Published Thursday 12th June, 2008
TWO weeks ago this
column set out to distinguish itself from the procurement aspects of the
Udecott controversy and to lay out what to us are more important areas
We need to
understand what Udecott is doing and why before we can enquire into how
they are performing their work. Without that prior understanding we will
not be able to curb the outbreak of “project fever” which seems to have
this place in grip.
There needs to be
a clear distinction between public schemes, infrastructure and
commercial schemes. Let us begin by saying that public schemes create
“public goods”—these are critical to the creation of good-quality urban
spaces and would include libraries, parks and public area like the Brian
Lara Promenade, theatres and schools.
would include items we take for granted such as telephone, water and
electricity capacity, roads and transportation hubs such as City Gate.
The infrastructural projects can be described as enabling works since
they enable a wider range of activities than would formerly have been
An ongoing example
of this is the large-scale State investment being made in Wallerfield to
prepare the area for UTT and the Tamana Techno Park.
would normally be built by the private sector and includes office
buildings and shopping centres.
The bulk of
Udecott’s schemes are commercial—offices to house civil servants—and
that is where we can begin probing profitably, or not, as we will see.
The key question
here is the process by which the investment decision is taken. Public
money is being committed to these ambitious projects and we need a
proper account of how that is being done.
The Prime Minister
has repeatedly said that “we have nothing to hide” and we proceed by
accepting that statement at face value. We are also repeatedly told that
this government is being criticised by uninformed people, but the State
is holding the information we need to understand what is happening with
We need to develop
a clear understanding of how public projects are conceived, ranked and
selected for implementation. Only when that has been established can we
begin to assess Udecott’s role in all this.
n How was the
present wave of projects conceived?
n Was there a
process to rank these and assign some sort of priority?
n Is there a
threshold for implementation of state-sponsored commercial projects? If
so, what is it?
presents an opportunity to get to grips with critical aspects of
With the advent of
peak oil and the sharp increases in our energy revenues, there is more
than ever the peril that the “money is no problem” attitude could
eclipse sound judgement.
Some say it
already has. As we concluded our Republic Day column on September 27
“One cannot help wondering if another country, with less resources,
would be as careless as we are. It might seem a bizarre reversal of Dr
Eric William’s 1976 statement but, in our case, it is probably true that
money is the problem.”
When one adds in
the increased majority of the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM)
after November’s election and the division in the opposition ranks, it
is a salutary moment for us all to pause and reflect. It would be a pity
if we were to get dragged into a swarm of ole talk and commess at this
Afra Raymond is a
director of Raymond & Pierre Limited. Feedback can be directed to email@example.com.