SPEND big money to earn big money, was the Prime Minister’s message at a post-budget news briefing yesterday to justify the $3 billion price-tag of the proposed La Brea Dry Dock.
Asked by Newsday if the sum was excessive, Dr Rowley said it was an investment that was dwarfed by the $15 billion taken from the National Gas Company (NGC) by the previous regime with nothing to show.
He said with the widening of the Panama Canal to accommodate larger ships than before, nowhere in this region offers a dry-dock to service such behemoths, which TT can now offer given TT’s relative closeness to the canal. Rowley said. “You will earn a lot of money.”
On the $3 billion cost, he reasoned, “A lot must be ventured for a lot to be gained. We will spend to grow the economy.”
He said the dock will create thousands of jobs, and the dock will earn revenue from visiting ships that will pay in US dollars.
Newsday asked about China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC’s) record in Sri Lanka of alleged corruption. “We have no grumble but a reasonable expectation. If your business is not well thought out, you will fail.”
Rowley said the Government was seeking not just a contractor but an investor. “We wanted an equity partner to share the cost and the risk of making the business succeed.”
He said many hauler ships are Chinese, so if the Chinese Government has a 30 per cent stake in the La Brea Dry Dock they will also have a vested interest in sending such vessels to TT for servicing. “That’s why we are different to Sri Lanka,” Rowley said.
He said Chinese banks give good loan terms as they are flush with cash and seek investment opportunities. Rowley also said TT has a special place with China that most countries don’t have, as under our first leader Dr Eric Williams, TT had been one of the first countries to recognise the One China policy. “The Chinese have not forgotten that.”