G2G Policy

The current Government to Government (G2G) arrangements are a direct threat to our country’s fundamental interests.

The key element of the G2G arrangement is that a larger, more advanced, country will assist a smaller, less-advanced country by building or operating complex facilities which are beyond the reach of the smaller state.

One of the features the G2G arrangements have in common with the other large-scale projects is the high degree of secrecy with which the proposals are developed.  That secrecy raises doubts as to whether proper Needs Assessments are undertaken and as to the degree to which the views of citizens and stakeholders are sought, far less considered.  The fundamental issue as to the necessity for these projects is thus routinely sidelined, which is inimical to the public interest.

The main criticisms of the G2G arrangements are -

  • Sidelining of the elementary Tendering Process – the procurement process is effectively outsourced, since the more powerful country has the right to select the contractor;
  • Limited, if any, role for Local Participation in terms of labour, professionals, suppliers, or contractors;
  • Weak or nonexistent contract controls, due to the disparity in power between the parties;
  • Serious drain on Foreign Exchange;
  • Lack of the promised Transfer of Technology.

These arrangements have been heavily criticised in our country for almost 35 years, starting with Winston Riley’s October 1979 paper which identified many of the emerging problems.  As a result of that rising tide of criticism, an official enquiry was established by then PM, George Chambers.  In March 1982, the Ballah Report was published and the G2G programme was brought to a halt as a result of its dire findings.

Despite the learning, successive political administrations seem unable to resist the appeal of these G2G arrangements, so we have today’s situation as shown in the table.

Physical Development Projects via G2G – April 2014

Readers who access this article online can view the background info via the hyperlinks

COUNTRY PROJECT/S DATE AMOUNT COMMENTS
CHINA NAPA – North & South 2008
  • TT$818M as’final cost’
  • TT$207M for ‘remedial works’
NAPA (POS) completed in 2009, NAPA (San Fernando) completed in 2012stated final cost of both projects was $130M USD ($818M TTD). A further $207M was borrowed from EXIM Bank of China in 2011 for ‘remedial works‘ on NAPA (POS). Design & Build contractor was Shanghai Construction Group.
AUSTRIA San Fernando Teaching Hospital 2011 TT$739M Opened in January 2014
CANADA Penal Hospital 2012 Undisclosed Involvement with Canada’s nominated designer SNC-Lavalin was discontinued after serious concerns over that firm’s international banning for corrupt business practices.
CHINA
  1. Couva Children’s Hospital,
  2. three national sports facilities in Couva,
  3. three multi-sports facilities in other parts of the country.
2012 TT$1.8 Billion Loan Agreement signed in March 2013 with EXIM Bank of China, with Shanghai Construction Group selected as the contractor for all the projects.These projects include the swimming & cycling complex at Balmain and the sporting complex at Tacarigua Savannah in Orange Grove.
CHINA Lake Asphalt 2013 Undisclosed MoU, with a Confidentiality Agreement, signed on 30 May 2013 between Lake Asphalt T&T Ltd and a Chinese contractor. One of the official objectives of the February 2014 State visit to China, according to the Office of the PM, was “…Removal of asphalt from the Pitch Lake in greater capacities…”.
CHINA La Brea Port and seven industrial parks. 2014 US$750M (TT$4.83 Billion) Agreement signed in February 2014 to have these facilities built by China Harbour and China Construction.

The total cost of these projects is just under $8.4 Billion TTD.
That is the background, against which we must consider these further elements -

  • china-caricomRegional Strategy – As a leading nation within CARICOM, it is important for Trinidad & Tobago to give serious consideration to the role of the various bilateral G2G arrangements China is pursuing in our region and the implications of those arrangements on our aspirations for healthy regionalism.  I have been reading the February 2013 Research Note by UWI’s Dr. Annita Montoute – ‘Caribbean-China Economic Relations: what are the Implications?‘  The scope of Dr. Montoute’s research and her findings are sobering – at pg 115  “…CARICOM Trade with China is on the increase; however it is overwhelmingly in China’s favour…”.  The regional issue is a serious one to which we must address our energies.
  • Trinidad & Tobago’s Strategy – Now consider these statements by then Finance Minister, Winston Dookeran, at the September 2011 ceremony to sign the $207M TTD loan for NAPA (POS) ‘remedial works’ -

    “…Dookeran said it was now imperative that TT deepens its ties with China…’In the first instance China has now emerged as a very significant player, especially in light of the recent tremors and uncertainties in the world economy,’ he said. ‘China…is now an economy that we will have to rely upon. It is in that context that it is very appropriate and timely for Trinidad and Tobago to start to intensify its relationship with China.’..”

