tuesday’s Post-Cabinet press briefing, the senior Government Minister told the media that he cannot understand “why we in Grenada in particular, not the region, but we in Grenada will be elated and happy and joyous, and glad that Grenada would have lost the US$4 million financing” from the Australian government.
He said it is apparent that former government ministers of the 2008-2013 Congress administration are happy about Grenada’s loss and will always put a spin on it by seeking to blame some kind of malfunctioning of the NNP regime that caused the Australian Government to rescind its offer.
“They’re not saying that Grenada now would have lost $4 million and irrespective what the cause would have been, we must all be sad because Grenada is loosing,” he remarked.
The NDC has dropped hints that Australia might have backed out of the programme over the failure of the Mitchell government to allow former Chief Technical Officer (CTO) in the Ministry of Works, Cecil Harris to remain and supervise the Parliament project.
Speculation is rife that the Australian funding agency had made direct approaches to Harris to manage the construction of the multi-million dollar Parliament building.
Minister Bowen made it clear that the one-year old NNP administration will proceed with plans to construct a state-of-the-art modern parliament building because it was necessary and should not be seen as an NNP thing.
He said the administration has already approached friendly Governments in the Middle East and Europe to provide the US$4 million pulled from the project by the Australians.
He indicated that his administration together with Caribbean Office of Co-operative Architecture (COCOA) were finalising plans to begin the project when they received Australia’s notice of withdrawal of funding as part of Canberra’s plans to cut grant aid funding from US$5 Billion to US$4 Billion.
Minister Bowen noted that the Australia Government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott took the decision as part of its promise in opposition to focus attention more on the region around them and while Grenada is not happy with the decision they understand his reasoning.
During the 2009 Commonwealth Heads of Government summit in neighbouring Trinidad & Tobago, former Australia Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had pledged $5 million Australian towards the Parliament building project to then Prime Minister Tillman Thomas.
THE NEW TODAY understand that $1 million was already spent on the design of the facility.
Minister Bowen was asked to comment on reports that Grenada’s delay in starting the project is partly responsible for Australia’s decision to renege on the deal.
He explained that Australia had strict rules that prevented Grenada from starting the project.
“Australia made it abundantly clear that we should not move to any further mode past design stage, that means we should not go to tender until, we have the full US$11 million”, he said.
The facility was to be constructed at a cost of US$11 million.
Former Prime Minister Thomas told this newspaper that Australia played a critical role in getting the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to join them in agreeing to finance the Grenada Parliament.
According to Minister Bowen, when the NNP administration came back into office in 2013, it sought the outstanding funding for the building and received the additional US$2 million from the UAE.
The senior government minister brushed aside the possibility of government redirecting the UAE funding to repair the ruined Parliament building at York House saying that the entire structure of that building needs to be demolished.
Grenada’s original Parliament building in the town of St George remains in ruins with trees now growing from the dilapidated structure, nine years after Hurricane Ivan demolished the building in September 2004.
The Grenada Trade Centre at Morne Rouge is being used to facilitate sittings of Parliament.