|File: Fazal Karim|
The structure is being built in phases on a 15-acre parcel of land near Divali Nagar that once produced sugar cane. Karim challenged the contractors to meet the deadline he set and invited the staff of his ministry to gather at the new building for their 2014 Christmas party. And he said they would report for work at the new headquarters on the first working day of 2015. He promised no cost over runs and no delays.
Phase one will comprise the main structure for 173 office staff of the ministry at a cost of $111 million, Karim said. The completed complex would cost $360 million and would house staff and other personnel from the different divisions of the ministry, including the National Training Agency, the Accreditation Council, YTEPP and Costaatt.
He said it makes economic sense for the ministry to have its own premises. "For the period up to May 2012, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and the taxpayers would have paid over $168 million in rent. It makes economic sense therefore for you to have your own premises and your property," the minister said.
Karim said the start of the construction is a dream come true for him. He said as far back as 1999 as the head of the National Training Agency (NTA) he had negotiated with the former Caroni (1975) Limited to get a five-acre parcel of land just north of the present site for the agency's offices. He added that when the government changed the PNM administration scrapped the plan and gave the land to "someone else".
He said more than a dozen years later he was able to get an alternative site and instead of five acres, he now has 15 to make sure that all the facilities are incorporated in one place.
Karim said moving the ministry out of Port of Spain eases stress on employees who would no longer have to fight the daily rush hour traffic. That, he said, has other benefits, such as an increase in productivity.
The minister also asked the contractor to make use of the facilities of the ministry's skills certification program. He said anyone working on the project who is not certified could be certified on the job.