MINISTER OF WORKS AND TRANSPORT Rohan Sinanan yesterday announced that all 20 residents affected by the building of the Curepe Interchange have agreed to move from their homes, granting the government access to the land where the interchange will be built.
Sinnanan yesterday thanked the residents and business owners who were affected by the project, and said they will continue to be treated fairly as negotiations continue. “We accept that the negotiation was in fact long and difficult, and I commit to ensuring each of you will continue to be treated fairly, utilising all the legal avenues available that ensure your fair and equitable compensation for the acquisition of your property,” Sinanan said. He told reporters one person is still on the site and has asked for a month to relocate.
But, he said, “Through the land acquisition process we have access to all the lands that we need and the negotiations continue.” At the sod-turning event at the site, Sinanan estimated the cost of the interchange at $221 million – about half of what had been estimated under a previous government. It had been approved for $513 million, so, he said, the country stands to save over $200 million through the management and negotiations of the current government.
Sinanan said the interchange will alleviate the congestion along the highway and cut travelling times from minutes to seconds. “Morning delays through the Curepe Intersection on the Churchill Roosevelt Highway would decrease from 11 minutes per vehicle to 19 seconds. Afternoon delays will decrease even more dramatically, from about 22 minutes per vehicle to 19 seconds. On the Southern Main Road, morning delays will decrease from about 9.5 minutes per vehicle to 35 seconds per vehicle. Afternoon delays would decrease from about 21 minutes per vehicle to about one minute.”
He added the interchange was part of larger improvement initiatives to ease traffic, access businesses and commerce in other parts of the country and to lessen the nation’s carbon footprint. Expressing surprise at the exorbitant price called for the interchange by previous governments, the Prime Minister told the gathering the high price of building may have been partly because of the high estimates made by errant engineers.
“Engineers who either do not have the competence or do not care about the taxpayers would make estimates willy-nilly in ministries. Then they make those estimates available to contractors, and contractors then bid against those estimates. So rather than get the benefit for the taxpayer with competition, the in-house estimates become the engines that pushes the price upwards. “How could we have approved a project for $530 million and today the same project is being built for $220 million?”
“The question is where was that extra $200 to $300 million going, and who was getting that? And if that was the kind of gravy that is in the business, you understand why there was such a rush to the table and why people were getting so fat,” Dr Rowley said.
Rowley also recognised the land owners, saying while it is important that they are fairly compensated, the progress of the nation must continue for the good of its people.
“We are grateful that the home owners who were affected eventually saw the need to co-operate with the government in ensuring that the Land Acquisition Act, which is the law governing land acquisition, is applied fairly, without exception, and is done in the spirit of the letter of the law.
“It is not that we want to punish or rob anybody, but given that the development has to take place for the wider national group, provision is made in law as to how the various governments should proceed to protect the public interest and to also protect the private interest,” Rowley said.