Thur. 5th Aug., 2010

No. 8 Fifth Session Eighth ParliamentThursday 5th August, 2010Prayers Announcement Obituaries Congratulatory Remarks Confirmation of the Minutes Statements by Ministers PapersPetitionsMotion Questions for Oral Answers Bills AdjournmentSAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES THE PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES (HANSARD) ADVANCE COPY OFFICIAL REPORT CONTENTS Thursday 5th August 20101THE PARLIAMENTARY DEBATESOFFICIAL REPORTPROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE SIXTH MEETING, FIFTH SESSION OF THE EIGHTH PARLIAMENT OF SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES CONSTITUTED AS SET OUT IN SCHEDULE 2 TO THE SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES ORDER, 1979.TWELFTH SITTING5th AUGUST 2010PRAYERS MR. SPEAKER IN THE CHAIR Honourable Hendrick Alexander Present MEMBERS OF CABINETPrime Minister, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning, National Security, Grenadines and Legal Affairs Dr. the Honourable Ralph GonsalvesAttorney General Honourable Judith Jones-MorganDeputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Trade Honourable Louis StrakerMinister of National Mobilisation, Social Development, Gender Affairs, Non-Governmental Organisations, Local Government, Persons with Disabilities, Youths and SportsHonourable Michael BrowneMinister of Education Honourable Girlyn MiguelMember for Central WindwardMember for Central LeewardMember for West St. George Member for MarriaquaHOUSE OF ASSEMBLYThe Honourable House of Assembly met at 10:20 a.m. in the Assembly Chamber, Court House, Kingstown.2Minister of Health and the Environment Dr. Douglas SlaterMinister of Urban Development, Culture, Labour and Electoral Matters Rene BaptisteMinister of Transport and Works Honourable Clayton BurginMinister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Honourable Montgomery DanielMinister of Telecommunications, Science Technology and Industry Honourable Dr. Jerrol ThompsonMinister of Tourism Honourable Glen BeacheMinister of Housing, Informal Human Settlements, Physical Planning Lands and Surveys Honourable Saboto CaesarHonourable Julian FrancisMinister of State in the Ministry of National Mobilisation, Social Development, Gender Affairs, Non-Governmental Organisations Relations, Persons with Disabilities, Youth and Sports Honourable Cecil MckieParliamentary Secretary in the Prime Minister’s OfficeMember for South LeewardMember for West Kingstown Member for East St. GeorgeMember for North WindwardMember for North Leeward Member for South WindwardGovernment Senator Government SenatorGovernment Senator3Honourable Arnhim EustaceDr. the Honourable Godwin Friday Terrance Ollivierre Honourable Major St. Claire Leacock Honourable Daniel CummingsMinister of Rural Transformation, Information, Postal Service and Ecclesiastical Affairs Honourable Selmon WaltersHonourable Conrad SayersABSENTLeader of the Opposition Member for East KingstownMember for Northern Grenadines Member for Southern Grenadines Opposition Senator Opposition SenatorMember for South Central WindwardMember for Central Kingstown Deputy SpeakerOTHER MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE4ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY THURSDAY 5TH AUGUST 2010PRAYER HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Let us pray.Honourable Mr. Speaker Hendrick Alexander read the prayers of the House of Assembly.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Maybe I should announce that for those who are listening by radio now, and would want to view this telecast; I understand we are on Channel 75, the API, as it is stated the GIS channel, channel 75 for those who would wish to view this meeting of the House.OBITUARIES HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Member for North Leeward.HONOURABLE DR. JERROL THOMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I rise to extend my condolences to the Daize family of Gordon Yard. Lionel Miltus Daize was the patriarch of the Daize family at Gordon Yard. He past the year of 97, just two and a half years shy of becoming a centenarian. Gordon Yard as we know it was really named after that Colonial General, General Gordon who owned the Gordon Estate and established his home and an arrowroot factory at Gordon Yard. However, the Daize family no relationship at all to General Gordon actually were migrant workers from Madeira and settled in an area called Cocoa in Spring Village, but with the hurricanes of 1898, the Cumberland River washed away that whole settlement with Cocoa and so the Daize moved and resettled along with other families in Gordon Yard.Lionel had seven additional siblings. He farmed lands at Belle Isle where believe it or not there was a well- established settlement there, the De Freitas, the Hackshaws, the Gonsalves, and the De Riggs. But, Mr. Speaker, this gentleman was a pioneer. Not only did he rear animals but he was part of the pioneering for the blackfish industry and also operated out of the Cumberland Valley. The oil was used for industrial purposes, it was purchased by Corea’s shipped to Barbados; and sold in England. But he was also part of a family cooperative, that owned a ship called the Daizy Dee; and this was such a critical part of the transportation in those days when there was no road travelling from the Leeward side to Kingstown in a contiguous manner.Lionel Dazie was also a very good man, an honest man. He had eleven children and you know, you had to applaud the fact that before he was able to pass the road going to the Gordon Yard Cemetery was completed and I believe he had a good send off. He leaves some notable family members, Rudy Daize and Earnest De Freitas, and Pastor Leslie Daize and others. Certainly, his daughter Katharina and grandson John who cared for him, they would all miss him. I really want, on behalf of the people of North Leeward in particular, the people of Spring Village, and certainly that of the government, to extend our condolences to the family, the Daize family. And we ask that he rests in peace.5CONGRATULATORY REMARKS HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Member for West Kingstown.HONOURABLE RENE BAPTISTE: Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I rise to congratulate the Carnival Development Corporation on its successful hosting of Vincy Mas 2010 and to offer my congratulations to all the winners, Miss Afeshia Matthews of Victoria Village who took the crown of Miss SVG, Miss St. Lucia for Carival which incidentally was the 25th hosting of that show, Blondie Bird and Friends after 17 years for the first time winning band of the year. The King of the Bands Melbourne Artisans after 40 years in mass, making for the first time he got King of the Bands, Simone Richardson Queen of the Band this is her third win in the last ten years. Soca Monarch Skinny Fabulous, this is his hatrick win and Fireman Hooper, the first time taking Ragga Soca, Maddzart with his road march and Bridget Joy-C Creese, her third win of the Calypso Monarchy. And my best wishes to all who have left for the various carnivals oversees, including St. Lucia and Labour Day in New York, I understand they have engagements oversees and some are already in Canada.My congratulations to all the rural communities for having brought off such a wonderful festival and largely incident free, except for some pick pockets and one or two unruly persons, we are grateful for the comments by the Deputy Commissioner of Police of Trinidad and Tobago who noted the implementation of the no-glass bottle policy and how it is done, also special compliments to the Police Force for an excellent job of making it a safe carnival here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines; all the bands for j’ouvert and the evening and so on adding to the flavour of the hottest carnival in the Caribbean; my heartiest congratulations.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Senator Leacock.HONOURABLE ST. CLAIR LEACOCK: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I rise to offer congratulations to a few individuals and companies with respect to the carnival celebrations, Mr. Speaker, and then to separate congratulations I will proceed to. I thought, Mr. Speaker, we have a good carnival. I like to think that I am a carnival man. I think all those who were involved did a pretty good job; I quite naturally want to single out Blondie Bird and Friends for continuous work and Melbourne Artisans. Bird and Melbourne we go back to the early days, Roy Ralph before he became the Dragons and it is good to see them coming into their glory at this stage of their contribution.Mr. Speaker, a few years ago I think in this Parliament, I did say that carnival had a little challenge, especially with the Monday evening festival. And it is most heartening to see how our bigger corporate entities and institutions have come to the assistance of the CDC and has helped to put that Monday evening show back on the road. It is always a little dangerous to identify and separate companies but the contributions of VINLEC and the NIS, and the Lottery come to mind, but I really want to single out the corporate responsibility of LIME, formerly Cable and Wireless, because in all of this sometimes you really need a heavy lifter in getting some of the things done. And I think that that company and its offers have done a remarkable job in helping the cultural art forms throughout the length and breadth of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And I hope that theirs is exemplary and inspiration for others to so do, because quite naturally carnival is one of our major festivals.In this regard, Mr. Speaker, I am taking a little risk as usual, I want to recognize the contribution of the Honourable Minister and her own recognition that came by way of those who appreciated her work over the years. I think that she has said that this is her last but I think certainly the cultural art form has been better for her presence as a Minister of Government.6Mr. Speaker, I want to offer one other congratulation and I know it has a little souring to it, but I make it for whatever it is worth, Mr. Speaker. The last time I was here I think I identified a good friend and colleague, Honourable Austin Jack Warner for his coming to parliamentary life in Trinidad and Tobago since that time, Mr. Speaker, he has moved on to be the Acting Prime Minister at least on one occasion that that opportunity presented itself. I want to recognize Mr. Warner’s elevation in that regard. And I say so at the same time, Mr. Speaker, while I chide publicly those who would use the media and I am not going to identify them, but they know who they are and to some extent I am also pointing my fingers to colleagues on the other side; it is really not good protocol for us to be speaking in the way of a government minister of a neighbouring country in the way that we hear on a daily basis this vilification and character assassination and badmouthing. I think Mr. Warner has earned the position that he has. And he is a Minister of Government in Trinidad and we must respect him. And it really is embarrassing for people to be have to be sending to Mr. Warner information of the extent to which we are on this constant charade and vilification. I really hope it comes to an end, Mr. Speaker, and I just again want to close in recognizing the tremendous contribution of Austin Jack Warner as somebody that the Caribbean should truly be proud of. Much obliged, Mr. Speaker.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Member for Marriaqua.HONOURABLE GIRLYN MIGUEL: Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I look back this morning with gratitude to 71 teachers who would have left in the years 2009, 2010. I think it is fitting for me to say at this time, as J.F. Kennedy would have said, “our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.”Mr. Speaker, being a teacher is no easy task. It is a divine calling. Looking back, I see the children come to the teachers on mornings; sometimes some of them were not given the care that their parents should really give them. Teachers from day to day have to be mothers and fathers; they have to be doctors and nurses, confidants. Mr. Speaker, the children of our day need the guidance that sometimes they do not get in their homes and this morning as I look back at what happened at the Methodist Church Hall just last week and I saw when teachers come and receive a plaque from the Ministry of Education, at least I felt good. Never before in the history of this country did anybody look back to say to our teachers, ‘thank you fellow teachers for your time, your talents, your treasure.’ Many of the times out of your small salaries our children fell sick and needed to be taken to the doctor, we held each other’s hand and we tried to get the transport to take them there because their parents went to work. Thank you. Many of times you had to share your lunch or even bring something extra. Thank you. The Ministry of Education appreciates all that you would have done and I say thank you. I am obliged, Mr. Speaker.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Member for Southern Grenadines.HONOURABLE TERRANCE OLLIVIERRE: Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I rise to give congratulatory remarks, I want to join the Honourable Minister of Culture in congratulating the Carnival Development Committee and the various winners of carnival 2010. As you know, Mr. Speaker, we also had rural carnival in the Grenadines but they are after the major festival on the mainland. In fact, we had rural carnival in Mayreau which was organized by the Mayreau Regatta Committee and this was dated from the 23rd to the 25th of July. And last weekend we had also rural Carnival in Canouan and at this festival we have a major staging of an event which is the Miss Rural St. Vincent and the Grenadines Pageant, where all the winners of various pageants on the mainland participate at this pageant for the rural crown. This year it was won by Miss7South Windward, Danielle Soleyn; second was Ronicka Medford, West St. George; and Sabrina Ollivierre, Miss Canouan she placed third. Certainly, Mr. Speaker, Club Nuevo has been doing a wonderful job in organizing carnival over the years and it has grown to be one of the better rural carnivals in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, if I should say so.I also wish, Mr. Speaker, to congratulate all the teachers who have worked tirelessly throughout the years and also those students and parents who would have assisted their students and also helping them passing their Common Entrance 2010. And I wish to join with the Honourable Minister of Education in congratulating those teachers who would have given of their service tirelessly to the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Much obliged, Mr. Speaker.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Senator McKie.HONOURABLE CECIL MCKIE: Mr. Speaker, I rise [to] offer congratulations to a number of individuals in groupings that would have made us all proud over the last couple of months. First of all, I would like to focus on all of the partners who would have come together to create a success story of the CAP Programme for 2010. This programme brings together the Ministries of Education and National Mobilization, a number of volunteers from throughout the communities and schools, the parents, guardians and students throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines in a programme that covers two weeks and engages a number of children, youngsters who are in the lower socio-economic background in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. So important is this programme, Mr. Speaker, that in 2010 we have increased that programme and we have added eight new centres making it 24 centres, 54 schools and 1700 children from throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And they are exposed to learning methods which are made to be fun, not the regular chalk and blackboard methods; and I suspect that if you do the analysis you would see an indication that this programme is in fact contributing significantly towards the reduction of poverty throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Because it is geared at reducing poverty, as the name suggests, Children Against Poverty, and it targets children who are advancing at the primary school level as well as children who are moving from the primary to secondary school level. So I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that all of the partners will ensure that this programme continues and that we continue to extend congratulations to all of the partners that would have made a success story of the programme.I now turn my attention to the sporting arena. Two young men from St. Vincent and the Grenadines by the name of Dillon Johnson and Keyron Cuttoy they have been selected in a group of 15 elite young cricketers from the entire Caribbean Region to be part of a programme that is currently taking place in Barbados called the High Performance Centre, and it caters for these young cricketers to take them from a level of domestic cricket, youth cricket, to focus on their development at the regional and international level. Now these two cricketers from St. Vincent and the Grenadines were the only two selected from the Windward Islands making it even more special for St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I understand that they are doing quite well in the programme and of course we will continue to follow their progress and development as they advance in the field of cricket.I want to also extend congratulations to the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Squash Association and their junior squash team who recently participated in the Caribbean Squash Tournament in the Cayman Islands and did quite well. In fact, one of the young men came out as the champion in the junior category. His name is Jason Doyle, he placed first, Dammie Ollivierre came third in her category. Romario Constance in his very first outing came fourth in his category and Jules Snagg came fifth in his category; a truly commendable performance by the junior squash team of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.8I move on to our schools team in the Windward Islands competition just completed last weekend. Over the ten- year period, that team would have either placed interestedly enough either last or first in that competition. In 2005 they placed jointly first with Grenada when we hosted in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and they had to wait another four years in 2009 to again be crowned joint winners with Grenada again hosted in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, some may have said it is a flukes in 2009, but in 2010 that team was able to be the sole winners of the Windward Islands School Championship. They not only were the sole winners they struggled in their athletics discipline, they came fourth. They came third and fourth in the basketball discipline. But they were able to win the netball, football and volleyball disciplines both male and female. Indeed a commendable performance of particular mention, the most outstanding persons from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the netball Marian Fredericks. Football Reginald Richardson, volleyball female, Rothesha Gregg; volleyball male, Darrel Franklyn, basketball female Shanice Daniel and basketball male Julius Kerr. I am sure that those responsible for the preparation of this team for 2011 will ensure that the focus continues to be at the top and not in the fourth position and that we would have broken the shackles of either placing last or first, but first or very close thereto. So we offer congratulations to that team for the wonderful performance in that competition.And finally, Mr. Speaker, I want to extend congratulations to the Windward Islands Under 19 cricket team for coming out on top for the second time in the recently concluded West Indies Cricket Competition at the under 19 level. We had four Vincentians on that team, one of them performed exceedingly well, his name is Atticus Browne, we also had Shackelle Browne, Sunil Ambris, and Ronnie Lawrence on that team and they would have all played a very significant role in the Windward Islands team coming out on top in the Caribbean Under 19 cricket tournament. It is an endorsement, Mr. Speaker, of the fact that with sports we can in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we can use sports and continue to use it as a vehicle for the advancement of our young people and the advancement of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I thank you.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Senator Fife.HONOURABLE MICHELLE FIFE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to congratulate the Honourable Member for West Kingstown, Minister Rene Baptiste on her selection by the respectable SHE Caribbean Magazine as it marks its 10th year anniversary of publication; she was named as one of the top ten most powerful Caribbean women.Mr. Speaker, SHE Magazine has a wide circulation in countries like the UK, the USA, Canada and particularly among the Caribbean Diaspora. And also listed is St. Lucia’s Ether Opal and Paula Corlodron, Jamaica’s Rita Marley and Trinidad’s Wendy Fitz Williams. So Mr. Speaker, I recognize the contributions of all of these women, their achievements and their efforts in their contribution to our Caribbean civilization and their continued efforts in uplifting women generally across the region and it is worthy to note that the Honourable Member for West Kingstown was the only one who is a sitting representative on the list. So Mr. Speaker, I would like to extend congratulations to her and continued success.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, may I simply add some congratulations. I did not get an opportunity to speak today, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Sports, I had a conversation with Professor Hillary Beckles, Principal of the Cave Hill Campus, yesterday afternoon after Cabinet and we decided because of the exceptional performance of Rommel Currency and Bascombe, two splendid cricketers that we will work together for them to pursue their Masters degree come September. This is a continuation of the government’s policy regarding assistance to sportsmen and to seek opportunities to ensure that sportsmen who represent our country are employed or are in training. These are two exceptional young men who have9done a remarkable job for cricket and for young people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and it is fitting that they be afforded further opportunity to advance their education. I am obliged.CONFIRMATION OF THE MINUTES HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Prime Minister.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I beg to move that the Minutes of the sittings of this Honourable House held on the 28th and 31st of May, 2010 be confirmed.Question put and agreed to.Minutes circulated previously were confirmed as read.ANNOUNCEMENTS BY THE SPEAKER:HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Let me repeat a previous announcement that I made at the beginning of this meeting. For those of you who are listening by radio and would like to view the proceedings of the House of Assembly you can do so through Channel 75 on your television. I would just wish to also say to the technicians and this is particularly for you, I heard coming out from Senator Fife microphone some crackling; I do not know how that affects the broadcast there so if there is anything that you can do to rectify that would you please do. Thank you.STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Minister of Tourism.HONOURABLE GLEN BEACHE: Much obliged, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I want to speak a bit about the tourism industry because over the past few months I must say from the beginning of this year there were some things being said with regards to the tourism industry that have been untruths, by some people who do not understand the industry and are looking to make political mischief more than anything else. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a very unique tourism industry, Mr. Speaker. We are a multi-island destination, the only other island destination that comes close to the product of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is probably the Bahamas and possible the British Virgin Islands; but I will more compare it to the Bahamas. And since this administration took office in 2001, Mr. Speaker, tourism has grown by leaps and bounds; and all one has to do is look around the country and look at the potential investments or the investments that are taking place, Mr. Speaker, and one can understand what I am saying.Mr. Speaker, I am not one who listens to the morning talk shows on radio but I do get my reports. And certain reports I received about what is being said on the Buccama Harlequin Project, Mr. Speaker, really does hurt me. This is a project, Mr. Speaker, on [Pause] As I was saying, I am not one that listens to the morning talk show programmes, but the reports I have received have been a bit disturbing.Mr. Speaker the Harlequin Buccama Project in what should I say, South Leeward, Central Leeward, South Leeward, sorry, the Honourable Minister of Health has just corrected me, South Leeward, Mr. Speaker, in St. Vincent, Mr. Speaker, is great project to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And I want the Vincentian public to listen to be very carefully. This project will not be taking place right now, if we were not constructing the international airport. Mr. Speaker, this is not coming from me, this is coming from the developers of Harlequin 10page10image27624 page10image27784 page10image27944of the Buccama Project; it was not taking place presently if we were not constructing the Argyle international airport plain and simple. So, Mr. Speaker, without the Argyle International Airport that project will not be coming on stream. And Mr. Speaker at one point, Harlequin Buccama Project had 1,050 Vincentians employed on the project at one point in time. Their monthly salaries came up to over EC $1 million.Now, Mr. Speaker, there was much talk about approximately 200 people being laid off. Mr. Speaker if you lay off 200 people and you employ 500 people in another area, you are up 300 people, Mr. Speaker. And this is only the first phase of the project which should be completed by November/December of this year. Second phase is said to be completed in conjunction with Argyle International Airport, in early 2012. So Mr. Speaker it is more than likely, -- I have not spoken to them -- only common sense can say, it is more than likely that when the second phase starts after November more construction people will be taken on. And I make this point, Mr. Speaker, because I'm going back to the fact that without the Argyle International Airport this project would not be taking place.It has been said that if by some miracle the opposition takes government, if by some miracle, Mr. Speaker, that there would have consultations with the Diaspora about the international airport. Mr. Speaker I do not know how much longer we have to have consultations. I am taking it that the reason why a public library was not built in 17 years is because no consultations were taking place; that that you needed to have a consultation with people to see that public library was needed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And if so Mr. Speaker, I want the Vincentian public to understand that the potential investors we have for Mt. Wayne, the investors we have for Union Island, even the potential investors that the Mitchell Family will have for Isle de Quatre, Mr. Speaker, without the international airport none of these would be taking place. None, With what is about to take place in Canouan, because Mr. Speaker, as much as Canouan now has the largest airport in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it is not an international Airport. And the hotels throughout this country, we have to find a way of getting our people directly into St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And I make that clear. We have had meetings the Ministry of Tourism, we have had meetings with British Airways, Virgin, Air Canada, American Airlines, Mr. Speaker, and one of their main concerns is simply this; what is your room stock? Buccama, Mr. Speaker has done a tremendous job for St. Vincent and the Grenadines with the amount of advertisement that is taking place in the United Kingdom some of it that we could not pay for. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, Buccama is the first property in the Caribbean to actually have an account with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic at the same time. So, tourism continues to grow, Mr. Speaker. I think part of the problem is that we not understand the industry, and we get wrong information from certain people on the board of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Hotel and Tourism Association. But I am not going to call any names, Mr. Speaker; I will leave it at that.Mr. Speaker, not only is this taking place but I want to go through certain awards that we have won this year as a nation in the Tourism Industry. Mr. Speaker, it was announced for 2009 we were the best sailing and yachting island and of the year in all of the Caribbean. Silver Award best honeymoon destination in the Caribbean, in 2009 Mr. Speaker, Caribbean Leading Luxury Villa, Raffles Hotel and Villa, Canouan Palm Island, Mr. Speaker of St. Vincent and the Grenadines leading boutique hotel in the Caribbean Raffles Resort again and leading resort hotel in the Caribbean. Mr. Speaker, Mustique Island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines number one on the world’s top ten islands off the beaten track, Mustique, No. 1 Mr. Speaker.Canouan, Mr. Speaker, came in right after Mustique; at No. 2. So, Mr. Speaker, things are being done and St. Vincent and the Grenadines is being noticed. I make this point, Mr. Speaker, because a lot of times you hear we 11do not see St. Vincent and the Grenadines here; you do not see St. Vincent and the Grenadines there. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, or fortunately, whichever way you want to put it, the Tourism Authority mandates is to market St. Vincent and the Grenadines overseas, and to make sure that we have as many people filling our hotels’ stock as we possibly can.Some of the upcoming ventures that are taking place, Mr. Speaker, because people keep on saying that they do not know what is taking place with tourism; we are about to participate in the Notting Hill Carnival August 29th and 30th, the first time the Tourism Authority will be doing this. Metro New York, Mr. Speaker, circulation of approximately 350,000 copies; for the first time, Mr. Speaker will be there working with Metro, New York Daily newspapers in gearing up for its fourth annual global photo challenge of which one of those photo shoots will take place here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Travel Scope on CBS that would be aired in next year spring, and I was informed earlier this year that that programme is finished, Mr. Speaker, and would be up for an Emmy Award next year.Argyle International Airport promotions, Mr. Speaker, in September in Vancouver we have the World’s Blues Conference which will be meeting with the major airlines to get them to fly into St. Vincent and the Grenadines as soon as the Argyle International Airport is finished in 2012. I-Travel, Mr. Speaker, the largest tour operator out of Canada, we have just signed a contract with them; we are working very closely with them in the promotions of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And Flair Magazine out of Canada, one of the top magazines in the Canadian market a photo shoot will be taking place here in December of this year and if I must say, Mr. Speaker, we were up against 30 other countries for this and St. Vincent and the Grenadines came out in front. So I say these things to let people know exactly what is going on in the tourism industry and I am waiting patiently for the June for carnival because I have a feeling, Mr. speaker, that it will be some of the best numbers that you have seen for years in terms of the number of visitors coming in for Vincy Mass this year. All reports seem positive so far and as a matter of fact what we are getting out of Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados from our and marketing ventures and for Vincy Mass have been nothing but exceptional and I think next year would even be greater and better, Mr. Speaker.Mr. Speaker, tourism is on the rise. Last year as we all know was a very rough year, not only for St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the tourism industry but for every other country in the world. I think the only two countries in the Caribbean that showed positive growth in tourism figures were Jamaica and Jamaica’s figures, Mr. Speaker, I am not even sure if those are correct because it also goes in conjunction, because we had three 3,000 new rooms added to their stock.Mr. Speaker, we continue to do what is necessary to promote St. Vincent and the Grenadines; we continue to do what is necessary to make sure that we can attract investors to St. Vincent and the Grenadines for the tourism industry. I know we have a group of potential investors coming in here at the end of August early September to look at the Mt. Wayne site. I will end on this note, Mr. Speaker, once again, without the Argyle International Airport spearheaded by this administration, of which the opposition does not know if it will complete; these investments will not take place. I will speak more of the industry, Mr. Speaker, when I come later on to the National Parks Bill. Much obliged, Thank you.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Prime Minister. DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I crave theindulgence of the Honourable House, Mr. Speaker, you in particular to make ministerial statements on three12subjects; two of them would be fairly lengthy. I would keep them as short as I possibly can. One relates to the National Commercial Bank and the second the restructuring of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Port Authority and its services, given the fact that these are two entities which are subjects of public discussion and it is important that people of this country know what is the true situation through the Minister responsible for these matters and the third would be a report, Mr. Speaker, a brief report on the visit I recently took to Africa and the United Kingdom.Honourable Members, the National Commercial Bank was established on June 1977 with a stated capital of $14 million. To date, the bank has experienced what one may call moderate growth in its asset base averaging 7% between 2003 and 2008 and peaking at 15% in 2007. In accordance with regulatory requirements, a minimum TA1 capital of 8% of risk weighted assets is expected to be maintained.In a memorandum of understanding with the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank dated March 2003, the bank in pursuance of a series of reforms which its shareholder decided to initiate, the bank in accordance with the Central Bank 2003, to initiate an augmentation of the capital base of the bank. The board of Directors in 2003 implemented a policy of dividend retention.Mr. Speaker, I am talking 2003 March, this is just a mere two years after we took office. And I will come to what the bank was like in 2001 when I became the principal nominal shareholder. The decisions, which we took in 2003, and the implementation of those decisions resulted in the fact that the TA1 capital was brought in line with the regulatory requirements. That is to say of 8% of risk weighted assets. Mr. Speaker, even though the TA1 capital is in line with the regulatory requirements the situation is one which we must always look at very carefully because the capital base can suffer erosion if we have a volatility in economic activities which will result a reduced profitability and the requirement for increased provisioning.In the past, the bank has made several explorations to augment further its capital base. These options include strategic alliances with larger regional commercial banks, and or a divestment of the 100% ownership by the state of the bank. The recent global economic downturn and the attendant universal upheaval in the financial industry have once again raised the issue of the capital adequacy of the financial institutions in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, not just here to a level of high priority. Indeed, this is the case of the United States, a number of US and UK based banks, that capital was deemed to be inadequate based on the stress test carried out by the regulatory agencies in both countries. You see it on CNN, you see it on FOX, you see it on MSNBC, you read it in the newspapers of the New York Times, the Financial Times and Times of London; as a consequence of the international downturn, challenges to the capital base.Although the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank has not mandated the stress requirements to date, it is clear that given the downturn, that there are challenges to a number of banks particularly the indigenous banks. The ECCB has done some stress tests, internal stress tests, and even if they were to move the capital to 15% there are some banks in the Eastern Caribbean that would have challenges but I want to affirm that the National Commercial Bank even if you carry the tier 1 capital requirement to 15% we would still be satisfying the capital adequacy.In fact, if I may say, Mr. Speaker, in 2010 tier 1 capital total adjusted risked weighted assets was 19.1%. But despite this fact, I repeat, given economic challenges arising from the international global downturn the worst in 80 years policy makers have to be very careful in looking at possible dangers ahead and to take importantcorrective action ahead of time. When this bank was formed in 1977, the statements are here in the Hansard by13the founding father, the Late Robert Milton Cato that as soon as the bank was fully established it was the intention of the then Labour Administration to have a divestment of shares. That was the policy also enunciated by Sir James Mitchell in this House and it is on record. In fact, his language as usual was even excessive, he said that he hopes that he lives to see the day, that he can privatize the bank. It had never been the intention of Mr. Cato’s administration or this administration to have 100% divestment. It has always been our public policy, we enunciated this in 2001, in our campaign that we would wish to have a stronger regional bank work with us, take a certain percentage of the shares and that we will also divest shares for local to own part of their National Commercial Bank, with the government retaining a substantial shareholding.For 17 years the NDP administration did not address the issue. When we were effecting the reforms consequent upon the memorandum of understanding of March 2003 I asked the managers and directors of the bank to begin a search of possible strategic partners. Mr. Speaker, let me just pause here to say this, the fact that you have capital adequacy ratio, as prescribed by the Central Bank, a distinction has got to be made between the adequacy of the capital ratio in terms of the formal requirements and the efficiency of that capital in respect of the further development of the bank. And if you require additional capital, even though there is a capital adequacy in terms of the formal ratios laid down by the Central Bank; if you require more capital, there are two places you can get it from; either the shareholder itself in the case the government putting in more money, either by not taking dividends, as we have not been doing; or actually put more capital in it. And the question is whether the government should put more capital in or look for other strategic partners which is the other possible option of obtaining capital, to strengthen the capital base of the bank.Mr. Speaker, the operational environment currently in the world, is fraught with numerous dangers and uncertainties, and it behoves policymakers, like myself, and others who are shareholders nominally, of small standalone banks, like the National Commercial Bank, it behoves us, proactively to seek, appropriate strategic alliances towards the mitigation of the risks, which may threaten these institutions. It is in this context that we see the need, the continued need, to move upstream towards working out a strategic relationship with the larger regional bank.Mr. Speaker, what has been the history in our efforts in this regard? We had a memorandum