Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has revealed that someone had cemented the water valve at the official residence of the Prime Minister in St Ann’s so that no water would enter the compound, apparently paving the way for someone to get a lucrative water-delivery contract under the previous Government.
Dr Rowley made the disclosure as he spoke during debate on a motion to adopt the report of the Standing Finance Committee, seeking to extend budgetary spending by $3.8 billion.
He said that after moving into the official residence, he could not understand why there was difficulty in getting water and decided to call WASA for an explanation.
The Prime Minister said WASA’s investigation found that the valve that controlled the flow of water into the compound had been cemented shut, cutting off supply.
He told the House of Representatives that, instead, a contract had existed to pay someone tens of thousands of dollars to bring water via trucks every day to the Prime Minister’s residence.
“WASA broke into the concrete and opened the valve and up to this day we have had no problem with water at the Prime Minister’s residence,” Dr Rowley said.
The Prime Minister did not elucidate on who had been given the contract.
Dr Rowley added that expenditure on the Office of the Prime Minister and particularly on the official residence was significantly lower than what it was under the former UNC Government and made reference to the amount that was being allocated for discretionary events.
He pointed out that under the UNC’s five-year regime from 2010 to 2015, a total of $170 million was allocated, of which $47.8 million was for discretionary events.
He said, in contrast, his government spent roughly $120 million less, with a total allocation of just $52 million.
Govt’s $5 billion monthly bill
As he spoke of measures to improve the economy, Rowley also disclosed that it takes roughly $5 billion to run the country every month.
He told the House the figures were from the month of February.
The prime minister gave the following breakdown:
Salaries – $1.65 billion
Pension/Gratuity – $250 million
General Goods – $330 million
Social Services – $445 million
Ferry Service – $45 million
WASA Transfers – $185 million
Other Transfers – $100 million
Other Goods eg Medicine – $233 million
Caribbean Airlines – $43 million
Development Programme – $300 million
Fuel Subsidy – $288 million
THA – $175 million
He summarised that such spending amounted to roughly $60 billion a year and noted that when the UNC was in office, they raise spending to $63 billion.
He said the PNM faced a deficit of $13 billion when the party took office in 2010 and worked to bring it down significantly.
He said the government was in sight of balancing the Budget but then COVID-19 came and billions had to be spent on vaccines, food and assistance to people who had lost revenue.
However, he told the House that the economy is “rapidly improving” to the point where “we are now down to 50 per cent on our overdraft”.