Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present the National Budget
for the fiscal year 2005-2006.
Before proceeding, however, I must thank all those who
participated in the pre-Budget activities. I especially
want to express my gratitude to the private sector and
civil society groups for sharing their perspectives and
recommendations on so many issues; and my Cabinet colleagues
and other members of the Government for their work in
shaping the strategies and programmes that form the core
of the Budget. I also salute those public officers who
continue to demonstrate the highest levels of professionalism
and dedication in preparing all the documents laid before
this Honourable House today.
Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding our immediate challenges,
we approach a new financial year with a great sense of
optimism in the future of Trinidad and Tobago. In recent
times, we have had the deep satisfaction of seeing this
country evolve to become a global leader in the gas and
petrochemical markets; the centre for financial services,
business and manufacturing in the Caribbean; a preferred
destination for investment in the Western Hemisphere;
and one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America
and the Caribbean.
I am pleased to say, Mr. Speaker, that the journey to
a society to which all citizens can aspire has begun.
The initial phase of planning has been completed. A Draft
National Strategic Plan has been prepared by the Multisectoral
Group, which was given full autonomy in this exercise.
May I take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of
the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago to thank
the members of that Group which was chaired by Mr. Arthur
Lok Jack and all those who contributed to the formulation
of the Draft Plan and participated in the various Vision
2020 exercises undertaken throughout the country. Your
efforts, in spite of the cynicism and lack of faith of
some, demonstrate that you are indeed true sons and daughters
of this blessed Nation.
This Budget continues to strengthen the platform for achieving
the goals of Vision 2020 by responding to those fundamental
needs that we desire and deserve to have fulfilled. It
gives priority to the issues affecting the family as well
as our collective concerns for security and safety, a
relevant education system, quality health care services,
adequate housing and poverty reduction.
Mr. Speaker, achieving Vision 2020 will require a great
deal of introspection on the part of all of us in this
country. As a people, we must re-examine our values and
attitudes. We must develop a greater sense of national
and personal pride, community ownership, environmental
sensitivity, respect, discipline, tolerance, responsibility
and a culture of performance and excellence. If we want
to enjoy a higher quality of life, we must also be prepared
to work harder and be more productive.
This Budget, therefore, zeros in on those basic elements
that will ensure our future prosperity and, ultimately,
our ascension to the standards of the developed world.
But Mr. Speaker, while we work towards this development,
we must continue to deal with the issue of crime and safety
of our citizens.
Mr. Speaker, the escalation of violent crime and anti-social
behaviour constitute the most fundamental threat to the
economic and social development of our country and the
well-being of our people.
Understanding the Problem
Any effective strategy to control crime must be based
on the fullest understanding of the dimensions of the
problem. Trinidad and Tobago and other islands of the
Caribbean are located directly between the major cocaine
producers of South America and the major consumers of
North America and Western Europe. The recent seizure of
nearly six tons of cocaine in our territorial waters has
been described by our international partners in the fight
against drug trafficking as possibly less than 10 percent
of the amount being trans-shipped through our waters.
This illicit trade in drugs has created a criminal elite
with considerable financial resources with which they
corrupt public institutions and officials and recruit
our sons and daughters for all forms of criminal activities.
The proceeds from this trade are also used to finance
the procurement of illegal arms and as a result sophisticated
arsenals end up in the hands of competing gangs which
in turn fuel the murder rate. Over time, other criminal
activities emerge, the most sinister is kidnapping. There
can be no doubt as to the debilitating effect of kidnapping
on the law-abiding majority, the fear and anxiety it creates
and the extent to which it contributes to the perception
that our country is not safe.
Mr. Speaker, the situation is further compounded by criminal
deportations from the United States, the United Kingdom
and Canada. These add significantly to the challenge of
law enforcement by bringing to our country the sophistication
and expertise of the most advanced international criminal
In the face of this, we are experiencing a significant
increase in all forms of anti-social behaviour. The carnage
on the roads which directly leads to a depreciation of
the value of life, the disruption of commercial and social
life, the bomb scares, and the tendency to resort to violence
in settling the most minor dispute are all indicators
of the deteriorating fabric of our society.
Within this context, therefore, crime, although manifested
nationally, is co-ordinated and directed both locally
and internationally. Accordingly, solutions must go beyond
the community and national borders to regional and international
cooperation. The corruption, intimidation and violence,
which go hand-in-hand with organised crime, undermine
law and order and threaten the very essence of democratic
Response of the Government
Mr. Speaker, over the past year, the Government made a
number of strategic interventions that we believe, in
time, will go a long way to address the current crime
wave on a sustainable basis. Some of the more important
* Acquisition of state of the art crime fighting technology.
