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Australia reneges on aid pledge to assist Grenada with new parliament building
Published on February 13, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Caribbean News Now contributor

ST GEORGE’S, Grenada -- Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed that his government has reversed an aid pledge to construct a new, state of the art parliament building in Grenada, a project that is only weeks away from beginning construction.

The process toward a new Grenada House of Parliament began in 2009 when then prime minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd responded positively to a personal request from his then counterpart in Grenada, Tillman Thomas.

The government of Australia, through the Australian International Aid Agency agreed to provide design funds and part of the construction budget to the tune of US$5 million.

The Australians provided an architectural consultant to develop the design brief and supervise the judging of a design competition as well as the prize money.

Australia was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council on 18 October 2012, in a General Assembly vote which attracted the support of 140 out of 193 countries in the first round and it was the votes of Caribbean and African nations that secured Australia's seat on the Security Council.

Then in opposition, the current government was highly critical of the way aid was pledged to promote the UN campaign spearheaded by Rudd. Now in government, it has begun unwinding aid commitments in both regions.

According to Trevor Bullen, the architect in charge of the construction project in Grenada, the reversal came as a complete surprise, nor has he been given an explanation.

“We were not given an explanation. We have no idea,” Bullen told Australian media.

He added that he found it very troubling that the Australian government would not honour its commitments.

“It’s a very teeny tiny portion of the AusAID budget -- I mean, it's not even a rounding error. People will be looking for a reason,” Bullen said.

According to a statement issued by the Grenada government, the United Arab Emirates is keeping its promise to provide US$5 million that will also help to fund the project.

The government said it is confident that it will be able to negotiate additional funding to replace the shortfall that will be realised with the Australian government’s decision.
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The Caribbean Writer 2014

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