    Winston Dookeran is now Trinidad & Tobago’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

  • The Uff Report – The 42nd and 43rd recommendations of the 2010 Uff Report deal directly with this  issue –
    1. The Government’s policy on the use of foreign contractors and consultants for public construction projects should be transparent and open to review.
    2. Local contractors and consultants who compete with foreign companies should be provided with the same or equivalent benefits as enjoyed by those foreign companies and should be protected from unfair competition through matters such as soft loans…

    Uff was calling for the establishment of a national policy on this series of issues and the JCC has been requesting a consultation between government and stakeholders, so that a proper strategy can be developed in open collaboration. That would include labour, professionals, the State, the contracting sector and all the associated elements such as suppliers of building materials, financiers, skills training and so on.  The JCC wrote to the PM on this in April 2012, but to date there has been no response to our calls for those consultations in the national interest.

  • NAPA, again – The Minister of Culture, Dr. Lincoln Douglas, told the Senate on 8 April 2014 of the serious issues arising at NAPA (POS), with an estimated further $100M being required for more repairs.  It is not certain if the issues of disrepair are all due to inadequate maintenance, but it is unacceptable for such issues to have emerged for a structure less than 5 years old.
  • Shanghai Construction Group – Despite the bad record at NAPA, the selected contractor for the $1.8 Billion Couva Children’s Hospital and the other sporting facilities is the said Shanghai Construction Group.
  • Proposed Public Procurement Law – most alarmingly, Clause 7 of the proposed Public Procurement & Disposal of Public Property Bill 2014 specifically excludes Government to Government Arrangements and projects funded by International Financial Institutions form oversight.  That proposed exclusion is entirely unacceptable as it further jeopardises our national interest.

The PM has made a call for a National Conversation and this is one topic which needs addressing. Our country cannot continue exporting our jobs, capital and skilled people in favour of unexamined and undisclosed foreign policies.

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  1. #1 by Brian Bradshaw on May 1, 2014 - 3:15 am

    I appreciate this!

  2. #2 by BFP on May 1, 2014 - 9:09 pm

    Reblogged this on Barbados Free Press and commented:
    Our old friend Afra Raymond explores the dangers of Government-to-Government arrangements. Once again, those politician piggies at the trough will do anything they can to sideline the tendering process.
    Take it away, Afra…

  3. #3 by Anthony Desir on May 1, 2014 - 9:21 pm

    Nice detailing and very well written. Why is no one seeing the problem with China “no-bid” deals or the pricing mechanisms. Money is changing hands here that cannot be accounted for; who has it gone to?

    • #4 by AfraRaymond on May 1, 2014 - 9:28 pm

      Hello Anthony and thanks for your supportive comments…please note that the table shows a total of just under $8.4 Billion TTD in Physical Development projects only, but excludes any of the other ones such as the ‘OPVs’, the impending Arima District Hospital which was mentioned during the June 2013 State visit by the PRC’s Premier…it is a huge situation, so we need to get our act together if we are to have any chance of surviving…

      You touched on an interesting related concern in terms of accountability, as I am not sure what is the apparatus to check the value for money on these projects, given that the obligation to repay generally arises in 5 years’ time…so who is counting the pennies at this juncture? But I am sure you can say a lot more about that detailed financial aspect of these detrimental arrangements.

      Regards

      Afra

  4. #5 by David on May 4, 2014 - 5:16 pm

    Reblogged this on Barbados Underground.

