Marina mystery

FIie photo: Chief Secretary Farley Augustine.
FIie photo: Chief Secretary Farley Augustine.

IF WE ARE to accept the account given by Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Farley Augustine, it seems a marina has plopped out of nowhere and landed at Friendship Estate in Canaan, Tobago, like unwanted manna from the sky.

“Just to be abundantly clear, we have no idea about this project,” said Mr Augustine on Monday, after the National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (Nidco) posted details on social media.

“No approvals were given by the Executive Council for this project. None of the lands in Friendship that belong to the THA were vested in Nidco. Consideration was only given for a roadway to connect the airport.”

Though he suggested his council had yet to be briefed and therefore could not have considered the merits of the project, Mr Augustine pledged to engage lawyers to “stop this madness.”

But former chief secretary Ancil Dennis said the project has been “talked about since 2018” and, “there was THA involvement and support.” Director of the Tobago Marine Safety Security Services Alvin Douglas said he was surprised to hear the current THA had not heard about the project.

Mr Augustine’s position on Monday came in the same week as his announcement that the THA was in debt to the tune of almost $1 billion, with a long list of creditors.

It also came as plans to fire at least 40 workers tied to the Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (Cepep) in Tobago were confirmed by a member of the Chief Secretary's council. There are reports of restructuring plans being afoot.

Mr Augustine, who is the deputy political leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP), which is seeking to expand its reach nationally, may well have reason to turn away from projects long in the pipeline, purely on the basis of cost.

But if that is the paramount imperative here, the Chief Secretary risks painting a picture of, at best, dysfunction and, at worst, incompetence when it comes to how the THA is being run and how state agencies like Nidco interact with it.

While the process of environmental clearance is one that involves seeking stakeholder input, it is clear that at the very least, Nidco should pay due regard to the input of the THA.

Even an agency such as the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), which administers and oversees the process of environmental clearance, has a vested interest in being on good terms with the THA.

But as is the case with Nidco, it is hard to say which agency takes precedence if a disagreement arises on the merits of this project.

The mystery, then, is not where this project came from, it is, who should have the final say if this disagreement continues?


"Marina mystery"

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