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Gov’t gets approval to borrow US$20m to build modern Court House, Parliament buildings

Gov’t gets approval to borrow US$20m to build modern Court House, Parliament buildings

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Parliament on Monday passed an Act to give authorization to the Government to borrow US$20 million from the Republic of China (Taiwan) to construct a modern parliament building and a modern high court complex.

The US$20 million will be divided among three components — US$10 million for the high court complex, US$7 million for the modern parliament building and US$2 million for the refurbishment of the current courthouse and parliament building. A US$1 million contingency is also included in the project.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves said the loan, obtained on concessionary terms from Taiwan would see the construction of the parliament and high court buildings at Beachmont, along the Richmond Hill Road, adjacent to the existing National Library and National Archives buildings.

The Minister said the 2020 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure contain a specific allocation of EC$6.5 million for the compensation of the former owner of the property at Beachmont, “who has to date resisted attempts to amicably agree on a price for the acquired land upon which the complex will be built.”

He said the Government has agreed to the broad terms of the concessionary loan to fund the three-year project that is estimated to create about 400 jobs.

The loan will run for 20 years and has a grace period of three years. The Interest rate is 1.2% plus a 6-month LIBOR.

The London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) is the average interest rate at which leading banks borrow funds from other banks in the London market. LIBOR is the most widely used global “benchmark” or reference rate for short-term interest rates. The current 6-month LIBOR as of June 22, 2020 is 0.43%. Therefore, the interest at current rates would be 1.63 per cent.

The Minister first mentioned the project to construct the buildings during the 2020 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure earlier this year.

He said the Government has held consultations with stakeholders, including two separate consultations with Government and Opposition parliamentarians on the design and scope of works.

According to the Minister, site visits to regional parliament buildings have also taken place, while arrangements are being made to vacate the current courthouse / parliament building so that refurbishments can begin.

Two temporary locations are being considered for relocation of the courthouse, while the Parliament will be temporarily relocated to a building to be erected in the Calliaqua / Glen area, just behind the existing Town Hall, Gonsalves said.

He explained that the original intended location for the temporary parliament building was Arnos Vale, but the owners were not willing to sell.

On the completion of the Parliament building, the Calliaqua building will be vacated and converted to a student dormitory/hostel to cater to rural and Grenadines students who attend the St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College, but have challenges in traveling to the facility.

He said three architects were short-listed to enter a competition to design the modern parliament — Trevor Thompson of TVA Consultants, Moulton Mayers of Moulton Mayers Architects and the Architectural Department of the Ministry of Transport and Works.

Submissions from the design competition are due on July 6 2020.

The modern parliament building is expected to take 31 months, including 18 months of construction to complete, while the high court complex is expected to take 28 months, including 18 months of construction.

The rehabilitation of the historic parliament building will take about 18 months, with 12 of those months being construction, the minister said.

During debate on the Loan Authorization Bill, the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) signaled its opposition to the project at this time.

Opposition Senator Israel Bruce told parliament that his party is not saying that the project is a bad idea, but they do not think this is the right time to spend US$20 million seeing that the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the economy.

The buildings are expected to share a common, Caribbean design aesthetic, and construction will begin in the second half of 2020.

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