of understanding towards the end of our first term in office, with a state owned bank the First Citizens Bank of Trinidad and Tobago. The reason why I could not have publicized it is simply because when you have a memorandum of understanding of this nature you are bound by a confidentiality agreement. And even though the memorandum of understanding does not give rise generally to any legal action if you breach the confidentiality then an issue of liability for damages may arise. You see a lot of people talk and do not understand basic things. And when you try to explain these things they think that you are arrogant. But ignorance must prevail. There is among some circles an elitism of ignorance which is the worst form of arrogance.Mr. Speaker, Mr. Ken Gordon, who was then the chairman of that state-owned bank he was very keen and we were working together for close to a year because it appeared that he had to bring along his board, when he demitted office and a new chairman took over the new chairman of the state-owned bank in Trinidad was interested in consolidating the First Citizens Bank and was not interested any further. During the time when we were addressing the First Citizens Bank approach the Bank of St. Lucia became interested but we could not have talked to the Bank of St. Lucia because we had an exclusivity agreement with the First Citizens. Though we spoke to them informally we could not have speak to them formally. They could not even be asked to14perform due diligence on our bank because that would have breached the memorandum of understanding and the confidentially arrangement that we had with First Citizens Bank.Then as we begun the second term in office and international bank from Canada operates in the Caribbean was interested. They came to see me, we spoke, negotiations were on the way in relation to the memorandum of understanding and then they came back and said that their head office asked that they consolidate in another area before they expand with us. When in 2008 the meltdown began, on the 15th of September 2008 from the Lehman Brothers collapsed, although we did not have the regulatory problems, in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, immediately I said, we have to begin to look for a strategic partner, because we are going to have liquidity problems at these indigenous banks.Notice I have moved now from capital adequacy to liquidity. You have the liquidity problems because you are going to have a downturn in the economy, because of the global financial meltdown. Not as much tourism receipts, remittances from abroad, business activities down, there will be less liquidity in the bank. It is a self- evident proposition. And with the liquidity down you will mask where the high liquidity hitherto mask the insufficiency of capital not the adequacy, the insufficiency of capital when the liquidity challenges emerged stringently, the question of the capital sufficiency becomes more profound. And therefore we head off any possible challenge or any problems. Because remember this, Mr. Speaker, to go for divestment of a portion of the shares and to strengthen the capital base of the bank and other things as I would come to, they are meant to strengthen the bank not to weaken the bank for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. You have a lot of talk which mixes ignorance and unworthy chauvinism which can be a combustible mix to throw smoke in people’s eyes on financial matters, but not in my eyes. I have a job to do. And I have to do it dispassionately.When September 2008 came, I indicated to the bank informally, I said begin to look for a strategic partner, a suitable one. Then before we can actually finalize our decision in relation to one to approach the Sanford, collapse came and the Bank of Antigua, the onshore bank owned by Sanford was in problems, the Central Bank using its emergency powers intervened but when the Central Bank intervened, it had certain options. One of its options was to see if there is a group of indigenous banks willing to get involved to save the Bank of Antigua. And one of the five banks which the Central Bank agreed to be engaged in this exercise was the National Commercial Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And together we formed with the other four banks, including with the two strongest indigenous banks that is to say the St. Kitts and Nevis National Bank and the Bank of St. Lucia; we formed the Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank. When that bank was formed I was asked a question in this Honourable House by the Honourable Senator Leacock and I said to him what I said publicly that I hope that this Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank would become an umbrella bank to unite these five banks and others and the National Commercial Bank will be a branch of those; I said I hope I get there strategically, and that we get there quickly enough. We were not getting there quickly enough. I cannot wait because the world economic situation is deteriorating; it is impacting, so we looked to Republic Bank. Republic Bank owns a bank in Grenada. Republic Bank owns substantially the former Barbados National Commercial Bank which was owned by the Government of Barbados primarily. Owen Arthur on the eve of an election which he won made the case for divestment of the National Bank in Barbados and sold the majority shares to Republic and put the bank on a stronger putting, for the people of Barbados. We formed a... we had a memorandum of understanding it is fortunate that the man, the Republic of Trinidad the lead person on this, Mr. Ron Hartford had gone to the Grammar School here for a year, a year and a half and he has an affinity to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.15We have gone through all the exercises with Republic but in the process we have formed certain impressions and at the end of the day Republic and ourselves cannot properly come to the kind of conclusion which we would like us to come to. Meanwhile, as always with Ralph Gonsalves and this government there is plan A, but you got to have plan B, so we put in place a plan B with another regional Bank, I cannot declare the name now but I want to say it is a bank which we believe we are going to be able to conclude the necessary business with for majority shareholding and also the next phase for divestment to our nationals and people in the OECS for a particular portion of the remainder but the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is still holding substantial shares.Mr. Speaker, the strongest of the indigenous banks is the Bank of St. Lucia. The Bank of St. Lucia is owned 23% thereabouts by the Government of St. Lucia; 20% by Republic Bank, and a number of other entities including this country. The National Commercial Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines owns 4% of the shares in the Bank of St. Lucia. The NIS owns 6% of the shares, approximately. So we have approximately 10% of the shares in that. Does that make the Bank of St. Lucia something in relation bad for St. Lucians? No. And Republic owns 20%. In fact, I have spoken in all of these discussions I have spoken to the individuals involved in the Bank of St. Lucia, in the recent years. I have spoken to Kenny Anthony who was Minister of Finance. I have spoken to Marios St. Rose, who was at university with me, who was at CDB with the Leader of the Opposition and who is a F.A. in the Bank of St. Lucia.A matter of great interest to me is always for a bank which was once a state bank what is the kind of shareholding which the state should have to allow it to maintain a kind of leverage in the bank and the settled view which has emerged is some figure between 22, 23% and 27%. I want to lay out all these facts to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines because, understand this, you may own 100% of $10.00, but if you own 40% of $100.00 you have $40.00 which is more than the $10.00. So I mean it is an elementary arithmetic and business issue but there are some people who behave as if it is far better to own 100% of 10 cents than to earn 40% of $100.00. You know, 100% of $10.00 better to own that than 40% of $100.00. I do not understand.Mr. Speaker, in pursuance of the public policy which has been enunciated originally by Mr. Cato, which was supported though in a more strident and narrow way by Sir James and which this party and this government has advanced in 2001 in keeping with the earlier position of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Labour Party Government when the bank was formed. Now, that public policy for it to be implemented, Mr. Speaker, requires certain other kinds of interventions. The public sector of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has always been a significant borrower from the National Commercial Bank. It has been so in the case of Sir James administration, in the brief period the Honourable Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister, when he was Minister of Finance for a slightly longer period and so it is with this government. We, the public sector not the central government, the public sector as a whole owes $160 million or thereabouts to the National Commercial Bank. So we went to the Caribbean Development Bank for a policy based loan of $100 million. When we got the $100 million it would not increase the public sector debt, we just swap the debt, $100 million of debt at the National Commercial Bank for $100 million at the CDB. But the difference is this the $100 million at the CDB interest rate is only 4.5% whereas the interest rate on the loans here for the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the public sector, is 8 and 11% most of them, and you will find one or two at 12% and I think there is a small one even at 14%. You do not have to take my word for it, I have asked the journalists who I want to be financial literate look in the appendices of the estimates and you will see all the borrowings of the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, all of them.16Now, Mr. Speaker, when you have the switch, the swap so to speak, the liquidity at the National Commercial Bank increases, I noticed that the Honourable Leader of the Opposition has said that he is happy to see the CDB has involved itself or words to that effect. CDB has not involved itself. You know, the difference between you and I, you do not understand one single thing about banking. You do not understand one single thing about banking; because you are the only man in the history of the world who started a bank, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Development Bank and at the very moment when you started it, the bank was in intensive care. The very moment of its birth it was bankrupt. You are a genius when it comes on dealing with matters of banking. [Interjection] Yeah, yeah, yeah. So do not for one moment, you may throw smoke in the eyes of people in your party, one eye man in blind man country is king, but you do not deal with those... you run away from those debates here, you duck.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Let us continue with the statement, Honourable Prime Minister.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we have noticed here in the Caribbean as it is elsewhere, there is a tendency towards the concentration of capital, banking capital, finance capital. That is why you had a merger, takeover, sale, call it what you will with Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Barclays Bank in the Caribbean. And now you have First Caribbean International Bank. No, but you can have those kinds of strategic linkages but we cannot do the same thing in respect of the National Commercial Bank.Mr. Speaker, the benefits to the NCB in up streaming into a larger regional bank, include the following. Access to a larger pool of core resources including funding and support for other cooperate activities, human resource development, training risk management capabilities, finance, fund management, marketing, operations systems, procedures, and policy development. You would be able to expand the scope for growth in the core business and diversification into other sectors of the financial services. Mr. Speaker, given the state of the capital in many of these indigenous banks, whereas as small banks if you want a big loan let us say $12 million you cannot get it, you got to go to a bigger bank or the bank would have to [be] engaged in a syndicated group to have syndicated loan, because there are ratios as to how much you can lend to anyone borrower. It is affixed in law. Mr. Speaker, there is also be the leveraging in the strength of respective brands to create or be part of a unique strong regional brand and to advance the contingency arrangements to negate any possible corresponding banking risk.Mr. Speaker, when I came to office you know, we had real serious problems with corresponding bank relations with that bank. Under the watch of the Honourable Leader of the Opposition when he was Minister of Finance, Bank of America and other banks withdrew their corresponding banking relations because of the weakness under his watch of the National Commercial Bank. The weakness and the absence of appropriate regulatory frameworks internally, these are matters off record.I hear they talk about the bank let us look at the asset base of the bank and how it has grown. I want to use the year 2000. In 2000 the total assets, $368.5 million, by June 2009, at the end of the financial year 2009 it was $813 million, total loans in 2000, $239.4 million; in 2009, $569.2 million. Provisions for loan losses and I want to come to that Mr. Speaker, we have had to write off and I want to correct the number, I had said in the 30’s at the press conference that I gave. Union Island resorts Limited and Validitaro and CCYY, at the National Commercial Bank we had to write off $25 million. Do you hear me? This is not $2 million you know, and17nobody is writing off $2 million. This is $25 million; and this was at a time when as you know $25 million ten years again is worth more than $25 million today.Mr. Speaker, I want to say this, I want a debate on the National Commercial Bank, I want it. The auditors Coopers and Lybrand’s under the watch of the Honourable Leader of the Opposition when he was first of all Fiscal Advisor and later as Minister of Finance for four years, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, the external auditors gave qualified financial statements for the bank. Mr. Speaker, that means that the external auditors were not putting their necks on the line about the safety and solvency of the bank and more particularly in relation to the inadequacy of the provisioning for bad debts. In the nine years that I have been here not once, not once, not one single time the external auditor given the National Commercial Bank a qualified report. I want a debate on it. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the qualification was only removed in 2000 when the powers that be at the time agreed to have additional provisioning. And that is the reason why it was lifted when you provisions for the bad losses.Now, I gave you, Mr. Speaker, total assets, total loans and I will come to the year 2009 when we put a provisioning in for $10.6 million but you know along the way, they did not complain when we put in provisioning for the Ottley Hall’s debt and other debt. No. No complainants about that. Total deposits in the National Commercial Bank, the year 2000, $320.8 million; 2009, $674.1 million; now a bank nowadays, with $674 million in deposits is a small bank. The Bank of St. Lucia in which we have two state institutions approximately 10%, we have it in holding company, the Eastern Caribbean Financial Holdings which is a traded company on the stock market exchange, and regional stock exchange and that holding company holds the Bank of St. Lucia. They have I have been advised the last statements, Mr. Speaker, $2.5 billion; our bank is $674 million in terms of the deposits. Shareholders’ equity when they left the bank to me, the shareholders’ equity to me to the statements in 2000; the audited statements was 427.9 million. The shareholders’ equity in 2009 under the watch of this Minister of Finance is $83.8 million. I want a debate on the bank.Mr. Speaker, TA1 capital to total adjusted risks weighted assets in 2007, 15.1%. In 2010, 19.1% the total qualifying capital to total adjusted risk weighted assets, 23.4% in 2007; 20.3% in 2010. Please remember that the regulatory capital requirements is 8% for TA1 capital. And remember I addressed conceptually earlier the issue of capital adequacy and sufficiency of capital.HONOURABLE ST. CLAIR LEACOCK: I just...DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, I am making a statement.HONOURABLE ST. CLAIR LEACOCK: I am just seeking your clarification that no questions would be allowed, and ask him at the same time whether statements would be presented for us that we can digest. That is what I am asking, Mr. Speaker, whether or not a statement will be presented in the absence of our inability to ask questions on the Ministerial Statements.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, I am making my statement he can make notes.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Members, please. Okay, as you are aware... Honourable Prime Minister let me address this matter because sometimes to my own annoyance I hear the questioning as to whether one can respond to Ministerial Statements and it is abundantly clear in this House that Ministerial Statements you cannot respond to them. And I want it to be clear that these rules have been established and18those of you Members would have seen me looking at this. I have established Standing Orders of the House of St. Vincent and the Grenadines made by the House of Assembly under the provisions of Section 45 (1) of the St. Vincent Constitution Order 1979. And these Rules have been revised in 1989 Statutory Rules and Orders 1989 No. 16. So they are not Rules that have just been made. These Rules have been established for years, since 1989 as they have been revised, they last time they were revised and whatever has been said or done here is being said or done according to the Standing Orders as Revised in 1989. Sometimes I get the impression when this particular aspect is being questioned that it is something that may have come under this Speaker, but certainly, it is not. This is how it is. I keep saying that we have an opportunity as Members of Parliament to revise these Rules.The last meeting I established one of the items on the agenda was for I to look at the Rules of this Honourable House, but nothing came of that meeting and therefore we have to abide whether we like it or not by the rules as have been established since 1979, revised since 1989 No. 16 of 1989. That what the position is Honourable Prime Minister continue with your statement.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: I am obliged, Mr. Speaker.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: He said that he is making a statement and you can make notes.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, I am speaking from notes and the Honourable can make notes if he wishes of my notes as I speak. He may get an opportunity, I may give him an opportunity by bringing a motion here to debate the National Commercial Bank [Applause] but I will have to find out from the Board of Directors whether they will advise that I do that, because I will have to take advice on the question and in relation to the Central Bank. Mr. Speaker, as I have just indicated with the Capital adequacy ratios, I want to reaffirm the point restate it that it is important that the Bank’s Capital even though we are more than satisfying the formal capital adequacy ratios that the Bank’s Capital can be eroded by impairment in the asset quality if the economic circumstances as such that it makes it very difficult because the Bank works in an economic environment and in this case an international environment. And where a bank is small as ours, it is more vulnerable to shocks than if it is a bigger bank. It is a self-evident proposition in banking and finance. It is so self- evident that I wonder, why is it that there are a number of persons who pretend to know about these things do not appreciate this point.And what I am doing is to seek to clothe by way of an appropriate public policy the Bank with the requisite protection to make it better for the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines and stronger. Mr. Speaker, seven employees have recently been laid off: a song and dance has been made of it. Let us look at the employment situation at the Bank. In 2000 they had 139 persons employed at the Bank, today we have a 196 nearly 60 more persons: 57 more. Wage Bill in 2000 was $4.6 million. The Wage Bill was $12.4 million. In addition, Mr. Speaker, I want to make this point, when we arrived the National Commercial Bank was the only Commercial Bank in St Vincent and the Grenadines and I believe the only one in the Windward Islands where the workers did not have a pension plan. The Union’s Executive will tell you that even what they were proposing as the shareholder: principle shareholder I went beyond it and the Government paid the pension contributions for every single worker going back as far as fifteen years; there were only three workers who were beyond fifteen years. So that is to say everybody but three, I think the most was seventeen years.19It cost the Bank $2 million and from 2003 the Pension Plan began with the employer paying a certain percentage and the employee paying a certain percentage on the basis that if the workers are happy we would get more productivity and better service; and in fact those workers some of those who are going home, I want to say, Mr. Speaker that the recent redundancies I have been advised by the Directors are all part and parcel of the operational rationalization and organizational repositioning that are necessary to facilitate the further development of the Bank and to aid in our divestment process. The employees affected have all been properly compensated and were it not for the Pension arrangement they would not have been adequately compensated. And in some cases the Bank would make arrangements to continue to utilize the skills of some of those employees in the foreseeable future on project initiatives that they have in mind.Mr. Speaker, when we arrived in office there were two graduates at the Bank, there are now twenty-five of them, eleven of them [Applause] have post-graduate training and twenty-one are currently pursuing graduate training imagine that; they only had two. So you have now twenty-five: eleven of whom are doing post-graduate work: have training at post-graduate level, and another twenty-one doing post-graduate work and one is currently at university doing an undergraduate degree.Let us look at the profits, Mr. Speaker. In 2000, the Bank had a profit of $2.4 million; on June 30th, 2001 it had a profit of $2.2 million, by 2007 we had $14.2 million; 2008 $15.8 million and last year $1.1 million. The falloff in profitability last year is a consequence of the following matters. I outlined this already to this Honourable House, a provisioning of $10.6 million some of it, most of it relating to state indebtedness, including state indebtedness going back to the time when the Honourable Leader of the Opposition was Minister of Finance. We made provision also for 20% of the exposure of $10.8 million that is to say $1.6 million in respect of the investment of CLICO/ British American and there is a $4.2 million matter relating to income tax on which the Bank and the Income Tax Department were arguing and I sought not to get involved but in the process of my non-involvement the Inland Revenue persuaded the Bank that they were wrong on the tax issue that the Bank was wrong; and the Bank had to pay the arrears of $4.2 million. Now if we did not have the provision in and the loss from CLICO and British American and the tax issue you would have seen that the profitability of the Bank would have been far better; but when this came out they behaved as though ‘Ahhhh’ is like, you know, ‘yes we have something here’ but it turns out to be nothing.Mr. Speaker, the International Standard for nonperforming loans is now 5%, the Central Bank, when I went on the Monetary Council, the Central Bank had it at 10% but we have always wanted to go with the international best practice and we urge that and it is accepted as 5%. Up to June 2008, we had a 2.1% nonperforming loan portfolio; I want to say in 2000 it was close to 20%. Last year including accounts for state enterprises, it was 11.6%, so what we did rather than duck the problem we made the provisioning of just over $10 million so that we bring the ratio back in line, so by the end of June 2010, the Bank is now within the International Benchmark of 5% of the nonperforming loan. [Applause] I do not duck decisions you know. I do not duck decisions.Mr. Speaker, I have spoken publicly on the service done to the former Chairman of the National Commercial Bank, Mr. Morgan: Desmond Morgan, where the Bank has made it plain and I have made it so on behalf of the Bank that they have more than adequate security amounting to close to $4 million for a loan of just over $2 million, I see that the Leader of the Opposition said that he finds it strange that if they have sufficient security why did they go for judgement, they simply did it to make sure, doubly sure. Bankers can be very conservative20people and if they were to check that a few months earlier there is another entity in the City which had defaulted and they took that entity to court, it was more than $2 million actually but of course that did not make any news because those people are not related to the Honourable Attorney General: not related. You see one of the problems if I may say parenthetically, under the watch of the NDP we have had several Attorney Generals having to resign for one reason or the other that has not happened to this Honourable Attorney General. And to quote Sir James in this regard; “Dirty water cannot tarnish gold”. So, they can throw as much dirty water as they want in the direction of the Honourable Attorney General.Mr. Speaker, some of the explanations which still have to be given on the watch: under the NDP watch, include the ‘sweetheart mortgages’ granted to Members of Parliament: NDP Members of Parliament, where the power of sale was postponed. A normal mortgage instrument, Mr. Speaker, says that “The Mortgagee (that is to say the Bank) has the power of sale when you miss one installment”. The Bank may choose not to exercise the power of sale but if you miss one monthly installment they can exercise the power of sale. You may get something when they sell or you may not get depending on what is the extent of your ‘equity of redemption’: what is your equity inside of the property to be sold: what you can redeem from it that is why they call it ‘the equity of redemption’. The young lawyers here know it better than I do because I have taken holiday from law but it is like bicycle you do not forget it. You know how to ride bicycle and you know it.Mr. Speaker, take the example because this one went to court, I do not want to address anyone which had not gone to the court. Jonathan Peters and the National Commercial Bank, he got a mortgage in 1990 here is what the Mortgage Deed says: -“And it is hereby agreed and declared that the power of sale herein before contained shall not be exercised unless default shall be made in payment of the said principle sum of $140,000 or the interest thereon or some part thereof respectively on the 31st October, 2000. And also for the space of one calendar month next after a notice in writing requiring such payment shall be or on behalf of the Mortgagee have been given to the Mortgagor or left at the usual last known place, respective places of abode or fixed to some part of the said hereditaments or some building thereon. Or unless default shall be made in the payment of interest or some part thereof: for the space of one calendar month after the time hereby appointed for payment”.So, with that sweetheart mortgage you could miss all your payments from 1990, they cannot do anything at all with your property until ten years later the 31st October. But they cannot do it still they had to give you still a month’s grace to write you: that is what happened, you know; ‘sweetheart mortgages’. Now Desmond Morgan mortgage was a mortgage supported by property: legal mortgage, you miss they can exercise the power of sale or they can take you to court. Mr. Speaker we all know that Mr. Jonathan Peters left the NDP Cabinet and left here at the end of 2004, the Mortgage was been paid up until early 1994 when he left December: paid up until 1995.Well the Bank decided that in 1996, late 1996 in November they want their money since Peters was not paying. The Bank was owed at that time on the property mortgage and the personal loan $238,531.92, so the Bank decided that they will go and auction the property. On the 12th December, the Bank sent their agents; they entered and took possession of the property; they change the locks and they put two security guards. That is in 1996, not the ULP Government you know, nobody can say that it was the Bank under Ralph’s watch have it in 21for Jonathan, no. By then Jonathan has gone so they feel well boy, they fall out with him so they are going to enforce and it is that same thing, Mr. Speaker, which got the Bank into trouble. Remember, you know he owes the Bank two hundred and thirty eight thousand dollars that is what I have here, what is in the papers in the Court, with the arbitration and everything.The Catholic Church they responded to an auction, they paid $225,000.00 but the deposit had to be paid back to the Church. And then Jonathan decided that since he has a ‘sweetheart mortgage’; they went in Mr. Speaker, even though he owed the money, they went in, in December 1996, but his mortgage deed says you cannot touch me until August 31st and one month thereafter 2000. So Jonathan brought an action in 2001 and lest it be said that he brought it after the Government lost, he brought it in January 2001 and the Government: we then had to deal with this problem. The NDP lost government; I do not want to talk about the conversations Jonathan held with me from America, telephoned me, I am not talking about those, I am only dealing with the record. I said I do not interfere with these matters, some internal banking business. The Bank decided that rather than dealing with the matter in the Court, they would deal with it by way of arbitration between two parties. Now, among other things Jonathan asked for money for reputational lost and mental agony [laughter] yes! [Laughter] Even the Leader of the Opposition laughed. [Laughter] Yes! You see the mess which we had to clear up and still clearing up. You know what the Arbitrator Justice Joseph said:-“The Claimant held responsible positions including serving as a Diplomat and a Minister of Government; I consider that the higher the positions held in the community, national and international the greater is the injury to reputation [laughter] I consider that the loss of reputation is not quantifiable. What I award can only partially assuage the hurt or injury suffered by the Claimant and the mental agony he must have been caused.He owed the Bank money you know, but the sweetheart mortgage protects him.I consider,says the Judge;mental agony related to the unlawful entry by the Defendant of the Claimant’s property, the premature offering of the Claimant’s property for sale and injury to reputation and I award the sum of $170,000.00 under this heading”.Jonathan Peters got $170,000.00 for mental agony [laughs], I see the Leader of the Opposition is laughing but it is not a joke! [Interjection] Yea! Now, Mr. Speaker, the total award $308,300.00: $70,000 for unlawful entry; $170,000 for injury to reputation; special damages of $62,300; and legal expenses before arbitration of $6,000. Well, you notice that this was now more than what Jonathan owed the Bank. And the Bank had to pay the Lawyers for Jonathan, they had to pay Carlyle Dougan $50,000 and they had to pay his junior Grantley Connell $30,000. So, in addition of course, the Bank had to pay their own lawyers, and you know the lawyers for the Bank cannot get less than the Lawyers for Jonathan. So, you see, here is a case a man who owes the Bank ‘the sweetheart mortgage’ protects him and the Bank had to end up paying this. In fact, eventually, the Bank had to write off even after they squared everything the Bank had to write $113,906.18. In other words, they had to pay22[laughs] Jonathan for mental agony and other things: that is what happened under the National Commercial Bank, under the watch of the New Democratic Party and we had to try and clear up the mess.And Mr. Speaker, there is one question which still remains to be answered and I expect Sir James, he had said that he would go to the Ottley Hall Enquiry anytime, to say whether or not he gave instructions to the Chairman who is now dead, sadly, Mr. Joachim of blessed memory, to lend the money to ‘Rolla’ because Mr. Brisbane the then Manager had said in graphic evidence that when he told Mr. Joachim it cannot be done because it was outside of the limits, he said that, “Shoulder cannot go above head”. Mr. Speaker, I have been the principal shareholder nominally and Chairman of shareholders of the Bank for nine years; on no single occasion have I intervened with the Bank on any account to advise the Bank, whether to lend or not to lend any money and I shall keep this record. We address issues of policy. The National Commercial Bank as I have explained is one of the smaller Regional Indigenous Banks. You see some of the challenges which are faced and that the Government is making every single effort to make sure that the Bank is made stronger than ever; but the propaganda being run against the Bank from the data that I have given is clearly unwarranted. [Applause]PORT AUTHORITYOn the restructure of the Port Authority and its services, the Cabinet appointed Committee by the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines was mandated to restructure the St Vincent and the Grenadines Port Authority in 2005. The Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on Security matters was designated as the Chairman of the Committee, to date the Committee has secured the services of two consultants: a Management Consultant and an Information Technology Consultant. Both have since concluded and submitted their final reports. The Port is now at the various stages of implementing changes that were recommended and have been accepted by the Restructuring Committee. The restructuring process can be captured under three broad headings: Infrastructure Development; Technological Development and equipment procurement and Human Resource Development.Infrastructure DevelopmentUnder infrastructure development Mr. Speaker, in respect of over the last nine years, the following has occurred:-   Major repairs to the Ferry and Cruise Terminal at Kingstown.   Renovation to the Transit shed offices, washroom facilities and accommodation for the Custom and Excise Department at Kingstown.  Port Elizabeth, Bequia Wharf rehabilitation.Technology DevelopmentIn respect of technology development and equipment procurement over the last nine years, I identify the following as important developments:-   The introduction of an IT Department   The Procurement and installation of Servers to host internal mail domain and website. page23image24696 page23image24856 page23image2501623 Procurement of software to computerize the operations, accounting and finance Authority.   Reintroduction of the Port Website.   Procurement of mobile harbour crane.   Procurement of cargo handling equipment and container handling units. Human Resource Development Under Human Resource Development:-   Training of additional Marine Pilots.   Update training policy and staff rules and regulations.   Employment of a Manager of Finance and Administration.   A Civil Engineer.   Manager Information System.   Manager Human Resource Cooperate Affairs   Equipment Engineer.   Health and Safety Officer.   Training of operators for the Mobile Harbour Crane.   Adoption of a new cooperate model. activities of the Portpage24image8512Besides these, Mr. Speaker, we have a number of projects which are on-going but not limited to those three sets which I have now identified.The Port Authority secured the Technical Assistance Loan from the CDB to undertake a Port rationalisation and development study. This study is being carried out by Mott Macdonald Limited in Association with the firm of Sorrel Consulting Limited of England and is to be carried out in two phases. The first phase:- To produce a master plan for the development of the Port Authority port facilities, and propose a development option.The interim report has already been received and phase one is due to be completed in the first quarter of 2011. Phase (2):- To commence on completion of phase one, would produce the outlined development plans for the Port Elizabeth harbour front on Bequia.The Port Authority, Mr. Speaker, as we know, we have already built a wharf in Mayreau and the Port has since signed a contract for the repairs of the jetty and work is scheduled to begin on the 9th August and to be completed within eight weeks. There is a lot of activity now at Mayreau with Kelly Glass and other developers. So, there was some damage which was done to the Port and we had to do the repairs.24The Canouan wharf repairs: the construction firm that is to construct the Pier on Canouan has already been selected, technical drawings are being developed and the work is to commence very shortly. This will cost $3 million.Mr. Speaker, the Port has made major changes in the operations that have resulted in increased efficiency and lower operational cost to the benefit of all stakeholders, including the business community. And these changes include:-   Twenty-four hours quayside operation at the Campden Park Container Port (CPCP).   Usage of the Mobile Harbour Crane.   Changes in overtime rates.   Changes in holiday pay rates.   