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Budget - Draft 10

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Madame President, We the people of Trinidad and Tobago find ourselves once again in a very delicate and challenging economic position, due, to the vast petroleum resources with which we are endowed.  

 

The manner in which we use this vast income will determine the future destiny of OUR NATION!

 

We are, again, in fact Madame President at the historical crossroad of probable socio-economic success or failure.

 

One leads us towards attaining the goal of economic and social development for all.  

 

The other leads to a life of fear, insecurity, dependency unemployment, under employment and poverty.

 

Madame President, let us now examine in which direction this government is taking us.

 

You will recall we were previously in a comparable situation.  

 

Madame President, at that time, the then Prime Minister/ Minister of /Finance made the famous or infamous statement “ money was not a problem”.  

 

Most of us recall the consequences of our earlier “oil boom”.   Let us hope that in spite of the many limitations of the present budget

 

that history will not repeat itself.

 

However, it is difficult to resist coming to the conclusion that this budget 2005 will lead us in the same direction, again!

 

Madame President, we the people of Trinidad and Tobago have a lot to be grateful for.  

 

Our climate is amongst the best in the world.  

 

Our geographic location is such that we are out of the way of most seasonal natural disasters.

 

Our population is composed of beautiful people, resulting from our rich culture base and many years of social integration.

 

Madame President, the product of this fusion is our national “Rainbow Face’’. (Smile and with an open hand indicate the rainbow faces around the room)

 

Madame President, this has evolved over time as a result of the effort and sweat of our ancestors.  

 

Our unity in diversity cannot to be taken for granted; it must be nurtured and maintained.

 

Madame President, we must continue to practice and promote harmony and integration.

 

There must be no doubt our national persona can be undone.  

 

This is very likely to occur if as a nation, we give way to poor governance, intolerance, bigotry and discrimination.

 

Madame President, Social deterioration is highly probable, under this current government that insists on using the apparatus and assets of the state to satisfy its own petty politically partisan objectives.

 

The actions of this government could only compromise our nation’s democratic principles. Madame President.

 

The PNM persists in claiming to create national programmes, particularly what it describes as social programmes.

 

However this government delivers the programmes outputs to only one section of our nation’s population. It concentrates its efforts in traditional PNM constituencies and those described as marginal.

 

 

Madame President, (very firm) I remind this government that its responsibility is to the nation as a whole not to its political party and its supporters.

 

Madame President, the reckless and irresponsible actions of this PNM government, have already began to forge deep social and ethnic cleavages within our society.

 

The adverse consequences of such deliberate divisive policies on our people will be many.

 

Madame President, (firm but sad) our social fabric will be weakened

 

Madame President, our society will be characterized by discrimination, marginalization and social exploitation.

 

(Firm & serious) Madame President, we will no longer be a people that pursue the goal of national unity.

 

Instead, we will be a nation divided and diminished.

 

This pursuit of national unity, Madame President, the effort of many years will be replaced by disunity, hostility and hopelessness.

 

Madame President, it seems that this government has to be reminded again, that all state programmes must be conceptualized democratically, demographically and made accessible to all.

 

Madame President, this government’s failure to do so will constitute a clear and present abdication of its basic responsibility to all our nation’s citizens.

 

We have to continue providing the social environment that enables the presence of all the major religious groups in our national community.  

 

Madame President, freedom of religious practice is not only a basic right, it is a characteristic of civilized society.

 

As a people we must continue to practice our exemplary forms of religious diversity and acceptance.

 

Madame President, our land is as diverse as its people. 

 

There are mountains to the north, in the center and to the south.  

 

We have a dramatic and beautiful coastline; intensely blue sea, beaches, valleys, flat lands, rivers and wetlands.  

 

Madame President, our sunrises (UNC pause rising sun) and sunsets are unparallel.

 

Our topography allows the cultivation of a wide variety of crops. In the past we have done this with considerable success, Madame President.  

 

There is every reason why we can successfully continue to cultivate our traditional crops.

 

Madame President, with the changing trends in eating habits, new varieties of crops could be introduced.  

 

Both can be done in a financially viable manner, where production is based on relevant market analysis, so as to establish the aggregate effective demand for crops prior to production.  

 

Madame President, our good fortune continues, we are also rich in proven deposits of hydrocarbons: oil, natural gas, and asphalt.

 

It is clear that the people of Trinidad and Tobago have most of the elements required, for all to enjoy a high standard of living and an optimum quality of life.

 

(Firm and serious), in spite of all our assets, our nation is in a state of crisis. Madame President.

 

Crime and criminal activity are causing us to live in fear, Madame President.

 

(Firm and serious) Criminal activity is not “gang related as the Prime Minister alleges. Madame President, crime seems to know no boundaries.  

 

 

Only recently Sir Ellis Clarke and ANR Robinson were victim of criminal actions. The former President of the Senate Wahid Ali was mugged and robbed.

 

Madame President, Little Vijay from Rio Claro has now been kidnapped for more than 125 days.

Even our visiting tourists have been victims of crime. Kidnapping, rape and robbery amongst others.

 

Madame President, the list goes on, and on, and on …

 

The issue of drug related crime is complex, brutal and devastating.  

 

Madame President, how can we forget the fact that cocaine was found in our country’s diplomatic pouch?

 

Madame President, this must be dealt with in an explicit and efficient manner.

 

To date this corrupt government has done very little to solve the problem in our ministry of Foreign Affairs, to date little progress has been made in discovering, who is responsible for the drugs in Trinidad and Tobago’s diplomatic pouch.

 

Madame President, there are numerous cases of kidnapping, rape, incest, theft and extortion that go unreported.   There are many reasons for this, fear and lack of confidence in the system’s capacity to protect and serve.

 

It is true that the responsibility of the government is diverse.   However the highest priority of any government is the security of its population, Madame President.

 

Madame President, in this regard, and based on available evidence it is clear that this government has failed and continues to fail miserably in its primary responsibility.

 

Madame President:

 

This PNM Government has failed to put a stop to the constantly increasing levels of crime.  

 

It has failed to put a stop to increasing criminal activity. 

 

Madame President, in spite of the government’s claims that it is making great efforts in its war against crime.

 

(Dramatic) it is losing the war!

 

There are indications that the criminal element have direct access to key Ministers of government.  

 

Madame President, (very stern) that being the case,

 

Makes the government a part of the problem not a part of the solution.

 

Madame President, The government has the responsibility to manage the nation’s business effectively.  

 

In doing this we expect the government to present the nation with a clear statement of its policy agenda.  

 

This is the only way the government will be able to demonstrate its claims of transparency and accountability.

 

Madame President, this has to be accompanied by a well defined mix of programmes that are geared to deliver the goods and services to the nation in a manner that is consistent with its policy agenda.

 

Madame President, hopefully, some day the programmes will be clearly defined.   That way we will know:

 

What are their objectives?

What will be the benefits?

And above all, who will be the beneficiaries?

 

 

In which event, Madame President, there will be a basis for the government to monitor the government’s performance.  

Madame President, this would be an opportunity for the government to demonstrate its new found ethos of transparency and accountability.

 

The absence of this basic policy and programme audit trail makes it almost impossible for the government to monitor its own performance.

 

Further Madame President, we on this side of the House will have an even more daunting task to evaluate effectively the performance of this government during the fiscal year.

 

 Madame President, the Minister claims that, and I quote:

 

“My government is committed to good governance. For us this means putting systems in place to ensure transparency, accountability, the highest level of efficiency and effectiveness, equity and adherence to the rule of law”

 

Madame President, the following question must be asked.

 

Where is the evidence that this systems approach has been implemented, is implemented or will ever be implemented?

 

There is no evidence.

 

Madame President is this another instance of the Minister being elegant with the rhetoric but bankrupt when it comes to delivery?

 

For this budget to make fiscal sense, it should relate the planned expenditure for the current fiscal period to the government’s policy agenda.

