Friday, 23 March 2012 02:30
By Colin Sampson
Antigua St John's - Opposition Member of Parliament Eustace “Teco” Lake has warned that Antigua & Barbuda may be undergoing a process of “recolonisation” by the Peoples Republic of China (PRC).
The MP sees danger in the policy currently being pursued by the incumbent United Progressive Party (UPP), of seeking grant and loan assistance from the PRC for a growing list of public projects.
He noted that these projects do nothing to stimulate the local economy, or to generate employment for Antiguan & Barbudan workers, while at the same time they serve to reinforce the nation’s state of dependency on the PRC.
The Antigua Labour Party (ALP) politician charged that the growing list of PRC-sponsored projects represents the UPP government’s only tangible achievements during their eight years in office. He observed that without these PRC-financed infrastructural initiatives, the UPP would have nothing to show for its stewardship thus far.
The fallout from this unhappy state of affairs, suggested MP Lake, is that in the international arena, Antigua & Barbuda risks becoming a mere appendage of PRC foreign policy.
In this connection, Lake made note of the stalwart support Antigua & Barbuda supplies to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who has provided budgetary and other assistance to Antigua & Barbuda.
The Member of Parliament made his observations on the Colin Sampson Show. Readers can visit the Caribarena.com video archive
to hear highlights from the conversation.
In pursuit of his arguments, Lake pointed to the 71-acre housing development in progress at Montero, near Ebenezer village. The MP argued that a “gated community” where a property described as “low income” will boast three bedrooms, two bathrooms and sell for $250,000 cannot possibly be designed for the local market.
The MP referenced two earlier much-ballyhooed housing developments. The first, at Follies, is financed by Colombian capital and built with imported Colombian labour. The other, at North Sound, employs Venezuelan capital and imported Venezuelan workers.
These developments, said lands and housing Minister Hilson Baptiste, are intended for “medium income” workers as civil servants, police officers, and teachers.
Lake said despite pronouncements of optimism and significant demand for these houses, only one has been purchased to date. The generally accepted reason for this lack of interest is the cost of the properties at Follies and North Sound.
Government workers are unable to afford the homes, while people having the resources to purchase land would prefer to build their own.
Against that background, the MP suggested that the 200 or more properties to be built at Montero are actually intended for Chinese homeowners. He believes that the relative silence of the lands and housing minister to date reflects an awareness of the true intent of the Chinese developers.
Turning his attention to the PRC-supplied Wadadli Power Plant, the representative for St John's Rural South strongly expresses his view that Antigua & Barbuda did not get value for money on the deal. He reported that informed persons perusing available photographs of the plant suggest that the engines are in the region of 20 years old.
In addition, Lake said information reaching him from inside the Antigua & Barbuda Public Utilities Authority (APUA) indicated that one of the generator sets has been out of service since November, and is in need of replacement parts. If this is shown to be the case, the MP said, the generator sets cannot possibly be new.
The member for St John's Rural South nevertheless posits that, since APUA engineers signed off on the project at every stage, Antigua & Barbuda is stuck with the deal, unpalatable as it is.
He believed, however, that the APUA engineers acted under some duress, having been pressured by superiors, political and otherwise, to go along with whatever the PRC officials presented to them.