Minister of Transport and Works, Senator Hon. Julian Francis apologized to the people of Spring Village and surrounding areas for the length of time it took to get the Cumberland Bridge reconstruction project started.
In his address at the ground breaking ceremony to officially launch the project, the Hon. Minister said that considerable river defense work was done to the river to lessen the fears of the residents after their experience on Christmas Eve day 2013.
He said the work that was done the first four months after Christmas 2013 saved many lives during the passage of Tropical Storm Matthew this year.
“We had 17 to 18 hours of rain in Tropical Storm Matthew and not one single river which flooded over its banks in 2013 flooded again in 2016 because of the considerable work that was done on the river defense,” he said.
He thanked the Mexican government for the five million United States (US) dollars
(13.5 million Eastern Caribbean (EC) dollars), it has pledged towards the project.
He said the projects that government implemented over the period of 2010 -2013 were significant and substantial, adding that although Prime Minister Gonsalves had constantly reminded the public that he had the money to do the repairs to damaged infrastructure, such works could not happen overnight.
Senator Francis also disclosed that he propose to have the Crusher plant located at the Argyle International Airport project site be eventually relocated to the Richmond Area.
“I think you have the best available granite rock on Richmond Beach, it is ideally located and I believe that I will win in my proposal to the Hon. Prime Minster and Cabinet that I can put the Crusher in North Leeward,” he said.
Mexican Ambassador to the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), His Excellency Luis Manuel Lopez Moreno said he was happy to be at the launch of the project.
He told those in attendance at the launch that the project formed part of his government’s plan to assist with development in the Eastern Caribbean, especially building infrastructure in the resident states.
Mexico, he said, was pleased to make this contribution and was committed to fostering closer relations with Caribbean partners through cooperation efforts.
Mexico is the largest economy in the greater Caribbean and the 11th largest in the World.
Delivering the feature address, Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said he had a history of good relations with Mexico and mentioned the special friendship he shared with Former President Vincente Fox.
Dr. Gonsalves said St. Vincent and the Grenadines was the first country in the Eastern Caribbean which obtained undergraduate scholarships to pursue studies in Mexico was St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Looking back at 2013, he said 12 bridges were either severely damaged or destroyed, and several road network s were disrupted. He said when he campaigned during the last elections, 2015; he told the people of Spring Village and Charles Village that in 2016, the bridge and river defenses would be started.
“We are keeping our promise to the people, I told you that I had five million US dollars,” he charged.
Soon after 2013, by January he contacted the Mexican government 2014 and got a quick response of a pledge of five million US dollars to reconstruct one of the damaged bridges.
He referred to the Leeward side of the country as Latin American side as most of the bridges reconstructed in areas on that side were through funds from Latin American governments.
Ecuador has built three in North Leeward and one in South Leeward and Mexico, one, also in North Leeward.
“Latin America is taking care of five of the 12 bridges,” he said.
The launch was also addressed by Mr. Geoff Wilson of UNOPS and Rameshwar Mahabir, Managing Director of Trinidad Contractors, project contractor.