Grand’Anse – National Road No. 7
OAS Ltd goes, anger and outrage stay!
By Yvon Janvier
English | French
Translated from the French by Dady Chery, Haiti Chery
For over a week, anger mounts in Grand’Anse residents. The cause: Brazilian company Construtora OAS Ltd, charged with the construction of Lot 2, Carrefour-Zaboka / Jeremie of National Road No. 7, took off leaving the work far from complete. To quell more and more persistent rumors of a protest, which nevertheless took place the following day, local authorities scrambled to meet with officials from the company to take stock of the situation.
On the afternoon of Monday, August 6, Grand’Anse authorities met with OAS Ltd officials after the unilateral decision by this company to break the contract binding it to the Haitian government for the rehabilitation of an approximately 69-km (43 miles) road linking Jeremie to Carrefour Zaboka, farther south in the country. This meeting included Jeremie Mayor Ronald Etienne, Departmental Delegate Norman Wiener, Government Commissioner Mr. Antoine Rosny St. Louis [Recall that all elected municipal government officials have been dismissed and replaced by presidental appointees. DC], and for OAS Ltd, Guillermo Cocco and Savio Souza.
The latter, evidently, have no communications office. And so it was the initiative of the local authorities that allowed them to confirm the rumor. Construtora OAS Ltd evidently unilaterally stopped ongoing work on National Road No. 7 and abruptly cut short its contract with Haitian and international donors: specifically Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB). When the project manager of the Canadian agency was contacted the same day by Le Matin about the position of its institution on the issue, she said she did not yet have one.
OAS Ltd will justify its decision
According to what was reported in the local press, this sudden about-face by OAS Ltd was due to two major reasons cited by company officials. The first relates to a problem of expropriations that should have been done under the previous government before starting the work. However, before this condition was fully satisfied, OAS Ltd was as eager to capture the contract as a greedy child brought to a cake. Due to compensation for damages in multiple expropriations, OAS Ltd believes now, as a private for-profit, with such a contract, and this is the second reason given, the institution recorded more losses than profits.
However, Mr. Cocco and Souza wanted to reassure that nearly 65% of work was already completed on the 69 km of road in the charge of OAS Ltd. But this does not seem obvious to many Grand’Anse residents interviewed by the newspaper, who believe that the majority of the work is yet to be done, especially in dangerous areas like Corbera, Plaine Matin, without omitting the bridge on Glace River, which continues to claim lives every rainy season.
Still, the OAS Ltd representatives, whose work was supervised by the TPTC, justified the company’s actions by saying it has received money only for work done. So for the remaining 22 km — this is yet to be confirmed by the Haitian state — the OAS had previously, according to a clause in the contract, posted a bond (in this case, a sum of money), held by the State, to deal with any eventuality. The question remains, according to some observers, if this amount, whose value has not been expressed, can cover the losses to Haiti due to OAS’ decision.
In addition, the company will pay in full its liabilities to its employees, including all statutory benefits, added its representatives, especially to reassure the local workforce that will be unemployed, along with the expatriates who will be terminated, they said. But some of the employees contacted by Le Matin brought up the rudeness, irresponsibility and mismanagement of the company that let them go without notice on Monday, July 30, as they prepared to begin work.
At a briefing given by local authorities (the icing on the cake abandoned by OAS Ltd), a press note was read by the Departmental Delegate and signed by TPTC Minister Jacques Rousseau. Through this note, the population of the great South was informed of the unilateral decision by OAS Ltd to terminate the contract binding it to the Haitian state. In this paper, the minister assured that all measures will be taken by the government to continue promptly the work on National Road No. 7, especially as funding remains available.
Will there be enough there — observers are still wondering — to appease a population unfortunately trained always to take to the streets to see that its needs are met by state officials?
Will this initiative of the political and judicial authorities to meet the Construtora OAS Ltd to clarify the issue contain the growing anger of Grand’Anse residents?
This is the hope of both the Mayor, the Deputy Commissioner and county government, which have struggled to invite the population to remain calm. Anyway, as announced, on Tuesday, Aug. 7, Jeremie residents were in the streets to express their displeasure and outrage, without violence. They denounced the complicity of some authorities with OAS Ltd while demanding that the state be firmer on the issue and resume the work as soon as possible.
This work, initiated since September 3, 2009, was funded to the tune of US $95 million from CIDA and IDB, which were also responsible for managing the funds. Rehabilitation of the Cayes-Jeremie road is divided into two sections. on one hand, Camp-Perrin-Carrefour Zaboka is handled by the National Council of Equipment (Conseil National des Équipements, CNE). On the other hand, Carrefour Zaboka-Jeremie handled by OAS Ltd, based in Brazil. The company originally scheduled completion of its assignments for the end of 2011, then announced an extension until June 2012, and finally to August 2013, before suddenly opting to break its contract.
Source: Le Matin