Mr. Speaker, in support of our objectives to promote sustainable
growth and employment and improved welfare for all our
population, the Budget for 2005/2006 underscores a number
of interconnected priorities, including:-
(i) Increased emphasis on personal security, about which
I have already spoken;
(ii) Building strong families;
(iii) Strengthening the education, training and innovation
(iv) investing in quality healthcare by expanding the
availability and strengthening the delivery of health
and wellness services;
(v) providing affordable housing; and
(vi) offering effective social support to the poor and
We will also undertake strategic investments to ensure
* the economy continues to grow through higher productivity
levels and greater local participation in the global value
* our infrastructure base and public services function
* our environment is clean and healthy; and
* Government is made increasingly more efficient and effective.
PRIORITIES FOR FISCAL 2005-2006
Focus on the Family
Mr. Speaker, the family is the basic unit of society:
the main building block. If you can fix the family, you
can fix society.
Mr. Speaker, the ordinary family in Trinidad and Tobago
faces several daily challenges having to do with:
securing sustainable well-paying jobs;
access to quality education at all levels, to efficient
transportation, decent affordable housing as well as to
proper health care and wellness services;
assurance of adequate water and electricity services;
guaranteed safety and security;
access to social services to deal with the impact of drugs,
domestic violence, parenting; and
breakdown in family life.
This Budget, Mr. Speaker, is a reaffirmation of the Government's
commitment to implement a policy framework that:
(i) guarantees access to an adequate level of housing
including related basic facilities and services for all
(ii) creates an integrated security infrastructure which
ensures that issues of crime, public safety and security
are addressed on a sustained basis;
(iii) ensures a modern and relevant education system whilst
promoting a culture conducive to lifelong learning and
(iv) establishes a regime conducive to delivery of high
quality health and wellness services along with mechanisms
for the prevention and control of communicable and lifestyle
(v) assures sustainable high quality jobs and equal opportunities
for all groups in society.
In addition the Budget seeks to make available support
mechanisms for the unemployed and other vulnerable groups
to enable them to meet their basic needs. We also have
a responsibility to instill, in all citizens, national
pride, individual and community responsibility and environmental
The Government is of the strong view that many of our
social ills stem from a loss of traditional values and
from the widespread breakdown of traditional families.
Accordingly, we intend to ensure that a more targeted,
comprehensive and co-ordinated approach is utilized to
treat with issues confronting the family as a unit.
Mr. Speaker, there are some who, in good conscience, think
that all our resources should be directed to policing,
and building more jails and increasing punishment. We
think that we should also direct resources and attention
to the root cause - the breakdown in the family and to
what we can do to rebuild the family and by extension,
We recognize, Mr. Speaker, that the Government alone cannot
provide all the remedies for the problems of dysfunctional
families. We absolutely need the concerted collaboration
of other social partners, especially the NGO's, community-based
organizations, faith-based organizations and the private
In addition to the Ministries concerned with security,
public utilities, education, health and housing, the Ministry
of Social Development and the Ministry of Community Development,
Culture and Gender Affairs will be mandated to give particular
focus to family based programmes.
Mr. Speaker, the Ministry of Social Development is a key
player in the process of strengthening the institution
of the family, having as its mandate social sector planning,
development and monitoring, social research, social impact
and review and social services delivery. In the upcoming
fiscal year, the priority initiatives of the Ministry
(i) the formulation of a national family policy through
a collaborative process;
(ii) the design of infrastructure to identify and case
manage individual families, including counseling and the
decentralization of services;
(iii) the development of community outreach programmes
that would sensitize citizens about services available
to families; and
(iv) a media outreach on rebuilding positive societal
values with particular attention to healthy family life.
The Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender
Affairs also has a critical role to play in the overall
strategy geared to restoring the family. Based on the
tried and tested philosophy that it takes a community
to raise a child, the Ministry focuses on building and
sustaining a stable and secure community context for family
EFFECTIVE EDUCATION, TRAINING AND INNOVATION SYSTEMS
Mr. Speaker, priority number two is education. The success
of our economic and human development strategy will hinge
on the quality of our human resources and our ability
to build an integrated knowledge network that promotes
innovation and entrepreneurship.
Our strategy for human resource development is being guided
by three essential principles:
* Increased Access;
* Improved Equity and Equality of Opportunity; and
* Enhanced Quality.
Pre-Primary to Secondary Education
Mr. Speaker, our education programme is being built on
a platform of:
* a modern and comprehensive curriculum at all levels
that is supported by relevant school plant and state of
the art furniture and equipment;
* enhanced and innovative teaching and learning strategies;
* improved teacher education and training to assist teachers
in curriculum delivery.
Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)
Our goal is to achieve universal Early Childhood Care
Education (ECCE) by 2010. This calls for the construction
of 600 Early Childhood Care Education Centres to cater
for some 30,000 three (3) to four (4) year olds. Fifty
(50) of these centres will be completed and established
during this fiscal year.
In support of this thrust, a high-intensity training programme
is currently being implemented to train some 1,500 Early
Childhood Care Education teachers. At least 100 teachers
will be trained during this fiscal year.
At the primary level, the Government will rebuild some
150 primary schools to replace schools which are up to
50 years old. In fiscal 2006, twenty of these schools,
which cater for approximately 10,000 pupils, will be reconstructed.