 

Madame President, this is where the proposal budget is radically flawed.

 

It is most certainly not predicated on a clearly defined policy framework.

 

What is also very clear, Madame President is that most of the needs of the majority of the population are not being addressed and this is in spite of a 28 billion dollar budget.

 

 

 

MINISTRY OF WORKS/INFRASTRUCTURE

 

The UNC was committed to building the John Humphrey free flow interchange at the Uriah Butler/Churchill Roosevelt Highway intersection and is still committed.

 

This year 2004 we would have been presenting the fourth budget of our second term in Office and Madam President Trinidad & Tobago would have already benefited from the completion of the construction of the interchange.

 

Instead what we have is an administration that cannot convert words to deeds, after two years of indecision, two years of deciding whether to build or not to build, now they saying they will build.

 

Can we accept this, Madam President? The real issue is that the UNC left 150 million dollars for the construction of that interchange.

 

You know what they did with the money, Madam President?

 

They took the 150 million dollars and used it to paint Government Buildings, they didn’t clean those buildings, they didn’t pressure wash them, they didn’t treat them, they just painted over the moss and all the jack-spaniard nests.

 

That is what they did, Madam President!

 

Today in Trinidad & Tobago we have a serious situation with Traffic jams, from The Hindu Credit Union Convention Center in Freeport straight into the Light House in POS.

 

Madam President, 2004 would have been the fourth year of our second term and this problem would not have existed.

 

During the UNC’s tenure in office, while we were building the Uriah Butler/Churchill Roosevelt intersection, we would have already completed the overpasses at Aranguez, El Socorro and the necessary improvement works at Sackville Street.

 

Madam President, we would have widened the road and the bridge over the St Ann’s River in Sea Lots, so that we would have had another lane into Port of Spain. From NP’s head office straight into Colvin Street on Wrightston Road

 

You would recall Madam President, that during the UNC’s term in office we completed improvements and works from West Moorings straight down to the Northwest Peninsula.

 

It was Madam President part or our efforts in improving the infrastructure to ensure growth in the tourism sector

 

Madame President you would recall the improvements done in Chaguaramas, where in the UNC term there was continuous growth in the yachting sector for 5 consecutive years, we now have a slow down in expansion. I will deal with this matter further on

 

You will recall Madam President, the improvement work done in the Diego Martin area. You will also recall the improvement work done in Maraval.

 

Madame President it was extremely difficult to get into and out of Port of Spain from Maraval, in fact government previous to the UNC didn’t even attempt to tackle the problem.

 

As a short-term solution we redesigned the traffic flow from the Kapok Roundabout and now have easier entry and exit out of Maraval, improving the mobility in the area.

 

While in office, Madam President, we were considering two options, the building of a road over the Maraval River and building a tunnel between Maraval and Port of Spain, possibly going below the Queens Park Savanna.

 

Madame President. You will also recall that the Savanna was considered the largest roundabout in the world.

 

For many decades a serious traffic problem existed at the St. Ann’s roundabout, The UNC government make sure that the traffic improved with the simple construction of a well designed multi-functional roundabout, that still today alleviates traffic.

 

Madam President, no one in Trinidad and Tobago can forget how dangerous it was to drive from Maraval to Maracas Bay.

 

As a result of the improvements made under the UNC government Madam President, that road is no longer considered dangerous.

 

It is now considered to be safe and aesthetically pleasing with vistas of what is probably Trinidad’s most dramatic coastline. 

 

Madam President, if the UNC were still in office, we would have continued the works from Maracas all the way to Blanchisseuse.

 

So that area of our coastline and its people could benefit from the exploitation of its vast tourism potential.

 

Madam President, we are committed to improving the mobility of the country and hence the quality of life of our citizens.

 

It is our vision, Madam President, to convert Trinidad and Tobago’s entire rural community and communications infrastructure to an acceptable and efficient standard.

 

To facilitate the transport of agricultural products and approximate our rural people with greater ease to their urban work centres.

 

Plans, Madam President, were also in place for the continuation of the highway from Omer Road straight on to Wallerfield, the site designated for the Science Park.

 

Madam President, you will recall that from Valsayn, the road to Manzanilla, was in total disrepair and abandonment, under the PNM administration.

 

The UNC, Madam President, started working on the improvement of the whole bridge system of Trinidad and Tobago.

 

In all 56 bridges, Madam President, were built, rebuilt, restored, renovated and repaired all over the country.

 

·       The Valencia Bridge

·       The Caravel Bridge

·       The Manzanilla Bridge

·       The Oxford Bridge

·       The Nariva Bridge straight around the Mafekin and on to Poole River bridge

·       The Kiwal bridge

·       Madame President, no one can forget the opening of the bridge over the Cipero river at ursine St. Madeline where we had one way traffic since the days of Columbus.

 

·       MENTION ALL 65 BRIDGES

 

Since the PNM’s return to office Madam President, they didn’t seem to grasp the fact that the UNC had already built these 65 bridges.

 

Madam President, the PNM’s track record indicates that it would normally take them ten years to build a bridge. This means that they would still be seven years away from delivering the first one. May be this time around they will be able to deliver half a bridge.

 

The Minister has said that his administration would build 65 more bridges Madam President, not realizing that those bridges were already completed.

 

If you drive around on the main roads of Trinidad and Tobago, Madam President you cannot find sixty-five more bridges to build.

 

Madame President in addition to that all the bridges from Point Fortin to Cedros, Icacos to Bonas Village were improved in preparation for the paving of that route, that road would have been completed by now.

 

Instead what we now have, Madame President is an administration that found the basic infrastructure in place and just cannot put the roads together

 

In fact citizens of Cedros, Coromandal, Grandville and Chatham are now complaining of how difficult it is to travel those roads on a daily basis.

 

Madam President the point I am making is that under the UNC we recognized the pressing need for infrastructure upgrade.

 

We were aware that under the more than 40 years of PNM government, the nation’s infrastructure had been grossly neglected.

 

We saw the improvement of infrastructure as an important step in our in our fight against poverty, as one of the fundamental pillars for the improvement of the quality of life for all our citizens.

 

Preventative and on-going maintenance was not in keeping with the PNM agenda, Madam President. 

 

They have now again allowed the infrastructure to fall into a state of decay.

 

Should you, Madam President, ask the people of Trinidad and Tobago if the road system was better after the UNC than was before, the rotund answer to the question will be yes.

 

Madame President, the UNC government also recognized the importance of the Gulf of Paria as a valuable natural asset.

 

·       An area rich in hydrocarbon resources

·       An important fishing ground

·       An area with a high recreational potential

 

Madame President, large quantities of silt from the Orinoco River flow, deposits in the Gulf of Paria.

 

We did a preliminary study and Madame President, you would be surprised to know that if the current pattern continues, the Gulf of Paria will become completely silted up by the year 2225.

 

In other words, Madame President, you would be able to walk over to Venezuela.

 

So as to halt the existing erosion on the southwestern peninsula and the entire gulf coast Madam President, we initiate pre-investment feasibility, in terms of looking at the Gulf of Paria.

 

We also initiated the first phase of the San Fernando Waterfront development project because, Madam President, we saw this as an important step in renewing San Fernando as the energy, industrial energy and services capital.

 

We envisioned this project as an important link between our country and Venezuela. We considered the Gulf of Paria as an internal lake between the two countries.

 

We also saw it as a link for the western coastline of Trinidad, Madam President, with water taxis operating from Point Fortin to San Fernando, San Fernando to Port of Spain with a stop in central.

 

In the first phase of the waterfront development concept we saw as an opportunity to establish a ferry service between San Fernando and the Venezuelan state of Monagas.

 

A journey across the Gulf of Paria, up the Caño San Juan River to the town of Caripito. Madam President, an excellent point of entry to one of Venezuela’s states rich in natural resources, agriculture and industry.

