By Caribbean News Global contributor
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent — Presenting the 2020 budget last month, St Vincent and the Grenadines minister for finance Camillo Gonsalves noted that last year, the government introduced the Pedestrian Access for Village Enhancement (PAVE) programme funded through grant financing from the United Arab Emirates. Phase One of the PAVE programme began in late 2019, with physical works in many communities commencing last month.
“The PAVE access paths, walkways, steps, handrails, wheelchair ramps, and inter-village connections will markedly and measurably improve the quality of life, comfort, access and safety of the most vulnerable populations in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Many of our commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals – to reduce poverty, improve infrastructure, build climate resilience and make communities accessible and sustainable – are partially addressed by the PAVE programme. Over the two-year life of PAVE, the project will build almost 40 miles of access paths in villages across Saint Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves said.
Addressing the issue of road repair and reconstruction finance minister Gonsalves requested Vincentians to identify a strip of roadway in urgent need of repair.
“Despite record expenditure on construction and rehabilitation over the past two decades, the condition of our road network remains a sore point. The generally excellent condition of our Windward, Leeward and Vigie Highways is belied by the uneven quality of the secondary and feeder roads that take most commuters to those main thoroughfares.”
Gonsalves further pointed out that “the road network requires constant and very expensive upkeep, due to the mountainous terrain, heavy rainfall, and an upsurge in the number of cars on the road.
“In the last two decades, we have experienced an eightfold increase in the number of automobiles in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, an increase that shows no signs of abating.
“As recently as 2013 and 2014, an annual average of 940 cars was imported to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. However, over the last four years, that average has shot up to 1,680 cars per year, a 79 percent increase. Last May, a record 263 vehicles arrived at Port Kingstown, an ominous harbinger of future traffic jams and escalating pressure on our road network.”
Despite all of those problems gazing Dr Ralph Gonsalves-led government, the Vincentian minister for finance said that the government is committed to maintaining the highways and roads in a responsible and sustainable manner.
“Budget 2020 allocates over $39 million to the repair and construction of roads and bridges this year, not including the $15 million subventions to the Buildings, Roads and General Services Authority (BRAGSA).
These resources and additional support that is being creatively sourced will form part of a multipronged programme of road repair, rehabilitation, and reconstruction, taking into account our fiscal constraints, the increasing stresses on our road network, and our desire to build back better.
“Two overlapping road reconstruction projects, funded by Kuwait and the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), will spend $14 million on the reconstruction of roads in Belair, Benjamin Bristol, Brighton, Calder, Carriere, Chapmans, Colonaire, Copeland Mountain, Erie Hill, Enhams, Fair Hall, Gomea, Greiggs, Lammie Mountain, Maloney Mountain, Mongoyia, Ottley Hall, Palmyra, Richland Park, Sayers Village, Veryvine Mountain and Montreal Gardens.
“These represent almost 50 kilometres of roadway that will be repaired under this programme. While construction work on the Kuwaiti-funded rehabilitation programme began in earnest in 2019, it was plagued by administrative challenges that unduly lengthened contractors’ approval and payment processes.
“The ministry of transport and works, in consultation with our Kuwaiti partners, has resolved these challenges. As such, we expect accelerated progress on these roads in 2020. Road reconstruction will also take place under the CDB-funded Natural Disaster Management Programme (NDM).
“Budget 2020 allocates $10 million to the NDM programme of works. Roads and bridges in Langley Park, Maroon Hill, Dickson Village, Gracefield Mountain, and Ferguson, among others, will receive attention under the NDM in 2020.
“In addition to the complete reconstruction of roads envisaged by the Kuwait, OFID and NDM programmes, BRAGSA plans a comprehensive campaign of patching and repairs to less seriously affected thoroughfares. The minister of transport and works will likely speak to this far-reaching patching and repair programme over the course of our debate on budget 2020.”