Reduction in stevedoring gang and incentive pay. Mr. Speaker, on moving the container traffic to CPCP the Port commenced twenty-four hour operations at the quay, previously any vessel calling at Port Kingstown after 10:00 p.m. had to wait until 6:00 a.m. for the operations to commence. This new twenty-four hour activity translates in shorter round trip time for the Shipping Lines and lower operating cost. This move has been welcome by the stakeholders in the shipping community in St Vincent and the Grenadines, as a major move towards the development of the Industry. The usage of the Mobile Harbour Crane The acquisition of a Mobile Harbour Crane moves our country one-step closer in its effort to create a developed country service. With this new piece of equipment, the Port now has the capability of handling gearless vessels and effecting specialised heavy lifts on and off the Pier at CPCP. One of the Industry rating indices is the box moved per hour. This index stood at twelve moves per hour when the vessels were being off loaded by the ships gear. With the implementation of the Mobile Harbour Crane this index has increased to fifteen moves per hour. This now means that a typical vessel with sixty-five moves could now be off loaded and loaded 1 hour quicker. The fast operating time results in the savings of the Shipping Lines and we need to see if we can do even better with the Crane. Changes in the Bargaining Agreement In an effort to lower the total cost of doing business with the Port Authority, the Port negotiated for changes in the way overtime wages were to be applied with the National Workers Movement (NWM): the bargaining unit for the workers at the Authority; there are two changes The overtime rate Prior to the successful negotiation of 2009, overtime rates were paid anytime workers performed outside of the normal 8:00-4:00 hours. The new agreement not only indicates that for work starting before 10:00 p.m. but after 4:00 p.m. normal rates would apply. Previous to this agreement overtime was applicable at 4:00 p.m. whether work had begun before or was scheduled to begin at that time. page25image24336 page25image24496 page25image2465625Another significant achievement was achieved when the MWM agreed that all holiday wages will now be calculated at double the normal rate. Previously there were holidays that were deemed special holidays which attracted rates of three times the normal wages.Stevedoring gangs are provided, Mr. Speaker, by the agents of the vessel to perform duties on board. With the introduction of the Mobile Harbour Crane the Shipping Agents were able to reduce their gang size by approximately 50% including the higher paid crane operators.As an encouragement to the workers who are directly involved in the operations of the Mobile Crane, the Port introduced an incentive payment plan to motivate the workers. This has seen tremendous results with rapid cohesion of this team and has resulted in higher than expected moves per hour. The cost of this incentive is being borne by the Port Authority to the tune of approximately $90,000 per year. Mr. Speaker, I want to identify some additional benefits to Shipping Lines and commercial entities.Crane Lifting FeeIn determining the rate to be charged for the lifting of cargo by the crane, the primary concern was to control the cost going to the consumer it was for this reason that the other charges mentioned above were implemented in an effort to offset the cost to the Shipping Lines. It was envisioned by the Port that the reduced cost realised would have allowed the Lines to absorb the new charge without passing on to the consignee. In analyzing the rates to be applied to the Crane, various scenarios were looked at to include full recovery plus an option to recover on the crane operations cost plus 30% of the remaining direct labour cost. The results indicate that the Ports current annual through put of 16,000 TEUs. A TEU is the lift on and lift off, that the annual through put of 16,000 TEUs, the minimal rate that should be applied would be approximately $200; instead $65 per a TEU is being applied. The Port is absorbing the rest of the cost because we want to make sure for the consumer that things come to them cheaper.Reefers ContainersThe cost of the rental of refrigerated containers, the so call Reefer Containers, the cost of these reefers have remained constant since 1989 despite the fact that the cost of energy has risen significantly over the period. In fact apart from having the cost constant no excess storage is collected on reefer containers, and the supermarket operators are benefiting considerably here and one is looking to see if all of the savings are passed on to the consumer.De-stuffingThere is something called de-stuffing on the compound, the Port Authority conscious of the various limitations faced by importers in having their containers de-stuffed at their compound including the working hours of Custom and Excise Department after 4:30 p.m.; limited space in Capital Kingstown; limited hauling capacity and general high cost of de-stuffing off the Port premises and despite numerous studies showed that this activitypage26image25232 page26image25392 page26image2555226is hampering the proper operations: the Port has allowed it to continue without imposing a fee which is a tremendous benefit to people with the containers.The handling of full container load containers to be de-stuffed at the Port by the consignee or agent does not attract lifting charges for placement of containers to and from the storage. As a result, the Port is losing revenue of $470,000 per annum. Apart from not applying a user fee the Port is also saddled with the cost of cleaning the de-stuffing area and garbage removal. You are not hearing the Importers complaining about that you know.Fixed Rental FeesThe rental fees for equipment have remained constant since 2000. These fees are made up of two different rates: rental of equipment and wages for an operator. Since 2000 the wages of the operators has risen by more than 36% this increase has not been passed on to the rental of the equipment but has been absorbed by the Port Authority. It is estimated that the Port is losing some $20,000 annually on the rental of forklift trucks alone, little or no profit is realised from the rental of other equipment.Tonnage DuesThe Port Authority has not been collecting tonnage dues for vessels ploughing the interisland route after the first six calls of each year. This is a measure which allows the Shipping Vessel to remain profitable while passing on the savings to the traffickers.Working along with the Customs and Excise Department, Mr. Speaker, the Port Authority also facilitates the delivery of trafficker cargo on a same day delivery system as much as reasonable possible and this results in a much better cash flow for the person involves in this trade. With the movement of handling ‘break bulk’ cargo to containerize cargo it was felt at the time, during the early 1980’s that the workers had suffered diminished wages; as such a premium was paid to all workers involved in the operations to include the handling of vehicles from the ‘car carriers’. The Port has carried this cost of approximately $184,000 per year until the introduction of the incentive payment plan. These premiums however exist for the operations of Port Kingstown and the ‘Car Carriers’ at the cost of the Port Authority.During the last two Christmas seasons, the Port has been able to de-stuff 98% of all containers listed cleared by custom authority on or before five working days after the landing at the Port Authority. And during the busy Christmas season when one vessel can arrive with as much as fifteen containers for one consignee, the Port has in the past de-stuff these containers outside the regular working hours and in some cases on Sunday. This was done in an effort for the cargo to be ready for delivery on the next working day. All overtime fees are covered by the Port including wages to the Customs and Excise Department. Mr. Speaker, as we see from this list the tremendous lengths to which our Port Authority is going not only to improve its efficiency but to keep cost down for the Shippers, the Importers and all the stakeholders.Mr. Speaker, if we were to do a comparison to other ports what do we find? Due to different configurations of the Ports of the Caribbean, there are different handling methods and different equipment used. This makes a direct comparison of handling cargo cost difficult; however a study was done in 2007 on the price of importingpage27image28672 page27image2883227a full container in the countries of St Vincent and the Grenadine, St Lucia, Grenada, Antigua, St Kitts, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. And this study indicated that only two countries namely St Lucia and Trinidad had lower inbound Port charges than St Vincent and the Grenadines. It should be noted that both countries have competing ports. Inbound handling charges for the ‘interisland break bulk traffic’ was lowest in St Vincent and the Grenadines when compared to St Kitts, Antigua, St Lucia and Grenada. As it relates to the fees associated with ‘break bulk vessels’ St Vincent again has the lowest port operating cost in this category.With the necessary movement of containerized cargo to CPCP extra burden was placed on the one warehouse on site. In order to fulfil its cooperate duty; the Port took a decision not to increase the number of free storage days that would have resulted in cargo being retained at the Port for longer periods but to haul the CL containers back to Kingstown for de-stuffing. This is done at a cost of approximately $120,000 per annum. Mr. Speaker, so we look at the comparison with other ports and you see how we are doing: so we come now to the issue of the tug service.Tug ServiceOne of the main policy decisions made by the Committee following meetings with the Marine Department and an internal risk assessment was that a tug service was needed. At the time two main reasons were identified:- 1. Age of the Kingstown Pier and its deteriorating condition. 2. Increase size of vessels called into St Vincent. These two reasons since that time have been justified by the following:- Three structural assessments done over a two-year period have asked for the limiting of the weight on the Pier at Kingstown and that is where we are doing the assessments. We have a lot of work to do there to renovate the Port. And a shipping study which was done by some consultants out of Germany GOPA indicated a 73* increase in the size of container vessels call into St Vincent. The Port Authority has a total of three piers, namely the Kingstown Pier, the Campden Park Container Pier and the Cruise Ship Pier. Due to design characteristics, only two of these Piers can handle containerized cargo: that is the Kingstown Pier and the CPCP at Campden Park. With the worsening conditions at Kingstown, it is imperative that the Pier at CPCP be preserved at all cost having a tug to assist the berthing is one such way of doing this. I do not understand how some people are so short-sighted that they cannot see these things which we have explained before. Mr. Speaker, the Pier at Kingstown was built in 1964 with a life expectancy of forty-year, now it is into its forty-sixth year, the Pier needs major restorative work, the report on the structural integrity of the Pier indicates that while it is still structurally sound all efforts must be made to reduce the impact to the Pier as well as the weight stored on the Pier at any given time. The CPCP Pier The CPCP is a mere 100 meters with two dolphins extending 50ft on either side, this has only one berth. On the Pier there is a mobile crane that is capable of lifting 100 ton. The Gross weight of this crane is 360 tons. Pier page28image28232 page28image2839228movement is predominantly away. The Pier acts like an inverted pendulum hinged at the base and swayed from side to side. The engineering term is a ‘cantilevered beam’; it is constrained at one end with the other end free to sway in the breeze, with the crane on the Pier increasing its end weight, this movement is increased when vessels strike the Pier when during berthing. The level of sway is dependent on two factors, the weight of the vessel and the speed of the vessel. The usage of the tug reduces the speed of the vessel as it strikes the Pier and thus minimizes the sway. Lateral impact which occurs when a vessel strikes the Pier can only be reduced by better manoeuvrings and handling of vessels as they approach the Pier.The vessels are harder to manoeuvre the slower they are going; to overcome this more power is used while berthing than is desirable. The increased power increases the possibility of a vessel striking the Pier with much more force. The usage of a tug boat allows for the vessel to use less power and thus minimizing the impact to the Pier. Should the Pier at Campden Park be damaged during the berthing or un-berthing operation that renders it unsuitable, the Port would have to revert to loading and unloading the vessels at port Kingstown, and given the advice to restrict the usage of this Pier and the weight restrictions already in place, the Port would be exposing itself to a known risk. This thing does not just happen so; it is a matter which was done with careful study.Should the Campden Park Pier be damaged and all the containers currently housed there would have to be transported to Kingstown. This gives rise to traffic congestion and added cost to the Port Authority. Currently there is only one container handled at Port Kingstown should all the vessels return to Port Kingstown the handlers would have to be moved the process that involved the partial dismantling of the units and this increases the likelihood of damage to the units.Mr. Speaker, the Cruise Ships have been exempted as we know with the Law which was passed here. The Cruise Lines while they intend to have higher gross registered tonnage (GRT) than the container vessels called at a dedicated pier, while any damage to this pier will result in major revenue loss, the Port will still be able to offer berth to the Cruise Ships at Kingstown and if needed at CPCP. It is impossible to off load containers on the Pier at the Cruise Ship Terminal so you have these assets, so you have to do best what you can.Mr. Speaker, as has been announced by the Chairman of the Port Authority through discussion with all the stakeholders, the Tug Boat Tariff is amended and a single flat fee of $1,000 per call which includes berthing and un-berthing and any shifts by the Port will be applicable to all cargo ships at 650ft LOA: that is the length of the vessel rather than deal with the tonnage.The amendment was negotiated with the service provided based on the assumption that the Port will assist the service provider when and where applicable to ensure that all salvage is done by the Tug Service. The Port is to look at the ways and means to lower operational cost to the Tug by providing a berth permanently at the CPCP Pier, that the service provider will be free to provide waiting fees and shifting fees and that the Port would reopen the issue of a standby provision for the Tug Service and the Geest Vessel. All invoices already billed for the Tug Boat service will be amended retroactively so that the new fee mentioned would be incorporated in that amendment. The Port has committed itself to immediately begin work on the necessary changes to the Port building system so that a freer long side ship system would become effective from February 1st, 2011.29In the case of a tug is not available within a two-hour window of when required by the vessel on normal maritime circumstances the Ship may proceed without the Tug and will be exonerated from any billing. The service provider has indicated that they are looking at purchasing a second tug and at the moment there is a tug located at Bequia that could possibly be called into service by the Provider and the reduction of the charge for empty containers storage by 50% with immediate effect. Free time remains at fourteen days. A lot of money is not being used up there. And effective 1st August, 2010 we are going to eliminate an antiquated heavy lift charge. Mr. Speaker, anybody listening to this report will see the tremendous work which has been done in relation to the Port, how much we have sought to make savings for the people of this country and while at the same time keeping the Port Authority viable and the development plans which we have for the Port.Visit to Africa/UKA final matter on which I will just speak briefly Mr. Speaker, concerns a trip I made to the African Union Summit in Uganda and I was accompanied, part of the delegation was Mr. Luke Browne and a young man who has written and whom I know from my personal interaction has a great deal of interest in African Affairs and the wife of the Prime Minister was there with him. Mr. Speaker, it is the second time that I ever address in the period of just over six months the African Union Summit, first in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and then in Uganda. I have been advised that I am the first head of government of the Caribbean who has had this honour. [Applause]We are building a strategic relationship between the Caribbean and Africa and at the Summit I advanced the view which I advanced as the Guest Speaker in 2005 in Jamaica at the first Africa Diaspora Summit for a permanent Africa Brazil Commission to address a range of matters between Africa and the Caribbean and Brazil is central to this, because Brazil has the second largest number of persons of African descent anywhere in the world. The largest is Nigeria and already Brazil, Mr. Speaker, has a weekly flight to Barbados and it is fairly easy now, you go Barbados, you go to Brazil and you can then get from Brazil to go cross to Dakar in Senegal which is the closes point. So the idea from the old days of going north to the UK to come back south, one does not have to do that. You see in school we were taught geography but we were not taught political geography. Political geography addresses the question of the strategic conception that you have about relationships and alliances and this is a very important and productive one.Mr. Speaker, while some in St Vincent and the Grenadines said I went on a joy ride, it was considered sufficiently important. There were big delegations there from the United States headed by the Attorney General, Eric Holder who delivered a speech on behalf of President Obama. Delegations from Britain, France, Italy and Germany and they do a lot of work in the margins. I do not understand how Africa could be important to them and Africa is not important to us. Not only for the historic reasons of linkages but clearly as a part forward. This is not for Ralph Gonsalves you know, because I say this, the young people who are listening to me today within fifteen to twenty years, ten years perhaps they will see the consequences of this strategic opening towards Africa.Mr. Speaker, in Kampala Uganda, the Caribbean delegation met and had a formal meeting with Muammar Gaddafi, the Leader of the Libyan Revolution. In Uganda were two other Prime Ministers from the Caribbean, Denzil Douglas from St Kitts Nevis and Prime Minister Skerrit from Dominica and there were representativespage30image3212030from the Governments of ... Ministers from the Dominican Republic, from St Lucia, from Grenada and from Belize.In Libya we had meetings with the Prime Minister and other officials as a result of those discussions, Mr. Speaker, something which we have been trying to get going. In fact since I went there in 2001, when I went there with two other Prime Ministers, Keith Mitchell of Grenada and the late Pierre Charles of Dominica that they have now moved. ... The Libyan Foreign Bank will be establishing a Bank, an Investment Bank in St Kitts capitalized with a US $100 million and there is a company Lavica Caribbean Holdings Company which is a Libyan Company for Foreign Investment has already been established in Antigua and they authorized capital also will be US $100 million. It is important to realise, Mr. Speaker, that with the Holding Company they can hold businesses; they can invest as equity partners in other businesses. And I would advise the Private Sector that when they are up and running properly from St Vincent and the rest of the OECS to get engaged because there is a lot of money there to be invested and similarly monies to be borrowed from the Investment Bank: US $200 million and this is essentially monies which would be invested in the Private Sector activities. They have given a grant of $10 million to be divided equally between the six Caribbean countries. Separately, they have agreed to provide further assistance to the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines for the International Airport Project. They are coming in after September 15th, Ramadan finishes on the 11th September, and they are coming shortly thereafter and going to St Kitts and there will be the relevant technical and other committees formed to carry all these things through. It is a very important strategic development.In the United Kingdom, I addressed the Vincentian Community in Redding; people came from all over the United Kingdom and I addressed them there. It was a very good meeting; I brought them up to date.Mr. Speaker, may I just mention one last thing and it is always... I have done this; I had to do this on more than one occasion before and I always do it with great regret. You know there are things which happen and we demean ourselves, I hear the commentators and I read about it when I got back that I gone on a joyride but that is okay. I cannot help if people’s imaginations are limited and cannot appreciate the strategic significance of these foreign policies forays. But then they go on and talk about how much money you are making by going on these trips; how much per diem and how much it cost. Mr. Speaker, let me say it again, I met the per diem allowance for the Prime Minister at US $60 per day, and I have not increased it. My per diem allowance is US $60 per day.Now, if I am in the Caribbean it is EC $60, if I go outside of the Caribbean it is US $60, the government will pay for the meals but you know the government will not pay for any tip, they would not pay ... so when they take my bags up to the Hotel I give the fella $10.00, $15.00 sometimes, I may have US $20.00 which I would give him, he comes back for them when I am leaving, the same thing. At every meal it is obligatory in these countries that you leave a tip, some of them tell you it is 10%. Some of them tell you it is 15%. I cannot claim for tips you know. So I spend more than the US $60 a day. I tell you the truth the person who comes and takes care of your room, the Helper, people will normally... you leave something. Sometimes Mr. Speaker, I cannot even bring myself to go and ask the Government for the US $60 because I spend so much more than that and I really ... please let us behave like a sophisticated independent country and do not go down those roads, you know.31I want the journalist to ask the Chief Executive Officer VINLEC what is his per diem or at CWSA or ask the Chief Executive Officer at Corea’s you know, $60? Mr. Speaker, when I go to the US for instance they have a lot of Secret Service they bring with you, excessive numbers, and sometime during the stay I have to take them for a meal. You know these men may want when they are having a meal with you a bottle of wine, well I cannot claim the meal as part of my expenses there, I have to apply separately for it as entertainment which may or may not be granted. But if you put a bottle of wine on the table you have to pay for it yourself because you cannot claim for that. I just want people to know. I have not spoken about these things but you know, Mr. Speaker, on this trip our plane fares were paid for us. Our accommodation was taken care of in Kampala free. Our accommodation was taken care of in Libya free. The only thing that the government had to pay for me on that trip was when I arrived in London on the Friday night because the meeting was on Sunday in Redding; they had to pay for my hotel, Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night. I came out back on Monday.Mr. Speaker, to save money going so I do not have to spend an extra night in London, I left here 12 o’clock on a Friday and I reached Kampala without going into a hotel room at 2 o’clock on the Sunday morning, I went to one airport in London, I had to drive to the next to take the plane to Libya and then to Kampala. I had to wait several hours at the Airport in Libya, when I arrived in Kampala it was 2 o’clock in the morning and then at 10:00 o’clock I had to be at the African Union Summit. In fact, Mr. Speaker, I would say this I only knew I was [to] speak at the Summit the morning when I arrived because when I was in the air they sent the communication that I would be required to speak. Of course, to address a summit of leaders on behalf of African and Caribbean matters, you wake me up any hour of the night I will be able to do it. So I do not really need to have ... it is in my head, it is part of me, you know that is the reality. It is when I arrived there in the morning I said okay alright, you know; that is it Mr. Speaker.When Eloise travels with me Eloise does not get any single cent for any allowance, so when she leaves and goes out, out of the $60, I have to give her something [laughter]. You know, I just really want to explain what is happening. But you know, I would not increase it and the next five years when I am Prime Minister, I will not increase it, somebody who comes after me may want to increase it but that is their business, but I will not increase it, so I can tell you up until 2015 it will remain the same. [Laughter] I am obliged, Mr. Speaker [applause].HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Maybe you can do the Papers and then we go to lunch: Papers, Petitions and lunch.PAPERSHONOURABLE RENE BAPTISTE: Mr. Speaker, I beg to lay on the Table of this Honourable House the Report on the Referendum for Constitutional Change held in St Vincent and the Grenadines on Wednesday 25th November, 2009. This is the Report of the Supervisor of Elections made in accordance with the Referendum alterations of the Constitutional Act of 2009.page32image3042432PETITIONS HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Prime Minister, are laying the Petitions for the Minister of EcclesiasticalAffairs?DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, I am sorry the Honourable Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs is not feeling well, and he has had a couple of days leave.Accordingly, Mr. Speaker, I beg to lay the three petitions in the order, they are before us on the Table so I just name them:- 1. The humble petition of the Trustees of the Christian Pilgrim Faith Church. 2. The humble petition of the Good News Bible Church St Vincent and the Grenadines. 3. The humble petition of the Trustees of the Saint Peter’s Spiritual Baptist Church. I beg to lay them, Mr. Speaker, seriatim. Mr. Speaker, we are now 1:05 p.m. we can return at 3:00 o’clock Mr. Speaker? May I just indicate, Mr. Speaker, I just want to apologise to the country for the postponement which we have had to have. Between the last time and May we had two Sittings on the 28th and the 31st and we were to have one in June but we are having two days in order to make up for that, Mr. Speaker, and then we will have another one in August, hopefully on the 31st August, so that this month we will have three Sittings. So, I just want to indicate that we get our work done. I beg to move, Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members that this Honourable House do stand suspended for the luncheon period until 3:00 p.m. Question put and agreed House suspended at 1:06 p.m. House resumed at 3:04 p.m. DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, may I crave your indulgence? HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Go ahead. DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, I beg to move under Standing Order 12 (5) that the proceedings of today’s Sitting be exempted from the provisions of the Standing Order hours of Sitting. Question put and agreed to. page33image1791233HONOURABLE ST CLAIR LEACOCK: Just before we go into the question time, Mr. Speaker, I still just want to remind that I had asked sometime back for some written answers for some questions and it has been a few months now.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Oh you have not received those. HONOURABLE ST CLAIR LEACOCK: No Mr. Speaker. HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Alright, I will look into it.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, I think they relate to two questions as far as I can see it is a question of administrative; I would not say anything more than inadvertence because the truth is this, I can give the answers in myself in writing but I will like the Public Servants to write them. I will undertake that sometime next week I will get the Public Servant who is charged with doing these two answers to provide them.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Alright, thank you. QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWERSHONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Question No. (1) Honourable Leader of the Opposition. The Honourable Arnhim Eustace (Leader of the Opposition), to ask the Honourable Prime Minister andMinister of Finance, Economic Development, Planning, Legal and Grenadines Affairs: 1. What is the Fiscal outturn for the period ending June 30th, 2010 as compared to the same period in 2009?HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Prime Minister Question No. (1). DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, the details of the fiscal outturn cumulativeto June 30th, 2010; the data is as follows:- Total Revenue and Grants for the same period 2009: $241.05 million; for the period in 2010 $240.9 million. HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: 2009 can you repeat?DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: 2009 is $241.05 million; it is more or less even Stevens a decline of about 0.1% Current Revenue up to the end of June 2009, $234.26 million; June 2010, $235.9 million. The Capital Revenue the period in 2009, $6.7 million; 2010, $4.9 million; total Expenditure in 2009, $262.6 million; in 2010, $261.6 million; Recurrent Expenditure 2009, $225.69 million [interjection] call it $225.7 million; and $234.6 million in 2010; it is an increase of about 3.9%.page34image1847234The Capital Expenditure for the period last year which we are talking about: $36.9 million and this year $27.04 million; Current Account balance $8.57 million in $2009 and $1.4 million in 2010; the Primary Balance in 2009, $4.7 million; in 2010 $5.67 million. In terms of the overall balance the deficit in 2009 was $21.56 million down 4% in 2010; the deficit overall $20.7 million.Mr. Speaker, may I just give this caution as always and I think the Honourable Leader of the Opposition would know this, that sometimes there are certain matters which do not come into account yet. I know for instance that the Capital Revenue happens to be more than $4.9 million because the Grants certainly are more than $4.6 but some of them have been delayed in coming into account so that as it shows, Mr. Speaker, we are holding our own in difficult international circumstances.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Question No. (2) Honourable Leader of the Opposition. The Honourable Arnhim Eustace (Leader of the Opposition), to ask the Honourable Prime Minister andMinister of Finance, Economic Development, Planning, Legal and Grenadines:2. What was the level of the Central Government’s overdraft at the National Commercial Bank (NCB) as at the 30th June, 2010?HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Prime Minister. DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, as always as we know the overdraft isfluctuating, the end of June is $60.3 million at the end of July $48.4 million. HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: That is it? Question No. (3) Honourable Leader of the Opposition.The Honourable Arnhim Eustace (Leader of the Opposition), to ask the Honourable Minister of Transport and Works:The roads in the East Kingstown Constituency are in a state of disrepair. In particular those roads in Rockies especially that are in front of Leonet and Jasmin Anderson’s shop and that stretch going up to the Rockies Community Centre and beyond.3. Will the Honourable Minister please indicate how soon will these roads be fixed, to lessen problems for commuters and to reduce the constant expenditure for vehicular repairs?HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Minister of Transport and Works.HONOURABLE CLAYTON BURGIN: Thank you, very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I am indeed pleased to inform the Honourable Leader of the Opposition that the section of road of which he speaks has been identified for repairs during this fiscal year. I also want to say that the repairs have already commenced and the construction of new sections of concrete drains is currently in progress. As soon as this is completed repairs to the asphalt surface will begin.35Mr. Speaker, it is however appropriate for me to also inform my colleagues that the road in Rockies has been divided into two sections for implementation purposes. One section begins in the vicinity of Bell Trends Corner and extends to below Theresa Poyer’s shop. The second section extends from Bruce Joseph’s gate to below the Coziers in Mountain Cabbage. Mr. Speaker Leonet and Jasmin Anderson’s shop is located in the section from Trends Corner to the shop owned by the Poyers. Much obliged.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Question No. (4) Honourable Member for the Northern Grenadines.Dr. the Honourable Godwin Friday (Northern Grenadines), to ask the Honourable Minister of National Mobilization, Social Development, Gender Affairs, Non-Governmental Organisations Relations, Persons with Disabilities, Youth and Sports:The hard court at Clive Tannis Playing Field is used for sporting activities such as basketball and netball tournaments and various cultural events and it has benefitted from the improvements made over the years through the efforts of the Bequia Basketball Association but still has no roof over the seating area to protect patrons from rain or sun.3. Will the Minister look into conditions at the facility and start measure to build a roof over the stands at the hard court very soon?HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Minister for National Mobilisation, Social Development et cetera.HONOURABLE MICHAEL BROWNE: Mr. Speaker, this facility is under the direction of the National Sports Council which council is currently funding repairs to the Clive Tannis Sport Complex in Bequia as recommended by the Management Committee for that sports facility. The Works currently include the provision of two main gates in the sum of $7,210 and this is to complement several new concrete columns recently provided by the Council. I take note of the fact that the Honourable Member made mention of the contribution of the Bequia Basketball Association but sadly he did not note the contribution over the years of the National Sports Council and this administration.Additional repairs will be done at the Clive Tannis Sports Facility early in 2011 as planned by the National Sports Council in conjunction with the Management Committee. It is important to note that during the last nine years or so the Clive Tannis Facility received repairs twice while thirty-one hard court facilities have not as yet received upgrades. Of the 67 hard courts now in existence, only eleven have covered seating for spectators. Two of these eleven are located in the Grenadines Mayreau and Union Island and where hard courts are located on school compounds, the patron usually receive protection from the elements from the School buildings.When the Unity Labour Party assumed office in March 2001, there were forty six playing fields and fifty hard courts in St Vincent and the Grenadines in various stages of degradation and despair, immediately we formulated a programme to fund the restoration of various sporting facilities not only for that but also36construction of new facilities to better cater to the nation’s sporting and recreational needs. Facilities which were restored include twenty three playing fields:-Fancy Owia London Orange Hill Chillie Black Point Lauders Stubbs Arnos Vale Sports Complex Sion HillDauphineDorsetshire Hill Richmond Hill Redemption Sharpes GGreen HillLargo Heights Layou Keartons Spring Village Rose Hall Petite Bordel Clive Tannis BequiaSo, we have repairs, refurbishing and rehabilitation of twenty-two playing fields. The following twenty-two hard courts were refurbished:-Dickson Chille Lowmans WindwardGreggs Stubbs Calliaqua Villa National Tennis Centre Arnos Vale Sports Complex Sion HillSion Hill Village Girl’s High SchoolAshton Bishop’s College Rose Place New Montrose Basketball Facility Questelles Claire Valley Layou Petite Bordel Fitz Hughes Clive Tannis Bequia Mayreau37To exercise the Government’s support for sports because we take the position that development is holistic and therefore sports and recreation must take a centrality of position in our developmental agenda. To emphasize the Government’s support for sports thirteen new playing fields and fourteen new hard courts were constructed or are in the process of construction [applause]. That is averaging at three new ones per year for the last nine years: twenty-seven in nine years, averaging three per year.Playing fields:-Colonarie school yard Park Hill Mount Grenan South Rivers DiamondsOttley Hall Penniston Cumberland Peter’s Hope Canouan Calliaqua The other Calliaqua washrooms and bleachers facilities Clare Valley school yardHard Courts, fourteen new ones:-London Colonarie school yard South Rivers school yard New ground school yard Biabou 2 additional courts at Villa Tennis Center Richland Park Richmond Hill Tennis Triangle Paul’s Avenue Keartons Cumberland Rose Bank Canouan Fancy38Mr. Speaker, in addition we have purchased land for further playing fields and I should take note of course that the National Lotteries Authority has spent considerable sums in upgrading Victoria Park including renovations to the pavilions and lighting the playing fields for night fixtures. This is a tremendous record that speaks for itself, unprecedented. We must also bear in mind that some $54 million were expended in upgrading the Arnos Vale Sport Complex, Sion Hill and Stubbs playing field for the hosting of warm up matches of the 2007 Cricket World Cup.Mr. Speaker, I will suggest that the Honourable Member liaise with the Management Committee and then in turn liaise with the National Sports Council with regard the specific request he is making to make sure that that is included in the 2011 Budget. Thank you.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Question No. (5) Honourable Member for the Northern Grenadines.DR. THE HONOURABLE GODWIN FRIDAY: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. For a moment there, I thought the Honourable Minister was making a ministerial statement Mr. Speaker, [interjection] because it had very little to do with the question.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: [Knocking of gavel on desk]. DR. THE HONOURABLE GODWIN FRIDAY: What happened you make law to say I cannottalk in this House? [Interjections] DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: You do not like the answer.DR. THE HONOURABLE GODWIN FRIDAY: Well you just [inaudible] Member on the floor [Interjections]HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Members [knocking of gavel on desk] quiet please. Question No. (5). Could we get question No. (5) please.DR. THE HONOURABLE GODWIN FRIDAY: I asked a simple question you get around the bush and now I cannot talk in this House.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Member, let us get on with the question No. (5) please.DR. THE HONOURABLE GODWIN FRIDAY: I was prepared to do that, Mr. Speaker. HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Go ahead.39DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: You cannot talk inside of the NDP, Sir Mitchell will not allow you. [Laughter]HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Let us have the question.DR. THE HONOURABLE GODWIN FRIDAY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.Dr. the Honourable Godwin Friday (Northern Grenadines), to ask the Honourable Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Economic Planning, National Security, Legal and Grenadines Affairs:-How much money has been borrowed so far by or on behalf of the IADC as bridging loans to finance the IADC’s operations concerning the construction of the International Airport;What if anything has been provided as security for these loans; andIn light of the slowdown in the sale of Crown lands over the past couple of years or so, how is the debt being repaid, and in particular, how much does it cost theGovernment and the IADC on a monthly basis in interest and principal payments required to service the loans?HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, I am really very happy to answer these kinds of questions because the answers would shed light about the seriousness of the Government in building this airport and the folly of the position of the Leader of the Opposition to call it a phantom project.HONOURABLE ARNHIM EUSTACE: I ever said it was a phantom project? DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Yes I heard you. HONOURABLE ARNHIM EUSTACE: Me? DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: You said it at your convention. HONOURABLE ARNHIM EUSTACE: Do not worry with that [inaudible]DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Yes. HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Let us get the answer please.40DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: You said that [interjection]. It is true that you did not speak much.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Let us get the answer please Honourable Prime Minister.