The package includes:
* an aerial surveillance system outfitted with radar and
* a forward-looking infrared camera;
* twenty-four mobile police units;
* sky watch units;
* a 360 degree radar system which will be available in
the next few days;
* Four armed helicopters;
* Six fast patrol boats; and
* Three Offshore Patrol Vessels.
Tenders for three Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV's) are
to be awarded in the next month; the first two of these
are expected to be delivered in the first quarter of 2007.
We also established the special anti-crime unit, SAUTT
and we have intensified operations of our inter-agency
task force in areas where gang warfare is most prevalent.
* We established an Incident Co-ordination Centre to facilitate
information sharing and more effective response by law
enforcement officers. Several persons from a number of
specialized agencies have been selected to staff the Centre.
* We are conducting frequent Police patrols and random
searches on the nation's highways and within communities.
In November 2005, the Police Service will take possession
of one hundred and forth-nine (149) additional vehicles.
Work on five police stations (in Mayaro, Gasparillo, Belmont,
Tunapuna and Toco) began this month and the project to
rebuild six police stations (Roxborough, St. Joseph, Manzanilla,
Maracas, Old Grange and Matelot) has been transferred
As part of the initiative to transform the Police Service,
we commissioned Professor Stephen Mastrofski whose recommendations
to strengthen the Police Complaints Division are being
Mr. Speaker, prison reform and the rehabilitation of prisoners
need to be part of the fight against crime since it is
critical that the revolving door syndrome of criminality
be arrested. To this end, a Prison Reform and Transformation
Unit has been established. Candidates to staff the unit
have been selected. Cabinet has also approved the acquisition
of a property at Tumpuna Road, Arima, to accommodate the
Prisons Training College. The TT Prison Service has taken
occupancy and training has commenced.
Mr. Speaker, we feel strongly that our fight against crime
must also be integrated with a strategy to provide alternative
opportunities for socialization and training for our youth
to woo them away from deviant behavior. For this reason,
Government is accelerating the implementation of three
Military-Led Specialized Youth Programmes which will provide
training for 1,100 young persons.
(1) Three hundred and sixty (360) young persons will commence
a residential programme of attitudinal and academic training
under the Military-Led Academic Training Programme (MILAT);
(2) Two hundred and forty (240) persons between the ages
of fourteen to twenty-five will commence a residential
programme of skills training in the Military-Led Programme
of Apprenticeship and Reorientation Training (MYPART);
(3) A total of five hundred (500) persons between the
ages of eighteen to thirty years will participate in a
programme designed to render community service throughout
Trinidad and Tobago.
Contracts have been awarded for the refurbishment of the
Mt. St. George Youth Camp, the Mausica College and Vessigny
High School for start-up of the Programmes.
All indicators point to the fact that to manage crime
successfully in Trinidad and Tobago, our law enforcement
agencies require the material support and co-operation
of countries with the experience and technical competence.
With the objective of securing this support and co-operation,
a series of high-level meetings has taken place between
the authorities in the United Kingdom and a team from
Trinidad and Tobago. We are also in touch with the American
Authorities to provide expert assistance to SAUTT. At
a practical level, the Trinidad and Tobago team was able
to observe measures currently utilized by the British
in their fight against crime and terrorism.
An essential component of the reform is the introduction
of state-of-the-art technology and the necessary training
of members of the armed forces and police service.
We are targeting Scotland Yard to establish a Unit in
Trinidad and Tobago that will provide equipment and expertise
to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. The FBI will
be targeted to establish a Unit to assist with the re-organization
of the Service.
Mr. Speaker, natural disasters are now a fact of life.
The tragedy on the US Gulf Coast one year after events
in Grenada reminds us of our increasing vulnerability
to the forces of nature and the importance of preparation
and co-ordination for effective relief efforts. We have
established an Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management,
which is responsible for the development of a Disaster
Management Policy to deal effectively with natural and
Speaker, we are working on a new regime which will involve:
1. a National Building Code and a Nationwide Early Warning
2. a permanent approach to dealing with the aftermath
of a disaster by putting mechanisms in place before hand.
T&TEC has designed a system to increase stand-by power
generation capacity, upgrade Emergency Operation Centres;
and establish back-up communications systems. The emergency
power arrangements would also guarantee a temporary water
The CEPEP manpower resources of approximately 7,000 persons
constitute a potential resource which could be put to
meeting emergencies in the event of a disaster. This is
buttressed by the school feeding programme which has the
capability to prepare 100,000 meals in six hours.