THE EDITOR: I have looked at the preliminary costs put forward by the National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) for the proposed road to Toco and am scared. The costs at this time are between $2 billion and $5 billion. Why this large range though? It leaves room for a lot of corrupt activities.
There are two routes being considered — from Arima to Toco and from Sangre Grande to Toco.
Nidco said that currently it takes 90 minutes from Arima to Toco. From a layman’s point of view, is this a reasonable or unreasonable time?
If the new road reduces the duration to 48 minutes in one of its options and to 35.3 minutes in the other, is spending between $2 billion and $5 billion really necessary at this point in time of economic decline for these minute savings?
The figures get even more incredulous when we work out the cost the road per minute that will be saved.
If we use the lowest fee of $2 billion and divide it by the 42 minutes it will save, we get a whopping cost of $47.6 million per minute. If we use the highest fee of $5 billion, it works out to be $119 million a minute.
If we use the second option of the new road taking 35 minutes instead of 90 minutes, and using the lowest fee of $2 billion, it works out to be $36.4 million a minute. And, for the highest fee of $5 billion, it will be $90.9 million a minute.
Let us be real here. On top of the new road, we will then have to build the new ferry terminal in Toco. That might be another set of billions of dollars. Then, new ferries from Toco to Tobago. And additional staff to run the port and ferries.
Do we really need that type of infrastructural investment? Can we get more returns if we were to spend that money in other types of infrastructural development and/or otherwise?
We definitely need to do something about the local travel between our two main islands. Is this proposed road the solution? Can more frequent and reliable ferry services from Port of Spain be more effective? What if we were to use the one in San Fernando (already exists)? What about if we were to add new ones in Manzanilla and Mayaro to Tobago, especially as decent road works already exist?
Further, if we are to go through with the road to Toco, what will be the new duration of the journey from Toco to Tobago? How much shorter will it be than from Port of Spain and the other areas identified earlier?
We really need a lot of public consultation on this project before we go ahead. It will cost us the taxpayers a mint to repay.