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, so far an amount of EC$103.5 million has been borrowed by or on behalf of the International Airport Development Company; as bridging loans for the construction of the Argyle International Airport. The amounts in sourcing of these loans are as follows:-a) 1. National Insurance Services $40 million 2. First Caribbean International Bank $30 million 3. Petro Caribe SVG Limited $20 million 4. Alba Bank Venezuela $13.5 million b) All of the loans have either a legal mortgage over land or a sovereign guarantee or both. In the case of the $40 million borrowed from the NIS, these funds were made available to the IADC indirectly through the National Properties Limited a state owned company. National Properties purchased from the IADC, 600 acres of land at Park Industry Bequia for $125 million. As part payment to IADC for this land, National Properties borrowed $40 million from the NIS and paid this over to the IADC, part of this land bought by National Properties at Park Industry was used to secure the loan from the NIS. The NIS loan to National Properties is also secured by a government guarantee. From the first Caribbean International Bank (FCIB) the IADC initially borrowed EC$30 million bridging loan, since then IADC has repaid $10 million of the principal to FCIB. Over the next two years the IADC will repay the outstanding $20 million. This loan from the First Caribbean International Bank is secured by a legal mortgage over several parcels of crown lands in Bequia and by a government guarantee.The monies borrowed from Petro Caribe St Vincent and the Grenadines Limited are part of the funds accumulated under the fuel supply arrangements that Venezuela has established with us and many other Caricom countries. Up to the 31st December, 2009 40% of the amount payable for fuel purchase from the Venezuelan government through its wholly owned agency, PDV St Vincent Limited was retained by our government. These funds are held by the Government wholly owned company Petro Caribe SVG Limited and can be used by our government for Investment in social and developmental projects. With the approval of Cabinet, Petro Caribe SVG Limited un-lend $20 million of these funds to the IADC for airport construction. The $20 million loan to IADC was extended without security.In this year’s Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, I included the Argyle International Airport project for the first time in the Capital Budget Estimates for funding in the amount of EC$5441million. The source of this funding is the government of Venezuela; the funds are to be borrowed by the Government and transferred to the IADC. To date the Treasury has paid over to IADC EC $13.5 million of the $54 million budgeted in 2010. As you are probably aware as I reported to the Nation a further $20 million of the $50 million loan from which $20 million is coming out to go to the Airport that other $20 million is due anytime shortly, actually there are issues of some documentation and the public servants are dealing with that.c) It is true that the credit crunch in the global recession have thwarted considerably National Properties land sales efforts over the past two years; as a result IADC has not been able to rely on the income from land sales in the way it had done in the past and this is the main reason why the government has had to include the Argyle Airport Project as a Capital Project for the amount of EC $54 million in 2010. And if you look at the Estimates you would see $50 million in $2011 and $25 million in 2012. These budgetary provisions were made to provide funding to the IADC at a time when the global economic slowdown has made it difficult for National Properties to generate large amounts of income from land sales as it had done when the global economy was strong. No one knows how long the world’s economy will remain depress so we have to make provision nevertheless.The latest forecast as we know by the IMF suggest that the world economy will grow by 4.5% in 2010 even though the IMF was quick to point to the huge downside risk to this forecast from weaknesses in many advanced countries, especially those in the European Union. Until the world economy recovers land sales are likely to be slow, as I said it is in this kind of outlook that motivated us to budget for additional loans to the IADC in 2011 and 2012 for the airport construction from Venezuela. Of course, once land sales pick up again the amount provided from the consolidated fund to the IADC will be adjusted downwards accordingly.In terms of the cost of servicing the $40 million from the NIS this loan is on the books of National Properties as I have indicated. The loan is to be repaid in thirty semi-annual installments, the 30th June and 30th July each year at an interest of 7.6% per year. This monthly loan servicing cost interest and principal is $433,350.00 for National Properties. The First Caribbean International Bank Loan is on the books of IADC and is serviced by the IADC. This bridging loan is to be repaid in full by the 31st July, 2012; of the $20 million that remains outstanding the monthly servicing cost to the IADC is $611,800.00.The $20 million from Petro Caribe SVG Limited is repayable by IADC in twelve equal annual installments at the rate of 6% per annum. This loan has a grace period of 18 months and does not become repayable until 2nd January, 2011. Although IADC will repay the loan at an interest of 6% to the state owned company, Petro Caribe SVG Limited, our government will pay interest to Venezuela on these funds at the concessionary rate of 2% per annum. Similarly, the funds borrowed from Venezuela and paid over to IADC that is to say the $13.5 million of the $54 million are funds extended to our government on concessionary terms from the ALBA Bank. These funds42are to be repaid over 20 years at 2% interest per annum. Contrary to what is spoken in uninformed circles we see the details as to how we are proceeding in funding in part the International Airport Project. There are of course other funds but we were just asked about the bridging loans and those are what I have answered. I am obliged.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Question No. (6) Honourable Member for the Northern Grenadines.Dr. the Honourable Godwin Friday (Northern Grenadines), to ask the Honourable Minister of Transport and Works:-In light of the recent announcement by the Chief Executive Officer of the Bridges, Roads and General Services Authority (BRAGSA) that over $8 million have been allocated for road maintenance in 2010 including roads in the Grenadines.6. Will the Honourable Minister please state which roads in Bequia will be repaired as part of the programme and, in particular whether the road at Gelizeau above Cletus Stowe’s home that was graded years ago will finally be paved and the necessary retaining wall built so as to stop erosion damage to adjoining properties?HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Minister of Transport and Works.HONOURABLE CLAYTON BURGIN: Mr. Speaker, the following works have been identified for implementation in Bequia during this fiscal year on the section of road near to the Blue Tropic Hotel this, Mr. Speaker, has already been completed. The section of road extending from Patmus Wallace’s home to Letchmore Ollivierre’s home to include the retaining wall, road service and draining improvement this work will begin shortly. And the section of road from Pointe Hill to Forte, this, Mr. Speaker, appears to provide access to an important recreational tourist look out site. So those are what we have listed.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Question No. (7) Honourable Member for the Southern Grenadines.The Honourable Terrance Ollivierre (Southern Grenadines), to ask the Honourable Minister of Transport and Works:The unpaved village road at Barbruce, Canouan has deteriorated over the years and the residents of the area have continually complained about the situation especially when it rains: Can the Honourable Minister state:- a. Whether the Government plans to provide paved roads to service the residents in this area; and b. If so when will work commence? 43HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Minister of Transport and Works.HONOURABLE CLAYTON BURGIN: Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the Honourable Member for the Southern Grenadines that the road at Barbruce in Canouan has been identified as part of programme for implementation during this year. My officials have already prepared the estimates and the necessary work will commence later in this year. Mr. Speaker, I am even more delighted to inform the Honourable Member and this Honourable House that with respect to road repairs and road development in the Grenadines our efforts are concentrated at this moment on Union Island and upon completion of those works our officials and workmen will then begin their operations in Canouan. I am obliged.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Question No. (8) Honourable ... HONOURABLE TERRANCE OLLIVIERRE: Mr. Speaker; I wish to withdraw question No.(8).HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Question No. (8) withdrawn. Question No. (9) Honourable Member for Southern Grenadines.The Honourable Terrance Ollivierre (Southern Grenadines), to ask the Honourable Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Economic Development, Planning, Grenadines and Legal Affairs:-The Poverty Report on St Vincent and the Grenadines in 2008 indicated that 30.2% of the population was deemed to be poor and an additional 18% though not poor were vulnerable. In view of the economic downturn reflected in negative growth in 2009 and which has continued into 2010:-9. What is the current estimate of our poverty and vulnerability line?HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Economic Development.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, I am very happy when questions are asked by the Opposition about poverty. When they left government after 17 years St Vincent and the Grenadines had a general poverty of 37.5% of the population, indigents what you call dirt poor poverty was 25.7% of the population, in fact other than Haiti St Vincent after 17 years under the NDP was the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere.In fact, in the OECS it was the last in terms of gross domestic product per head of population. Mr. Speaker, some may argue that perhaps Nicaragua was about the same level of it when we came to office as poverty. Mr. Speaker, it would be noted that the Honourable Member for the Southern44Grenadines raised the issue of poverty and vulnerability but has not raised the issue of indigence because the poverty level has been reduced by us under our watch from 37.5% of the population to 30.2% but dramatically indigence has fallen from 25.7% of the population to 2.9% and the failure to put that statistic in the question is an attempt to deceive because he has the report.Mr. Speaker, to make the matter complete St Vincent and the Grenadines when we took office was the country with the greatest inequality in the whole of Caricom. The gini-coefficient which measures inequality was 0.56 when we arrived and by 2008 the gini-coefficient was 0.41. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, as you move closer to the numeral one the society is more unequal, as you move closer to zero the society becomes more equal. So that we have moved from a gini-coefficient of 0.56 to 0.41, this is not a mystery why all these things have happened. They have happened because of the economic policies of the Government but equally important the targeted strategic interventions on behalf of the poor.Mr. Speaker, the poverty line is not connected in a direct way to the downturn in the economy that would address whether you have more or less people in poverty. The poverty line would be more specifically connected to the issue of the rise or the decline in prices in the consumer price index and the figure for 2009 shows that prices have not increased. In fact, they have declined so that the price level in 2009 is 11% less than it was in terms of the consumer price index than the year before. In so far as the poverty line is concerned, Mr. Speaker, the Honourable Member should not really ask that question because it is available inside of the very document which he is quoting and under the Rules of the House if you have the answer why are you asking it? I am obliged.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Question No. (10) Honourable Senator St Clair Leacock. Major the Honourable St Clair Leacock (Opposition Senator), to ask the Honourable Minister ofNational Mobilisation, Social Development, Gender Affairs and Youth and Sports:- a. What is the status of the Redemption Sharpes Playing Field; b. How much funds are outstanding to contractors; c. When will work resume on this playing field; d. What is the total estimated cost of this project; and e. Is any further work expected on the playing field itself during this year? HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Minister of National Mobilisation, Social Development et cetera. HONOURABLE MICHAEL BROWNE: Mr. Speaker, let me preface this by saying that I lived in Redemption Sharpes in a rented house right next to the playing field for a few years. Those years were years under the New Democratic Party, and the Redemption Sharpes Playing Field was literally a dust bowl in the dry season and a mud bowl in the wet season. I played a little softball cricket there but not football and when the people played football and they fell they lost a lot of 45their skin. The New Democratic Party Administration did very little to rectify that situation and it was therefore left to us under the Leadership of the Honourable Conrad Sayers to spearhead the rehabilitation of the Redemption Sharpes playing field, that is to say the playing field itself and the facilities.What is the status of the Redemption Sharpes Playing Field, I supposed that means of the project itself. With regards the playing field if I am very specific, the project that we are engaged in from the Ministry under the ALBA funds does not address the playing field itself but SESCO (Sharpes Education Sports and Culture Organisation) has indicated that they will address the playing field itself. We have indeed planted grass on that playing field on several occasions and my recent visit as recent as this morning, Mr. Speaker, in anticipation of this question I went up there before parliament and I must say that I am impressed with the amount of grass that still remains on the field. With regards the project, the status is that it is currently on hold and I will explain that as I answer the other part of the question.I go to (b) in the question: How much funds are outstanding to contractors? There are in fact two contractors one that is dealing with the substantive construction works, ‘Fraser Construction’ persons may recall the his son was murdered some time ago, you recall that connection: that is in the sum of $256,145.21 as follows:-Pavilions upgrade North side drains walkway; and retaining walls South sides drains and walkway Alteration of western fence$168,306.96 $ 14,156.62 $ 31,930.03 $ 41,751.60$256,145.21page46image15384 page46image15544The second contractor Edric Lewis is dealing with the project management and that is a smaller sum of $29,700.00 so the total when you put them together answers question (b) which is: What is the total estimated cost of this project? Those two figures add up to $285,845.21 [interjection] I am sorry, now your (d) part says: What is the total estimated cost of the project? So, I added the two contracts together to give you the total cost: that is the (b) I am doing that one time the (d) part. So to continue with the (b) part: two contracts were signed for this project as I indicated. Construction works began on June 22nd, 2009 and advance payment in the sum of $45,429.04 was paid to Fraser Construction who is doing the substantive works, [interjection]: the figure? To Fraser Construction the advance payment: $45,429.04.Edric Lewis Associates who is doing the management they got a sum in the tune of $9, 961.88. We got a second invoice from Fraser Construction to the tune of $83,483.40 which was submitted for payment and that was based on an assessment and valuation of the work completed as 31st July, 2009. There was some issue there with the VAT and that delayed that particular payment but the invoice was submitted and I think there is some corrective work that needs to be done on that with46regard the VAT. So, in a sense I am answering the first part of the question that the project as a whole is a bit on hold because of this discrepancy which is being sorted out.With regard the Project Management fees, the second contractor, the fees are based on the completion of different activity areas of construction what they call ‘work packages’. You do a package and you submit your invoice and you get your payment. We have not received an invoice from Edric Lewis Associates and my staff members informed me this morning that he himself made several attempts to extract invoices from Edric Lewis. So, this answers with regard the payments, in a sense answers question No. (a).When will work resume on this playing field? We will resume work when the next tranche from the ALBA funds are made available, I can say when that is but whenever the next tranche comes you could be assure that we will continue the work.The last question: Is any work expected on the playing field itself during this year? That is the playing itself. Now bearing in mind the playing field is not part of this current project you know with the pavilion and the drains and so which have been covered: I have been informed by a leading member of CESCO this morning that they do not plan on doing any work on the field itself, because they have undertaken to do the work on the field itself: the playing area the grass area, and he said they will not be doing anything this year.Now, as you know this comes under the ambit of the National Sports Council and they will have their own programme. Our particular project was to address the facilities namely the pavilion as I indicated, the drains, the walkway and the fence. So, I hope Mr. Honourable Member that that satisfies you question. Thank you.HONOURABLE ST CLAIR LEACOCK: Mr. Speaker, I think that the Minister has been reasonably comprehensive but I just had a little uncertainty as to the role of CESCO, to the extent that the field you say is under the control of the Sports Council.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Supplementary? HONOURABLE ST CLAIR LEACOCK: Whether or not CESCO is a contracting party to theconstruction of the playing field or it is a volunteered activity: that was not clear to me. HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Minister. SUPPLEMENTARYHONOURABLE MICHAEL BROWNE: Mr. Speaker, I am tempted to say that the Honourable Member is subjecting me to mental agony [laughter] so I might step downstairs and take the necessary action: ‘Allah Jonathan Peters’. Well that is just by the way Mr. Speaker. Now, my understanding ... the way we operate Senator, this comes under the division in our Ministry evenpage47image2377647though it is a sporting event the division that deals with community development. That division also is responsible as you see in my long title for non-governmental organisations or what they call CDO’s (Community Based Organisations) of which CESCO is one. So, we work in tandem with the community bodies and my understanding is that CESCO has undertaken to play a role in regards to the playing surface working in conjunction with our division of Community Development, as well as the National Sports Council. So, in a sense I understand it as a voluntary contribution, but National Sports Council with whatever resources will assist.HONOURABLE ST CLAIR LEACOCK: I am grateful, Mr. Speaker. HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Question No. ... HONOURABLE ST CLAIR LEACOCK: 11. HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: 11.Major the Honourable St Clair Leacock (Opposition Senator), to ask the Honourable Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Economic Development, Planning, Legal and Grenadines Affairs:- a. What is the current debt service to recurrent revenue from latest available statistics; and b. What is the debt service to recurrent expenditure from the same statistics? HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Prime Minister, Minister of Finance. DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, the latest statistics in relation to debt service to recurrent revenue and debt service to recurrent expenditure are available in the Estimates of Expenditure for the year 2010 with comparative figures for 2009, in accordance with Order 20, Rule g: (ix), a question shall not be asked the answer to which can be found by reference to available official publications and that falls within that category. I am obliged. HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Question No. 12 Honourable ... HONOURABLE ST CLAIR LEACOCK: Mr. Speaker HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable ... HONOURABLE ST CLAIR LEACOCK: The document the Honourable Prime Minister refers to was presented to this House in January of this year, we are in August and my question therefore refers to the latest available statistics. In fact between January and today the Government has contracted new debts and so my question is in fact relevant. The most recent debt being the $100 million for the Bank and in fact even today we are contemplating another debt. The Honourable Prime Minister is therefore being evasive in responding to what is a reasonable enquiry. 48HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: So, you know the answer? HONOURABLE ST CLAIR LEACOCK: I do not know the answer, Mr. Speaker. HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Oh I see.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, may I just say this, when a charge is levelled of evasion in relation to someone like myself who has been in this Honourable House since 1994 and who addresses questions amply. The point about it is this, the Estimates of Expenditure have a clear indication as to how much money would be borrowed and how much money would be spent and what is the approximate revenue. So all you have to do is to look at the sum which is estimated for the debt service for the year and the sum that is estimated for the revenue for the year and the sum that is estimated for the expenditure for the year and you just simply do the Math. It is a simple elementary ... [Interjection] I am not being evasive and you see, it does not matter how much you talk about these things... I made the point today that the $100 million is not new debt. But I mean it does not matter how much you talk it, if some people want to have a different view from the facts... You know, I always say Mr. Speaker, if I go on the top of this building with the idea in my head that I am capable of flying, if I jump I would not fly. I would fall. Of course, it is not because of the presence or absence of Newton Law of gravity, it is the actual fact that you will fall, because Newton Law of gravity simply explains the real phenomenon, because men fell before Newton devised his law of gravity.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Thank you very much. DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: And that is the point which the HonourableMember for the Northern Grenadines seems not to appreciate, when he said “How I will know”?HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Thank you very much Honourable Prime Minister. [Interjections] [Laughter] Question No. 12.HONOURABLE ST CLAIR LEACOCK: It is really not a laughing matter, if the Prime Minister wants to defy the laws of gravity, then ... [laughter] I surely will not get in his way.Major the Honourable St Clair Leacock (Opposition Senator), to ask the Honourable Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Economic Development, Planning, Legal and Grenadines Affairs::The Auditor General Report of 2007, page 48 of 102, section 2-77 noted that an amount of $10,085,474.17: SD 2205 Accountant General loan monies recorded on the Certificate of Balances 2007, which was issued by the National Commercial Bank (NCB) appear not to be recorded in the accounts of Government.12. What explanation was provided to the Accountant General as identified by the Auditor General?HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Prime Minister, Minister of Finance Economic Development.49DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, I can answer that simply by saying that no explanation was provided to the Accountant General because she is the one who addresses the matter, if he wishes to amend it, to ask: What explanation was provided by the Accountant General? I would answer it, but the Accountant General knows the answer, so it cannot be provided to her; but I can answer it if he amends the question and if he allows it.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Question No. 13 Honourable Senator Cummings. The Honourable Daniel Cummings (Opposition Senator), to ask the Honourable Minister ofHealth and Environment:- a. Would the Honourable Minister please state what is the status of the outstanding repairs to the leaks in one of the operating theatres at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH) and b. When can we expect the repairs to be completed. HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Minister of Health, question 13. DR THE HONOURABLE DOUGLAS SLATER: Thank you. Mr. Speaker, this issue of the alleged leaks of the roof of the Operating Theatre of the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital is one that has been going on for some time. Mr. Speaker, about 21⁄2 years ago there was really a serious issue which had been a culmination of years of appearance of water in the roof and it took some intensive checks to find out what really was happening . Mr. Speaker, in 2007 apart from the entrance to the actual operating theatres and the [inaudible] a staff room was literally flooded and checking it was revealed that as some of us may know, the Operating Theatre is part of a hospital of over a century old and a new section. It has a concrete roof which is called bio asphalt. There are some drain pipes on the roof and I know this first hand because when that was going on I went up there myself with several persons trying to diagnosis and resolve the problem. There are several 4-inch drains on a flat concrete roof and it was found out that several of them are blocked because asphalt roofing gives off some fine sediment and if you do not put a grill: a sieve that can happen and that is what happened. Mr. Speaker, so about two years ago we found out that the blockage and what happens is the blockage forces water under the asphalt which finds its way to any weak spot or crack or so of the roof, or sometimes as was found out later through some conduits that was servicing a room upstairs for the air conditioning. Mr. Speaker, I recall I explained in this Honourable House that incident, we called all the technicians at the hospital, we brought in Minister of Engineers from the Ministry of Works and somehow we did not resolve the problem. I resorted to one Mr. Maurice Slater an Engineer and Architect, now the Manager of Housing and Land and almost in a private capacity because of our close connection we went up there and we were able to resolve the problem, because they could not find drawings to indicate where were the drainage. And one day we actually had to drill a hole in a column in the Delivery Room downstairs, I recalled humorously that when the hole was 50punctured, I was there assisting him and I got wet and he took some photos of it. It was just not wet, but it was wet with a lot of stuff, nevertheless that temporarily resolved the problem.For about 2 years that problem was basically resolved and you did not hear much about it. Recently about just over a year ago the surgeon started noticing dripping water above; even in one case above the Operating Table and the search for the reason began again. They removed some of the ceilings and they could not find ... what was interesting is that this dripping water occurred even when rain was not coming, so it really created a big question: where is this water coming from? They removed some of the tiles and they did not find any cracks in the roof, the roof was completely dry [interjection]. No some science, I am certain my Honourable friend would understand the explanation as I go on.Mr. Maurice Slater again came in and was asked to try and resolve the problem, that is why they nick named him as ‘McGuyver’: Mr. fix it. And he thought it had something to do with condensation from the AC Unit but he did not have the time to really go into detail as to the problem. Interestingly, other consultants and engineers were called in. I am giving the details because it is not for the want of not trying to find out the problem. I will go back a little, we actually thought of putting a false roof over the existing concrete roof, we got estimates it would have been three hundred and some thousand dollars, but because there was this ... after we had resolved the first leak and it had stopped we pulled back. The new dripping woke that estimate again but people were worried: why would there be dripping when rain is not coming? So, later not too long ago earlier this year there is a consultant a Mr. Eaton Outten who was attached to the Energy Unit who was referred to the problem and I will read a letter sent by the gentleman to see his connection to the problem:-“Dear Maurice Slater, You will recall the very interesting discussions we had in your office in May...,”And this is important because the resolution of this problem is a natural response to the Honourable Member’s question, just to indicate that we have been working on it.“...regarding energy efficiency and which culminated in discussing the problems at the Hospital’s Operating Theatres. In response to your request, Mr. Deane and I visited the Hospital and met with the senior members of management and engineering. This is a very informal report to let you know that after assessing the HVAC System...,”And that is a technical system that is related to air condition and systems.“...And carrying out a few basic measurements, I have concluded that the formation of water droplets...”And this is important because it is not really a leak.51“ the ceiling of the Operating Rooms are due to moisture laden air infiltration combined with inefficient air conditioning design and operation.”This detail is important because this is a Plant that has been there for many years. We inherited it; I do not want to pass any blame on any administration previous; I am just saying it was not something that was put there by this administration;“The main avenue of air infiltration is through the main entrance door which was physically pointed out to the Engineer and CEO...”Which should be administrator: however,“The cooling system design is not...”and I underline,“...not in keeping with proper operating theatre design...”and remember we inherited this.“...and the anomaly blends itself to inefficient air conditioning operation. Both conditions can be resolved by...”And he went into some details; and remember this was sent on the 29th June. 1. To construct a vestibule at the main entrance in such a way that the movement of patients foremergency care is not adversely affected.2.page52image10760To improve and retrofit the air conditioning system to enable optimum operation and especially enabling effective make-up air moisture removal.This will require system retrofit which will enable improved efficiency without significant increased energy cost. I expect to be in St Vincent around mid-July, and hope to discussion these options in detail with you and your team.Thank you for hosting us when we last met and I look forward to meeting and sharing ideas with you.Mr. Speaker, I think that detail was important to lay to rest, some of the perceptions, first of all it is not really a leak and we are glad to know that because really it was frustrating and I appreciate the concern because really it is undesirable to have water dripping on the operating table. But I hasten to say that it was intermittent which related to as the experts have said, it depends on the humidity of the air and entry of air and that sort of thing. It is intermittent and has not affected the delivery of surgical services at the hospital in any significant way: that is very, very important.52Mr. Speaker, it is things like these, you know, we hear about these little problems but we do not hear about the good things done there and we do not give credit to the staff. That same operating theatre, Mr. Speaker, over the past few months have been doing some high level surgical operations for the first time in St Vincent and the Grenadines not just for locals but for regional clients. The IHC has made St Vincent and the Grenadines; the same Hospital you hear so much negatives about has selected it as the best to established advanced childcare, surgical and medical care [applause]. In the same “leaking operating theatres” we have done surgery on dozens of children from the region.Mr. Speaker, it really pains me at the way some people politicized some of these issues. You know recently, Mr. Speaker, in the same building and the same leaking area I heard a big song and dance, mischief politics being played about the discovery of a they said; of a hole in the floor of the Intensive Care Unit at the Hospital. And you know Mr. Speaker, let us be reminded that that part of the Hospital is over one hundred years old, while that is being debated on radio, I was at the Hospital feeling so proud of our staff. Mr. Speaker, without disclosing any name and therefore confidentiality, the same day as that was being spoken on the radio there was a citizen, a patient in that same room with the hole in the floor they said whose life was right on the edge. The parent the family, I spent several hours the day before, the only reason why they did not end up spending thirty plus thousand dollars was because the Mede-Vac could not have been effected in a shorter space of time. They were trying to ... in the process of sending the patience overseas.I say this detail to say that those hours that they waited for the Mede-Vac team the staff tried to instil in them a confidence that the patient is critical but we can manage and we believe that he will make it. The following morning when we went to finalise the transfer of the patient, I mean I met smiles on the parents to hear that the patient was actually sitting up. He was in a coma and the following morning he was talking. I mean it was hurtful that this almost miracle was being performed by our own staff and instead of hearing about that, we are hearing about a hole that was by chance was found in the corner where some instruments were there for many years, hardly... I do not even know how they found it because it was under some rubber carpet, had nothing to do with service delivery but that is what people found important.It is important that we mention these things because I know that these questions are raised to try and embarrass this system but I went on air and said: “yes there was a hole there, not a significant one”. It was reported the week before and the only reason why it was not repaired was because there was a patient in there. You cannot go and repair in a room where there is a sick patient. [Interjection] Mr. Speaker, all this is related because it is in the same room where there is leaking [interjection]HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Wait just a minute [knocking of gavel] Tell me something what is [inaudible]HONOURABLE DANIEL CUMMINGS: Mr. Speaker, the Minister [inaudible] HONOURABLE DR. DOUGLAS SLATER: Mr. Speaker, I ...53HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Wait just a minute.HONOURABLE DR. DOUGLAS SLATER: I am just not sure I am hearing the Minister saying that these questions are asked to create some ... I am wondering if the Minister is referring to my question or some other question.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: No! No, I do not think so.HONOURABLE DANIEL CUMMINGS: Because it sounds that way and I just want a clarification because I do not want the Minister impute that my question that is what it is [inaudible].HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: I do not think he can say that.HONOURABLE DANIEL CUMMINGS: That is how it sounds, so I just want to clarify.HONOURABLE DR. DOUGLAS SLATER: I apologize if it sounds like that, but it is as I said, Mr. Speaker, [interjection] I understood and explained in detail the answer because I recognized my Honourable Friend as an Engineer and I know that he is concerned about what he heard. I would have thought to show his concern he may have offered his services to try resolve the problem but he did not. But Mr. Speaker, I gave the details of the other situation because it is connected to the same building and I just put in as example, how instead of us giving some credit where it is due sometimes: we spend more time in things that are nearly not as important. Mr. Speaker, since the Honourable Member is worried about the details of the answer, I hope that he is satisfied with that which was interesting to him. But I also think that it is important that people understand that we do a very good job in the Health Service. I want to take the opportunity to compliment the staff and the hard working members of staff of the Ministry of Health and the Environment, and we will continue with the limited resources which we acknowledge that we have to deliver a more than satisfactory health service to the citizens of this country. Much obliged. [Applause]HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Question No. 14, Honourable Senator Cummings. 14.The Honourable Daniel Cummings (Opposition Senator), to ask the Honourable Minister of Transport and Works: The people of Ottley Hall have been promised the construction of the road from Ottley Hall to the Leeward Highway via Gunn Hill for many years. This is an important alternative route in and out of Ottley Hall. It requires the construction of a few hundred yards of road:-Is it likely that this road will be built any time?HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Minister of Transport and Works. HONOURABLE CLAYTON BURGIN: Mr. Speaker, I am hearing again from the HonourableSenator that a promise was made to construct the main road, I consider this, Mr. Speaker, mind54boggling because I am not aware that anyone from this side of this Honourable House has ever made such a promise. And it is interesting, Mr. Speaker, that the Honourable Senator has never been able to state who made the promise to which he refers. Mr. Speaker, I therefore urge the Honourable Senator to exercise due care in the expression of his concerns because when such statements are made those who do not understand are inclined to accept everything that they hear as the gospel.Mr. Speaker, the Honourable Senator is here referring to the earthen road which connects the Ottley Hall plan to the concrete road in Gunn Hill. This road to which the Honourable Senator refers measures 400 meters or 1350ft and has been given much consideration in our on-going attempts to develop the road network in our fair land. The necessary investigation was done and estimates were prepared to upgrade the name road to concrete by request from the Honourable Representative of West Kingstown.Mr. Speaker, the projective cost of the works is $550,000.00 we are acutely aware, Mr. Speaker, of the social benefits which are likely to be derived when the named road is constructed; however it is indeed an extensive capital project which I dare say has not been included in the list of works to be done during this fiscal year given the need to establish priorities with respect to infrastructural works. Nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, I am advised by my officials that due consideration will be given to construct the road in the near future. I am much obliged.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Question No. 15, Honourable Senator Cummings. 15.The Honourable Daniel Cummings (Opposition Senator), to ask the Honourable Minister of Transport and Works:The gap in the link road between middle road and bottom road in Edinboro has been opened for quite a while. With the construction of the new secondary school there, the completion of this link road would considerably ease the traffic and make life easier for the residents and school population alike:-Would the Honourable Minister please state if there are any plans to construct the relatively short piece of road, for which the retaining walls have been built long ago, and which simply requires filling and surfacing.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Minister for Transport and Works.HONOURABLE CLAYTON BURGIN: Mr. Speaker, upgrading the 280ft x 14ft out on that section of road near to Dr. J. P. Eustace Memorial Secondary School in lower Edinboro has been assessed by the officials in the Ministry of Transport and Works. This is another project tabled by the Honourable Representative, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, it has been determined that this will require substantial back filling of the sixty [inaudible] section of road to obtain the required55gradient. The lower section of the road must be re-graded and based materials installed followed by the surfacing of the pavement.Also the construction of slipper and box drains along the road is required. Mr. Speaker, it is highly unlikely that the upgrading of this section of road will ease the traffic congestion given the relatively low traffic volume in the area; however the officials and I remain confident that the route will provide an alternative exit in the event of a blockage such as a vehicular accident. Mr. Speaker, however, this cannot be implemented until 2011. I am obliged.