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Sunday 22 September 2019
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Govt saddled with $3b school bill

Finance Minister Colm Imbert looks over at Education Minister Anthony Garcia at a press conference on the government's school construction programme. At right is Planning Minister Camille Robinson Regis
Finance Minister Colm Imbert looks over at Education Minister Anthony Garcia at a press conference on the government's school construction programme. At right is Planning Minister Camille Robinson Regis

It will cost the government nearly $3 billion to complete, upgrade and outfit over 100 school construction projects “gifted” to them by the previous administration. In a joint press conference today at the Ministry of Finance, Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, Finance Minister Colm Imbert and Education Minister Anthony Garcia, sought to clarify statements made by the Opposition, including former education minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh, that the former government had built 106 schools, some of which have since been laid to waste.

Imbert said $700 million has been spent so far on these incomplete "imaginary schools" which " doesn't even begin to scratch the surface." He said it will take $2.8b to complete the projects.

The government also has to settle nearly $2 billion in debt, legal costs and claims from contractors against the Educational Facilities Company Ltd (EFCL). The EFCL faced much litigation and judgements against them, including one creditor who succeeded in having the agency's accounts frozen, Robinson-Regis said.

Imbert added that the government has sought alternative forms of funding for the company. Staff at the EFCL have not been paid for nearly two months, but Imbert said that should be settled by Monday.

Garcia said the Government will focus on 27 schools it deems a priority, after which it will focus on the rest. Imbert admitted that the Government's plans for education had been stymied because of the need to settle these outstanding issues.

He said the Government has raised a $400 million bond, which it has used to pay off some of the debts to contractors. It will go to market again to raise another $917 million bond to pay for the completion of these 27 schools.

Gopeesingh did not respond to Newsday's call for comment.

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