 

The proximity of major Venezuelan highways also made Caripito an ideal port of entry for products and passengers from Trinidad and Tobago.

 

Madam President, we initiated the waterfront project and this visionless PNM government stopped it, even though funds had been allocated to the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago.

 

The project would have resulted in the development of a new city centre and a major commercial entity, Madam President.

 

Located between San Fernando Street in the North and Keate Street in the South, the Waterfront development in the West to Coffee Street in the East.

 

Madam President, for many years the people of South Trinidad felt the low levels of infrastructural investment in what was the industrial energy capital of Trinidad and Tobago.

 

Only until the UNC came to office in 1998, Madam President, was a 1978 PNM project implemented.

 

Twenty years had gone by and nothing had been done.

 

The UNC saw the requirement and built the Cross Crossing interchange Madam President, then followed up on the continuation of the Solomon Hochoy Highway.

 

This was the first step in a highway to Point Fortin so while we were looking at the pre-feasibility and the feasibility study for the Highway and designs for the Highway from–Golconda from to Point Fortin. We started construction and expansion of the road network and we have a link between Tarouba and Golconda.

 

By now Madam President, we would have completed Phase II which was one of the five other roads to satisfy the requirements of the area:

 

The continuation of the Solomon Hochoy Highway from Golconda to Clarke Road in Penal would have been completed by now.

 

·       Work would have been continuing on the outer section of Clarke Road in Penal via Charlo Village, Murry Trace, St. John Trace, Ackbar Trace, Avocate and unto Berrij Trace St. Mary’s Village Oropuche, and then the road continuing in a southerly direction from St. Mary’s Village through Rousillac Grand Trace and F Block in the Forest Reserve and Springland, Guapo, Pariland straight into Point Fortin

 

We would have had our Highway with a spur road connecting from La Brea to the Highway and a parallel road from Penal Erin.

 

This is the third year that they are repeating the same thing but no plans for implementation, it is clear to all that no matter the promises they will not begin the construction of the highway from San Fernando to Point Fortin during this year,

 

Madam President, they said so but they cannot convert words into deeds. They cannot deliver.

 

It is a simple case, Madam President, that they budgeted this road before and I want to know where de money gone,

 

Year after year they budget for the expansion of the road network from San Fernando to Point Fortin but again where de money gone.

 

Theses are some of the other projects the UNC government would have had in place. We would have awarded contracts in the second year of the national highways programme

 

·       Westmoorings to Chaguaramas

·       Maraval to Maracas

·       Valencia to Manzanilla

·       Cross Crossing to Friendship Village

·       From Williamsville to the Guaracara-Tabaquite Road

·       We would have completed by now roadways from Fen Mohammed to Pari Village. How ever wile design and planning was in progress, we upgraded 2K of roads and reinstated several bridges,

·       Madam President we would have also completed the Naparima -Mayaro Road from St. Clemmens Junction via Palmyra, Mount Stuart, Ire Village and Magretout straight into Princess Town

 

You will recall Madam President, that we initiated the ring road around San Fernando from La Romain to Debe and on to Ursine Ste Madeline.

 

We are pleased, Madam President, that this Administration continued it from Ste Madeline to Princes Town and straight on to St. Jullian utilizing Caroni Taska Roads.

 

New arterial roads for the benefit of our citizens. Madam President, in addition to that we would have completed by now the road from Point Fortin to Cedros

 

While the PNM is still struggling to get it done Madam President,

 

Madame President, the UNC recognized the importance of vending and street vendors, the contribution that they make to the nation’s economy.

 

Street vendors are not dependant on NEDCO or any of the government’s social programmes. Madam President, they are ordinary people who make an extraordinary effort to be independent.

 

These are honest hard working people Madam President, with the assistance of their children, from early hours in the morning to enable them to eek out a living on the street of Trinidad and Tobago.

 

What the Government must do is implement the street trading act that was promulgated by the UNC.

 

This would enable the government to designate on pre-determined days, times and specific locations in high traffic areas in Towns and Cities throughout Trinidad and Tobago, so that Vendors and vending will be done in a safe and sanitary manner.

 

Where citizens of Trinidad and Tobago will benefit from greater convenience.

 

Each market could develop its own Culture, its own strong point, some will become known for its culinary arts

 

Madam President you know every cook in Trinidad and Tobago have a sweet hand so that one will become famous for food,

 

·       One will become famous for handicraft,

·       One will become famous for clothes

·       One might become famous for building materials

·       Pots and pans

 

My point is Madam President, that they will be able to come out and market their produce with a degree of security and social comfort, instead of being harassed.

 

They will be able to care of themselves, their families and be an asset to their communities.

 

Madame President for this country to move forward and become strong we cannot have one week citizen.

 

·       Government should engage its policy apparatus, to empower all our citizens, to maximize their legitimate potentials

·       By becoming more flexible, more adaptable and more sensitive to their needs

·       And assisting them in taking care of themselves

 

So as a society we can constantly pursue and enhance the quality of life

 

During our tenure Madam President, we even considered closing the bus route at month-end. From Friday or Saturday evening to 6pm on Sundays, 24 hours of vending on the entire bus route.

 

Where Madam President, we would encourage vendors to participate from all over the country, instead of discouraging them by breaking down their stalls and running them.

 

Madam President, we would now have provided a place for them.

 

The key Madam President is that we must find a way to enable vendors to co function with other entrepreneurs in a manner that both could make a living.

 

Madam President, many of the storeowners in San Fernando and other parts of Trinidad and Tobago started off as street vendors.

 

Many of the top fashion houses started out with paticking around the country.

 

And we want to establish as a matter of national policy, Madam President, we want to encourage not discourage them, help them to become the best that they can be.    

 

Madam President I would now like to deal with the foolishness that I hear the minister of works talking about.

 

Now, he talking about railways! Like he forget it was the PNM.

 

Their stupidity has been immortalized in our folk culture,

 

Remember the 1967 calypso “Last train to San Fernando”?

 

Madam President they coming now like if they have a bright idea to tell us a light rail is the answer we had a heavy gauge railway

 

We had a railway that could take a real train a real train to San Fernando

 

They mash up the train and now they telling us about a light rail you ever hear such foolishness

 

Madam President they behaving like a man who cut of your leg then give you a pair of crotches and expect you to say thanks

 

That is the kind of people we are dealing with thieves and vagabonds.

 

 

PIARCO AIRPORT

 

 

MINISTRY OF TRANSPOPRT

 

When I took the reins of the Ministry of Transport, Madame President, I found that post independence, nothing effective had been done to bring the aviation sector into international compliance.

 

The local aviation legislation, Madame President, a pre-colonial Application of Order Act of 1952, was the only aviation law in effect, until the Civil Aviation Authority Act 2000 was proclaimed.

 

Madame President, after hasty attempt to revamp the pre-colonial civil aviation regulations, The Civil Aviation Order 1995 proved totally inadequate and failed international scrutiny both from the USFAA and ICAO.

 

Madame President, only under my tenure, did the Ministry make the effort to overhaul the civil aviation law and regulations seriously.

 

Madame President, this resulted in the Civil Aviation Act 2001 (Act No. 11 of 2001) and the Trinidad and Tobago Civil Aviation Regulations 2004.

 

In the past, the administration of Civil Aviation Madame President had been left to the Air Traffic Controller personnel through the Public Service.

 

Madame President, technical personnel were imported from the UK at great cost to the country (and the operators!!!).

 

Madame President, a situation unacceptable to an international civil aviation community in a dynamic and responsive industry.

 

Only until the (UNC) term Madame President, was a proper transformation to an independent Civil Aviation Authority, fully staffed by trained and experienced local technical personnel implemented.

 

Madame President, the collection of user fees in the 750 thousand square mile, Piarco Flight Information Region were historically set and collected by a private company owned by the users, the airlines: IACL.

