The United Progressive Party (UPP) is condemning the recent purchase of a Tesla X luxury SUV by the Ministry of Health and Environment as the official vehicle for Minister Molwyn Joseph.
The main opposition party, in a press statement, said that the decision to purchase the vehicle was “heartless” considering the economic circumstances facing the nation.
“How is this vehicle a priority given the challenges we face?” Party leader Harold Lovell asked.
“Further, with the poor condition and continuing deterioration of the roadways and the resultant hardships that both motorists and pedestrians face, the purchase of this luxury item by the Government is even more ironic,” the statement from the party added.
Meanwhile, in it’s own press statement, signed by Chief Environment Officer Diann Black Layne, the Department of Environment (DoE) confirmed the purchase of the electric car which uses no fossil fuels, saying that it is part of a broader green transport study being carrying out; adding that the vehicles were the property of the government and not any individual personally.
“This program seeks to purchase electric and hybrid vehicles to test the use of this technology in the DoE, the Ministry of Health, The Ministry of Education and Ministry of Transport. Data is being gathered on the use of each of these vehicles to determine the average cost to a regular consumer…” the DoE release read.
“At the onset of this project in 2016, the Minister was asked to swap his current Government issued Ford Explorer for an electric vehicle. While we shared the Minister’s concern regarding the political perception, we also recognised that a vehicle of this type would be both beneficial for the study and for the example that must be shown by Government officials,” the release continued.
Black Layne’s statement noted that after eight months of negotiation, Minister Joseph “reluctantly agreed” to be a subject of the study and relinquish his fossil fuel vehicle for an electric one.
“Despite these higher upfront costs, it is expected that these will be recouped in less than five years in savings from fuel and maintenance.”
The other vehicles purchased as part of the study include: For the Department of the Environment and Ministry of Health: one small Nissan Leaf, Nissan van, one small open back “lorry”, one Toyota RAV 4 Hybrid. The Toyota and Tesla vehicles were purchased new and the others are second-hand vehicles.
The department says these were purchased with “funding from a variety of projects as part of the DoE Greenhouse Gas assessment.”
For the Ministry of Transport: three commercial buses will be purchased to service the routes to Old Road, English Harbour and Willkies. Funding for these has not yet been secured.
“However, work is underway to assess potential options and budget required. Private sector individuals will be sought to manage these buses as part of the study,” the DoE said.
For the Ministry of Education, 2 to 3 electric school buses have been purchased. Funding for these came from the Government of Italy and procurement is underway. These buses should be in Antigua by February/March 2018.
While the UPP puts the cost of the Tesla X at “more than EC$375,000,” the most basic version of the vehicle costs US$80,000 (or about EC$217,000), though it is not clear which, or if any, costly customization will be included with the ministers’ Tesla.
Senator Lovell called on the Prime Minister to rescind the Tesla deal immediately.”These are the actions of an uncaring, selfish government,” he said.
“This is not the first time that Minister Molwyn Joseph has found himself at the center of controversy involving the proper processing of a vehicle at the Port,” Lovell added.