Government's housing deal with Chinese construction company, Gezhouba Group International Engineering Co Ltd (CGGC) may have been scrapped but the former president of the Joint Consultative Council (JCC) Afra Raymond believes bigger deals may be in the making.
Speaking on The Morning Brew, Raymond said he was surprised when government cancelled the contract in which government granted unprecedented incentives and benefits to CGGC.
Raymond said, "I was surprised. We have had large scale contracts being cancelled and pulled back but it is a very rare occurrence. There are tremendous costs associated with pulling that back. I wouldn’t be surprised at this point considering that the contract is legal and valid according to the HDC if the CGCC wouldn’t have a sound claim for loss of profit."
Saying the costs of the homes were not affordable, Raymond explained that the average householder in T&T worked between $9,000 to $10,000 and could not afford a house worth $1.1 million.
He noted that public pressure caused the collapse of the project.
"What happened was that in the last two weeks there were a number of exposes on it. Last week I had a story and details of the contract started to be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act and details of the contract came to be known. It was favourable to the Chinese. The rate for square foot is 35 per cent higher and the housing units were 20 per cent smaller. There was the 100 per cent guarantee for the start of the construction and a 10 per cent mobilization fee. Two sites were to be provided for housing for 600 workers. There were tax holidays, no Vat and no corporation tax," Raymond added.
He admitted that the contract was highly unusual.
"It is the only contract that I have seen with all of this," he revealed.
Raymond said there was no tendering for the project noting that there are local contractors who were quite capable of building the houses.
He noted that the contract could have emanated from a government to governmental arrangement.
Asked what could be the outcome of the cancellation of the contract, Raymond said, "The Chinese may not file a lawsuit. There could be bigger deals coming."
Saying the Chinese seem to have been advancing their interest, Raymond questioned why the government was not advancing the interest of the people of T&T.
The contract was signed in May of this year and in the first phase the Chinese contractor, CGGC, was expected to construct 204 two and three-bedroom apartment units in South Quay, Port of Spain and 235 similar units at Lady Hailes Avenue in San Fernando.
HDC's website said CGGC would be responsible for the financing, design, procurement and construction of the housing blocks and the associated infrastructure for these developments. The first phase of the project, which will span two years, is estimated to cost $USD 71, 739,411.00.” However,
Raymond said based on the information obtained taxpayers would have financed 100 per cent of the project.
- by Radhica De Silva