 

This firm collected and spent public funds with absolutely no control from or accountability to the government, Madame President, 

 

Only under the UNC was the process put in train to address this improper anomaly.

 

Prior to leaving office, the UNC government was about to produce a comprehensive Aviation Policy, which would give guidance to and pull together all the diverse aviation stakeholders, Madame President,

 

This would have ensured that various endeavours such as the Airbridge, Airports Improvement (Crown Point and Piarco),

·       USFAA IASA Category I,

·       Commercial Regulation,

·       Safety Regulation,

·       Passenger Facilitation,

·       Aviation Security,

·       Regional Air Carrier,

·       And support for local Air Carriers etc. etc. would advance in a properly co-ordinated way.

 

Madame President, a national aviation policy, dovetailing with regional transport policies, is crucial for the orderly growth and development of the local aviation sector.

 

Most of the above has ground to a grinding halt since the new Government took over, Madame President.

 

With no strong policy framework emanating out of the executive, aviation has become, once again, an un-coordinated “hotch-podge” of vacillation and indecision, careening from one crisis to another:

 

·       Runway Paving Project disasters;

·       Ramp Safety disasters;

·       USFAA IASA Cat. I continuous postponement of the compliance deadline;

·       ATC Radar disasters;

·       ATC communication equipment disasters;

·       Regional Carrier stuck;

·       Airbridge in a mess;

·       Fully qualified local pilots out of work while foreign crews operate on the Airbridge and at Bristow Helicopters.

 

HEALTH

 

Now, Madame President, let us take a brief look at our health sector.

 

The nation’s health system is vitally important to all of us.  

As a result large amount of funds are allocated to health for the provision of adequate health services.

 

While the funds continue to be allocated and utilized, the proposed health sector benefits are not accruing to the nation, Madame President,

 

What we have is a health sector is characterized by:

 

Poor hospital facilities

 

San Fernando General hospital appears to be hardly functioning.

 

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The same can be said about the Port of Spain General Hospital.

 

Madame President, there is constant friction between the Minister of Health and the medical fraternity, this is not a recipe for motivating the doctors to perform with the excellence required by our citizens.

 

Madame President, the RHA’s are operating as if they were independent ministries of health.  This is inconsistent with the principles under which they are expected to function.  

 

These guidelines are outlined in the Health Sector Reform Programme, which is jointly financed, by the Government and the International America Development Bank (IADB) 

 

Madame President, I would like to draw attention to the fact that in July of 1996, the Government signed this loan agreement.

 

This loan agreement was for the sum of US$134 million, with the government contributing US$ 58 Million, the total programme costing US$ 192 million, Madame President.

 

The programme was for 7 years.   It was supposed to be fully implemented by 2003.

 

Madame President, the objective of the programme as developed by the government in conjunction with the IADB is as follows:

 

To enable the government of the Trinidad and Tobago to improve the health status of its population by promoting wellness and providing affordable health care in an efficient and an equitable manner.

 

Madame President, to realize this goal for the Health Sector the government must agree to the pursuit of the following key objectives:

 

·       Strengthening the policy making, planning and management capacity of the health sector;

 

·       Separating the provision of services from financing and regulatory responsibilities

 

·       Shifting public expenditures and influencing redirection of private expenditures to high priority problems and cost effective solutions

 

·       Establishing new administrative and employment structure which encourage accountability, increased autonomy and appropriate incentives to improve productivity and efficiency

 

Madame President, This programme also anticipates providing additional benefits to those in our society who are less fortunate.

 

Madame President, this will have a significant impact on low income groups” and as we all know there are many amongst us who have low incomes.  

 

Madame President, some have no incomes at all!

 

Madame President, despite of our current national affluence

 

Those with low or zero income often receive insufficient or unsatisfactory services. They have no alternative to publicly provided care.

 

Given the current state of the health sector it is clear that the objectives of the Reform Programme have not been attained.

 

But, Madame President, most of the money allocated, has been spent! This is not surprising for already we know of the massive cost overrun associated with the Scarborough General Hospital.

 

Provisions were made in the Health Sector Reform Programme for the construction and in several cases the upgrade of some existing health facilities.

 

The planned reform of the Health Sector was efficiently and effectively managed during the UNC’s term of office.

 

I must add, Madame President, that the ambulance service is another area of social security that is in serious problems and requires urgent attention.

 

Madame President, the current response times for ambulance calls is between 25-30mins per call.

 

The actual objective should be less than 10 minuets, Madame President.

 

Even though 40 new ambulances have been handed over, Madame President, only 10-15 operate daily and 8 new ambulances are already out of service due to mechanical problems, the rest do not have enough stocks to put them into operation

 

Current members of staff are resigning at a rate of 3-5 EMT's per month, this also contributing to a lack of ambulances in operation, Madame President.

 

Most of the EMT's licenses to practice have expired as well as those of the Emergency Medical Dispatchers

 

Madame President, currently no base exists in the San Fernando. The units and staff are housed in the Couva base contributing to long response times. A unit takes approx. 20mins to reach San Fernando on a Code 1 run.

 

Madame President, other areas without bases Toco, Mayaro, Pt Fortin, St James and Arima.

 

I will support this statement by drawing attention to the following

 

NOTE: You now select and refer to the information in the Health Appendix.

 

 

 

 

FISCAL CAPACITY

 

Madame President, largely on account of the windfall received from the energy sector we have the enhanced fiscal capacity which enables us to be considering a budget of $28 billion.

 

The onus now rests with the government to develop policies and relevant programmes designed to produce a mix of social and economic benefits for all of the nation’s population.  

 

Madame President, it would only be just that the government come up with investment and development plans to in some way return to the land and people part of the fiscal product generated from the exploitation of our non renewable hydrocarbon resources

 

Madame President, has the minister of Finance presented a budget that has the capability of capitalizing on our natural resources?

 

A plan that can develop and implement fiscal policies that are intended to maximize the benefits for our entire nation? Some social justice, Madame President

 

EDUCATION

 

Madame President, the quality of our education is not in keeping with needs of either the population or the demands of the economy.  

 

The current budget presents very little to address the main educational issues facing the nation. What it does, however, is allocate the sum of $3.14 Billion to the Ministry of Education.

 

The problems facing the education sector are numerous.  

 

They include

 

·       A high dropout rate

 

·       Many students completing the five years and not passing even one subject at the O Level

 

·       Guns and drugs in the schools

 

Madame President, in the minimum case scenario the Government needs to place emphasis at the Primary School level

 

·       By maintaining the UNC’s policy of universal education for all.

·       By building more schools

·       By focusing on pedagogic reform

·       By making provisions to motivate the teacher population to continue pursuing academic excellence.

 

Madame President, the Minister has announced the revamping of the entire education system to deliver total quality education, universal access to Pre School by 2010 and plans to build 43 early childhood care centres.

 

These announcements constitute a clear acknowledgement that the Minister has failed to deliver the projects contained in the agreement between the World Bank and the Government.

 

Madame President, I refer to the Fourth Basic Education Programme which is jointly agreed to by the World Bank and the Government, agreement that was signed in March of 1996.

 

The cost of the programme is $US121 million of which the loan portion is $US 51 million or 42% of the total.   The remainder $US70 million represents counterpart funding on the part of the government.  

 

Madame President, This programme should have been fully implemented by 2002.

 

Madame President, While in government the UNC made financial provisions in Budget 2002 for the demands of this necessary programme.  

 

This PNM government has spent the money, however the planned results have not yet been delivered

 

 

Madame President, what happened to the money!?

 

Madame President, in the year 2000 the UNC was building early child hood centres at a cost of 250 thousand dollars per unit,

 

It now appears that this government is planning to construct similar centers, but at the cost of over $1Million each.

 

The Minister assures the population that inflation is less than 4%, Madame President.  If that is the case, how do you account for the almost 300 % increase?

 

During the UNC’s term of office, education was a very high priority item, Madame President.

