Shanghai Construction Group and China Railway have signed a contract to build a US$160m general hospital in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T).
The facility will replace a 60-year-old building that was judged seismically unsafe in 2009, and which suffered a cracked roof in a 2018 earthquake.Â
Keith Rowley, the prime minister of T&T, defended the decision to borrow this amount from China amid the islands’ poor economic performance in recent years and its existing debts to Beijing, which stood at $350m at the end of last year.
He said: "When it is a health challenge, it automatically becomes priority number one. Whatever we do, this project has to be funded. The arrangements of that invitation by public tender gives us the breathing space to incur the debt that we are incurring today but it is a debt of the highÂest priority."
He added that the government has put plans in place to repay the debt in a manageable way.
Terrence Deyalsingh, the minister for health, pointed out that the Port of Spain hospital would serve about 500,000 people, and said "we need a modern facility".
T&T, which has a GPD of $20.2bn, has outstanding debts to China for, among other things, the National Academy for the Performing Arts (pictured) and a hospital in the town of Couva.
Shanghai Construction Group Caribbean opened its office in T&T in May 2005
Image: Port of Spain National Academy for the Performing Arts, also built and funded by China (Mariordo/CC BY-SA 3.0)