The prime minister formally signed agreements for the $70.8 million highway project with two China State Companies – the China Export Import Bank and the China Construction Company – on Thursday, September 30, 2010.
The government decided to give a contract to a foreign state-owned construction company to build some seven miles of highway from the airport to the roundabout at Farrington Road, Thompson Blvd, and JFK Drive at some $71 million after passing a resolution in the House of Assembly the day before to borrow $58 million from the foreign stateowned Export-Import Bank of China. I have tried to understand what citizens of The Bahamas were getting for our investment of $10,000,000 (ten million dollars) per mile of road.
Minister Zhivargo Laing said during the debate on the government’s resolution for the loan from the Chinese Export-Import Bank in the House of Assembly that the government had to use the Chinese state-owned China Construction company to build the road because we are borrowing $58,000,000 from the Chinese government-owned bank at a very low interest rate.
In the House of Assembly and at the subsequent press conference for the contract signing, a lot of colorful renderings were shown.
I went to the government’s website and the works and transport ministry’s website in search of the airport highway description, in the hope that I could begin to fathom why seven miles of a four-lane highway with utilities being placed underground, government acquired private land (I presume), and, landscaping along the highway, should cost $10,000,000 per mile.
The government has not yet put the information online. In the absence of information to the contrary, I concluded that the same road contractors hired by the government to build the road are the people who designed the road and calculated the cost of the works to be done. There has been no competitive bid on this massive expenditure. How does the Bahamian taxpayer know that she or he is getting value for money?
If we are overpaying to build the road then the low interest rate has no real value. Maybe Minister Laing would kindly explain this.
Further, even if the work that is to be done really does cost $10,000,000 per mile for a total of $71,000,000, what were the alternatives considered by the government? Do we need to spend $71,000,000 to build seven miles of landscaped roadway from the airport to Farrington Road? How is the Bahamian public to receive benefit for their investment?
I call on those Bahamians with the technical and financial backgrounds to guide us on a full appreciation of this matter to weigh in on the issue.
The government is not supposed to be the overlord but, rather, it should be the servant of the people, answerable to the people.
By: Philip ‘Brave’ Davis