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Udecott programme
…some implications

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 of concern.

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.

Infrastructure 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 possible.

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.

Commercial schemes 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 investment decision

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 our money.

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.

The burning questions are:

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?

This situation presents an opportunity to get to grips with critical aspects of national development.

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 time.

Afra Raymond is a director of Raymond & Pierre Limited. Feedback can be directed to afra@raymondandpierre.com.

Afra Raymond - Property Matters

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 time.