  5. #6 by Christopher McMaster on May 5, 2014 - 9:49 pm

    I submit that Government-to-Government (G2G) policies represent what George Lamming laments, because on 9th January 2004 at a UWI (St. Augustine) open lecture he insisted that Caribbean people must be their brother’s keepers, lamenting our failure in that and other respects. Were we educated in our own history; we will have avoided these laments and by extension these (G2G and other) policies. Were we thoroughly taught about Fidel Castro, Martin Carter, Louise Bennett, Walter Rodney, Arthur Lewis, Jamaica Kincaid, Michael Manley, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Maurice Bishop, Lakshmi Persaud, Toussaint L’Ouverture and the thousands of others male and female voices that have been silenced by the savage and brutal misleadership of colonialism, (most recently Dana Seetahal) we will have manipulated the pleasures of exile for our children’s benefit rather than burden them with unpayable debts. Bob Marley taught, “In this great future, you can’t forget your past” (No Woman, No Cry-1974) and we have forgotten systematically. We have colonised and imprisoned our minds such that thought has become thoughtlessness, debate has been minimised to abuse and discussions are led by verbose shouters, leaving questions unanswered, data unexplored and policies legalised regardless of their dysfunctional consequences [1984 by George Orwell-1949]. The media owes sixty percent of its life to the corporate world and much of our existences are wrapped in busyness, survival and avoiding the clutches of legalised and other criminal structures so that merely trying to keep up with the daily indiscretions of the people we entrust our future and those of our children every five years as proof of something called democracy is totally outside the reaches of most of us.

    Like Lloyd Best, Afra steers this sinking ship into placid harbours while politics, commerce, education, religion, culture and representatives of almost every other facet of our lives, tugboat these island-vessels into the turbid, murky waters of corruption, racism, greed, violence, lust, lovelessness and ignorance. Afra is silenced because we refuse to admit that the truth is like the sun and we are unable to look at it directly. Afra is silenced because we must sacrifice our materialistic wealth for the sanity of our children and we spend so much time and money ensuring our ‘development’ is secure that we refuse to see the tsunami of despair -akin to the slough of despond- that is epitomised in the 2013 movie “Elysium.” Our silence has antecedence.

    Afra is silenced like the murdered Maurice Bishop who is quoted in Lamming’s Conversations, page 247, (1992).
    “The culture that we call our own…resides among the masses of our people, the people whose way of life is a submerged and disrespected sub-culture —the masses of the people whose norms and values have never made it into the law books, or the education system, whose voices are silenced by the authoritative words and images that dominate all the organs of communication and discussion in the society from the newspapers to the parliament.”
    We have been culturally beaten until we lost our African tongues, deceived by ‘authoritative words’ into believing in the medicines of the metropoles and converted into cornered consumers, yet we play hunger games and hope in a mythic benefactor while our children incestuously make our children and are condemned by us for it.
    Cornel West in Race Matters (1994) urged individuals to obliterate their negative attitudes and contribute to the general upliftment of the suppressed classes and President Carmona said almost the same thing at his address at A.N.R. Robinson’s ecumenical service at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port of Spain, on 30th April 2014. Dr. West and President Carmona ignore or expect to subsume the power of the wealth created by drugs, guns, sex and ignorance that are all manufactured by the wealthy and propagated by the poor as desperate indicators of their depraved humanism. Until we (the educated) deracinate those roots and practise the positives we preach we really are wasting time. The glorification of alcohol increases its lure, drugs by extension. The guns accessed by the poorest nations should have been dictionaries, fruit plants and bicycles so that our children can learn much, eat well and move freely without polluting the atmosphere. Sex markets everything and pays more bills than we will ever admit. We are already in the jaws of giant countries by invitation and we seem willing to subvert our sovereignty until we become debt-slaves to them. Science has isolated embryonic stem cells with pluripotency that can manufacture any other type of cell or tissue (Blood, page 93, by Lawrence Hill, 2013) to finally update itself with its political equivalent called equivocation.

    China is massive and has practised silent equivocation for centuries such that her involvement with us must be noble. Her control of Internet intrusion and of allowing foreigners into her affairs is well documented. The Shanghai Construction Group will make amends for its errors and we can be assured that by 2020, the magic of political “Palancing” will manifest itself in the first-world haven our children will be proud of for generations. We have allowed our colonial blinkers to obscure the “Absolut” vision of our leaders who have our interests at the core of their every action. We must remain passive and trust piously that “God doh sleep.” The migration of power to the southland will ensure that the aspirations of our scholars, entertainers and marketing specialists will sustain not just the bourgeoning on-shore economy but also harvest the trillions invested overseas now, away from the rapacious grasps of the myopic ‘do-gooders’ to gather interest and re-invest here in that bright future. Chinese can supplant Spanish and the twinning with that giant can only bring cultural and material rewards. Demonstrating value for money is itself exemplified in both NAPAs as bookings at both venues vie for vacant days and nights. The twenty odd projects identified will collectively guarantee the inevitable absolution of unfounded allegations of overspending and the progeny of our successful leaders can follow in the proud parents paths arm in arm with the progeny of the nation’s mendicants.
    We ready for de road….

  1. Trinidad & Tobago: From One Government to Another · Global Voices

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