Minister of Social Development, Delma Thomas said work is nearing completion on over 300 units in Frequente, Soubise and Mt Gay under a housing project funded by the Chinese government.
Speaking to reporters at a post-Cabinet press briefing held at the Ministerial Complex in the Botanical Gardens, the female government minister disclosed that the official handing over to government is expected to be done at the end of this month.
She said the Chinese are 99.9% complete with what they are expected to do and it is now up to government to engage NAWASA and GRENLEC to put in the water and electricity services in the units.
According to the Minister, there were setbacks to the projects, which prevented the official hand over planned for July.
“When we came in (power in) 2013 we realised that the houses were just standing there and we needed over three point something million dollars to complete that work so what we did – we engage the Chinese government knowing the economic situation(facing Grenada), asking them if they can please assist us because of the present financial implication for government”, she said.
“…We didn’t have the money at the time and it took some time (but) yes they agreed to do it but the whole process took more than six to eight months to really get them to come”, she added.
According to the senior government minister, even when the contract was awarded for the additional work to be done on the project there were still delays.
“…When they awarded the contract, there were many delays because when the Contractors came, they realised that the material that they came from China with, it wasn’t what we were using in Grenada, it didn’t meet our standards so this created (another) delay,” she explained.
In addition, the Minister said there were additional infrastructural work to be done like erecting back walls and roads to be built.
Minister Thomas said as it stands now, the Beijing Construction company that was awarded the contract is awaiting a delegation from China to approve the work they have done before the project is handed over to the Government of Grenada.
She also used the occasion of the press briefing to appeal to residents in the area to refrain from vandalising the houses.
“Your actions are embarrassing us as a country and it can only hurt not only our relationship but future chances of assistance from not only the Chinese government but other governments who are looking …”, she said.
“We have Grenadians who are going to the sites, stealing some of the materials and vandalising the buildings. We are calling on the entire population to be vigilant, to look out and to ensure that you report any irregularities to the police …”, she added.
“…We are asking persons outside there if you have any information on persons who have taken the material from the site in Soubise, please report (that) to the nearest police station.
Minister Thomas, the Member of Parliament for St. Andrew North-west indicated that even when the Chinese hand over the houses, it will take some time before they are handed out to the people because some short listing will have to be done.
“There are over 4000 applicants which will have to be sorted because when you look at the applicants there are some persons who maybe applied five years ago but subsequently bought land and build houses elsewhere so we would have to shortlist and distribute, maybe the two St George’s area.
“…St Andrew is a little different in that the people on the seafront will be given priority and the Moon Shadow persons who were given temporary arrangements in Dunfermline will be given priority and the extra ones will be given to needy persons who are looking for housing arrangements.
Meanwhile, the Minister also announced that the Juvenile Justice Reform Centre will be officially opened sometime during the first quarter of 2015 as the Department of Public Administration (DPA) is still sorting out the staffing.
The Juvenile Justice Reform Centre, located at Mamma Cannes, St Andrew, will serve as the temporary home for offenders who are too young to be sent to the Richmond Hill prison.
Apart from staffing, Minister Thomas said there are still some finishing touches to be done on the building.
“So there are some additional security work to be done around the building so that is the additional work that will be done within the next couple of weeks and at present, DPA and the ministry is putting the task together.
“…We anticipated that we are going to start before 2015 but because staff have to be trained (for) a period of time, we realise that we have to open that center within the first quarter of next year.
“…So while the center is completed and we are recruiting staff, we are working along with the Ministry of Education for teachers, we are (also) getting Counselors.
According to the Minister, the training will run a course of about three months to get the staffers fully ready.