 

The UNC was aware of the extent of income disparities in our society and was committed to its eradication.

 

We realized that universal access to education was the key to eliminating income disparities and eradicating poverty.

 

To illustrate the UNC’s commitment to universal education Madame President, I will highlight some of our accomplishments:

 

NOTE: You will now use the Education Appendix for the Fourth Basic Education Programme.

 

Madame President, The UNC decided to simultaneously address some of the major problems facing the Secondary school system.

 

We got rid of the dreaded and academically counter productive Common Entrance Examination.

 

In addition to our efforts at the primary level we decided to make secondary school universally available.

 

Madame President, our policy was that there would be a place for every student eligible to attend Secondary School.

 

We successfully negotiated a loan with the IABD. In 1999 we signed the Secondary Education Modernization Programme.

 

Madame President, The objective which we articulated for this initiative was “to support the Ministry of Education to initiate a deep institutional and pedagogic reform of the secondary sector”. Thereby enabling the Government to:      

 

§       Universalize five years of equitable, high-quality secondary education 

§       Ensure that all students master essential skills and knowledge in core subjects

§       Transform educational content to meet the needs of a modern skills based economy

             

Madame President, in pursuit of these objectives priority was given to the construction of ten secondary schools. 

 

The schools were:

 

NOTE: You have the appendix with all the data on the secondary school construction. Go for it

 

Tangible UNC results, Madame President.

 

AGRICULTURE

 

Madame President, I turn to the critical area of agriculture which contributes about 3% of our GDP.  

 

It is labour intensive and for every element of the food basket produced locally, it means less foreign exchange expenditure. Madame President

 

Caroni 1975 or I should say the late Caroni 1975 once provided employment for approximately 9,000 workers.

 

Madame President. This uncaring, short sighted, bigoted government saw it fit to shut down the company, leaving 9,000 workers unemployed.

 

Madame President, in addition they left the physical assets of the company unattended thereby encouraging the massive looting of the company’s property.

 

The current CEO of Caroni 1975 said that the ”theft of a few million dollars of property is less than significant”.

 

Madame President, is this official still employed at the Divestment Secretariat?

 

The ability to feed ourselves as a nation should be a priority in this government’s policy agenda.

 

Madame President, that is if it had a coherent policy agenda. Which it clearly has not?

 

Madame President, as a nation we have the land base.

 

Let it be clearly understood by this government that agriculture will never evolve as a viable industry unless the lands of Caroni 1975 are rationally integrated into agricultural production.

 

Madame President, the PNM government should be fore warned, that plans which they may have to distribute Caroni Lands to their financiers and other party loyalists will be met with the full wrought of this nation’s population.

 

Not an acre of prime agricultural land owned byCaroni must be taken out of agricultural production!

 

Madame President, we definitely have the required capital, either public or private.

 

We have the entrepreneurial skills.

 

Madame President, we need to develop the component.

 

In order to do this, however the farmer will have to compete for workers in the labor market with CEPEP and the other entire counter productive CEPEP like projects, that this irresponsible government has created. Madame President.

 

A common characteristic of the many CEPEP like projects launched by this government is that they add no revenue, at the end of the day.

 

Madame President, the CEPEP wage almost becomes the floor price for labor. In other words for a farmer to attract skilled or semi-skilled workers he may have to match the CEPEP price. 

 

Madame President, in such a circumstance the cost of production for locally grown commodities may render them uncompetitive on the local market entrenching our position as a net importer of food.

 

Transforming our nation from a producer to a dependant importer.

 

Madame President, it is a proven fact that agricultural production is essential to the nation’s food sovereignty.

As such it has to be encouraged.

 

Madame President, here are some fundamental issues which must be addressed in order to promote a productive and economically viable agriculture industry.

 

ADMINISTRATIVE

 

Farmers need ready access to affordable capital for agricultural production.   Loans have to be made available at concessional rates.

 

In order to assist the farmer in surviving the risk of loss of his crop due to unexpected acts of nature, farmers must be provided with crop insurance,

 

Madame President, There are several proven systems for providing crop insurance.

 

Predial larceny is a major deterrent to profitable agricultural production.  

 

Madame President, There are existing laws to deal with this problem.   However, like every thing else these laws need to be effectively enforced.  

 

INCOME SUPPORT

 

A farmer’s income is affected by factors over which he has no control, these include loss of income due to crop failure, natural disasters and often due to over supply on the market.

 

Madame President, the Nation has the fiscal capacity to support a programme of a guaranteed minimum annual   income for all registered farmers.  

 

PHYSICAL INFRASTRUCTURE

 

Madame President, we have the land that can be readily put into production.   The state must make potentially productive land available to the farming community.  

 

The land most suitable for production is within the 77000 acres owned by Caroni 1975 Ltd.  

 

Madame President, agriculture, on a national scale is not viable without access to Caroni lands for agricultural production.

 

Tourism

 

Madame President, the tourism potential of Trinidad and Tobago has again been ignored.

 

In a budget of 28 billion less than 1% is invested in one of the nation’s only renewable resources.

 

Madame President, tourism has the proven potential for the creation of sustainable jobs. Careers in hospitality and tourism have certainly become first choice for many of our youth. The UNC saw this as an opportunity to stimulate the participation of the youth of our country in non-traditional careers.

 

In the sector the industry with the greatest potential and proven capacity to be a generator of fresh money and new jobs is most certainly yachting, which is primarily located at Chaguaramas, Madame President.

 

 

The yatching Industry

 

Madame President, in the first UNC period, the Trinidad and Tobago yacht services industry was virtually non-existent. 

 

A few hundred yachts included Trinidad on their Caribbean cruising itinerary mainly to experience the Carnival festivities. 

 

Madame President, in 1990, it was estimated that the number of yacht days spent in Trinidad and Tobago stood at just less than 4000. 

 

Madame President, in 2000, this figure had risen to approximately 345,000 yacht days, a massive increase of some 8500 per cent.

 

Under the UNC government, the yachting industry achieved it moment of greatest acceleration of growth. The growth of private sector investment gave birth to, new operators, new jobs and services in the Chaguaramas Peninsula.

 

Investment in the yacht service industry stands at approximately TT$160 million, figure that has had no significant change in the last two years, Madam President,

 

Madam President, the gross inflows of hard currency for Trinidad and Tobago from visiting yachts amounts to some TT$125 – 140 million per annum.

 

The average 40ft yacht spends a minimum of TT$120,000 annually on repairs and upgrades, Madam President. 

 

A recent survey indicated that 27% of the yachtsmen polled spent 10-30% of their annual budget in Trinidad.

 

Madam President, the expenditure of yachts this size is miniscule in comparison to that of larger motor and super yachts that have annual budgets in excess of TT$300,000 per vessel, for maintenance with a complete refit running into over one million TT dollars. 

 

Besides repairs, yachting tourists also spend money on many other services such as entertainment, tours, and restaurants and for living expenses such as groceries and marina fees, Madam President.

 

According to the previously mentioned survey, Madam President, 45% of visiting cruisers spend US$100-$300 per week on such expenses, 32% spend US$301-700/week and 16% spend over US$700/week.

 

Direct full-time employment at the end of 2000 stood at over 1,200 persons (indirect employment increases this figure substantially).  Estimates for 2002 of 1,500 persons employed fell short by100 jobs.

 

an attractive destination

 

Madam President, Trinidad and Tobago is located below the parallel 11 and is generally a safe port, out of the way of hurricanes and major tropical storms. This specifically makes Trinidad an ideal place to shelter luxury boats and yachts in the highs of hurricane season.

 

Trinidad offers:

 

·       Geographic concentration and availability of a large quantity of repair services, reasonably good quality of workmanship and high quality of teak available

·       English-speaking

·       Well-developed support telecommunications and banking services

·       Relatively easy access to international destinations via our new airport hub at Piarco.

