A US$72 million contract with DESALCOTT in 1999 has permanently bankrupted the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA).
This according to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley during a Standing Finance Committee Meeting in Parliament as the debate on the 2020 Budget continued on Monday.
Rowley said the contract ends in 2036.
Member of Parliament for Tabaquite Dr Surujrattan Rambachan, was questioning Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte about why the Government was negotiating a loan to pay DESALCOTT instead of allocating money for the supply through WASA’s recurrent expenditure.
WASA was given a $1.6 billion allocation in the 2020 budget.
Rowley interjected and said it was the Basdeo Panday administration that entered into the contract.
He said before this the issue was whether desalinated water would be used to supply residential customers, as is being done now.
In 1999, WASA first contracted DESALCOTT to purchase 24 million gallons per day, he said.
But by November 2012, the agreement with DESALCOTT was amended to increase its production from 24 million gallons per day to 40 million gallons per day.
Rowley said this expansion was expected to be increased incrementally over a 13-month period, with the delivery of water increasing over this period up to 40 million gallons per day by December 2013.
He said, “When we went into desalinated water this problem that we are now facing was raised as a potential and the question is on the Hansard as to whether this desalinated water will enter the domestic supply and the answer was no.”
Rowley added, “That project has bankrupted WASA permanently and we now have to borrow money because where we were earning money in Point Lisas we now have to find money to pay and that has put WASA in a permanent bankruptcy.”
But Opposition MP Ganga Singh, a former Environment and Water Resources Minister said it was the PNM’s Patrick Manning-led administration that increased the amount of water from 24 million gallons to 45 million gallons a day, in the agreement with DESALCOTT.
Singh said Manning had announced plans to build five desalination plants across T&T.
He added, “When I hear these born-again, evangelical approaches that they deny the existence of their decision making, you would recall that in 2010, Mr Prime Minister Manning had plans to build five desalination plants across this country.”
Singh said: “At that time it was affordable, now circumstances have changed and like a lot of people who get in trouble with the #MeToo movement, the reality today is quite different.”