PM Douglas seeks debt forgiveness on loan from US Government for Dr. Kennedy Simmonds Highway

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, APRIL 26TH 2012 (CUOPM) – St. Kitts and Nevis has begun discussions with officials in the United States Treasury Department pertaining to the remaining US$2 million debt for the construction of the Dr. Kennedy Simmonds Highway – self-named by the former Prime Minister of the twin-island Federation in the early 1990’s.

Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Dr.Denzil L. Douglas said Wednesday at his monthly press conference that in an effort to further reduce the national debt, he held talks last weekend while in Washington, D.C., with U.S. Treasury officials pertaining to the existing debt that St. Kitts and Nevis has incurred with the United States.

The entire South East Peninsular Road – the Dr. Kennedy Simmonds Highway – was built with loan funds from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the amount outstanding is about US$2 million.

“I engaged U.S. Treasury officials to set the tone of the discussions that will take place in Paris next month when St. Kitts and Nevis appears before the Paris Club to negotiate with them a reduction in the debt that we have with members of the Paris Club,” said Prime Minister Douglas in response to a question on whether there were further initiatives to reduce the national debt which was lowered by one-third following the recent debt restructuring programme.

Dr. Douglas met with the Treasury official on the sidelines of the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington, D.C.

He said the United States Government and the United Kingdom Government were the only two members of the Paris Club that St. Kitts and Nevis are indebted to.

Dr. Douglas intimated that the discussions tried to feel out whether or not there can be complete debt forgiveness of the US$2million, secondly, whether the existing debt can be restructured within the framework of the recent debt restructuring programme and thirdly whether the life of the loan can be extended with reduced monthly payments.

The delegation from the Ministry of Finance and the debt advisors – which he will head in his capacity as Minister of Finance, will sit before the panel of the Paris Club members to negotiate with the United States and United Kingdom Governments.

“We will know next month what is the final chapter in our debt restructuring exercise that was started last year,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

The highway has been prone to rock fall on the road at Timothy Hill and a temporary bypass road is been used to facilitate vehicular traffic.

The condition of the highway was the major talking point at recent meeting of the St. Kitts and Nevis Cabinet.

The Hon. Dr. Earl Asim Martin, Minister of Public Works, Utilities, Local Transport and Housing, accompanied by the Director of Public Works, Mr. Calvin Pemberton, two engineers from the Public Works Department, and representatives and engineers from an engineering firm, ADeB Consulting, presented a comprehensive report of his ministry’s plan to improve the public roads in parts of Basseterre, Frigate Bay and the South-East Peninsula.

“Resurfacing of the road from the Bay Road in the vicinity of Port Zante, along Sandown, along the Frigate Road and to the third round-about at Frigate Bay, resurfacing of the road from the third round-about at Frigate Bay, along the South-East Peninsula (Dr. Kennedy Simmonds Highway) to the Sea Bridge at Majors Bay, and to Cockleshell Beach, the construction of a major round-about at the intersection of the Kim Collins Highway, the Frigate Bay Road and the Bird Rock Road and the construction of a 150 metre drive-through tunnel at Timothy Hill to address the issue of the falling of rocks from the hillside on that part of the road particularly as a result of erosion due to heavy rainfall over time,” said Minister Carty.

Mr. Carty further disclosed that engineers agreed that there was significant deterioration on these segments of the road network, and that given the increasing traffic on them over the years, it was critical from an economic as well as safety standpoint to make major improvements to the identified road segments.

“It was revealed that there is need for only surface work along specific points of the road but that work would have to be done to the sub-stratum in other areas given the damage done to it due to the seepage of rain water over the years,” said the Minister of Information.

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