Ian 'Magic' Hughes
Sunday, 25 March 2012 02:30
By Ian Magic Hughes
A schoolmate often told me, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail," and I have proven that to be so true.
Recently, Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer signed two technical co-operation agreements and letters of intent for a number of projects to be undertaken by China in Antigua & Barbuda.
The nation’s chief servant affixed his signature to:
1. Agreement for Economic and Technical Cooperation between the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda for the maintenance of the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium for an amount of 6.4 million RMB.
2. Agreement for Economic and Technical Cooperation between the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda for a grant for the construction of the Five Islands Secondary School for an amount of 30 million RMB.
3. Agreement for Economic and Technical Cooperation between the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda for development projects for the amount of 30 million RMB.
The total of 66.4 million RMB is approximately US$10.5 M, with US$4.7 going toward the building of the FISC, US$1 M for the maintenance of Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, and another US$4.7 unspecified.
What? Is the prime minister serious?
And, is it so much money China has to give away that it can give Antigua & Barbuda almost five million US dollars, no questions asked?
I really don’t get this one. Who decided what these funds will be spent on? Let’s take a closer look at the school.
Perhaps these monies would have been better spent on expanding and improving a number of existing schools. There are still schools short on teachers, while classrooms are overcrowded.
Teachers need to be trained, and one may argue that a proper school for teachers may be more important for the long term than a secondary school. The facilities in this country are deplorable.
Additionally, we need to look at the system of early childhood education, as well as the primary school structure.
Before the prime minister made this arrangement with the Chinese, proper research and assessment should have been carried out. If that was done, I imagine the prime minister would have recognised that a secondary school in his constituency was a priority in education.
The last time I checked, Jacqui Quinn was the minister of Education. Is this her recommendation to the PM?
One million US for the maintenance of the stadium is unbelievable. It’s shameful to think that the Chinese built the stadium and we cannot maintain it.
The stadium was built in 2007, and the maintenance crew is Chinese, who have been here since then. Something is wrong with that picture.
Is the government of China paying for these workers to be in Antigua, or is the government of Antigua & Barbuda footing that bill? If we are footing the bill, then what is the purpose of this arrangement?
Then there is the idea of approximately US$5 M for unidentified projects. What?
Are the people of Antigua & Barbuda asleep?
We are drowning in debt and the bottom of the economy is dropping out, yet the prime minister is accepting monies to do what we know nothing of?
The way this government has been unscrupulous with taxpayers monies, sorry such an arrangement cannot be accepted. The ministry of finance should have a number of priority projects already outlined to be addressed if monies become available.
The prime minister has taken begging the Chinese to a new level. Something is not right here.
And here we go again with the lack of transparency and the real need for accountability - abilities Spencer and the UPP are sincerely void of.
Many families are struggling to pay extremely high utility bills while others are faced with hardships from high unemployment rates.
And amidst all this, the prime minister can accept US$10 M to put into non-priority areas, including unidentified projects?
C’mon Prime Minister, we expected much better from you and your colleagues when you were swept into office on the big blue wave of transparency and accountability.
Remember your mantra, “People First”.