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Molasses war

Minister of Agriculture Dr. David Estwick

Absolute rubbish!

That is how Minister of Agriculture Dr. David Estwick today described suggestions appearing in the press today by Opposition Barbados Labour Party candidate for St. James Central, Kerrie Symmonds, that Government’s proposal to construct three new molasses tanks at the Bridgetown Port for $12 million, was unacceptable squandermania.

Symmonds was quoted as saying that Williams Industries Limited had submitted a proposal to rebuild one tank and repair the other two at a cost of $2.9 million.

“This is absolute rubbish and an unbridled attempt to misrepresent the Williams proposal and to mislead the public,” Estwick told a press conference at his Graeme Hall, Christ Church offices.

In seeking to put the record straight, he first read a letter sent from Williams Industries to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and forwarded to him regarding the state of the three existing tanks.

“At present, the molasses storage tanks at the Bridgetown Port have deteriorated to the point where they will soon be unserviceable and the day that this happens, the Barbados rum industry will have to shut down,” Estwick quoted the document as saying.

He then went on to note that Williams Industries had proposed two options to the Barbados Agricultural Management Company Limited.

“In both options, the capital support cost to construct a 12,000 metric tonne capacity steel tank is $3,995 or $4 million. The breakdown or the capital up-front cost is as follows. (i) Construction cost — $3.4 million, VAT cost at 17.5 per cent: $595,000; total cost:$3,995 or $4 million. (ii) Long term dollar maintenance charges of $30,000 per year, plus the cost of the materials,” explained the minister of agriculture.

Estwick also told reporters that Williams Industries had submitted two financing models. He said that option 1 dealt with up-front capital cost to build one 12,000 metric tonne capacity steel tank for $4 million, which the company proposed to design, build and transfer to the BADMC at the end of the construction, and that the corporation would pay Williams $30,000 in maintenance costs per year and the cost of the maintenance material.

The minister said too, that the other option called for an up-front capital cost of $4 million in which Williams Industries would design, build, finance and operate the tanks for 10 years. Under that proposal, the Barbados Agricultural Marketing Corporation would pay Williams $1.5 million on transfer back to the BAMC.

“What is incredible here, is that in both options, the Williams Industries proposal bears no resemblance to what was said to Barbadians by Mr Symmonds,” insisted Estwick.

“He was either misled or never read the Williams proposal, either read the options and did not understand them, or he was delusional and confused by the simple English used, or he intended to mislead the public.”

The Cabinet minister also cited the submission by construction firm Preconco, which had proposed to construct three tanks, given their state of disrepair.

“Given this data, the BAMC with the support of the ministry, chose to build a new molasses storage facility comprising three new concrete tanks to protect the rum industry,” stated Estwick.

He pointed out that the government had decided to build three concrete tanks for $12 million with a VAT waiver, zero to negligible maintenance costs with a life span of 70 to 90 years, while rejecting the less expensive Williams proposal to construct steel tanks for $4 million, but which would only last for between 20 and 30 years. (EJ)

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