·       Duty-free exemptions of direct importation of equipment and goods for in-transit yachts

·       Availability and low cost of fresh water

·       Availability of a wide range of both marine-related and ancillary goods and services

·       Wealth of eco-adventure and cultural tourist attractions

·       Availability of consulates and embassies

·       Availability of high quality medical and dentistry services

 

Madame President, at the moment the industry is facing a seriously slowing growth rate

 

In the past few weeks Trinidad has experienced a transitory increase in the number of yacht arrivals, as a direct result of the hurricane destruction in Grenada. 

 

Madam President, this could suggest that the yacht services industry may experience a recovery in the short term. But it should not be viewed as a sustainable long-term recovery.

 

Madame President, we have not yet addressed the factors that contributed to the forty percent decline in yacht arrivals in recent years. Therefore this “hurricane windfall” will disappear once Grenada’s yacht industry is on its feet again. 

 

In 1995 it was estimated that at the current rate of growth, total annual yacht arrivals would increase to 4,000 by the year 2000.  However, the actual figure was only 3,249.

 

This was due to several external factors contributing to this slowdown in yacht arrivals, what continues being of concern are the internal factors that require urgent attention to ensure that the yacht services industry continues to develop. 

 

These include among others:

 

·       Lack of training and escalating labour cost, especially within Chaguaramas.

·       Difficulties faced by foreign entrepreneurs to invest in Chaguaramas.

·       Persistent problems with Immigration and Customs procedures and the inconsistent application of rules and regulations.

·       Problems with the imposition of duties and taxes for yachts in transit and the difficulties experienced by foreign yachts to use the duty and tax-free concessions.

·       Lack of suitable waterfront space for further development. Lack of infrastructure and maintenance in the peninsula.

·       The need for proper environmental management and the need for proper waterway management.

·       Promotion of the industry and the Chaguaramas Peninsula as a sailing destination.

·       And above all problems with crime.

 

The creation and financing of a training institute at which individuals could receive certification in maritime trades, is urgently required.

 

The industry is desirous of attracting foreign investment, entrepreneurs and expertise in certain areas to enhance the developing industry. 

 

It is extremely difficult for Trinidad to attract such expertise and to compete with other yachting centres in the Caribbean in the current situation, where entrepreneurs are only granted relatively short-term work permits.

 

Madam President, special work permit visas could be issued, limiting the individual’s area of activity to the Chaguaramas Peninsula

 

Giving these foreign entrepreneurs sufficient time to develop, operate and benefit from their local investments.

 

Madam President, while both the Customs and Immigration agencies have been supportive in trying to serve the yachting industry within their own legal frameworks. 

 

However, Madam President, Trinidad and Tobago’s Customs and Immigration procedures do not cater for yachts/crews. 

 

As the first point of contact for visiting yachtsmen, it is imperative that these procedures be streamlined and that officers are trained to understand the nuances of the yachting industry. 

 

Madam President, while Customs has adopted a single entrance/clearance form, Immigration has thus far been unable to accommodate what would be an effective enhancement for the industry.

 

Parliament, Madam President, Customs should pass the single Immigration form and Immigration must clearly establish and adhere to the rules and procedures governing arriving and departing yachts. 

 

These rules must address the following: entrance and clearance formalities (including airport arrivals), crew members signing on/off yachts, collection of parcels from customs, movement of yachts between T&T, overtime charges, pets and quarantine procedures, firearms procedures.

 

·       Duties and Taxes for Yachts in Transit:

 

The present system only allows yachts and chandlers to import goods free of duties and taxes in the name of a specific yacht which creates unnecessary difficulties when conducting a large job.  Additionally, almost no local input is added to the sale of goods.

 

We should allow specific/qualified chandlers to stock goods at duty and vat-free prices for over-the-counter sales to foreign yachts. 

 

Madam President, allowing duty and tax-free over-the-counter sales will make Trinidad more attractive to foreign yachts and allow the industry to compete with other yachting centres in the Caribbean.

 

·       Crime

 

Madame President, with the increase in the number of yachts has come an increase in the levels of crime.

 

In the last two years there has been a marked increase in serious crime against yachting tourists with a lack of police or government response to this issue.

 

Madam President, in June this year two yachting tourists were kidnapped.  Several persons have been mugged on the roadways in Chaguaramas and there have been numerous cases of property theft in the bays.

 

Madam President, we recommend that the organization of a special police force trained to handle tourist, is necessary. Well-trained, equipped with vehicles, new legal instruments and distinctive uniforms.

 

The experience of Tobago is interesting to note, Madam President. Tobago has formed special fast track courts to deal with tourism related crimes. Tourists are here for limited time and can not extend their visas and stay to attend court.

 

Madam President, this means that tourism related crime generally goes unpunished.

 

Another security related problem is the Coast Guard’s lack of response when hailed in emergency Madam President.

 

The North Post is soon to be dismantled; this is of great concern Madam President, as in the past many lives at sea have been saved via this facility.

 

Madam President, what alternatives does the Government have in mind?

 

The boatyards already provide security within their compounds.  Crime can be reduced if a harbour patrol is introduced, Madam President.

 

Failing that, the Coast Guard could make regular visible patrols in a small boat amongst the yachts at anchor to discourage theft of dinghies.

 

Madam President, I suggested that the CDA instigate regular and random road checks at the gateway to Chaguaramas.

 

Waterfront Space:

 

Madam President, a study conducted by the Institute of Marine Affairs in 1996 and 1997 in Chaguaramas Bay and Welcome Bay found that “yachts were apparently not a source of sewage pollution.

 

The Pearson Correlation Test revealed that there was no significant relationship between yacht number and fecal coliform levels at both bays, Madam President.

 

Further investments in the yacht services industry are closely tied to the availability of waterfront space, which thus far has been a problem.

 

The Government and the CDA must give the yacht services industry the recognition it deserves and seek to encourage its growth through consultation with the stakeholders and the provision of suitable waterfront property where possible.

 

The use of water frontage for military activities is a waste of potentially valuable revenue generators. While the military presence is necessary for security in the area, it could be concentrating at Staubles Bay. This would free-up Tentron Bay and the heliport sea frontage.

 

·       Infrastructure: 

 

During the UNC government there were marked improvements in the electricity, telephone services and the Golf Course in the Chaguaramas Peninsula.  Still, several deficiencies persist today, badly maintained minor roads, poor drainage, unreliable water supply and a poor sewage system. These Infrastructural deficiencies need to be urgently addressed by the relevant authorities.

 

·       Oil Spills

 

Almost weekly we have occurrence of diesel and oil spills in the waters of Chaguaramas Bay, resulting in pollution of the waters, coastline and costly damage to the yachts anchored in our bays.

 

The response from the relevant agencies is slow and extremely disappointing.

 

The national oil response strategy and subsequent penalties for such pollution require revision to ensure that the country’s environmental treasures are safeguarded. 

 

 

 

·       Waterway management

 

The lack of proper waterway management in Chaguaramas Bay that allows dangerous operating practices by commercial and fishing vessels.

 

Speeding and indiscriminate anchoring, have caused security problems, a boy of 8 was nearly killed in an accident in Chaguaramas Bay. Madame President,

 

Owing to the diverse and intensive marine activity within the confined area of Chaguaramas, for reasons of safety and proper navigation, there is need for a system of management that would provide for safe anchorage of yachts together with defined channels for proper passage. 

 

Madame President, The now overdue Harbours Bill needs to be enacted thereby providing the means for creation of regulations suitable to Chaguaramas Bay. 

 

Madame President, the boundaries for the anchorage area within Chaguaramas Bay need to be finalised.

 

·       Promotion

 

Trinidad is a relatively new destination for cruising and is virtually unknown.  As the industry seeks to broaden its market segments a sustained promotional program is required to ensure that Trinidad becomes known as a worldwide destination for cruisers and super-yachts.