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: That brings us to the end of question time. BILLS2. Economic Diversification Loan Authorisation Bill, 2010DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I beg to move a Bill for an Act to secure a loan to finance the projects under the Economic Diversification Programme. The object and reason of the Bill is contained in the long title. I move the first reading.HONOURABLE LOUIS STRAKER: I beg to second the Bill. Question put and agreed toDR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I beg to move under Standing Orders 48 (2) that this Bill be taken through its stages at today’s Sitting and then passed.HONOURABLE LOUIS STRAKER: I beg to second the Bill. Question put and agreed toDR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I beg to move that a Bill for an Act to secure a loan to finance the projects under the Economic Diversification Programme be read a second time.HONOURABLE LOUIS STRAKER: I beg to second the Motion. Question put and agreed toHONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Debate on the Bill, Honourable Prime Minister.page56image1621656DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, in my Budget Speech for the fiscal year 2010, there are several propositions which I advanced for the financing of the Capital Budget for this year. One of them was that the government would do no commercial borrowings this year to finance the Capital Budget. The second in relation to loans touching and concerning the Republic of China and Taiwan that there are two loans which we intend to proceed with both which have been agreed upon between the President of the Republic of China and Taiwan and myself and which documents has been made available to this Honourable House before. This loan amounts to US $13 million and it is for a series of projects which have been identified in the Estimates and is a soft loan from the Export Import Bank of the Republic of China and Taiwan.Mr. Speaker, there is a second loan of $10 million which is connected to the International Airport and the building: the construction of the Terminal Building but we can wait a little bit on that maybe in the next meeting and a couple other meetings of the House because that is a $30 million package altogether $20 million of which is Grant and we will use the Grant component first in the construction of the Terminal Building and ancillary facilities. The other matter, Mr. Speaker, is that for the second one with the Airport, we are just waiting the clarification as to whether it is specifically from the Government of Taiwan itself that particular loan is coming or the Export Import Bank or some other financial institution, which the Government of Taiwan has agreed upon in respect of the Airport but in so far as this one is concerned of US $13 million it is from the Export Import Bank.Mr. Speaker, I want to make it very clear because in an intervention a short while ago I heard the Honourable Senator Leacock stated that on the Order paper there is a Bill for a new loan. Mr. Speaker, this is the point I was making when I talked about the Estimates. You make an Estimate in relation to what you intend to spend and how you are going to raise the money and I have received the support of Parliament for the Estimates, the Motion on the Estimates and for the Appropriation Bill what I am doing now is operationalising that particular policy position because I need the legal authority to proceed, it has been done in the past where governments have gone ahead, and they do their own thing and they do not get the authority. I have known it to happen in this Honourable House, not with this Government. I have known it to happen in other countries. In the OECS at least there is one country perhaps two, which have certain notoriety for borrowing monies without the necessary legal authority. I have never as Minister of Finance proceeded in that manner, this is a government of laws not of men and I proceed always in this way and I do so in a logical and consistent manner.We set out the policy in the Budget; we set out the Estimates, what we are going to spend it on, how we are going to raise the money if and any reason I have to come back to the House to make any amendments to those provisions I come to the House honestly and present the reasons because there is nothing to prevent the Government from coming with a Supplementary Appropriation Bill and a Supplementary sets of Estimates because the Constitution provides for that. So I want to make it clear that this has nothing to do with any new sets of loans, it is what we had planned from the Estimates, from the Budget and we are just simply implementing it. And all the items57listed in the Budget relates to this loan. My Director General of Finance and Planning who will head the negotiations and we anticipate broadly the concessionary rate of interest which we will get and the highly concessionary terms of this loan from the Export Import Bank.It is not the first time that we would be receiving loans from Taiwan from the Export Import Bank, it happened under the previous administration and it is source of non-commercial borrowing concessionary financing. We had concessionary financing from the Export Import Bank of Taiwan; we have concessionary financing from Petro Caribe; we have concessionary financing from the Alba Bank; and we have concessionary financing from the World Bank. And this is an indication as to how this government conducts its affairs on behalf of the people within the interest of their own humanization. So this is a very straightforward Bill, Mr. Speaker and I want to say this in advance: Mr. Speaker, there are misunderstandings about the state of the National Debt in St Vincent and the Grenadines. The Debt to GDP of our country is just over 71%; Debt to GDP ratio, 71% if you use the Gross Domestic Product base which is comparative with other countries in the OECS. If you use the rebased numbers with the more scientific methodology the Debt to GDP is just 60% but for the purposes of comparisons across the OECS countries using the same base year 1990, using the same methodologies that St Vincent and the Grenadines has the lowest Debt to GDP ratio in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union [applause]. In fact, the Debt to GDP today is at the same level as it was when we came to office in 2001: same 71%. Why is it? This is the case; it is because we received debt relief of $165 million from the Ottley Hall debt and because the GDP has grown and obviously if the GDP has grown even if the absolute debt has increased, it does not mean that the Debt to GDP is higher, because the debt has grown. You have a number of people; I hear them on the radio it is amazing, elementary arithmetic. They use one figure they say the debt was increased; okay the debt is increased but if you are having a ratio you have to have another number, in this case the GDP figures.What has happened, Mr. Speaker, and what we have to be careful of is to make sure that we do not have too high a proportion of our revenue servicing the debt because we do not want to have a crowding out of worthwhile social expenditure of a recurrent nature if you crowd out those expenditures with too high a percentage of your recurrent revenue, but if you talk about Debt to GDP it is about the same level.Mr. Speaker, what are the ranges in the EC Currency Union? St Vincent is 71.6% Debt to GDP; St Lucia is 73.8%; Antigua and Dominica they are in the high nineties; Grenada is 114%; and St Kitts Nevis 180%. Our Debt to GDP has increased by 2% points 2009 over 2008. Now, we had to do that because, because we have to get certain things being done not because there is a recession internationally, but I have not gone profligate. In fiscal matters there are two ladies I love very much one goes by the name of prudence and the second one goes by the name of enterprise [interjection] enterprise. And prudence and enterprise are in tandem there are some persons who just simply want to have prudence but if you just have prudence you put yourself further in the hole, a bird cannot fly with one wing. In fiscal matters you need both of them balancing: prudence and enterprise and one may preponderate over the other in the objective circumstances, and we58have gone through this debate several times with the IMF, we have done so inside of this House; there are some people instinctively who would want to put us deeper in the hole.We have had a record in which we have been able to manage the money properly. I do not think if you go about this country and you ask people on the streets: how you think Ralph managing the money? They will say Ralph is a fella who manages money alright. He manages money alright, you know, so that ... you watch ... and I know how to look for openings and angles and creativity; it is something almost natural, the way in which I do it, my instinct, you know. Had I not decided to be of a service to the people in politics I would have been a very wealthy person as a businessman, you know. So, Mr. Speaker, I say all that to put this discussion within the context but it is really a simple Bill. It is about carrying out what we had decided to do in our Estimates and anybody who reads the Budget’s Speech they will see that I am just doing what I said we were going to do and what are the numbers inside of the Capital Estimates. I am obliged.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Further debate: Honourable Leader of the Opposition.HONOURABLE ARNHIM EUSTACE: Mr. Speaker, as I listened to the Prime Minister making his presentation on this piece of legislation, one gets the impression that this country of ours is in very good economic and financial health. Our Debt to GDP ratio is not bad, our bank is doing well, a few problems here and there and that is the general trend of the discussion, Mr. Speaker, I hear a lot of talk about the international financial crisis; I hear a lot a comment about what other people do not understand but which the Prime Minister understands. I hear a lot of comment generally speaking about the state of affairs in St Vincent and the Grenadines and it reads listening to the Prime Minister, as being quite upbeat and positive. And we come here to discuss today a loan of about what is in EC dollars about $35 million, which I agree would have been part of the Estimates that were prepared and some of the projects financed in the Capital Budget dealing with Economic Diversification.Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, I do not share that rosy picture that is being presented, you know according to the Prime Minister, I am a man of doom and gloom, I do not understand these issues but that same bank that is doing so relatively well, we have had to go and borrow $100 million from the Caribbean Development Bank for financial sector reform which in this case, Mr. Speaker, means trying to deal with the non-performance of the public sector over which the Prime Minister has control: the public sector portfolio of the National Commercial Bank: $100 million. If things were so good we would not be doing that; we would not be in a position where we are discussing the sale of the Bank to the Private Sector or at least majority shareholding. I hear a lot of nuances about 23% of that, and 20% of that and so on. The reality is the Bank is in plenty trouble; and I would go on in here and support it, that $100 million loan, because I believe it would help to bring back confidence in the National Commercial Bank, I have said that, that I believe it will improve the quality of the portfolio, the assets that are there and it removes those assets that are impaired as they like to use the language. But those assets are public sector assets and it points to failure on the part of the administration to adequately deal with the Bank [interjection]. This is outside your area.59Mr. Speaker, I know in this world that we would have countries that have problems that is not the issue here but nobody is going to fool me by making a presentation based on optimism which is not there, the reality does not point to that. It points to the fact that we have to take more and more measures to ensure we do not slip off the table altogether: that is the reality today. I accept that the loan improves confidence in the NCB, I said so, but I also recognised we would not have had to take it, if the institution was properly run and whether in particular the portfolio that has been targeted, is the public sector portfolio: all the statutory corporations in particular, those are the same institutions who last year in the accounts we had to make loan provisions of over $9 million and which reduced significantly the profit of the Bank from $15 million to $1.1 million. So, what are we talking about? What are we talking about? A failure of this administration: to adequately deal with the NCB.Mr. Speaker, all of us know; all of us know that this economy is not doing well. We have had two years of negative growth; two consecutive years other countries have had it too; I am not saying they are doing well, why ours is doing well [interjection] Listen, deal with obituaries you are very good at that. Mr. Speaker, my concern today, Mr. Speaker, is that while I see the need for economic diversification, I see the need for agriculture diversification and they do not have aporia objections to funding economic diversification. I also know that in respect to our agriculture diversification programme that money was taken away from us recently because we did not use it. This Government did not use it, $3 million of Grant funds were taken back from this country because we did not use it: by the European Union for agriculture diversification.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: If my Honourable friend, if he may permit me to say something in that regard so that he can perhaps incorporate it.HONOURABLE ARNHIM EUSTACE: Mr. Speaker ... DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: If he wishes to give way.HONOURABLE ARNHIM EUSTACE: I will give way and make sure it is not deducted from my time.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: No. Honourable are you ...? DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Just a minute, Honourable Prime Minister. DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: The ...HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Just a minute Honourable Prime Minister. DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Yes, Mr. Speaker.60HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: I do not like the last remark by the Leader of the Opposition. [Interjection] I do not like that I think you need to apologise.HONOURABLE ARNHIM EUSTACE: I accept that [inaudible].HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, very much.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, I just want to indicate on one of the diversification programmes the public bodies doing the implementation were tardy under that particular proposal and the timelines which were fixed for it but the money has been reprogrammed into another EU funded programme. So, I just want to point out that the money has been “lost”. I just want to make that; I will make other points about monies which went back under the NDP, but that is not the intervention I want to make. I just want to make that point that it was reprogrammed.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, and Honourable Leader of the Opposition you have spoken for 7 minutes 7 seconds and you may continue your debate please.HONOURABLE ARNHIM EUSTACE: Much obliged Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the money was removed from agriculture diversification that is what I am addressing because what we are looking at here is a package which is designed to help the diversification of our economy, and I am saying here we are going to borrow again and these borrowings some of these borrowings are unnecessary. I am not arguing against that but we had Grant funds which we did not use for agriculture diversification, which is part of our economic diversification. And then in addition to that, Mr. Speaker, we charged VAT on the people’s money, the Grant money that we got for agriculture we charge them VAT on their own money, and we are talking about performance and we were asked to pay back that money. You are putting projects for persons that were rejected by the EU; you had to give them back that money too. So, what I am saying that while I do not have any problem with a programme for economic diversification, the experience recently has shown that we have lost money on a Grant basis which could have been used for agriculture diversification.Mr. Speaker, there are two matters which have great effect on the investment climate in this country at the present time and which one has to take into consideration when one is dealing with the question of economic diversification but I am assuming that because of the Economic Diversification Programme we are going to have over a time more investment from the Private Sector whether foreign or domestic. Little arrangements are put in place under economic diversification programmes which assist in improving investment climate we will see the results in private sector development. But there are two things, Mr. Speaker, which have an impact on these and one of them has to do with the sums of money that are owed to the Private Sector by the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines and the second one has to do with the CLICO British American situation. Both of these factors, Mr. Speaker have impacted negatively on our61economy, negatively on the Private Sector and their confidence and I am not blaming the Government for what happen with respect to CLICO and so on, but they have impacted on my economy because millions of dollars, some $400 or some figure like that or $347 I forget the figure now is our exposure in the British American CLICO situation.And $62 million of that is in the NIS and for British American $190 million overall for British American. A lot of these are people in the private sector who are in a position or worst off now in terms of their ability to invest and therefore the impact of some of the economic diversification that have been proposed can be lost because of that, that is what I am talking about. So, I am saying as we look at these loans and the projects that are being proposed we have to take those factors into serious consideration. Mr. Speaker, we know that money is owing to the private sector and efforts must be made to repay it as soon as possible and as quickly as possible that and some attempt to resolve the British American CLICO situation is critical to our future development in this country; critical. There are persons there who have worked all their lives in the Public Service, teachers and others who have put their money in British American, their gratuity that is what they depend on for livelihood to continue living along with their NIS monies but NIS is also affected and I believe that because of that you are going to have a situation in which NIS contributions for employer and employee will increase.The Prime Minister already explained in terms of the company that has been set up to deal with the British American that, that may take him some years to see whether he can get back those persons who are so affected can get back some of their money. I do not think anybody is expecting that you will get back all of your money but certainly I am one of those who have given my support to the establishment of that organisation because I believe at least it offers the opportunity of getting back some of that money for those persons and institutions who are now negatively affected. And a lot of cases Mr. Speaker, we are talking about five years before you are likely to see anything, so they have to find a way of balancing during that five-year period and probably living off the NIS that they have. You have the NIS as an institution not being able to earn on the investments that they made with British American for the next few years: earn nothing which [inaudible] negatively their investment income. These are serious problems and while we discuss economic development for St Vincent and the Grenadines and the rest of the OECS. We cannot ignore those problems. And I am saying that the programme proposed and some of the projects that were posed in the economic diversification which I support they will have a harder time in terms of the long-term benefit to the economy as a result of that situation. And a lot more attention, Mr. Speaker needs to be paid to these issues when one makes an assessment of the economic situation in our country. And I want to invite persons or public to think about these things as we have these kinds of discussions. There are too many people who are involved, too many people with some capacity to invest who are involved and who are affected by these developments.The Prime Minister has indicated to this country that St Vincent would be making a contribution like the other OECS countries and possibly Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados and a strategic investor who cannot be mentioned because of confidentiality clauses in the new company. The62soundings from Trinidad and Tobago are not the soundings of Mr. Manning: Prime Minister Manning everything is now under review. I do not know how many countries, if any, have yet made their contributions to the new company, but I know that St Vincent and the Grenadines is supposed to make a contribution of some. I think it is about $42 million which I think the Prime Minister indicates will come from our special drawing rights at the International Monetary Fund.I also want to know from the Prime Minister that my support of this document is also going to take into account that. I also want to know from the Prime Minister whether that money is still available with the IMF to make the contribution to the company. I also want to know when it is likely that this company can start operations.Mr. Speaker, St Vincent and the Grenadines has one of the lowest contribution rates in the Region both for employer and employee if not the lowest certainly one of the lowest: I am talking to the NIS and over the years efforts have been made to keep it relatively small. They have countries like Barbados Mr. Speaker, who is somewhere up at 16% between employer and employee in terms of their contributions to the NIS. We are about half of that, all well and good but because we are now losing investment income because of the CLICO British American issue, it brings undue pressure on the National Insurance Scheme, and if with our portfolio, NCB portfolio, we are going to get rid of some of the bad debt it makes life a little easier because NIS money go there to the National Commercial Bank, they are part of the deposit base of that institution. So, I am very concerned with those two issues and how we address them and when we address them. The one with CLICO is not within our entire control because other countries have also to make their contributions; we have to be ready with our money when the time comes to be able to put into that company so those persons who have been so negatively affected and those institutions are in a position to move out. So, when the time comes to convey all the policies, I understand they got 170,000 policies to the new company, let us be assured and I want that assurance from the Prime Minister that that our money in that regard is still available to put into New Corp as it is called.Mr. Speaker, what do we expect; what do we really expect going forward? If we are encouraging investment in our country and we have to deal with the issue of the Bank; for a lot of projects working capital tends to come from the banking institutions. We do not have here in St Vincent and the Grenadines a separate development bank, the Bank was amalgamated with the National Commercial Bank. I have said and I am repeating it again, I heard comments being made up to today, I do not support any amalgamation of the Development Bank and the National Commercial Bank. For the National Commercial Bank for me is a profit making enterprise essentially; and the Development Bank plays a different role more the encouragement of economic as distinct from financial development. Projects are approved and appraised on the basis of largely their economic contribution when one is talking about a development bank. And one of the reasons and people would not want to admit that, one of the reasons, there is going to be some difficulties in privatizing the Bank or getting a willing buyer it would be the attitude of the buyer to the fact that in the NCB’s portfolio you have a lot of things like student loan. They are not going to put any major value; any buyer of the Bank will not put any major value on the purchase of student loan portfolio.63Indeed, the Government scheme which I admire in terms of things for disadvantaged students; those are not things that a commercial bank is interested in or will offer money for if they are buying it. And the Student Loan Portfolio at the NCB is $50 million, so if this body is coming to buy the Bank and they do not want that portfolio whatever offer they make will be either zero or very little on that $50 million of portfolio. That should be with a development bank. There is where it should have been. And I repeat that any offer made by anyone to take over the major shareholding of the bank, that student loan portfolio will be a deterrent, they will not want to buy it, as important as it will be to our future of the young people of this country, a commercial bank will not want to buy that. So I will take all the heckling and all the things, but certain views of these matters and I would like to see the NCB fully back on its feet.Prime Minister can talk about loan loss provision and so on, just like him I understand that, you know. But those loan loss provisions in 2008 financial year for the bank 2008, the loan loss provision was only $195,000.00, and therefore you showed a very high profit because of that of fifteen point something million dollars; but when you increase the loan loss provision by more than ten times in a single year to $10 million dollars; - is it ten times or 100 times, - you know, it tells you something, that provisions should have been higher in the former years. So the portfolio has been deteriorating and it is that same portfolio now that you are trying to rescue by borrowing the $100 million.So let us be clear about these things. The prudential guidelines of the Central Bank require you, do you hear what they are called, prudential; require you to maintain certain international standards, certain international best practices. You have not done so. And I have a question to the auditors too. Where were they, up until this time when the bank found itself in that position? Where were they? Prime Minister talked about getting qualified reports this morning, I want to know where the auditors were for the last five, six, seven years when the portfolio was deteriorating. Why were not there larger loans provisions at that time, and not suddenly the financial year 2009? If that were done over time, the impact would not have been so heavy on the profitability of the bank. So where were they?Mr. Speaker, like any Vincentian I am glad to know that we had our own bank, if you want to put it that way. There are certain emotions, a certain human and national emotion that is attached to that. But I fear today that we have to forget about that emotion because of the state of the institution and face the hard reality of having to sell the majority of the shareholding to another bank.The Prime Minister mentioned some figures today, you know, no one knows what would final come of it, but he mentioned some ideas in terms of local ownership and so on, OECS ownership and that kind of a thing and a certain amount of governmental ownership. I have no problem with that because the bank as an institution has to survive, regardless of the ownership, because it has a significant role to play in the financial architecture of this country of ours. So that is not my big concern. I want us to recognize those realities and when we make decisions, in relation to loans we examine them critically for ourselves. Why do we have to borrow that is not my issue, but you64have to watch also your rate of borrowings, because while you can say your debt to GDP ratio is not so bad now, borrowing that is not very productive could soon put you in quite a different position.And I want to make another point in relation to $100 million; I agree with the Prime Minister that the net effect of that should not be to increase our national debt. Because the terms of the loan that you are getting is lower than the loans in the portfolio, and which you see in the debt schedule in the back of our estimates. But I want to say this you will be paying them back at the rate in the bank because the bank would have calculated the amounts that they need based on what the interest rate in the bank is. So whatever the value of that is at the particular point in them when the funds are being transferred you will be paying at that rate. But when time comes to repay the Caribbean Development Bank, you will pay at the lower rate. I want that to be clearly understood too.I know some people are of the view, but that is not my understanding that the bank is borrowing some money. As I understand it, the bank is not borrowing any money. The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is borrowing money and that money is used to improve the portfolio in the National Commercial Bank, so the debt is the government’s debt that is my understanding. And it is the government who has to repay it, not the bank. And if that is the case, it means that you the public are repaying that loan of $100 million.Mr. Speaker, I do not know because it changes all the time, but I am assuming that the public sector debt that is being retired at NCB or the portion that is being retired to the repayment of the $100 million is not particularly weighted towards central government but weighted really towards the statutory corporations. You know there is a serious implication for that you know that once the bank is sold you do not have the flexibility for overdrafts and so on like when you have the bank owned by the government, you know, so it means that all statutory bodies will also have to tighten their belts and deal with this issue. You would not be able in a private owned bank to overrun the overdrafts limits and so with the central government. Every year you pass a resolution in this Parliament authorizing the Minister of Finance to borrow from the banks up to a certain limit, when the bank is government owned, you have a better chance of exceeding that limit if you want to, to carry out the business of government and one of the effects of a sale is that those limits will not be easily moved. All these are factors; people asked why people have gone home from the bank. They have gone home because of the reorganization has to repair to sell to the private sector, you could case it up in any big language you want, that is the reality that they have gone home because of that. Whether they want to call it reorganization or efficiency improvements that is the reality. And I do not believe that we have seen the last of that in this particular exercise.I do not have the Caribbean Development Bank appraisal report, the government has it. I do not know all the terms and conditions of that appraisal report, the government has it. And it is for the government to implement but I am sure that the money will be disbursed in tranches as you meet conditions that have been agreed to for financial sector reforms in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.65They would not take up $100 million and say ‘have’; they will say you will have to do this, it is part of your policy for financial sector reform when you have completed that, I will give you $10 million, or $15 million or $20 million as the case may be, not all one time. The loans which are based on policy chances, you may get something up front initially but throughout the whole cycle as you make the reforms then you get the disbursements. That is the reality. That is reality. And there is where we find ourselves. And what I am saying in that kind of environment, including the international environment, loans of the type we are dealing with now, will have less impact than they could have had, if we did not have part of this current pressure coming down on our economy very serious issue indeed.And Mr. Speaker, I cannot remember the list of all the diversification projects. I know some of them were included in the capital projects in the estimates. And while in fact, I can agree with those I can remember, I will like to get some indication, I know the loan has to be negotiated, what I would like to hear from the Prime Minister, what kind of range he is thinking of he may be able to negotiate for this loan. I know that is not yet fixed in stone. And I know in past times he had to negotiate with other lending institutions and he did not really know until he had concluded such negotiations what the exact interest rate was going to be, or the length of the repayment term. So there are two particular issues I want clear up before I give support to this bill. One I want the assurance that the funds at the International Monetary Fund are still available at this time to pay for the company that is going to deal with trying to get back some money from British American, CLICO for those persons and institutions that have invested and to get some better ideas of the Prime Minister’s own thinking as to the terms of these loans. And I believe the time has come for the Prime Minister to give more details on the conditionalities that are attached to the CDB loan, so that when people have to tighten their belts they know why they have to tighten their belts. When people have to go home they have to know why they have to go home from their jobs. These things are very important in also building confidence. No government wants to be in a position to have a loan that has many conditionalities. It affects your freedom to manoeuvre especially in matters related to finance.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Member you have ten minutes to complete your presentation.HONOURABLE ARNHIM EUSTACE: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, that would be enough.The Prime Minister needs to tell this nation some more about the conditions that are attached to that loan of $100 million from the Caribbean Development Bank. You know the language of the press release, you know, I found it very interesting, the language is very diplomatic, I had intended to read some of it but I would not bother, it is very diplomatic. It simply says you know that the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has agreed that they are going to go about financial sector reform. And in that financial sector reform, they want to improve the quality of the NCB’s loan portfolio by reducing public sector loan assets in the bank and they want the bank to go to the private sector. All that is mentioned in the press release but it says that the government has66decided, it does not say that CDB has negotiated but the reality is that the government and CDB would have negotiated that is the real world as to what is to be done. And that is why I believe the Prime Minister is to say to the people of this country what the conditions are attached to the CDB loan. Mr. Speaker, I am much obliged, I would await the time when the Prime Minister response.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Thank you further debate? Honourable Senator Leacock?HONOURABLE ST. CLAIR LEACOCK: Thank you, very much Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to use this opportunity of this bill for Economic Diversification Programme to raise a few issues on the state of the national finance and to take issue, Mr. Speaker, with the picture that has been painted deliberately or otherwise by the Honourable Prime Minister that essentially all is well and that there is little for us to be worried about.Mr. Speaker, as we listen to the questions today and the answers presented in one case by the Honourable Prime Minister and the other by the Honourable Minister of Transport certain observations could be made and we can deduce or come to certain conclusions. In the statistics presented generally speaking with respect to the national outturn Mr. Speaker, the conclusions that I came to on a year to year report is that we are pretty much in the same place as we were last year. Some may say, that at least we are holding our own and that is a position perhaps you can defend, but I suspect that those who have to juggle with national finances may equate the situation of one swimming in the sea seeming to be comfortable but until you dive and look below the water and see their feet you do not understand what is going on to keep them there afloat. And in fact, in St. Vincent’s case we may be having to run much faster to stay in the same place.Mr. Speaker, with respect to $100 million loan by the government to remove much of the public sector debt at the National Commercial Bank I have another view as to the efficacy of those borrowings. Mr. Speaker, the case was made and no one would want to contest that that comparatively speaking that the National Commercial Bank has for some time being undercapitalized perhaps from the beginning and even though there have been injections and I did not get those statistics along the way it is still nowhere near that of the more successful indigenous banks and to keep our comparisons straight within the region. For example, we are under $100 million here, and we told in St. Lucia they are close to let us say $500 million in terms of the capitalization.Mr. Speaker, the point I want to make in that regard with respect to that $100 million secured from the Caribbean Development Bank is that had many of the public sector enterprise not being so mismanaged we could have made far better use of the $100 million. And let me say before I go on to explain my argument in that regard, Mr. Speaker. The government cannot deny that they have placed a certain degree of confidence that one of the ways they can improve national governance has been the road of creating more parastatal or private companies and certainly, a number of them have come into being during the period of the ULP administration. But the result is that the debt at the National Commercial Bank has increased significantly, Mr. Speaker, between 2001 and today I think the government has increased the borrowings at the bank to some $160 million. And by the67Prime Minister’s own argument they have been a major contributor, well not a major because only the government can in fact do that, of crowding out the very private sector. Meaning that funds that the government has been using up had they not had to take such large borrowings more of those funds would have been in fact available for private sector development.But the more fundamental point that I want to address, Mr. Speaker, is that we in fact had the opportunity with that same $100 million which has to be repaid by the tax payers and which will not give us any return, is that it could have gone to improving the capitalization of the bank. I want to repeat that. It is my view, that rather than the monies borrowed from the bank having to be used to reduce the public sector debt there was indeed an opportunity to improve the capitalization of the bank for – as I understand it and I am subject to correction - from where it is perhaps around $80 million if that is not the case then I will take the correction - to perhaps $180 million; thereby making the bank, more competitive than it is now, even though it may be a long shot away from that of other banks operating here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.Mr. Speaker, we have attempted to put some garment under this move towards privatization of the bank and to suggest that it would solve all of our problems, or much of our problems, Mr. Speaker. Let me be fair to the argument. The reality is however, Mr. Speaker, is that while one may not have argument towards some degree of privatization of our national commercial bank and other experiences in the Caribbean bears that out, I am sure that the Honourable Prime Minister would be seized with the fact, that it creates for national governments a serious responsibility with respect to fiscal discipline.In some cases governments are no different to the ordinary citizens of the country or business people in the country who would like to have good cordial and functional relationship with the banks or credit services be it, or credit unions that in times of difficulties they can go without great stress and renegotiate their financial situations and every Minister of Finance knows and understands painfully how difficult it is at times to bail out unruly or mismanaged public sector agencies. And whatever that ratio that may be finally agreed upon and the Prime Minister tried to suggest that at 23 to 25, 26, 27% something under 30% ownership by National governments may be desirable, I am sure that part of that consideration of remaining an equity owner, a shareholder in the banks is [to] use his language, they may still at times be able to leverage the institution to address national development efforts. But I will raise it, Mr. Speaker, to say that it is in fact a balancing act.I do not want to address the emotional debate today, Mr. Speaker, but we cannot ignore that it exists. Throughout the region and St. Vincent is included, the establishment of national commercial banks were one of the major symbols or signs of national pride and sovereignty and our departure from colonial ruled and attempt for ourselves to use language, masters of our own destiny. And I would submit, Mr. Speaker, the reversal of that, the giving up of ownership of the National Commercial Banks, the retreating from that position is in a sense admission of a kind of failure in more than one respect. And therefore, the Honourable Prime Minister as Minister of68Finance cannot walk away from the dilemma that the bank finds itself in, lily white and assuming that he is not be held responsible and accountable for that problem today.Mr. Speaker, let me speak directly to this question, the last few weeks and months have been very difficult and challenging ones for us on this side of the House and for the Opposition New Democratic Party, because we have had to balance national responsibility and in particular that towards the bank and people who have the monies in the bank against a narrow interest, namely that of partisan political interest. And many times we had to bite our lips and we are in fact, still biting our lips because we believe we love St. Vincent too much to destroy it solely for a political good. But to the extent that others feel that they can strip us bare and lay us naked before this populace as being irresponsible and knowing nothing about finance and accounting the time is drawing neigh, there may be other forums, other platforms in which we may have to share the extent of which we have had to put the national good before our personal good. Let no one be fooled, we have been extremely patient and responsible in handling the question of the National Commercial Bank; because inevitably, Mr. Speaker, we will inherit that problem. We will inherit it because there are no bones about it. I hear the Prime Minister speaking boastingly today about holding on until another five years, there will be not be another five years for him, he is out. Clean bowled, [interjection] I will beat you and all the other candidates you bring together combined in Central Kingstown. You are not running against me, you know, I am glad for this departure, you are running against the people of Central Kingstown, and they will make an example of you by rejecting you, as they did in the referendum and the polls. You and everyone come. We will reject you and all those others that come. We will wait for it.