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Approximately $900 million sourced to deal with climate change issues

Approximately $900 million sourced to deal with climate change issues

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The government has sourced approximately $900 million in grants and soft loans to deal with climate change issues, but there are delays in actually receiving the money.

“The problem is this: the funding agencies have several requirements and there are some capacity issues in some of the critical Ministries and these are matters which we are dealing with to improve and increase the level of implementation,” Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said on Tuesday, while speaking at the official opening of the reconstructed Cumberland Bridge project.

The Prime Minister said he met with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) last week to discuss some of the issues and plans are underway to solve the major problems.

“We have to strengthen further the capacity to deal with the implementation and ask some of the agencies to alter some of the rules,” said Gonsalves, who added that in discussions with the CDB, they suggested a number of fixes, including ways to solve issues relating to the tendering process.

“…To save the time, we can massage some the rules, because we can’t keep the same old rules when climate change is unfamiliar. What is happening is unprecedented.”

Money sourced by the government includes approximately EC$400 million from the World Bank, with EC$180 million out of that amount targeted for slope stabilization around Dark View and designs for the piece of road in Coulls Hill, where several persons have gone over an embankment in vehicles.

Gonsalves also said a soft loan of EC$95 million is available to us from the OPEC Fund for International Development, while there is also approximately EC$90 million remaining from the three phases of the Natural Disaster Management Fund, through a loan programme of the CDB.

There is about EC$100 million allocated to build a port in Kingstown and EC$100 million for the geothermal project, which is connected to the issue of climate change.

“We have monies from the Republic of China (ROC) from the European Union and from Japan from the Global Environmental Fund (GEF) and from the Climate Change Centre in Belize; monies have been loaned to them in relation to certain matters in St Vincent and the Grenadines,” revealed Gonsalves.

He said when adding those numbers together, they amount to approximately EC$900 million, but apart from having personnel issues, climate change problems are also creating issues as it relates to allocation of funds.

“Some of the monies we have from the CDB, we can’t spend them. Why? Because the money allocated for projects are too small,” complained the PM.

Explaining the issue, Gonsalves said EC$2.5 million was estimated for addressing the sea defence problem in Sandy Bay, but because of more erosion over a period of time due to climate change events, the engineering estimate now is over EC$9 million.

“…And a compromise has been made that you can have a contractual sum in the region of EC$7.5 million, but EC$7.5 is a long way from EC$2.5, so we have a delegation coming down from CDB to address this question and get an additional loan for that purpose.”

The Prime Minister also spoke about another project in North Central Windward, where an estimate of approximately EC$800,000 was given, but further deterioration due to the weather has taken that initial figure to around EC$3.5 million.

“I want the public to be aware of how climate change alters the dynamic.”

He added that several roads earmarked for repair may have to be placed on the backburner, as other roads have deteriorated worse than the earmarked ones.

“The money we are getting on Thursday, US$1 million, we had roads earmarked for that money, but people can’t cross at the centre of Chateaubelair, so it would not make sense to put that money somewhere where people can cross, even though it is not in a good condition and not where people need relief.”

Back in February, a sales truck overturned in Chateaubelair because of a faulty bridge and the Prime Minister said a completely new bridge must be built and that was not budgeted for.

“It is not wide, but deep. I want people to know that the problem of climate change is real and alters (things),” he reiterated.

In relation to the bridge at Cumberland, the Prime Minister thanked the Government of Mexico for making the bridge a reality.

“This bridge has come about because of friendship and we call it the Mexico/SVG bridge”, commented Gonsalves, who added that Mexico and SVG have had strong relations for many years, dating back to before we became independent in 1979.

“People were saying that we can’t build the bridge. They said I was a liar and I want them to go on radio and say Ralph spoke the truth and we have the longest and best bridge in SVG in Cumberland”, said the Prime Minister.

The Cumberland Bridge Reconstruction Project improves the vehicular connection through the leeward side of the island and provides better transport infrastructure for residents of the area.

The project was designed and built with a focus on providing a resilient infrastructure and considering the mitigation against the impact of future heavy rainfall events through the protection of riverbanks, along with the renovation of the bridges.

The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) implemented the project on behalf of the Government, with funding from the Government of Mexico.

The major infrastructural components included the design and reconstruction of the main Cumberland Bridge and three small bridges and the repair of roads and culverts upstream of the main bridge that were damaged by the passage of a tropical weather system in 2013, as well as river embankment protection. The project activities took place between January 2016 and February 2018.(LC)