A debate has ensued on the sister isle of Carriacou and Petite Martinique with regards to job creation for locals, especially, with projects brought to the tri-island state by the Chinese government.
According to young politician Tevin Andrew, contractors and labourers on the sister isles are not benefiting from the projects that the Chinese are bringing to the island and are being deprived of the many architectural, masonry, plumbing and other related jobs on projects that are contracted to the Chinese.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY last week Wednesday (January 23), Andrews, who failed in his bid in March 2018 to win the constituency of Carriacou and Petite Martinique for the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), said that this is a matter of widespread concern for the people.
He pointed to the recently built Terryl Bay Port at Harvey Vale saying: “For example, they (the Chinese) came to Carriacou, built a port and we (are) just benefiting from the structure of the port.
We borrowed money from Chinato, build a structure and then the Chinese (workmen) come in to build the structure with their own equipment (and) their own labourers.
“So all the monies that we borrowed from China to build this structure, went back to China,” he added.
“And the grievance that I have and I think that the people of the island have, is that we have (local) contractors, people with a wealth of skills that can do the job and even if we need a foreign expert to come in to do the work, then at least some of the main workmen should be the locals” he said.
Andrews contended that the Chinese have not been supporting the local economy through the purchase of material such as sand and cement to use on their work sites.
He said the Chinese brought in all the material during the construction of the Tyrrel Bay port and are now doing the same with the ongoing housing project in Dumfries.
“The island of Carriacou and Petite Martinique has trucks, water trucks and the normal trucks used to pick up sand and gravel…but the Chinese brought their own trucks, including their water trucks, their own gravel, their own sand and all of that, so local truck men haven’t benefited”, he remarked.
“So they brought in all their material and the local people who bring in sand and gravel are not benefiting from that project here in Dumfries, nor have they benefited from the construction of the port (and) our local contractors don’t benefit, because we are not sub-contacted, nor have our labourers benefited from it because they want (to) pay our labourers less than average”, he said.
According to Andrew, “a labourer in Carriacou works for (at least) EC$75.00 to EC$80.00 a day and the Chinese wants to pay them EC$50.00 a day.
“So, that is unacceptable,” he said.
The young politician is of the view that the “Government of Grenada should have a standard where if work is being given to foreigners our people should be the sub-contractors or the main contractors, while the others are the sub-contractors”.
Andrew believes that if the government is serious about economic growth, when a project comes into a local area, it would ensure that the people in the area benefit both financially and economically.
“So, in the case of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, the gravel, sand, blocks and most of the material and the workmen and so on, should come from Carriacou, so (that) we would feel the full weight of the economic progress.
“But with all these construction works going on with the housing scheme and what has happened with the port, we didn’t see anything because all the monies went back to China or elsewhere.
“We have foreigners coming in taking our jobs which we could very well do. We have trained guys who are engineers, architects, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, masons etc, and they are not getting the jobs. So that is the concerns of most of the people on the island.
Andrew suggested that “our people should be getting those high paying jobs worth millions of dollars to put in their pockets and in return they spend those monies back into the economy of Carriacou and Petite Martinique and Grenada”.
“I want to see that when a project of that magnitude, as now in the case of the Dumfries project, the local economy should be supported. Sand and gravel should not be imported from wherever to mix concrete in Dumfries, we should support the local businesses here in Carriacou and Petite Martinique”, he said.
“We already have two (2) companies that import sand and cement,” said Andrews, who expressed the view that “the Chinese have no right to be importing sand and cement again”.
“We are saying that the local economy should be supported here – buy directly from the locals and that is one of the ways in which the island would really benefit and the monies would stay in the pocket of the islanders,” he remarked.
Andrews told THE NEW TODAY, while he is “not attacking the Chinese and does not oppose the Chinese Housing Scheme or oppose the port in Harvey Vale, the fact is that “consultation should have been done with the people of Carriacou and Petite Martinique to find out exactly whether or not a housing scheme would have been the best project for the island”.
“No study was done to find out whether or not our greatest need was a housing project and I believe that before building something like that we should have consulted the people,” he said.
Andrew added that in going through the constituency and chatting with the people in village meetings, “this is a concern that comes over and over – we don’t oppose it but we think consultations should have been held before building it and so we could have given suggestions as to the best way in building it based on the lifestyle of people in Carriacou”.
He pointed out that the locals “don’t want to live in a jammed up place and would prefer their privacy and their liberty, to make their backyard gardens etc”.
THE NEW TODAY was told by an informed source that the Chinese have been operating a block plant in St. David, within close proximity to the La Sagesse Playing Field and has been importing cement from a Chinese company in neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago to make the many blocks needed to construct the various housing projects that are ongoing throughout the island.
“They make their own blocks, cement (and) gravel, they store their own fuel, and everything is stored there. They also have an office in that area…so they import everything from a Chinese company in Trinidad and they bring it here in Grenada and then they distribute it to their different projects,” the source said.
The source, who did not wish to be identified, added that the portion of land in St. David being occupied by the Chinese is at least one (1) acre (43, 560 feet) and it is also where they “plant their own food, and so on”.
In May 2018, the Chinese commenced work on three (3) housing sites, one (1) in Corinth, St. David and the other in Villa, St. Patrick, with the Dumfries housing scheme being the most recent.
There are two (2) other housing projects in the pipeline one (1) in Diamond, St. Mark and the other at Beausejour, St. George.
According to Housing Minister Delma Thomas, this phase of construction is expected to be completed within a three-year period and will see the construction of 647 housing units.