 

Madam President, a budget of TT$ 28 million is a mere pittance when you compare it to the proven capacity that the yachting industry has in producing revenue and jobs.

 

These TT$ 28 million will be spent by TIDCO attending festivals and doing tourism in other countries, Madam President.

 

On January 1, 1997, at 7am, I coordinated a cleanup with voluntary manpower and heavy equipment to reopened long forgotten roads and areas of Chaguaramas, CDA then did an excellent job of maintenance and further development.

 

There was born my interest in the Chaguaramas Peninsula, Madame President, while it was not part of my portfolio, I was prompt to assist in any way possible.

 

Madame President, the restoration of the Western Main Road is an example of this, unfortunately the road has now been totally destroyed by this negligent PNM Government.

 

Madame President, Chaguaramas is the closest we have gotten to be a first world nation, it is sad that so much effort should have gone to waste.

 

Madame President, Chaguaramas should be Trinidad’s flagship to the world, a centre for tourism, sailing, ecotourism and leisure.

 

A first world showplace for our food, hospitality and arts. Servicing both domestic and international recreation, Madam President

 

Madame President, it should be an employment generator in the labour intensive tourism, hospitality, telecommunications and hospitality industries.

 

SOCIAL POLICY

 

Madame President, the nation’s current social and economic circumstances dictate that there is an urgent need for a well-defined social policy.

 

The government needs to develop and propose a social policy with clearly stated objectives.   

 

At the macro level, the policy should identify what it is designed to accomplish, what will be the cost of the given social programmes, who will benefit from the proposed programmes.  

 

Madame President, there must also be a clear statement of what are the eligibility criteria for benefits.

 

Madame President, this must be made explicit in order that all eligible parties can successfully qualify.  

 

In the absence of a clear understanding of how to qualify for benefits it could lead to adhoc decisions on the part of those with the responsibility for delivering the programme benefits.

 

Madame President, Old Age benefits should be revised.  

 

They have to be made available to all eligible citizens who attain the age of 65 years.   As it now stands if you own a little house or have some fixed asset you are not eligible for benefits.  

 

Madame President, this clearly is a form of economic discrimination.  

 

In other words because you were thrifty, worked hard, paid more than your fair share of taxes, saved for your retirement this government will deny you, your Old Age Benefits. Madame President.

 

While the individual who is age 65 but has no fixed assets receives full Old Age Benefits.  

 

Madame President, this must be inequitable.  

 

Madame President, it is unfair in our given circumstances where we have windfall revenue from the high price of oil and natural gas.  

 

Madame President, according to the Minister we are all entitled to an equal share.  

 

When you are over 65 you need your share, you need it now! Madame President.

 

Income Supplement

 

More than 20% of our nation’s population are low or zero income earners.  

 

Madame President, these citizens who are economically challenged should be eligible for some kind of income support.  There are numerous ways in which this can be accomplished.  

 

This PNM government is insensitive to the needs of the nation’s poor. However, they are quite busy at creating ways to satisfy the wants of their own at the expense of every taxpayer.

 

 

National Pension Plan

 

Trinidad and Tobago needs to have a National Pension Plan. A plan in which every citizen should be eligible to make contributions from the first day of work.  

 

A plan built on compulsory employer/employee contributions.   This way every citizen will be guaranteed a minimum income upon retirement. Madame President.

 

There are numerous national pension plans to use as a model for instance the Canada Pension Plan is very well considered.

 

Madame President, instead of presenting a visionary social policy in this budget, the Minister talks about some mysterious 26 new programmes conceived for the widening of the social safety net.  

 

As usual the Minister is vague about these magic programmes.  

 

Madame President, just imagine 26 independent sectors of government administering a part of the social safety net.

 

This government has no idea of what planning is.   Be it long term, mid term or short term, Madame President.

 

As a matter of fact, it appears that the government’s concept of the long term is yesterday.  

 

They seem determined to over consume at every opportunity and in the process make zero provision for tomorrow.  

 

Madame President, there is an expression with which I am sure we are all familiar.   Trust week.

 

In case you do not know Madame President, trust week is the second week of the pay fortnight.   In that week the individual’s family depends on the village shopkeeper for credit without which the family may be unable to survive.  

 

Well that is how this inept, incompetent, corrupt PNM administration likes to govern.                                     Madame President government without vision or strategy!

 

PUBLIC SECTOR

 

Madame President, with regard to reform of the Public Sector we are in agreement with the Minister when he says “An efficient and effective public sector is an important element of good governance.”

 

This however is not the first time that a PNM driven government has made loud pronouncements regarding reform of the public service, Madame President. It was one of the major promises made by the Manning administration in 1991-1995. 

 

The question of public sector reform however, has not advanced. It is still in the “talking about it phase.” Madame President.

 

The Minister makes frequent references to operating the public service in an efficient and effective manner.  

 

Madame President, the Minister also frequently reminds this honorable house and the public at large that this government is both transparent and accountable to the public for its use of every tax dollar spent.   

 

Madame President, nothing can be further from the truth.  

 

To date this government has made no systems effort to demonstrate accountability or transparency in its fiscal conduct.

 

A basic pre requisite to public sector reform is ACCOUNTABILITY, Madame President.

 

That is to say that every individual or group of individuals who are entrusted with the use of TAX PAYERS resources must be held accountable for how the resources are employed.  

 

Further Madame President, they must be made to account within the time frame of the existing fiscal period.

 

Accountability delayed is accountability denied.

 

The system of accountability must be such that it enables the auditor to conduct both a managerial audit and a financial audit.  

 

Let me explain, Madame President, the financial accounting system will show how many sacks of cement were purchased for the Scarborough General Hospital.

 

Madame President, the management audit component of the system will show beyond any reasonable doubt whether the cement went to the Scarborough General Hospital or to some other place. It would expose the details of the cost overruns.  

 

Surely such a system will have the capability of making it explicitly clear what happened to the materiel intended for use in the Scarborough General Hospital.  

 

Madame President, this would provide an objective response to the public question which is being asked it both Trinidad and Tobago, “where the cement went!?”

 

Madame President, accountability is a key part of the reformation process.

 

Efficiency

 

Madame President, what does the Minister mean when he frequently, very frequently speaks about making the public sector more efficient.  

 

What do you mean Minister?

 

Since he speaks about improved efficiency so frequently he must be aware that in order to calculate the efficiency of any operation there must be a clear definition of the out put that the operation is authorized to produce.  

 

Madame President, I should add legitimate output and legitimately authorized.  

 

What did the Prime Minister mean when, in another debate, he claimed that he wanted to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Police Service?

 

Madame President, is he admitting that our police service is less than effective, less than efficient?

 

Madame President, if he is saying, yes. Then he must have an analytic basis for making this statement and a clear plan for reversing the situation.

 

Hence, prior to making any attempts to improve the efficiency of the public service there must be a clear delineation of what every arm of the public service is intended to produce.

 

Madame President, this is a challenge! But a surmountable challenge.

 

Madame President, the UNC had conducted the preparatory research and was going to initiate such an undertaking well within our second term.

 

 

As a matter of fact the UNC had conducted a limited pilot project, Madame President.

 

This was done under the auspices of an Inter Ministerial Committee approved by Cabinet and chaired by the then Prime Minister the Honorable Basdeo Panday.

 

Madame President, the focus of this committee was to make tactical interventions geared to improve on the rate of implementation of the externally funded priority Projects and key projects in the PSIP.  

 

Madame President, I had the privilege to be a standing member of that committee.   We were pleased with what we learned and so was the international lending community.  

 

Effectiveness

 

Although the Minister has referred to effectiveness on numerous occasions in his budget presentation he has never really spelt out what is implied by effectiveness.

 

Madame President, I hope it not just another buzzword for the minister.

 

Briefly Madame President, a measure of programme effectiveness is a measure if the extent to which the government is achieving the objectives of a particular programme.  