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Members, please, let us stick to the debate. Honourable Prime Minister let us stick to the debate.HONOURABLE ST. CLAIR LEACOCK: I have been, Mr. Speaker. I have been. But,... HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: But you do not have to take every challenge.HONOURABLE ST. CLAIR LEACOCK: I do not have to take every challenge. I am glad for you, Mr. Speaker; very encouraging.Mr. Speaker, this country is virtually on a reef. And it is questionable how long we can hold out in the state that we are in. I said that there were two sets of presentations today. You heard from the Honourable Minister of Transport and Works almost every question that is asked of him, nothing doing, can’t be done this year, perhaps next year, explanation why it has not been done for the last five years, all around this country you can look, Mr. Speaker, red and white barricades and drums, the roads of the country has been in the worst state in the history of this country. Almost in every area of life we have had declining quality of services being provided to people of this country. The measurements are there, the responses to the poverty report of things being rosy, nice, and improving. The reality is that more than 50% of the country is either vulnerable or poor in this country and getting poor faster in this country, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I have heard you referred already in this Parliament when one is speaking to the cross-talk of identifying people’s69statements as being nonsense, and I am sure you heard that, of it being unparliamentarily. I pause, Mr. Speaker because I think you seem to want to rule; or you want me to proceed.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Proceed for me please. Honourable Member, let us, please, please. Really, you know, we get somewhat touchy on these little things.HONOURABLE ST. CLAIR LEACOCK: I am not touchy, Mr. Speaker, I can take it, and I can give it, Mr. Speaker. So I am comfortable.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Let us proceed.HONOURABLE ST. CLAIR LEACOCK: So Mr. Speaker, we in the New Democratic Party certainly wish to see our country go forward. We continue to be supportive of those programmes that are helpful and that would advance, -- you can go on with your threats you know, it is not everything I will pass you know. Because I understand you when you say that – boy, listen to me...,HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Please, Honourable Senator, you have to control yourself. HONOURABLE ST. CLAIR LEACOCK: But, Mr. Speaker,HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: But you cannot be referring to an Honourable Member as ‘boy’. You have to control yourself.HONOURABLE ST. CLAIR LEACOCK: So I did call him boy? Well, maybe, I got carried away with the ‘Boy Beache’ reference and that is why I called him boy. I take that back, Mr. Speaker. I take back, the ‘Boy Beache’ reference.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Senator, I mean just a minute. You are not, or nobody in this Parliament expects to come here make a presentation and probably do not get some sort of heckle at some point.HONOURABLE ST. CLAIR LEACOCK: I am in agreement, Mr. Speaker.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: And the ability for you to be able to control the thing, ride over that, and continue your presentation makes you the person you ought to be. And you cannot react to everything.HONOURABLE ST. CLAIR LEACOCK: Do you want my apology, Mr. Speaker?HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Well, I am not going to demand any. But I want you to be conscious of the fact, you cannot make... you cannot refer to the Honourable Member as ‘boy’. Continue.HONOURABLE ST. CLAIR LEACOCK: Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the reference to the Honourable Member as ‘Boy Beache’. I do, sincerely.70Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, as the Opposition Leader, Member for East Kingstown has stated we look forward to the next few weeks that remain and we request on how much would be accomplished in those time to the diversification programme taking some route, and bringing some ease to the pain and chagrin of the people of this country. But equally, Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House look forward with great optimism that would be in a position to be able to bring a more permanent relief to the peoples of this country. Much obliged, Mr. Speaker.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Any further debate. Honourable gentlemen, let us try to control our emotions and let us debate these things civilly. I do not expect that people come around here and say the nicest set of words and so on, but we do this in a very controlled manner. Thank you, very much.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I am grateful for the contributions of my two Honourable friends on the Opposition. [Interjection] I use my... I am a good Catholic who spent ten days among the Benedictine Monks. Mr. Speaker, it is an amazing thing. The old saying, Mr. Speaker, ‘that hope lies eternal in the human breast’. On the last occasion before we went to the polls, in 2005 Senator Leacock had the same brim-full confidence. He sees the world through spectacles which he alone has devised. He is his own optometrist and he sees what he wants. Let us look, Mr. Speaker, at the context of the national economy in which this bill has been brought.Mr. Speaker, since September 2008 the world has been ravished by the most serious economic downturn since 1929. Across the world, we have seen sharp declines in rates of growth and also extremely sharp increases in debt to GDP ratios. That for the United Kingdom has jumped by 2030 points, almost 100%. We have had declines of 2, 3 and 4% in the case of Greece and Portugal and Spain, sharper and Ireland. Greece, Mr. Speaker, is borrowing money. It is short-term monies, 14%, it is better the Greek government gets a credit card, they will probably gets a lower rate of interest the last occasion when this government went on the regional government securities market. The rates we got for our short term monies was under 5%, we do the rolling every month, every 30 days.Mr. Speaker, when the market gives you in the region of 5% in these circumstances, the market is saying that they have confidence in the manner in which the government is handling the problems which face it. It is not an issue which we do not have problems. What the Opposition wants us to do, is in addition to they being in love with prudence to have as a sidekick Cassandra, because the fable Cassandra is always the bringer of bad tales. Now, if we talk about problems and we have solutions they say it is a rosy picture. I am not presenting any over optimistic picture; I am defining the challenges and presenting solutions. And that is why the market responded in that way. I gave one indication.Mr. Speaker, when we came to Parliament for the 2010 budget I presented a budget for the deficit on the current account in the order of $20 million and I gave the reasons why. During the first six months of the year because the international situation continued to impact and the revenues were71not what they were, we took certain measures internally so that at the end of this six months, Mr. Speaker, we have a current account balance of $1.4 million all be it down from $8.5 million but a current account balance at the end of the first half of the year.Mr. Speaker, in terms of the budget numbers we were looking at a deficit at this time on the current account of $17.7 million, rather than having that we are having a surplus, so we are doing better than we plan because of the way we are managing our finances. It is not that there is not a challenge, there is not a difficulty. But it is how you manage it. Anybody seriously expects that in the case of the United States of America substantial decline in revenues that we would not have them here. That you have unemployment rising in the US past 10% in... Mr. Speaker, I just read an article in the Financial Times, last week, the special pull out in the Magazine section which showed that from 1973 to the present time the bottom 90% of the United States of America including the middle class there income situation has basically been flat, the recession has made it immensely worst. There is a family making US $70,000 a year, they are working four jobs, two full time and two part time jobs and yet their jobs earlier this year was put up for sale. Because the particular pattern of consumption they have had and the situation has been altered so dramatically defining the challenges. That is the United States of America.Policemen are leaving Turks and Caicos, leaving the British Virgin Islands, leaving Anguilla and coming back here, asking back for their jobs. Anguilla had a decline in their economy last year of 24%, Barbados a decline last year of 5% and the year before at 5%. Their debt to GDP has gone to about 112%. Antigua and Barbuda had a decline in 2009 of 8% and they are expected to decline this year by 6%. St. Kitts/Nevis last year had a decline of 9.8% and the government won the elections you know. The government won the elections.In fact, Mr. Speaker, last year for the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union of the six independent countries, the least decline in the economy has been St. Vincent and the Grenadines, of minus 1%. Mr. Speaker, and the Central Bank has just put out the projections for the year 2010 and we are declining by minus 1%, and we are better than every other country for this year coming save and except St. Lucia which is going to grow by a projected 2%. But interestingly, between 2005 and 2009 inclusive, the gross domestic product of St. Lucia per head of population has increased by $453.00 whereas that for St. Vincent and the Grenadines has increased by $3,314. In fact, the fastest growth in GDP per head in the OECS among the six independent countries has been St. Vincent and the Grenadines between the year 2001 and now.Indeed, Mr. Speaker, in 2001, St. Vincent was number 6 of the six independent countries in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, they were after Dominica just about $8,000.00, per head of population. By 2005 we went pass Dominica and by 2009 we have gone pass Grenada and St. Lucia and it is only the high wage economies of Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts/Nevis that are head of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in terms of GDP per head. Mr. Speaker, I am not looking at any document for this but they can look at it, because I read these things like how I read John 3:16; or the Book of Revelation because it is part of my work. I have to do it.72So when I hear Senator Leacock speak, he speaks about a world where he is dramatizing all these problems and challenges. Of course we know that the Honourable Leader of the Opposition he has never met a circumstance about which he is ever optimistic. He is perpetually a pessimist. The population... [Interjection] Okay, let us deal with the population of the growth of the GDP then. Let us deal with the question of the growth of the GDP. The growth of GDP has increased in St. Vincent and the Grenadines between the period 2001 and 2008 and 2009 by 3.8%. Whereas between 1993 the year of banana when the Banana decline started in 1993 to 2000 including 2 1⁄2 years when the Honourable Leader of the Opposition was Minister of Finance the economy grew by 2.6% on an average per year. And in fact, the average growth of the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines between 2001 and 2009 is higher than the average for the six independent countries of the OECS. So that, when you make the point about the population; the population is basically stagnant there is no significant decline in the population. But the point I want to make here is that the way in which the GDP has grown.And Mr. Speaker, you know, I really expected better of Honourable Senator Leacock. He addresses the issue of 48% vulnerability in the report. Mr. Speaker, the first time that we have had the vulnerability index used in the poverty study was in the last one. There was none before. But I say to you Honourable Members that had the vulnerability index been used in the 1996, 1997 study, it would have been more in the line of 60% because of the fact the extent of the poverty was 37.5%, it is now 30.2%. And indigence, dirt poor poverty, has been reduced from 25.7% to 2.9%.In other word, where 26,000 people were living in indigence by 2008, and 2008 was a bad year for research work to be done on poverty, because the oil prices had moved to US $148.00 a barrel in July of that year and all the prices had skyrocketed. And the fact remains comparatively, that while the poverty statistics show that poverty had increased in St. Lucia and in Grenada in which there have been poverty studies that the poverty situation has declined under the Unity Labour Party administration. This does not mean Mr. Speaker, that there we do not have the poor, that we have challenges, and you will see in terms of active employees, active employers and active owner count persons, there have been an increase between 2001 and 2009 by nearly 10,000 people, indicating the increase in employment.Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons we have not had the mass unemployment here as we have had in some other Caribbean countries is because of the employment policies of the government; because Mr. Speaker, the Mustique and Canouan gave their undertaking that they will keep their labour force pretty much intact and because of Buccama, which the NDP called a phantom project and which the Honourable Senator Cummings had gone with his immense engineering skills and declared to be a project which cannot come off the ground, because it is phantom. You know, it is incredibly, but yet it is phantom but 1200 persons are working it. I just do not picture how the honourable friends can speak this way.Mr. Speaker, [Interjection] you know, I shall have always have a glass of water for you when I defeat you. I will give you a glass of water on the night, when your lips are dry, and you cannot speak, I would say have some water my brother and I shall seek to see if I can assuage your73feelings, you will not be returned to the House as a Senator because you would have failed on two occasions. Oh, I am sorry for you. I am really sorry, but that does not mean I am not going to add to your sorrow electorally. [Interjection] Moving out where? From where? I have my house in Gorse and I keep a certain number of my books up there, they are my friends. I do a lot of writing. And I expect that I shall occupy the official residence of the Prime Minister into the year 2015 God’s willing. It is true I understand that some persons have been looking at a distance and wanting to measure curtains.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Prime Minster could you... let us have the debate on the....DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, the money in the public sector debt portfolio at the National Commercial Bank. There are several entities which owe money to the National Commercial Bank. There are loans to VINLEC from way back when. There are CWSA loans. There are consolidated overdraft loans, you can look at the back, you will see loans for Housing and Land Development Corporation, you do not want poor people to get their houses. You would not have wanted us not to build the sixty something houses in Green Hill. You cannot be opposed to that. You are having an exception to that. I heard you just said that the money as wasted. So when I go to Green Hill I would say Senator Leacock said the money which spent on these sixty something houses was wasted. Because this is what you have just said. Well, you said that you could have used this money better, the $100 million. But I am saying to you, no, I did not say it specifically, I was drawing a reasonable inference from something you stated. What you stated that this $100 million was wasted, it could have been put to better use. Yes, yes, do you want to withdraw that? It is in the Hansard.HONOURABLE ST. CLAIR LEACOCK: I know you like it when I am on my feet. Mr. Speaker, the Honourable Prime Minister is misleading the House and is doing so terribly. Not only have the people in Green Hill bought their houses, he have not given them anything, you know. But I did say the money that we spent in relieving the country of the public sector debt; we could have been more efficacious by having it going to the capitalization of the bank. And I want to repeat that emphatically, we could have improved the status of the bank have we put it towards capitalization. That is what I said.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, he is confirming for me exactly the inference which I drew. Because the point is this, everyone knows that the houses at Green Hill were subsidized by at least 25% by the state. We said that when we opened in order that poor people could have bought them. But the policy of the NDP is not to build any of those, so I will tell them that you said that it would have been better to be done in another way. And I agree that if that is your view you should defend that honestly but I shall point that out to them. [Interjection] I will be passed by everybody.Mr. Speaker, I want to answer a few of the matters which we have here in respect of the Honourable Leader of the Opposition. He is not against the $100 million; he says that the bank is74in plenty trouble, but I support the $100 million loan. Mr. Speaker what plenty trouble is we are talking about? In the Currency Union, you have about 22 indigenous banks; about seven or eight of them you may say are probably in intensive care. You have two of them, the better ones of the whole lot, I mentioned, St. Lucia and St. Kitts, Nevis National Bank and then you have two, three, four banks in the next group which includes St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Commercial Bank. And everybody who looks at the bank will tell you that there are challenges as I outlined, which you accept to, about the undercapitalization of the bank, not in relation to its capital adequacy ratios, but in terms of the sufficiency of the capital for further development. And the challenges which have arisen, we are addressing them in a prudent and scientific way.Mr. Speaker, does anybody seriously think that Governor of the Central Bank would have accepted the National Commercial Bank and to be a shareholder of the Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank, if it were in intensive care? [Interjection] Yes, we did, it is $2 million; we transferred the $2 million loan which we had given to them into the shares, because that is what they wanted us to do immediately which we had done. And the Central Bank would not have wanted us if they think that National Commercial Bank is going to have the challenges of a bank which is in intensive care.Now, the Leader of the Opposition repeated some things which I have spoken here in the House that in addition to the general economy problems coming to us from outside; the specific issue of CLICO and British American are problematic and I have said it in several meetings. I delivered a major speech in Grenada on the issue which was carried live throughout the region. I said it here in front of the credit unions. I said it here in the House. And as we are reaching the time now where the auditors have to make provisioning many of the institutions including the credit unions are feeling the pinch, in respect of the provisioning as everyone knows that I have been put in charge of the insurance subcommittee of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union Monetary Council. And I have outlined before the new company which we want to form. All the various things which we have we have done with the property, the insurance, how we are dealing with the medical insurance and the like. We have gone through; we have done all the work in respect of the judicial managers.Mr. Speaker, part of this new company I persuaded the government of Trinidad and Tobago to put US $50 million from the CARICOM Petroleum Facility into our Central Bank as part of the base of the capitalization. The six countries of the OECS would put in, in accordance with their share an aggregate of $75 million. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago will put in US $100 million as preference shares. And the Government of Patrick Manning had accepted that position and we are working on a memorandum. The Government of Barbados will put in $10 million, $5 million grant and $5 million as preference shares.Since the new government has come to power in Trinidad, we have to give them time to study the issue. We have already written to them since the month of June and before I went off to Uganda I spoke to Finance Minister Winston Dookeran again and he said by Friday, which is tomorrow, I will find out from him when we can meet in Trinidad with my team, a regional team to go through75many of the issues there. The proposal which we are putting forward is the only proposal which can make any sense. But we need the support of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. As always we have to think of Plan B, but I do not want to go there and articulate anything yet. I just want to see what is happening in Trinidad and Tobago.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Prime Minister, eight minutes to conclude.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, I just want to give the assurance to the Honourable Leader of the Opposition that the money which we have put in the estimates earmarked from the special drawing rights are still available. As he probably knows what is being paid out is 85% of the special drawing rights, the value of it, and we are not touching it. We are not a profligate government; we are very serious when we go about matters. There are some countries which have not put the monies in their budget we have it. That is the way when decisions are made. We sit down and what we are doing in the National Commercial Bank is one of the 8 point programmes which we have agreed upon within the OECS and the ECCU as to how we should affect financial sector reform.In so far as some of the issues concerning the bank; you see, the Honourable Leader of the Opposition mentioned the problem of student loans. Now, Mr. Speaker, 550 students, economically disadvantaged students, have gotten university education since 2002 because of this initiative of the ULP administration.Now we knew that we would not be able to continue the programme in the current form on an on- going basis through the bank, so I have given instructions for a national student loan company to be formed wholly owned by the state because the odd million dollars for that part of the programme while we must remember the students are making back the payments, but the problem for the bank obviously, and the Honourable Leader of the Opposition is correct about it, for that particular loan, because the terms are long and the interest rate fairly low, that it is not a portfolio which is most productive. [Interjection] I just told you, no, no, you have to distinguish between two sets of things. The loan in relation to the regular student loans they would not be queries of that in the way in which you will have it for the economically disadvantaged student loans.Now, and it is a simple matter which we have decided before that we will form a special company to address that. We have to have about $6 million roughly a year; and we have the financing again for this year. So the students again will go off. You see, sometimes when these problems arise we have the solutions, they do not... they look at problems, they are in love with problems. You see me I am in love with solutions. When a problem comes, I say aye, let me see how I am going to solve that one. That is how I do the thing.Mr. Speaker, in relation to the other matter about... and it is not true to say that we do not have best practices in the bank, compare to when the Honourable Leader looked at the shop, he... if I were to produce a darning report when the Central Bank came in and we did a forensic auditing, I tell you when I read it I wondered whether the Honourable Leader of the Opposition was asleep as Minister of Finance. But I do not want to talk about these things, for the simple reason, I get about76and make the corrections. That is my nature by temperament. [Interjection] For what? It is Milton Cato that started the bank. And all you leave it for me in a terrible state.Mr. Speaker, on the matter of the rate of the loans and the terms of the loans the export import banks, we have gotten from Taiwan rates between 3 and 4 1⁄2 % historically and we are anticipating that it would be in that kind of range again, and they have given them long term, close to 20 years with some grace period, given and take some few years that kind of a ballpark, which we would normally expect. Now, I just want to say this Mr. Speaker, that in relation to the debts, in relation to housing there is fish marketing company, monies at the supermarket and we want to privatize that, the cricket facility at Arnos Vale, monies are there, I gave a number of examples already.Mr. Speaker, the NDP is in a little bit of a problem, they trying to pigeonhole the Comrade, as a man who simply want to extend the activity of the State. But they do not grasp the flexibility and the subtlety of the mind and to know when the state must advance in a particular sector and when the state should retreat. What role it should play? Now, this is an important philosophical question and it cannot be handled by persons who do not have a sensitivity to the multiplicity of issues. This is not a matter which any and anybody can handle. This is a matter where careful astute leadership is required. For the last ten years, the Honourable Leader of the Opposition has been predicting the collapse of the economy the collapse of this, the collapse of that. I have been advised that Frank Da Silva who is an authority in the New Democratic Party has said Ralph has done a good job by any judgment. He said you know, he has a heart and I will vote for him anytime. He says but in the case of the new dispensation, he said you know, we have to really, since Sir James cannot come back de coyer, we have to let him be the de facto and the language he is using is like the Leader of the Opposition is falling down like one of those banana trees, you need a man of 79 years to track you up. And he is putting his faith in the track. Well, that is a terrible way to go to a nation for leadership.I beg to move Mr. Speaker, that this Honourable House resolves itself into a committee of the whole House to consider the bill clause by clause.HONOURABLE SIR LOUIS STRAKER: Mr. Speaker, I beg to second the motion.Question put and agreed to. House went into committee to consider the bill. House resumed.HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, I beg to move that a bill for an Act to secure a loan to finance the projects under the Economic Diversification Programme be read a third time by title and passed.HONOURABLE SIR LOUIS STRAKER: Mr. Speaker, I beg to second the motion.Question put and agreed to. Bill read a third time and passed with no amendments.77FIREARMS AMENDMENT BILL 2010HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Prime Minister, Leader of the House I wonder if we cannot take a short break at this time, as you would observe my deputy is not around and I have been sitting here for quite a while so maybe we could have a short break at this time.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, as you would... so ten minutes break, Mr. Speaker.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: We will just break now and come back with the Firearm. I guess we can do that. The caterers are there as well.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Well, perhaps if they are here we take a half an hour, Mr. Speaker. I beg to move, Mr. Speaker, that the Honourable House do stand suspended for half an hour for members’ convenience.Question put and agreed to. House suspended for tea. House resumed after tea.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Pray be seated. DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker..., HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Yes, Honourable Prime Minister.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: During the period of the suspension, the Honourable Leader of the Opposition indicated to me when I informed him about the manner in which we are carrying out the work load for the balance of the bills, the other three bills, he said that the person or persons who are responsible largely for speaking on the Child Protection Bill that that individual did not get the bill until quite late because he was in the Southern Grenadines.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Okay.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Under the circumstances, I think his request that we consider that bill on the next sitting, not to be unreasonable, even though we urgently want to get it off because we have two or three others, well hopefully maybe by then we can get at least another one more of the family type bills for us to work together. Which means, Mr. Speaker, we can in fact, do the other two bills, because he is assured that from their standpoint as I anticipated the issues in those two bills are non-controversial.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Okay.page78image1916878DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: So that we can go with the amendment first with the National Parks Bill and then we will do the Firearms Bill.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: All right, it makes sense.NATIONAL PARKS AMENDMENT BILL 2010 HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Minister of Tourism.HONOURABLE GLEN BEACHE: Much obliged, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I beg to move the introduction and first reading of a bill for an Act to amend the National Parks Act 2002.HONOURABLE SIR LOUIS STRAKER: Mr. Speaker, I beg to second the motion. Question put and agreed to.HONOURABLE GLEN BEACHE: Mr. Speaker, I beg to move that the bill to amend the National Parks Act 2002 be taken through all its stages at today’s sitting in accordance with Section 48 (2).HONOURABLE SIR LOUIS STRAKER: Mr. Speaker, I beg to second the motion. Question put and agreed to.HONOURABLE GLEN BEACHE: Mr. Speaker, I beg to move that a bill for an Act to amend the National Parks Act 2002 be read a second time.HONOURABLE SIR LOUIS STRAKER: Mr. Speaker, I beg to second the motion. Question put and agreed to.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Debate on the Bill.HONOURABLE GLEN BEACHE: Thank you, very much, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, this is really not much of a difficult amendment. As many people would know, Mr. Speaker, National Parks, Beaches and Rivers Authority has done quite a bit of work over the past few years. Many Vincentians would know about the work that was done on the 15 sites throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines, for example Owia, Salt Pond, Rawacou, Falls of Baleine, Dark View Falls, and Mr. Speaker, the amendment to this bill is very simple in what it aims to do. For example, the charging of fees for some of these different sites Mr. Speaker, earlier this year, let me go back a bit. Mr. Speaker, a few years ago with the renovation of these sites and the new site at Cumberland, we were making it clear quite often in the Ministry of Tourism and National Parks that on the completion of these sites and this was part of the deal with the European Union that some sort of charge would be put in place for entrance into these sites.page79image2012879Now, Mr. Speaker, if you look at many of these different sites, obviously, you cannot charge for all of them. If you look at the Belmont Lookout Point, you cannot actually charge to go onto the new Belmont Lookout Point to see, but you can charge for use of the washrooms. And same with the case, take for example Black Point, it would be very difficult when one looks at the work that we have done there in terms of the playing field. We are not going to charge people for the playing field but in taking a tour of the tunnel it is something that we are looking at.And Mr. Speaker this is not something new to the world. It might be something new to St. Vincent and the Grenadines but it is not something new to the world, Mr. Speaker. If you look at countries like St. Lucia, Barbados, as a matter of fact, St. Lucia has been one of the leading countries in the Caribbean when it comes to a willingness to pay for these sort of sites. And Mr. Speaker, if we are to continue to develop, if we are to continue to reap the benefits of tourism, I have always said that tourism makes no sense in St. Vincent and the Grenadines if the man on the street does not feel that tourism dollar. Tourism cannot be about the hotels, and the tour operators, it has to be about the vendors. It has to be about the craftsmen and women throughout this country. And as we continue to develop the tourism product, Mr. Speaker, these are some of the things we have to look at. A study was done by the FCCA, the Florida Caribbean Cruise Line Association in terms of visitor expenditure by cruise ship passenger, Mr. Speaker, and one of the things that came home very strongly in this study is that St. Vincent and the Grenadines, visitor expenditure was lowest in St. Vincent and the Grenadines out of all CTO members, and when I say CTO members I am speaking about the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Lower down somewhere around $17.49 per cruise ship passenger, while other countries Mr. Speaker, were all at 110 to 120 a US per passenger and this goes contrary to what the former Prime Minister had to say once upon a time and when I say I am speaking about Sir James Mitchell, when he spoke about cruise ship passengers just being about the 3 p’s, the Pepsi, the postcard and we know what the rest of it said. And this study has shown, Mr. Speaker, the potential that cruise ship passengers have to spend once we provide things that they are willing to purchase.Mr. Speaker, we hope to improve on the visitor expenditure here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And one of the things is in charging for some of these sites, there was a study done started last year and continued into this year, Mr. Speaker, it was not done by the Ministry of Tourism, it was done by the Ministry of Health and it was a willingness to pay study and it was a willingness to pay study and it was interested, it took into account local, regional, international visitors looking very carefully at how much they were willing to pay, if they were willing to pay at certain sites and Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting in terms of what the study found and I would not go into any detail about it, Mr. Speaker, but just to say, look at females, males the level of education, as I said before, local, regional, international visitors and what they were willing to pay.It also looked, Mr. Speaker, which one of the sites, were their favourite sites and funny enough the only site that both groups agreed on in terms of local, regional and international was that of the Botanical Gardens, that came in number one in all three sections. But when you go down the list, Mr. Speaker, it is quite different in terms of the ranking of all the others. With locals, it was very apparent that some of the more important things to them were that of picnics, goat cooks and that80sort of thing, while the international visitors, there’s was more like the scenic, diving, sailing. And we got some mixed reviews. But the great thing about the study that came out of this study, Mr. Speaker, was the fact that all, local, regional and international were willing to pay something to enter these sites and this is the direction we have [to] head in, Mr. Speaker.I have always said a lot of times when we hear certain things and I will use football as an example, on many occasions, I used hear, ‘well why is government not doing this for football. Why is not government footing the whole bill to do something for football?’ And this government, Mr. Speaker, has been very much into sports and helping out our sportsmen and women throughout the years. But it is not only about government helping out. A lot of these organizations, Mr. Speaker, have to be self-sufficient. They have to help themselves. Government is there we know the situation and we have to help as much as we can, but it is like a teenager and their parents, I remember when I was a Boy Scout and I wanted to go on a Jamboree in Barbados at that time I was not doing too well in school, and I remember my mother making it clear, that the only how you are going is if you can foot 85% of the bill.Now, Mr. Speaker, as a teenager I really had no money to foot 85% of the bill. What I had to end up doing was selling a cow that my grandfather had given me. And that was how I was able to foot the 85% of the bill. [Interjection] No, I could not have done that. I did not really want to sell the cow, Mr. Speaker, because I was hoping on making more money on the future when it had a calf and that sort of thing, but I really wanted to go on the Jamboree. And I say that as a matter of responsibility, Mr. Speaker.I used that in the sense that we hear these sort of things, but a lot of the times when the Football Federation when a game is taking place at Victoria Park, you hear people complain about paying $5.00 to go into the game; $5.00 for a football match, Mr. Speaker. As small as it is, when you add it up, it becomes something big. And Mr. Speaker, with all of the work, we spent over $19 million on these sites, over $19 million. Owia, we spent over $1.3 million; Rawarcou, we spent over $1.4 million, if you include the pool at Rawacou Mr. Speaker, over $1.7 million. And I have not met any Vincentian who has not been happy with the work we have done at these 15 sites and I encourage people especially to go and visit the new site at Cumberland. The Cumberland Nature Trail, which if I may say so, Mr. Speaker, gives Vermont Nature Trail serious competition as one of the best trails in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. That is a debate that will have to take place later between Minister Slater and Minister Thompson. I am not getting into that. I am just saying as the Minister of Tourism. And so I encourage people to visit there Mr. Speaker, and I am sure the Minister of Health is happy to hear me say that because it encourages exercise and health; the Wellness Revolution, Mr. Speaker.We have spent that much money on all of these sites, Mr. Speaker, but government, National Parks cannot sustain these sites on their own. And I think it would be unfair for National Parks to do this and so Mr. Speaker, I want to make this promise to Vincentian people, whenever we put these fees in place, Mr. Speaker, we are not looking to kill anybody. As a matter of fact, I have something from the Board of National Parks in terms of what fees they are looking at. We are not looking to81kill anybody, Mr. Speaker. Even the money that is made from these sites will not be enough to sustain them. But it will go a long way in sustaining us, Mr. Speaker. If you look at the Botanial Gardens, Mr. Speaker, for years now, Mr. Speaker, many people they send in their request to the Ministry of Tourism, now National Parks after they get married to take pictures at the Gardens and that will not stop, Mr. Speaker. But when you go to the Gardens and you look at the work we have done, one of the things we are putting in place is that you will not be able to get married at the Gardens.Now you cannot have a wedding of 250 people at the Gardens, it is more something for you and your family, probably the carrying capacity will be 50 people. But it is part of the ambience, Mr. Speaker. And as a matter of fact, weddings and honeymoons are one of the strongest niche markets in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Now, I need to make something clear, Mr. Speaker. Because I remember having this discussion with the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, I think in 2006. All of these sites have a carrying capacity. If we do not take care of these sites, Mr. Speaker, we will lose them. And I use the example with the Honourable Leader of the Opposition because I remember it was in 2006, NDP was having a picnic or something down at Dark view falls, and I remember speaking to him and asking him in this Honourable House on a break about it and how many people they were planning on getting for this picnic and I think he said something like 200, or 250 people, possibly 300; whatever the number I remember saying that is too much. And Mr. Speaker, it was not said out of a political, I being ULP and him being NDP, it was a matter of trying to preserve the site. All of these sites have a carrying capacity, all of them. Obviously some are bigger than others so some can hold more than others but, Mr. Speaker, if we want these sites to last, and when I speak of this I am not just speaking about from the tourism perspective I am speaking from the Vincentian enjoying what is theirs. And we have to take care of them. For the first time, Mr. Speaker, under this administration people now have parks that they can take their family too, play grounds at Rawacou, at Black Point, I think one is at Owia also where they can carry their children. One or two of them in the playing ground and let them play. Something that has never happened before, Mr. Speaker, has now been put in place by this ULP administration.Mr. Speaker, what excites me most about the amendment to this bill is the community involvement and the maintaining and managing of these sites. I know that there are a few tour operators out there here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines who are of the belief that once you put these sites into the care of the community, that it will be it; they will not last us any time at all. Mr. Speaker, this has been proven wrong on a number of occasions. I am happy to say, Mr. Speaker, from Black Point, where they have their own restaurant, to Rawacou where they are renting out the sites sometimes for people who want to have activities, to the North Leeward Tourism Association, Mr. Speaker, they have done a tremendous job of managing these sites so far. And kudos must be given to them.Now, Mr. Speaker, National Parks will still be the overriding body of all of this, but for tourism to grow and for tourism to develop in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Mr. Speaker, the communities82must feel the tourism dollar. And they must feel as if they are taking part in what is being done with the tourism project here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.Now Mr. Speaker, if you look at the many parts of the responsibilities of National Parks, it is amazing. If you look at some of the things that have been recommended, it is amazing, Mr. Speaker. When you look at the proposed and existing protected areas for S.V.G it is astounding, the National Park, you have the Soufriere National Park, Forest Reserves, Campden Park Forest Reserves, Colonarie Forest Reserves, Cumberland Forest Reserves, Dallaway Forest Reserves, Kings Hill Forest Reserves, Kingstown Forest Reserves, Mt. Pleasant Forest Reserves, Richmond Forest Reserves, I am sure most Vincentians did not know that we had that many.When you look at wild life reserves Mr. Speaker, I have seventeen listed here; I am not going to name them all. Cultural landmarks, Mr. Speaker, twenty-five; natural landmarks, six; recreational areas, five; marine parks, five and I am sure most people they will know about the Tobago Cays Marine Park; they do not know about south coast marine park; Chateaubelair marine park; Petit Bayahaut Marine Park and Kariff Marine Park. Marine reserves, we have three. Marine conservation areas, we have three. Protected landscape and seascape, we have two, Mr. Speaker. A number of great things are being done here, Mr. Speaker, from the National Parks point of view and Mr. Speaker, as we move on and we start to develop more sites, all of these things have to be in place, Mr. Speaker and we have to make sure that we benefit from it.The numbers as I have said in my budget address Mr. Speaker, when the Honourable Leader of the Opposition spoke about tourism or I should say, when the Honourable Member for the Northern Grenadines spoke about tourism and looks at the numbers wholeheartedly that is all he looks at, and when I made the point that if I had a choice, give me visitor expenditure over visitor numbers and I stick by that Mr. Speaker, give me visitor expenditure over visitor numbers, because that is the main thing and it was under this administration, Mr. Speaker that for the first time visitor expenditure went over $300 million in one year and Mr. Speaker, if I may say that I think is not even a fair assessment, because when you look at visitor expenditure here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the only thing that is taken into account are the hotels and restaurants and you are not even talking about restaurants throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it is a restaurants in a place in the hotels. So you are leaving out taxi drivers, you are leaving out tour operators, you leaving out tour guides, you leaving out souvenirs, none of that is taken into consideration for visitor expenditure here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and that is why the Ministry of Tourism is working very closely with the Ministry of Finance to make sure that we set up a satellite account where we can have a true reflection of what visitor expenditure is here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.When St. Lucia put in place their satellite account Mr. Speaker, their visitor expenditure went up by 250% because then it took into account everything and that is something we need to look at, Mr. Speaker. We have also in conjunction with National Parks put into place for extra training for our craftsmen and women to make sure that we can develop those souvenirs that our visitors want to buy and not only that our visitors want to buy, we know the Diaspora plays a very important83part in the tourism product that Vincentians want to take back and show off in their house or apartments and see.So Mr. Speaker, this Bill as the Prime Minister said earlier is not something that is controversial. I cannot see anybody disagreeing with the amendments that have been made. I think when one looks at the amendments that have been made; you would agree that they are long overdue. I go back to what I have said before that we have to benefit from visitor expenditure and I think even if we put, let us say, $5.00 to enter the gardens, I do not think that is something that anybody should cry home about. I know there are people who walk in the gardens every day and they use it as an exercise facility and for those sort of people, Mr. Speaker, we are actually looking at a club where they can pay a monthly rate, they can pay a six..., by half a year or they can pay a yearly rate of course of which will be discounted to if you pay every day to go in. But these are the sorts of things that we are doing and we are doing that for a lot of the sites also, Mr. Speaker, because we know there are people that love to cook every weekend, go in a picnic every weekend with their family and so we are putting all of these things in place trying to take everybody into consideration when looking at the fees structure. And Mr. Speaker, this fees structure, the public would be informed about it way in advance, because we also have to inform the cruise ship industry, because obviously it would affect how much they charge their passengers for any sort of tours.So Mr. Speaker, I hope that everybody supports this. I cannot see the Opposition not, I hope I am not speaking too fast, but I think it is a good amendment, Mr. Speaker and hopefully I would get the support of all of Parliament here tonight. I am much obliged.HONOURABLE DANIEL CUMMINGS: Mr. Speaker, let me from the outset point out that in principle, we on this side of the House have no difficulty with the concept of the amendment which is proposed in this Bill. I want however, Mr. Speaker, to draw the Honourable Minister’s attention to some areas which I would submit for his consideration.Mr. Speaker, I start firstly with the composition of the Board as revised and proposed in the amendments. Firstly, to the size of the Board is in the order of thirteen members, predominantly public sector. I wish to suggest seriously with the initiatives that I hear coming from the Honourable Minister that most of the public officers, the Director General of Finance and Planning, the Head of Physical Planning, the Medical Officer of Health, the Director of Forestry, Commissioner of Police, Tourism Authority, Chief Executive Officer, these public officers have a multitude of Boards meetings and different meetings to attend and what typically happens is that you get a low level representation at the level of the Board and you get a variation, at one meeting you get somebody, the next meeting you get somebody else and there is no continuity. So the Board really is very ineffectual in this way and I want to suggest that on two counts, one on the numbers and two that there is a more private sector oriented composition of the Board. I appreciate the large couple there the Chambers of Industry and Commerce and..., but I am not being a person specifically with the business acumen who have proven themselves successful, who could guide the entity in doing things more efficiently, because that is the overall, that is the fundamental objective. You do not want to be collecting more fees and finding that you84spending..., that fee you collect and more simply in keeping a bureaucracy, you want the thing to run efficiently and well and the burdening of this entity with so many public officers does not bode well for me and I speak here from my own personal experience.Mr. Speaker, an aspect of this amendment and this also relates to the original Bill eh, because this is just an amendment to the original Bill. The CWSA Act gives that institution exclusive responsibility except in the case of VINLEC which came before it whom everybody has fought in this country. I note that this National Park Act also gives the National Park Authority responsibility for water, river, streams and so on that is confusing. I do not know that could lead to serious problems. This Act also speaks of term which it defines to be defined by this Act itself protected area. In the CWSA for obvious reason there is such a term as protected area for which the CWSA has very, very seclusive and restrictive rights and the reason for that is self-explanatory and I simply wanting us to avoid any possibility of conflict and leading to concerns. There can be without doubts. I do not think it requires any argumentation, but when it comes to the supply of domestic water as important as protected areas and national parks are, it can come nowhere in the priority ranking when it comes to protection of domestic water supplies. So I would hope that in this Act and in the implementation that there be no conflicts and no issue at all as it relates to those protected areas which are under the control of the Water and Sewerage Authority.Mr. Speaker, generally public sector companies are not very effective when the legislation, including the regulations require them to run to the courts for every simple Act and therefore some discretionary powers are in fact oftentimes serve to dissuade people. You find that very infrequently you ever have to invoke them, but once you have demonstrated that you are serious in carrying out your responsibilities then people fall in line and I think ultimately that is the objective to prevent people, to dissuade people from breaking the laws, rather than having to prosecute them in a court of law, because the act of taking someone before the court of law is oftentimes far more wasteful of the corporation’s time and resources and if even you win in court you often time end up losing. You lose in court of public opinion, you lose financially and you do not solve the problem that the legislation is intended to prove. So I say that as a way of background with respect to this amendment, yet despite that, Mr. Speaker, on this amendment, I look at section 24 on the document at page 7, look at sections 3, if a person fails to comply with any order issued to him under subsection (2) (a) by an authorized officer or the officer has reasonably grounds to believe that the person has given to him a false name or address, the authorized officer may arrest the person without a warrant.It is the latter part, Mr. Speaker, if the officer has grounds to believe that the person has given a false name or address, they will arrest the person for that. I have a bit of a difficulty with that. In today’s age you know, you have cell phones with cameras and so forth, if a person give you a false name, deal with that. There are several ways of dealing with that matter. I do not find there is sufficient ground to arrest someone because you suspect that they give a false name and that can lead to persons getting a little bit over zealous that particular part of it you know, further up at part (2) it says, if a person commits, attempts to commit, or is reasonably suspected by an authorized officer to have committed an offence and you go on to (b) the person may be able to without a85warrant, arrest. And bear in mind quite rightly this amendment gives appointment as authorized officers much wider scope than previously in that officers of the corporation not only police officers, but this widens the scope of persons who may serve as authorized officers.So I wish to humbly submit Mr. Speaker, that this particular component, I agree with all the other reasons for which you may want to arrest somebody if you find the person committing an offence in a protected area. You want to be able to deal with the problem quickly, but if you suspect the person is giving you a wrong name, I do not think that is a good enough ground to want to arrest somebody and I really have a problem with that.Secondly, and if you go lower down the charge is raised to $5000 or a term of two months or both, I think that is a little bit high if you ask me. Again, I know there are going to be explanations that the Magistrates have the authority to take all of it or component of it or whatever, but really we have to be cognizance of the economic conditions under which we operate and again the idea, the scenario is to be able to prevent people from committing offences rather than having to take them to the court of law.Mr. Speaker, the question of the enhancement of various areas under the National Parks and Protected Areas is something that we on this side of the House are very happy with. Indeed, we believe that a lot more could and should have been done, in particular as it relates to an important destination like the Falls of Baleine. It is very unnerving that up to now that is, which is one of our most picturesque and beautiful is not operational that to me is a tragedy. The Falls of Baleine is...,HONOURABLE GLEN BEACHE: For the Honourable Member to say that up to now the Falls of Baleine is not operating is not true. The Falls of Baleine was reopened, we finished it, we put in a proper docking system, and we put in a sidewalk that leads basically nearly up to the falls.HONOURABLE DANIEL CUMMINGS: Is it operational? HONOURABLE GLEN BEACHE: No, no, no, you said that up to now, meaning from the firsttime it was closed that it is not being operational.HONOURABLE DANIEL CUMMINGS: It is not operational.HONOURABLE GLEN BEACHE: No, that is not what you said, you said, from up to now. We must learn the English Language. Mr. Speaker, it has been..., it was opened, we did the work on it, and we have had three major landslides up there. We have brought in experts to look at it once again, there are some things that are going on which we are looking at Mr. Speaker, but it has been operational. We did reopen it. It is temporarily closed.HONOURABLE DANIEL CUMMINGS: Mr. Speaker, I repeat, it aches me that today the Falls of Baleine is still not operational. Do not dance on the head of a pin. There has been more than enough time to effective..., that is the very point I am making, there has been more than enough time to effectively solve the problems at Baleine and if that is not being done, that is the issue [interjection] that’s not been done. But again you know, Mr. Speaker, when people come here and86look at serious issues I do not know why we tend to get so personalized and distracted. I speak very seriously of the concerns, you know the Tourism component we always boast as a number of very interesting components. These sites are very critical parks. There are a lot of people, whose livelihoods depend on it, ask the tour operators who take people when they come specifically to go to these points. So we really ought to do all within our powers to make sure, and that is why I am extremely pleased that we are putting measures in place that would give us additional revenue, not only to operate, but to enhance these facilities because we really need to give serious attention to them. That is the very point why I am in support of these measures. That’s is why we are in support of these measures, but I am saying that we need to go further, Mr. Speaker, and make sure that when we raise the funds that they are going to be utilized effectively.Mr. Speaker, one of the things that challenges me eh with this amendment, because I have to look on, and if you would permit me, Mr. Speaker, I crave your indulgence again, I am nearing five years as a senator in this Honourable House and under the rules I am entitled to get me a copy of all of the Acts of Parliaments. I mean I got these documents and must thank the Clerk of the House who today presented me a copy of the Act, this is being amended. It is very difficult to make a contribution to any amendment to any Act if you cannot put your hand on a copy of the original Act and I crave your indulgence in making the copies of the laws of the country available to me, because it certainly enhances my ability to function as a senator in this House.So I am saying Mr. Speaker, and again I thank the Clerk of the House for assisting me today. One wonders what kind of ark structure exists within the National Parks as is and how that is going to fit in with its effectiveness in collecting monies and so forth, because under the Act there is provision for several superintendents and such other staff and I wonder if that is the reason why the representative, the Director General of Finance is being represented on the Board, because clearly that is not the way to deal with it. You cannot deal with it at the Board level. You need to have in- house staff, which enhances capability to deal with these components. And I am raising this just as a question, I do not know what the ark structure of the National Parks Authority is and again, Mr. Speaker, you know we have raised this point before and we have to be very careful and again this is not a joke, when we set up all of these statutory bodies, no matter what their responsibilities are we have the same set of requirements, finance, human resource, administration, engineering, etc, etc, etc, Mr. Speaker, It is for that reason why the CWSA was able to take solid waste and irrigation under its wings with its overarching capability in administration etc. there are economies of scale to be gained from doing that kind of a thing, but the more you set up these parastatal, the more you need to pay for a Board, the more you need to pay for all the senior managers, the middle managers, the more you need to set up your own cash collection systems and so on and we really need to think seriously if that is the most effective way of getting the job done.I have a real problem with it. I think we too many in such small society given the limited pool of human resource that we have and I do not think it is a very efficient way for Government to function. One of the things I would suggest is that the corporation may wish to consider privatizing some of the functions that it can if it is to become very efficient.87Mr. Speaker, with those brief comments I await the clarification from the Honourable Minister and I thank you.HONOURABLE DR. JERROL THOMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to speak for very long. I think that this is a fairly straightforward Bill. You know the Bill was passed in 2002 and it had a lot of active participation at that time, but since that time we have learnt a great deal. We have learnt a great deal about the whole concept of National Parks. In the Act of 2002 we defined these sites within the context of National Parks and now we have realized that there are [a] host of other sites scattered around the area of what we might term as protected areas and this really is a fundamental amendment in this particular Bill where everywhere there has been the term National Parks, they have added “and Protected Areas” and this so much signifies the fact that really St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a treasure trove of natural heritage sites of historical importance and you know I pride myself Mr. Speaker, of visiting a lot of the or most of the fifteen sites that have been developed and many of the others that are there on the list of associated sites.Mr. Speaker, the original Act more so because of the European Union dictates that we have got funding to really get a lot of the developmental work done. Looked at fees in I think a little inflexible way and the amendments here, they now allow for the Board to be able to set a rate they say to go use the toilet if is a dollar fee. It now does not have to actually be legislated, it could be done simply by the Board and I think this is very important.But Mr. Speaker, the financing of National Parks clearly although it will depend on fees being collected to enter some of these sites, there is also the establishment of a fund, a parks fund and this will allow for visitors, well-wishers, a number of other individuals to make donations into this particular fund and I think this can go a long way, because you know there may be someone who has fallen in love with a particular site and might donate half a million or two million or whatever the case might be. But I believe that clearly it is the management of these previous sites and I coming from a rural area, I know how important these sites are to these rural communities and the fact that this Act now brings the community and the community organization into the process, I think it is very important.Now a lot of mention was made of some of these sites, Mr. Speaker. I am sure there will be no battle between myself and the Honourable Dr. Slater about whether the Vermont Nature Trail or the Hermitage Nature Trail is the best. As a matter of fact if you walk up the Vermont Nature Trail you could actually get over into Hermitage. I have walked through Hermitage, there is a large patch of raspberries up there, wild raspberries and you can graze on these raspberries for [laughter] hours and there is a “V” they call it the “V” the Vermont “V” and you go from the Spring Village Cumberland Valley through the “V” into the Vermont Valley. I have done that a couple of times and I tell you it is..., I do not understand why I am putting on a little extra weight these days [laughter] but Mr. Speaker, I want to stress what is really been happening. I think that the Ministry of Tourism has to be congratulated.88Mr. Speaker, there are a number of factors in Tourism. We know we are well on the way to solving some of our problems with accommodation. Currently in St. Vincent and the Grenadines it is about just under a thousand rooms on mainland St. Vincent, just over a thousand in the Grenadines, two thousand plus, two thousand one hundred. Buccament Bay with one thousand rooms to follow by Mount Wynne and then the Glossy Bay Marine in Canouan and Mayreau and others. We are talking about going from two thousand rooms to five thousand and what a significant effect and impact that would have in terms of visitor arrivals. We hear all the time, they say are you talking about the impact of the Argyle International Airport in terms of bringing persons here to get to Jamaica, US $199 to St. Lucia or Barbados US $350 and to St. Vincent currently roughly on an average US$700 that price coming down with the Argyle International Airport clearly would..., and around this country, the entertainment scene you are seeing so many new clubs entertainment spots, fast foods, the Mario’s, the Bicycles, the Subways, and all these things as well as the whole aspect of local foods, the Arm and Restaurants, Beach Front, all these things.But Mr. Speaker, a question that persons have asked and I have had the opportunity to go on two cruises over the last 15 years and people ask, what do I do, where do I go? And these sites that have been developed has been such a tremendous addition to the whole suite of what St. Vincent and the Grenadines has to offer and starts to complete the picture so that the accommodation and the hotel rooms and the airport and the entertainment scene and foods along with the sites provides that particular suite and that is why the proper structure for the management of these particular sites are important.But Mr. Speaker, I can tell you and maybe I should not say this on air because it might be bad publicity, but at some of these sites in the past, I am really glad that right now we have put in the additional kind of security in terms of security personnel at some of these sites. Right now the tenders have already been completed from the NTRC through the Universal Service Fund where we put in pay phones at all the sites and all the major beaches. As a matter of face at every mile along the two highways, Windward and Leeward so if your cell phone does not work the battery goes down or you..., somehow it is not working you still have a pay phone to use at these sites and there would be webcams and CCTV not to invade on privacy, but to provide the kind of security that we need at some of these sites.And Mr. Speaker, I can tell you [interjection] well Mr. Speaker, at some of these particular sites. Mr. Speaker, at some of these particular sights it has been the case that individuals you know there are people watching you what you are doing and you have left your car, they may want to go to your car you know, there is always the threat to persons who might be on their own and so the provision of security and the penalties or things that we do have to address.Mr. Speaker, I also look at in one particular area where there are serious offences. We have seen what happened in the Gulf of Mexico with British Petroleum and the impact of the oil spill. Well Mr. Speaker, with many of these sites we can have persons starting fires, we can have persons89doing some severe damage and in the case where in certain severe cases where the fine has actually gone to $50,000 I think it is certainly appropriate.But Mr. Speaker, I think that the amendment to this particular Bill brings a lot of the figures, lessons that we have learnt over the last four or five years and certainly over the last year in the management of these particular sites these particular amendments helps to bring a proper management structure in place, helps with greater provision of security and ensures that these particular sites are going to be well maintained and will last a very, very long time.Mr. Speaker, I am always pleased to contribute and support to this particular Bill and to once again congratulate the Ministry of Tourism and the Minister of Tourism for a job well done. Thank you.DR. THE HONOURABLE GODWIN FRIDAY: I just want to ask for a clarification. Mr. Speaker, I rise to make a brief contribution to the debate on the National Parks Amendment Bill and seek..., well first of all the essential purpose here seems to be to provide powers under regulations to the Board to collect..., to impose fees or to waive fees so imposed under the Act. I gathered that from the presentation of the Honourable Minister and there is also a lot of amendments to define the scope of the Act to include protected areas and protected areas is defined in the Act itself as fairly vague, but it brings more areas under the authority of the Minister responsible and also under the Board and the authority is set up under this Act and I am not quite sure actually what the protected areas would be, how they overlap with other protected areas. I am told that the legislation relating to CWSA also has protected areas for water and so on, how those would function whether they are exclusive or not, but what I want more importantly, Mr. Speaker, to comment on and to seek clarification with respect to the power to fix charge and receive fees which is in section..., clause 8 of the proposed amendment and it says further round that..., well it does not specify what the fees is to be used for in that particular amendment, it just simply says that they have the authority to fix and charge fees and then in section 30 of the Bill repealing section 35 and inserting the following section which says that the Minister shall, on the recommendation of the Board establish a special Trust Fund to be known as the National Parks and Protected Areas Trust Fund and then how that is funded it says money is derived from fees charged from entry into National Parks and Protected Areas and may from time to time be paid into the fund. So that is..., it suggest that the funds that are collected essentially goes somewhere else. Is that paid into the consolidated fund? [Interjection] yes, so all the funds will go into the Trust Fund or will it be used simply to operate the National Parks Authority?The point that I wish to make, Mr. Speaker, I am a very..., well to put it bluntly I do not like user fees in general for any services that are provided by Government. We recognize that in some activities that are non-essential activities that they can be tolerated and people are prepared to pay for them because they provide a service that is not an essential service but one that people enjoy. I am prepared to accept that the National Parks will fall under that category because they are recreational and educational and so on and people would be prepared to pay if they know that the funds that are being paid are then going back into the work of maintaining the National Parks and Protected Areas, in educating the public about environmental issues and the protection of the90environment generally and that the concern that Senator Cummings raised about you know administrative overheads have this tendency to have 80% of the funds raised going into administration and then 20% of it going into the actual work and then you have to get subventions from the consolidated fund to do the essential work that the authority was set up to do.If that is what happens you know in reality, then we are going backwards not forwards. So the authority has to be in a sense self-funding as much as possible. The idea is that the funds and I think the public would support it if this is the case, that it is not seen as a money making venture for the administration for Government for any Government entity or for persons who are running the entity, but primarily to provide services, to maintain the integrity of the environment or the parks, the marine and land and protected areas and so on, for their enjoyment and essentially for you know the benefit of humanity and it is not just our local people, I mean these are the people I am most concerned about who may to use the National Parks and so on and money is a problem and they may wish to..., they will enjoy it more of course if they were free, but there are other persons coming from abroad, tourists and so on who would understand the need to pay and to maintain the services and they would be willing to do so, but I think they would be..., you would get more of the voluntary contribution that the Honourable Member spoke about if there is a clear understanding that all the funds are going into the maintenance of the park, the promotion of the environment and generally for doing these things you know the three other things that everybody seems to like so much. So I want that assurance from the Minister that that is exactly what would happen from new power that is being given to the Board in the amendment Bill here to raise the funds and that you know that this will be something that I think the educational function of the Board it is limitless really, so even if you have funds that are raised that could pay for the operations on a daily basis, the educational role that can be performed can expand based on the amount of funds that are raised so that there is no excess funds that I mean to be transferred to any other entity that all of it goes into the work of the National Parks and the promotion of the environment.I think under those circumstances Mr. Speaker, my own distaste for user fees could be overcome and certainly we on this side have indicated that we would be willing to support the legislation.