 

However, in order to measure effectiveness or claim to be effective, the government must state, with clarity, what is the legitimate objective it is attempting to attain with our TAX PAYERS’ RESOURCES.       

 

One thing is clear, Madame President, there is not an instance in this budget or for that matter elsewhere that this government has stated unambiguously, what it intends to accomplish.  

 

Madame President, equally important, is how will the nation know that the mission has been accomplished?

 

A wonderful example of this is the very ambiguous nature of what the government means by its fantasy, “Vision 2020”

 

The government speaks of Vision 2020 as if it was approved policy, Madame President, but to the best of my knowledge this fantasy document has not been approved by Parliament.

 

Madame President, Hence, it may be a PNM document. 

 

Research conducted by the UNC indicates that there are several well-suited management system that may be readily adapted to assist in any planned reform of our public service.

 

One of the management systems is the Planning Programming And Budgeting System, PPBS.   This system was and still is used with considerable public sector success in both the USA and Canada.  

 

The minister claims that public sector reform programme will result in improved efficiency and effectiveness; this is not the first time that this claim is being made by the PNM.

 

Madame President, I wish to assure the members of this honorable house that there is not a chance that any of these public sector reform objectives will be attained under this or any PNM government. The reason is simple!

 

Madame President, they are incompetent, corrupt, uncaring and above all incapable of delivering any legal programme out puts.  

 

For these reasons they will never design and implement any system of public sector management that is based on the fine principles of probity, prudence, due diligence, efficiency and effectiveness.

 

Madame President, such a system will have the capacity of demonstrating beyond any reasonable doubt the total incompetence of this misguided government.

 

 

Minister you have the rest of this fiscal year to prove me wrong…

 

All you have to do is develop and have implemented a system of accountability in any one Ministry. One Ministry!

 

Madame President, Public Sector Reform under the PNM is definitely not an option

 

Working Poor

 

Our society is constantly undergoing change, some of the changes are positive others not quite so.  

 

Madame President, the family unit has undergone dramatic change.   The extended family home is not as prevalent as it was say 20 years, ago.  

 

Madame President, individuals are required to commute further distances to seek employment.  

 

When a job is secured the then “lucky” person must travel that distance on a daily basis.  

 

For instance, Madame President, there are few employment opportunities in Cedros.  

 

So an individual seeking employment may find a job in Point Fortin.  

 

My understanding is it costs about $10 dollars to travel by taxi from Cedros to Point. That is $20 per day.  

 

Madame President, I am aware of several individuals who travel from Rio Claro to Port of Spain on a daily basis.  

 

It is not uncommon for someone living in Maloney to have to leave home at about 5am in order to begin work at 7 am.  

 

Madame President, the process is repeated at the end of the workday, the time spent traveling back to Maloney could be another 2 hours.

 

There is a significant cost associated with working, Madame President,  

The true cost is more than the financial cost. The most significant component of the cost is the social opportunity cost.  

 

Madame President, that is a fancy way of saying loss of quality time with family, in particular children of impressionable ages, loss of time for personal activities.  

 

At the same time the price for most goods and services is constantly rising.  

 

Madame President, according to the Minister inflation, that is the measurement of the increase in the price of a mix of goods over the comparable period a year ago, is less than 4%.  

 

But what is the real impact?

 

The price for a house is now such that the majority of working families cannot afford to own a home.   Mortgage or no mortgage Madame President.   Most household appliances are now more expensive than a year, ago.  

 

Maxi Taxi prices are higher; all forms of transportation prices are higher.   Of course you will remember Madame President, that in the budget of 2004 this Honorable Minister increased the price of gasoline.  

 

Madame President, that action alone has had a ripple effect on prices.  

 

The doubles man now has to pay more for gas.   He has no choice but to raise the price of doubles.

 

Madame President, I am sure the mauby vendor raised the price too.

 

For the same reason the prices of fresh fruit and vegetable are higher this year.  

 

The overall cost of living is much higher.   Wages have not kept pace with price increases.

 

This wage price disparity is affecting different sectors of the economy differently.  

 

Madame President, this price income discrepancy is creating a reasonably new, (to Trinidad and Tobago), sociological problem.

 

I believe we now have a cluster of wage earners who are economically impoverished.  

 

That is they are working full time year round but due to no fault of their own they are poor.  

 

By poor Madame President, I mean their net disposable income after all deductions is less than their minimum fixed monthly expenditures.   

 

In other words they “cannot make ends meet”, Madame President.

 

In several instances they are unable to afford the Maxi taxi fare to go to work.   Sometimes when they pay the maxi taxi fare they cannot buy lunch.  

 

Madame President, this is a relatively new phenomenon in our society.  

 

We now have a social group, which may be referred to as the working poor.  

 

They are in urgent need of the attention of the state.

 

However, Madame President, this group has not been recognized by “vision 2020”.

 

This human group, the Working Poor, is made up of several sub groups, Madame President.  

 

There are those who are in this category temporarily.  

 

Madame President, these are, those who are now entering the labor force.  

 

They have scope for upward mobility in the firm.  

 

They have the option of alternative employment.

 

Madame President, on the opposite end there are retirees, who find that their pension income cannot provide the basics.

 

As a result they are forced to seek employment in the informal economy or otherwise. 

 

Yet, in spite of this many a pensioner can hardly make ends meet.

 

Madame President, often, a pensioner will have to choose between paying light bill and buying food!

 

Sometimes Madame President, between paying WASA, whether they obtain water or not and medication.  

 

The cost of survival to this group is immense.   

 

Madame President, it includes the fact that they cannot afford basics and must often go without.

 

The other cost component is measured in the loss of their human dignity.

 

Madame President, this is unacceptable!

 

The most desperate of this group is the individual who is in a job, has been in the job for some time and sees no option to move.  

 

Madame President, that means trapped between low and zero income.

 

This government in this budget proposal or anywhere else has not addressed the plight of the Working Poor.  

 

Yet Madame President, the Minister is seeking the approval of this honorable house for the allocation of a  $28 Billion for the fiscal year 2004-05.

 

The POOR and the WORKING POOR can no longer be ignored.  

 

Madame President, they are entitled to their equal share of the proceeds from our national resources.   

 

Madame President, the solution to this critical problem is not a hamper.  

 

It is not a CEPEP wok!

 

It is not a 10 days.  

 

It is not a soup kitchen.

 

Madame President, this emerging issue must be addressed with some urgency.  

 

There are solutions, however it is the responsibility of the Minister to seek and implement a socially viable solution.  

 

Madame President, let there be no doubt the UNC has given this issue considerable consideration and is willing to come to the rescue of this incompetent, uncaring and corrupt government.   (Addressing across the isle, pointing)

 

All you need to do Minister is ask, ask boy.

 

We who believe in National unity will willingly come to your aid. Just ask!

 

Madame President, the solution must be based on the sound principles of fairness but above all the solution must recognize the human dignity of the WORKING POOR.

 

We can no longer ignore the need for Social Justice.

 

Madame President, we must purse a social policy direction that points towards the attainment of a Just Society.

 

Madame President, $28 billion is a large sum for a country of our size. Yet, with all our resources and the aspiration of the Government for us to become a developed nation by the year 2020, our country is not a truly happy place. We are beset by problems in all the services provided by the Government. We see huge sums of money being spent of should I say wasted, with no sense of accountability.

 

We live in fear, in an atmosphere of unabated, escalating crime. We continue to encounter policies which divide our nation. We still have unequal distribution of the fruits of our resources.

 

In short, Madame President, we are a nation in crisis. The time has come for our nation to make the changes necessary to take us forward so that from these dark days we could see the light, again so that we can move forward as one nation under God. Where equality and respect for one another define us as a model in the family of nations.

Failing to recognize their imperatives and address the legitimate needs of our people could be the cinder that will ignite an unstoppable SOCIAL REVOLUTION.