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Any further debate? Honourable Minister of Tourism, no further debate it seems.HONOURABLE GLEN BEACHE: Much obliged, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all those who have contributed to this debate and deal with some issues Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I see no problem with the Board as it stands right now. Part of any Board, Mr. Speaker, like anything else is in the leadership of the Board, the Chairman and I think when you look at what is here in the amendment for the Board of National Parks it is quite fitting to do the job that is requested of the National Parks Board. Obviously, Mr. Speaker, if you have weak leadership, then the Board will not operate as it should. But if you have the proper people in place, Mr. Speaker, I see no problem with it and to say that the fact that the Director General of Finance and Planning or91his representative has been put in place to deal or to assist with the financial part, Mr. Speaker, is not true.There is a management system at National Parks. Of course naturally since they have to deal with monetary contributions or the fees and so, of course they will have to have their own people in the management system to deal with the aspect of it. It is a statutory body, Mr. Speaker, and then beyond that to speak about the privatization of some of these things, Mr. Speaker, in a small state like St. Vincent and the Grenadines, this is one of the ways you create employment, but not only that Mr. Speaker, this has been privatized already. It is as I have said before when I was speaking, the fact that my favourite part about the amendment to this Bill is the fact that under National Parks these new sites would be managed by the community groups that has been put in place Mr. Speaker, that has been put in place.When you look at what the community groups have done so far, I do not think there could be any complaints and that is exactly the reason you have statutory bodies also outside of Government and you look at it, the Honourable Senator, Mr. Speaker, was head of CWSA which is considered to be especially now under Mr. Garth Saunders the most successful statutory body in Government. So I cannot understand, I really cannot understand some of these questions. And Mr. Speaker, we have to be careful that we do not oppose for opposing sake.When one looks at what is taking place with National Parks since its inception, and I must congratulate the Board of National Parks under the leadership of Mr. Vidal Browne for doing a tremendous job over the past few years [applause]. When one takes a look at what is taking place in National Parks over the past few years, there is no question about the success of National Parks. Mr. Speaker, the $19 million project with these fifteen sites came under National Parks and I am proud to say that not a dime from the $19 million had to be sent back to the European Union, every bit was spent. So Mr. Speaker, I hope I have covered what the Honourable Senator has said about the issues he has with it and as a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, I think also when you look at what CWSA has done and what now falls on the National Parks, Mr. Speaker, as much as CWSA is a statutory body and National Parks is a statutory body, Mr. Speaker, they are going to have to work very closely together.As a matter of fact, one of the things that I have requested of National Parks is that for next year we do a study of especially Villa Beach and Indian Bay Beach, because I do not know if people have noticed, Mr. Speaker, we have been losing those beaches quite quickly. As a matter of fact, we are building..., we are constructing a Boardwalk out at Villa Beach right now and the piece from Aquatic Club going down onto Villa Beach, Mr. Speaker, it was designed, it has been built, not completed yet, but right now the height of it Mr. Speaker, the water from the waves is coming up right on the Boardwalk. Now, Mr. Speaker, about a year ago if you had put that Boardwalk at that same height it would not have been coming up right under the Boardwalk and the rock seem to be going further and further down on Villa Beach and the same thing seems to be happening with Indian Bay Beach and I think one of the things National Parks have to look at is what can be done to save those beaches because I do not know if many people realize, we really do not have that92many beaches left on St. Vincent. We have quite a few down on the Leeward end and so on, but that is about it. So I think we have to look at it and study it and also Mr. Speaker, and I am sure the Member for the Northern Grenadines would be happy about this is to put in place for the construction of a Boardwalk for Bequia. We know it is important to our tourism industry and we are looking to put that in place and Mr. Speaker, we will do that next year, it might take over a year to complete and we will be there to complete it for visitors and the people of Bequia.Mr. Speaker, to deal with some of what the Honourable Member for the Northern Grenadines has said and some of the issues he has with this, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I really find it difficult to comprehend some of what he has said, especially from a person who lived in Canada for a number of years. I cannot understand why when a lot of us go overseas whether is to visit or to live, we have no issues in paying for those sites, but when it comes to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, there is an issue. For the life of me, Mr. Speaker, in Canada and the United States, England, many of the development..., everything you do you have to pay for. Every single thing you have to pay for. Why is it a problem in St. Vincent and the Grenadines? And Mr. Speaker, I spoke about the willingness to pay study, this is the first draft of it and when it is completed, I am sure the Minister of Health will present it to this Honourable Parliament.Mr. Speaker, over 90% of the people including the local people that were interviewed are willing to pay for these sites [interjection] I am not finished yet, be patient. Mr. Speaker, it is obvious, let us be frank, it is obvious if we are putting and I use Botanical Gardens as an example, if we are putting in a user fee and let us not forget this was part of the deal with the European Union for these sites, if we are going to charge a user fee, Mr. Speaker, you cannot tell me that a statutory body which part of its responsibilities is to be as self-sustained as possible even though of course they are going to have Government subventions each year. But you cannot tell me that they should not try and make some money. I made it clear in my opening remarks that National Parks and the Board are not there to kill anybody. They probably looking at a $5.00 entrance fee, it is a dollar to use the bathroom up at the Belmont Lookout, Mr. Speaker. That is not even paying for the toilet paper up there, not even paying for that Mr. Speaker. But something has to be done for us to maintain these sites.Mr. Speaker, at many at the sites Owia and Rawacou for example, we have put in these circular grills, Mr. Speaker. What is the problem of somebody paying if they want to use it for a whole day? What is the problem of you paying to get a tour of Black Point tunnel, to get a history from a tour guide of it? What is the issue with it?HONOURABLE SABOTO CAESAR: Inaudible.HONOURABLE GLEN BEACHE: Thank you very much Senator and as Senator Caesar has just said, it is also employment for people. The same thing that Senator Cummings has said, in terms of privatization as I have made it clear earlier, we have it under the management system of community groups, it is the same thing we are trying to do and we create employment. Now, if the Opposition wants to tell me like they did in 1984 when they were campaigning and they spoke93about how once they got into office, they would throw away all the water meters, if they want to say that in 2015 if they stand a chance of winning that they are going to get rid of all the user fees let them make it clear now like they have said they are going to not build the airport [interjection]. I am not saying that you are not supporting it you know...,DR. THE HONOURABLE GODWIN FRIDAY: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Just a minute, just a minute please. I think we are introducing a level of controversy within the whole thing. I am not so sure what the debate is all about.HONOURABLE GLEN BEACHE: Well, Mr. Speaker..., HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Because I have heard that the Opposition say that they aresupporting the Bill and we are moving on the premise that this is going to be support for the Bill.HONOURABLE GLEN BEACHE: No, Mr. Speaker, what I am trying to get at is the lack for support, the issue of the user fees that is the part I am saying and that is why I said that if they are saying that...,DR. THE HONOURABLE GODWIN FRIDAY: Mr. Speaker, if the Honourable Member, would give way I would just clarify my position, because obviously I am causing him some discomfort and confusion in his own mind, but I am clear in mine. The point is this, I said I want the assurance that the funds will all be used for the park to promote its work and I stressed on the educational function of the work and that the administrative aspect of it will not take up the majority of the funds raised. I said personally, I do not like user fees, but I recognise that in some circumstances they are appropriate and I am prepared to accept that this is one. So if you are uncomfortable with that, then argue with that, but do not put up a straw man that you want to try and knock down and I support the legislation.HONOURABLE GLEN BEACHE: Mr. Speaker, I am not even going to answer that because some pieces have been added to it now to protect himself you know, so I am not even going to argue that.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: No, Honourable Member, I do not agree with you on that. I think what he has just repeated is what he has said. Maybe there might have been some difficulty in understanding that, but I think what he has said, or just repeated there is what he would have said.HONOURABLE GLEN BEACHE: Okay Mr. Speaker. But Mr. Speaker, so I cannot give a guarantee, Mr. Speaker, that it would only be used or not only be used that most of it would be used for what is it, for education. A lot of it, Mr. Speaker, would have to be used for administration.94Mr. Speaker, there is a staff at the Botanical Gardens, because that does not fall under community group that has to be paid. We have just spent for example, Mr. Speaker, over $500,000 on the Kuwaiti’s house in the Gardens. And so Mr. Speaker, a lot of it will have to be used for administrative cost and the education, tourism education, Mr. Speaker, most of that falls directly under the Ministry of Tourism in conjunction with the Ministry of Education. For example, Mr. Speaker, when we have the choral speaking competition of which Bequia they were the victors, so Mr. Speaker, I am sorry but I cannot give a guarantee like that to the Honourable Member for the Northern Grenadines, but I think as I have said, when you look at the willingness to pay study and you see what people’s response has been, not only the international visitors, but the regional and local I think when this is finally released by the Ministry of Health that everybody would be quite happy with the results and I cannot see a dollar being too much for the bathroom. I cannot see five dollars being too much to go into the Gardens or anything like that, Mr. Speaker.So on that note, Mr. Speaker, one again I would like to thank all of the contributions that has been made to this debate and Mr. Speaker, I thank the Opposition for their support even though they have a way of doing certain things in a certain way, but I thank them for their support in supporting the amendment to this Bill, Mr. Speaker and I wish this a safe passage through.Mr. Speaker, I move that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House to consider the Bill clause by clause.HONOURABLE SIR LOUIS STRAKER: Mr. Speaker, I beg to second the motion.House went into Committee. House Resumed. Bill read and reported with minor amendment.HONOURABLE SENATOR GLEN BEACHE: Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I beg that the Bill be read for the third time by title and passed.HONOURABLE SIR LOUIS STRAKER: Mr. Speaker, I beg to second the motion. Question put and agreed to.Bill read a third time by title and passed. 1. FIREARMS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2010DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, this Bill having been read the first time on the 28th May, accordingly I beg to move that a Bill for an Act to amend the Firearms Act 1995, be read a second time.95HONOURABLE SIR LOUIS STRAKER: Mr. Speaker, I beg to second the motion. Question put and agreed to.Bill read a second time.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, this is a very straightforward Bill though it would have some implications for the granting of licences for firearms. The purpose of the Bill is to establish a Firearm Licensing Board and in the light of the construction of a new firing range at Arnos Vale to facilitate the use of the range to promote the sport of shooting and training in firearm safety and to simplify the variety of types of licenced firearm users by the adoption of a single firearm user’s licence. Basically those are the three central purposes of this Bill.The proposed Firearm Licensing Board will include the Commissioner of Police, but will relieve the Commissioner of his responsibility under the old Act to be the sole person to grant a firearm licence. The Board will bring a wider range of experience to address the issues. Five individuals would share the responsibility, there would be far more capacity to address the demand for applications from the public and it is expected that the backlog of unattended applications neither granted nor rejected would become a thing of the past.Mr. Speaker, if one notices this important change, there would be the Commissioner of Police or his nominee, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry responsible for security and three other persons nominated by the Minister who the Cabinet is satisfied or of high integrity and are able to exercise good judgment in fulfilling any responsibility under this Act. Mr. Speaker, I suggested to the Honourable Attorney General on reflection on this matter that we ought to put a proviso after clause 3(3) because the Bill did not make as presented, it did not say who these three persons should be and I thought we should not have politicians on the Board. When you are granting or withholding licences it would be in our view lend a greater way to the independence of the Board if we do not have anybody from the House. So that I want to suggest Mr. Speaker, following 3 where it reads, the Minister shall by instrument in writing appoint the members specified by subsection (2) (c) provided that a person shall not be qualified to be appointed as a member of the Board if; . a)  He is or has at any time during the period of five years immediately preceding his appointment been a Member of the House of Assembly or . b)  He is or has at any time during that period been nominated as a candidate for election as a representative of the constituency. And Mr. Speaker, during the committee stage we will present that particular amendment for the inclusion. But I make the point at the moment; I do not think that we would have any controversy 96about that. I do not think any of us would like to have politicians on the Board granting [interjection] Parliamentarians granting licences.Well, the point is this, you may have somebody outside who is not here in the House and who may wish to speak on politics and so on, it is very difficult for you to be able to keep that out, but we specifically want to keep the Parliamentarians out or persons who ran as candidates.Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to say something very briefly about the new firing range. The firing range for short-range firearms is almost completed at Arnos Vale on land close to the Sports Council. This facility will require maintenance management and will be put to use training both the police and other security forces in addition to licensed firearm users or prospective licensed firearm users. Training in firearm safety would be possible for the first time on a purpose built range. It is expected that a not for profit company the St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Shooting Association will run the new range providing maintenance and improvements as required. This new Association will also run training classes in firearm safety and provide the facility of licensed firearm users to practice with the firearms. The new shooting association will apply for a firearm dealer’s licence, will seek a duty-free provision from the Government in respect of import other duties, naturally other than VAT and in order to better promote and encourage shooting sports.Mr. Speaker, once upon a time in the old Colonial days they had such an association and behind here was a make shift range. I do not know if those of the older ones who are here among us would remember them, but yes and also at Fort Charlotte, but those were really make shift, but what we are having is a proper device fit for the purpose range. In terms of the [interjection] is it an automatic range? I do not know all the specific details, but it will be one I have been assured by those who have been involved in the planning which would assist persons, well certainly, police officers would be able to train and there are a lot of people who would like to have a firearm but who cannot use a firearm and they will be trained so that they would be better able to use a firearm and understand that it is a dangerous instrument if it is not properly used.Mr. Speaker, at the present time we have a number of different types of licences or permits available under the current Act. Although in practice the police have been applying the same criteria to all. It is proposed that we will only have a firearms user’s licence and a separate firearm dealer’s licence. This change will formalize the current arrangements and ensure that everyone who holds, or uses a firearm does so, on the same legal basis. Sections of the old Act dealing with various types of licences are to be repealed and transitional provisions have been made that is to say, like the estate licence. You would not have any of that anymore, but if you have an estate licence when this amendment comes into being it is safe for the period of time up to which you have the licence and then in the New Year you will get the one common licence.There are some other minor provisions, Mr. Speaker, but those essentially are the provisions for Honourable Members who perhaps would not have read it in as much detail, well I have addressed the Board already which is clause 3, clause 5, 6 to amend section 4 of the Act and this addresses97the question of the form of licence and permits will now be determined by the Board. In addition the estate gun licence and firearm employees’ permit would no longer be used. Clause 7 simplifies the process, clauses 9 and 11 address the question of estate gun licence firearm employees’ permit and as we come down you will see in clause 23 it saves the unexpired periods of the estate licences and firearm employees permits that have been issued and that are in force.Mr. Speaker, there is one other formal matter which I will like to mention. Honourable Members will recall on the 28th May, an amendment had been circulated, an amendment to clause 17 (1) (b) roman numerals II which reads as follows, the holder of a firearm user’s licence in respect of a firearm or ammunition of the type and calibre of the firearm or ammunition together with the licence, or colon and then or and that was circulated so that forms part of the Bill itself that is not an amendment, but I just want to mention it so that colleagues would be reminded.Mr. Speaker, we really have had problems over the years with firearm licences. I have noticed..., I have had, Mr. Speaker, the privilege of working with three Commissioners and one Acting Commissioner and I have found them none is really enthusiastic about granting gun licences. And what happens is this, under the current system which is a good introduction, the Commissioner sends persons for Psychological profiles. A person may go and pay $300; $400, I believe maybe even $500 to assist in the determination, but does not really hear what they have granted the licence or not granted the licence. If they are not granted the licence they can appeal to Cabinet, but if no decision is taken, they are in a limbo and you cannot appeal and you know sometimes I wonder, I watch over the last nine ten years, I see the list of persons who have been granted licences and I do not want to make any criticism about any Commissioner from the past and to the present, but sometimes I wonder how some people get licences and some do not get. And sometimes they..., I just do not understand and I was a little surprised that in the period January 1st 2001 and June 30th seems to be a period of hyperactive granting of licences January 1st 2001 to June 30th 2001.Really, I think we have gone past where one person should be able to be involved in granting or withholding the licences like that and if we have the Commissioner investigation would be done still by the police. You have the Chairman of the Board, you have the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security and three persons of esteem in the community, and they can call persons and interview them and get a sense as to whether there are persons who ought to be granted firearm licences. I am quite sure that that new Board would also be very tight in the granting of firearm licences because the criteria laid down, but I believe that it would have a lot more support from the public and I tell you, I do not think colleagues know the extent to which that this is an issue which concerns people.This morning a gentleman, who owns a yachting operation, a law abiding citizen I believe, well I am pretty sure, he made an application and he has not heard for a little while. You know, there are too many of these cases and this is a situation I am saying, I do not know how the Honourable Leader of the Opposition felt in the five months he was Prime Minister. Whether he experienced this, but I can speak from the vantage point of nine years and this is..., I was minded to bring this98piece of law much earlier, but I wanted to see if we could make sure over the years we have greater understanding, but that seems to be something which we have to address in another way and thus this particular provision and I think it will redound to the good of the community.It makes no sense that a lot of criminals out there can be getting guns coming in from the United States of America through one way or the other and a law abiding person cannot have a firearm to help to protect themselves, their property and their family. And I believe that [interjection] yes, and I think that this legislation will help..., this little bit of legislation simple as it is would go somewhere to strengthen law and order in the country. I am obliged.DR. THE HONOURABLE GODWIN FRIDAY: Mr. Speaker, I rise to make a contribution to the debate on the Firearms Amendment Bill, 2010 and as the Honourable Prime Minister noted in his presentation, the primary objective of the Bill is to introduce or to create a Board that would make the decisions with respect to applications and then some alterations on the procedure for appeal and so on from the decision of the Board.I too in my time as a Member of Parliament, Mr. Speaker, have had complaints or request from persons, mainly complaints, because I have no power to grant or not to grant anything, from persons who would like to know what the Commissioner was doing with their application or why something had not been done with respect to the application or what they can do and it seems that there was a lot of arbitrariness in the system.The appointment with the creation of Board there is no guarantee that that is going to end. It sets up a different mechanism for applying for licence, there are more persons involved in the decision- making, five persons the Chairman appointed from within that five and there are three persons who are not necessarily persons, well I think the idea is they are not persons..., they are not public officers, but they are persons of high integrity and good judgment who could fulfil the responsibilities under the Act. So that has the opportunity of bringing hopefully the persons who would come into the thing with some knowledge that would be relevant, skills that would be relevant to the job, but the more important thing and professionalism is to do what is required by the Act and not on the basis of who applies. By that I mean not necessarily the qualifications that are important or only the qualifications required by the Act, not whether you like the person or not or some extraneous factors that so often gets involved in decision making of Governmental agencies.And the Prime Minister talked about the decisions which just are not made, those are the difficult ones you know. If you are refused you can do something, you have the right of appeal, if you are granted then you are happy, but if you just sit there and nothing happens then people feel that they are in limbo they do not know what to do and in some other countries, I mean I worked in the legal system in Canada, there are administrative principles that could be applied to force Governmental Officers or Boards to make decisions through an application for a mandamus or something of that sort to get them to do it. The problem is that I have advised clients of mine in similar circumstances, but sometimes you win the battle and you lose the war. Because having got an99order to make the decision then you get the wrong decision [laughter] you know and that comes down really to the integrity of the decision makers and they have to understand that when they are appointed by a statutory power that they only have the power that is given to them by the statute and that if they are going to do the job they must do the job according to what is written in the law.They do not have to have any other consideration whether it is political, personal or anything else. The reason you are appointed there is to do what is required of you under the Act. And I am hopeful, Mr. Speaker, that in the expansion of the Board that the decision-making will become more accessible to persons who apply and that they would understand better how decisions are made and they will be able to make representations that may have a chance of getting the result they want at least something that they can explain, they can understand.There is also the consideration that you know as Prime Minister hinted that the Commissioner of Police, the Police Officers, they are security minded, but they only see it usually from mainly, from their point of view and that anybody else who wants a firearm is in a sense you usurping the role of the police you know to bear arms and to enforce laws and so on. But there are criteria that is set out in the legislation and there are good reasons why some people want to have a firearm or need to have a firearm and I hope that the process here will make it better for those persons who want to apply and for those who are applying for renewal because it has to be renewed every year and that the Board would take its job seriously and function in accordance with the legislation. And it goes not just, Mr. Speaker, I have this to say, not just for this particular Board but for all persons who have make decisions and applications from the public to whether it is a statutory body, a Board or an individual officer who has authority to make decisions and so on that they do it in accordance with their jurisdiction and they do it fearlessly. So long as you do your job right, then you have nothing to fear and with those comments Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House will support the Bill.HONOURABLE RENE BAPTISTE: Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I rise to give my support to this amendment to the Firearms Act of 1995 and just doing some research you see that in 1957 the original legislation was passed and it is interesting in reading and looking back to get the full history on the genesis of the legislation in St. Vincent and you can see how the times change so little by 1995. However, we are in a situation now where instead of which the Act purports to do, putting that authority in the hands of one individual albeit an individual of one of the highest levels in the country, the Commissioner of Police that it is now going to an independent authority or Board whom with proper briefing and a thorough understanding of the legislation and it is good to go back to ’57 go to ’59 so you have a sound understanding of the legislation, so that if you took up this Bill and you look at it you see it amend sections 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, and 13 you would know what all these sections purported to say and this independent authority which is establish by this Bill, this amendment today seeks to bring some objectivity into the assessment process and to speed up the process hopefully in the dispatch of licences either approvals or disapprovals.100As I have heard Honourable Members who came before me outlining the authority here of members of the Board indicating that they would be not just the Commissioner of Police but also the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security and three other persons of good judgment and one colleague asked me, I hope there are some provision in relation to the assessment of an applicant that there would be a process to investigation and I say, yes, there would be a process for investigation of the applicant where the applicant is making the application, you must assess the application and in doing so, you must assess the individual who is seeking that application, because the fear is not the person who are applying for legitimate licences, those are the ones who are getting turned down. We have the arrest; more often is for those with unlicensed firearms and unauthorized possession of ammunition.Mr. Speaker, what I also saw in the legislation that this Board will undertake as one of its functions is the promotion of public safety by encouraging the safe and effective use of firearms and ammunition and we heard the Honourable Prime Minister indicate the establishment of a shooting association and also the firing range. I recall when they use to do that up at Fort Charlotte. I do not recall the one behind here at all, that would have to be somebody in the other some sixty something range [laughter], those born around the time of the end of the Second World War [laughter]. We are the ones after Adult Suffrage and Mr. Speaker, apart from having those functions, there are other functions that the Board could be authorized to undertake under the Act and that is why I made mention of a proper briefing for this Board. Because in my experience as a Minister of Government it is essential sometimes that Boards understands their functions other than reading the four square expressed provisions in the statute that they get a proper briefing preferably from someone in the Attorney General Chambers who can help them to understand the legal import of what these sections mean and what is the intendment of the legislation and the full background of it. Even though there are persons who you purport to put on the Board of responsibility and high integrity, they can also be even more ultraconservative than the Commissioner of Police. So that you do not want to make three steps forward and two steps backward so you are just one step ahead.Also Mr. Speaker, in relation to the Bill itself, it sets out the normal procedure for the Board and the function of the Board and to perform other duties. One of the duties I suspect in clause 2(h) where power is being conferred on a public officer authority of the Government for the purpose of the exercise of the function of the Board is in record keeping and the right of access to that record keeping and the due diligence information that may have been gathered during the investigation for the application of a firearm and it is very important that that also be covered, because we are in the age when if you sneeze too hard all the radio stations say, “Ms. B has a cold.” So we have to ensure that you try to protect the information as much as possible.Also in clause 5 which purports to amend section 4 with the firearms import permit and firearms export permit, I recall when Pirates of the Caribbean was being filmed here that we had to set up a special ad hoc committee because they had imitation firearms and they had to bring in certain amount of explosives and things of that nature, but from guns and cannons and things of that nature, so that that can be easily dealt with. It was not overly difficult, but still has its challenges101in that regard and the grant..., how does an applicant, because I think that is important. People will be hearing us say that and they say, yes, yes, that is from Caesar to Caesar, but here is what the law now states quite clearly. The applicant must be 21 years of age or over, competent to hold the licence or permit applied for, has good reason including protection of self or property or sporting use for purchasing, acquiring, owning, having in his possession, carrying or using the amount type calibre or firearm or ammunition in respect to which the application is made and has not within five years immediately proceeded the date of his application being convicted of an offence including violence and sentence to a term of imprisonment exceeding six months. Has not within the five years immediately proceeded the date of his application being convicted of an indictable offence and sentenced to a term of imprisonment or two years or greater and is not a restricted person and the application is not in respect of a prohibited weapon and that the applicant obtain the approval of the Minister if the application is in respect of a restricted weapon or restricted ammunition. This amendment also provides in this same clause: sub clause (2):-“No Licenses or permit should be granted in respect of restricted weapon or restricted ammunition except with the prior approval of the Minister in writing”.And the main Act, sections (8), (9) and (11) have been repealed and replaced:- “And that where any person who has appealed to the Minister.”This is clause (13) which amends section (13) of the Principal Act of 1995, No. 12, in its use of section (4) states:-“Where any person who has appealed to the Minister under this section is aggrieved by decision of the Minister on such appeal, he may in writing appeal to the Cabinet against that decision within twenty one days of the date of the notice of the decision”.So, we have some specific timelines set out and laid down under this new legislation. Mr. Speaker, I wish to commend this amendment to this Honourable House and wish it safe and easy passage this evening. Much obliged Mr. Speaker.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Further debate; Honourable Senator Leacock.HONOURABLE ST. CLAIR LEACOCK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I do not think I so much want to be involved in a debate of the Legislation, because I understand the intent, but I just want to raise a few cautions that we perhaps should take on board. So, I raise them for what they are worth. In this balancing act that we are trying to address this evening, by this one of the Prime Minister’s going home pieces of legislation [laughter] we ...DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: It is a long journey home, five years plus. HONOURABLE ST. CLAIR LEACOCK: I know, I know.102DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Laughs.HONOURABLE ST CLAIR LEACOCK: I start with the role of the Commissioner of Police. I accept the arguments that had been presented over what appears sometimes to be arbitrariness of various Commissioners of Police over the years, but I also raise at the same time that we do not want the pendulum to swing too far on the other side that the Commissioner of Police does not have some weight on a Board, you know. And so Commissioner of Police by nature will always have a level of intelligence that they bring to an assessment that members of the public, however important they are and carefully selected they are, may never have. And so I raise for example whether you want to have a meeting of a Board of three, which therefore means that the Commissioner could be absent from such a meeting and a decision could be made on an important question of issuing a license and he would not have had a say. I would think that if we have a Board of three it should always include the Commissioner of Police or a representative of the Commissioner of Police in an assessment. I would not like to know that three individuals however carefully selected they are that the intelligence of the police was not weighed at a particular meeting. So, I raised that as a concern.The naming of the Association, the Shooting Association, also raises the question, where the emphasis is? Is it on shooting? Or is it on holding a firearm? I noticed some countries Rifle Association are very powerful lobbies and so forth, the United States of America. Our culture does not speak to that but if the emphasis is on the ability of a person to hold a firearm and own a firearm, maybe we do not want to put the emphasis of the name on the shooting but the ownership of a firearm.I did not see provisions for regulation but very often where ranges exist is in the Parent Act. I am told it is in the Parent Act. We want to make sure that it is fairly tight with respect to range discipline because wherever range exists there are sets of safety regulations on the range, around the range and nearby situations. This range for example, I think you are shooting down into the sea if I am correct; you are shooting towards the sea and that sort of thing. I do not know what weapons would be allowed there in those range exercise, whether you are using M16 for example, that would be resolved I suspect maybe through those law enforcement agencies. But you do not want to know that sailing boats are in the sea behind the range, a crazy man there or some people would get on to a range with their firearm, and they are unruly and not realising that on a range they have to conduct themselves in a certain way. We want to make sure that all these sort of things are fairly watertight; because again the safety factor is always important.I am still mindful of the fact, Mr. Speaker, even as the Prime Minister raises it that sometimes there are more guns in the hands of people who are not authorised to so do, than people who you believe should have those weapons. But I say that at the same time, when I am always still mindful of the fact that in all Caribbean societies: none excluded, there is always the constant call for people to bring in their weapons. We have had our more than fair share of that in St Vincent and the Grenadines and there are still too many unlicensed weapons about the place, unlicensed, and so we cannot be too careful in the decisions. And I therefore I want to see that we strike a good103balance in this exercise between objectivity, the role of the Commissioner Police, transparency in the exercise and a more expeditious way of processing applications. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.HONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Thank you: further debate? No further debate it seems Honourable Prime Minister.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all Honourable Members for their contributions. Mr. Speaker, if I may say this in relation to a few points raised by my Honourable friends ... [interjection] I tell you, I have decided to use friends henceforth because ... and I know that you would take it up from what I have noticed in a particular organisation to which you belong. When somebody declares themselves to be a friend of yours in that organisation, you have to watch yourself [laughter]. So, nobody as yet asked you publicly to apologise.Mr. Speaker, clearly the office of the Commissioner of Police and one who would have resources to do the bulk of the investigations: his voice will certainly carry tremendous weight in any such Committee I would expect, any such Board.Mr. Speaker, in relation to the range: the range has been designed by persons who are very competent in this area including an expert from outside of the country. And I have been advised ... I am not myself an expert in this area but I am advised that all the standards of safety for modern range that they have been put in place.In so far as regulations are concerned, the Parent Act makes provision for the making of regulations for the better carrying out of the whole Act. So, even the amended provisions, the original regulation provisions would apply. Mr. Speaker, it does appear that we have been making some progress in curtailing the excessive use of firearms; illegal firearms. We know that a few years ago we had a rush of them, there are still too many on the road but I believe that the police have been more vigilant very importantly the Intelligent Services, they have been more vigilant. One of two persons who come from outside of the country, who come here to do no good slip through the immigration net and that is an area which is being tightened up all the time; and of course there are people who enter illegally; but as I said the intelligence in the country has improved enormously.I want to report too that we have had some significant apprehension of persons as a consequence of the Radar System, so a multiplicity of things has held. And Mr. Speaker, the increase of the penalties for holding an illegal firearm from one year to seven years that, that has had a deterrent effect on many persons; because ... It has taken a little while because some did not hear that it was seven years and they thought that it was the old one year provision, and they get a slap on the wrist and they pay a fine though they would have a record. But they know that if a parliament says seven years for having an illegal firearm that it is likely that you are going to get even with a first offence a term of imprisonment, because parliament considers it sufficiently seriously. So, the Sentencer will notice the provision of the Parliament, of the Legislature. It would be an extraordinary104situation with tremendous mitigating factors for a person with an illegal firearm to escape some form of imprisonment.Now, there has always been a long debate on this question but it seems as though it has had some assaultery effect and persons are now trying not to have a firearm or even hiding them. So, I believe that we have made some progress, Mr. Speaker, as you see, I also believe that a number of particular events like Vincy Pac and others have assisted in bringing some of the gang violence under control, but as always this is a long way, a long battle which we all have to fight on an on- going basis to deal with criminal violence.Mr. Speaker, I beg to move that this Honourable House resolve itself into a committee of the whole House to consider the Bill clause by clause.HONOURABLE LOUIS STRAKER: Mr. Speaker, I beg to second the Motion. House resolved into CommitteeHouse resumedHONOURABLE MR. SPEAKER: Honourable Members, I have the honour to report that a Bill to amend the Firearm Act, 1995 to provide for the establishment of a Firearms Licensing Board and to provide for other purposes has passed the Committee stage with two amendments.DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, I beg to move that a Bill for an Act to amend the Firearms Act, 1995 be read a third time by title and passed.HONOURABLE LOUIS STRAKER: Mr. Speaker, I beg to second the Motion. Question put and agreed toADJOURNMENTDR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: Mr. Speaker, according to the folklore of a particular section of the Opposition Party or should I say the Opposition NDP; because I believe that there is another Opposition Party who is contesting in Central Kingstown [laughs] [interjection]. Mr. Speaker, according to the folklorist I should have been holding the Elections or announcing the Elections on my birthday which is on Sunday August 8th. I do not know how ... they did not take time out to look at the calendar to see that you cannot hold an election on a Sunday, but that is besides the question, when the folklorists are speaking they will speak.page105image19472105Mr. Speaker, the date we are suggesting for the next meeting is the 31st; Tuesday the 31st August, and we have a very heavy schedule this year, Mr. Speaker, because we have this and I am trying to work out with the staff at the Ministry of Finance the date for the Budget this year. So... we hopefully sometime either on the 31st ...HONOURABLE ST CLAIR LEACOCK: They are not meeting now? DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH GONSALVES: For the Budget? No. I beg to move Mr.Speaker that this Honourable House do stand adjourned until Tuesday 31st August at 10:00 a.m. HONOURABLE LOUIS STRAKER: Mr. Speaker, I beg to second the Motion.Question put and agreed to House adjourned at 9:17 p.m. Until Tuesday 31st, August at 10:00 a.m.106