At the secondary level, the major initiative is the de-shifting
and conversion of junior secondary schools to 5 and 7
year schools as well as the conversion of Senior Secondary
Comprehensive Schools to 7 year schools. At present, two-thirds
of our secondary school population attend 5 and 7 year
We have already started with the de-shifting and conversion
of 10 junior secondary schools to 5-year schools. This
has benefited approximately 8,000 students. In fiscal
2006, an additional 10 schools - five junior secondary
and five senior secondary - will be de-shifted allowing
an additional 3,200 students to benefit from full day
schooling during this academic year.
When the de-shifting exercise is completed approximately
15,000 students will benefit from full-day schooling.
In terms of our infrastructure development programme,
four new secondary schools will be constructed in Malabar,
Mt. Hope, Barataria and Curepe.
To support the demand for A' Level places, the Government
intends to upgrade and expand facilities at a number of
existing government and assisted secondary schools including
Polytechnic Sixth Form and Corinth Sixth Form Schools;
construct four new 'A' level Colleges and where necessary
purchase 'A' level places at private institutions. Approximately
21,130 students are expected to benefit from sixth form
education through the implementation of these initiatives.
In fiscal 2006, we will also:
* introduce foundation technologies in the curriculum
to cater for secondary school graduates who may wish to
enter the labour market immediately upon leaving school;
* commence Technology Programmes at the sixth form (post-fifth
form level) to cater for students with an aptitude and
interest in this area.
Mr. Speaker, to support our Education Construction Programme,
we have established the Educational Facilities Company
Limited which has already been given 103 projects to be
addressed in the short-term.
Mr. Speaker, at this period in our economic development,
there is great demand for well trained tertiary level
graduates. Hence, the establishment and expedition of
a National Accreditation System is critical for ensuring
that all tertiary level institutions and programmes meet
internationally accepted standards.
Mr. Speaker, we are well on the way to achieving our goal
of a 60 percent participation rate at the tertiary level
The University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) has been accelerating
its development thrust and has made significant progress
this fiscal year.
Over the past year, UTT has:
* established strategic alliances with several international
* developed a broad range of engineering and IT diploma
and degree programmes;
* commenced a transitional studies programme with COSTAATT;
* built strong linkages with industry, especially with
the major corporations within the petroleum and petro-chemical
* integrated and enhanced the programmes of the John Donaldson
and San Fernando Technical Institutes, to offer a range
of National Engineering Technician Diploma under the umbrella
UTT's initial enrolment of 1,600 in diploma and degree
programmes is expected to increase to 3,100 in the 2005/2006
academic year. Significant increases are also expected
in the short courses and transition programmes.
Work has begun on the construction of new UTT Campuses
O'Meara, which will be completed by January 2006;
the Main Campus at Wallerfield (to be completed by September
and in Tobago at Battery Point, which is scheduled for
completion by September 2007.
COSTAATT and TTHTI
Increasing access to tertiary education is also being
achieved through COSTAATT and the Trinidad and Tobago
Hospitality and Tourism Institute (TTHTI). COSTAATT has
been active in the development of new programmes such
as Court Transcription and Medical Records Science, to
address the needs of the workplace and the job market.
The enrolment of COSTAATT for 2004/05 was 4,763 students.
TTHTI has been commissioned as the training institution
for the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines in the Southern Region.
The Institute has developed articulation agreements with
a number of international tertiary institutions and now
has an enrolment of just over 500.
Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses
Mr. Speaker, the GATE Programme replaced the Dollar for
Dollar Education Plan in September 2004. In my 2005 Budget
Statement I indicated that we intended to provide free
tertiary education in public institutions by the first
of January, 2008. Since then, our revenue situation has
improved considerably. I am therefore pleased to announce,
Mr. Speaker, that with effect from January 1, 2006, all
nationals of Trinidad and Tobago enrolled at public tertiary
institutions, namely UWI, UTT, COSTAATT and other institutions
where the Government sponsors students, will be eligible
for free tuition, that is free public tertiary education.
Mr. Speaker, this Government's is committed to expanding
training opportunities to meet the demands of our burgeoning
economy and to prepare our citizens for meaningful participation
in our society. We are currently administering no fewer
than 17 training programmes directed to meeting our diverse
and rapidly-changing needs. Most of these programmes include
a component of life-skills training which exposes participants
to attitudinal and personal development aimed at transforming
behaviour, engendering a positive work ethic and equipping
participants with the tools to become productive and responsible
members of society.
Technology and Continuing Education
Mr. Speaker, in November 2004, the Government opened the
Laventille Technology and Continuing Education Centre.
The Centre is occupied by two (2) major training providers,
the National Energy Skills Centre and Metal Industries
Company Limited. Similar technology centres are being
constructed in Chaguanas and Point Fortin and the upgrade
of the St. Bede's Technology Centre, St. Augustine is
underway. We plan to open new MIC Centres in Mayaro, Pleasantville
and Diego Martin and to expand existing facilities at
Ste. Madeline and Macoya.
QUALITY HEALTHCARE AND WELLNESS
Mr. Speaker, the promotion of healthy lifestyles and easy
access to quality health care are critical components
of the thrust towards developed nation status. Almost
half of our population depends on the public health sector
for affordable, equitable and accessible health care.
An integral part of our health sector policy is the construction
and refurbishment of our health care facilities. Outreach
Centres are currently being built in Las Lomas, Williamsville,
Gran Couva, Talparo and Guayaguayare. Work is ongoing
at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex and the
General Hospitals in Port of Spain and San Fernando.
By 2007, we expect that construction of the Point Fortin
and Scarborough Hospitals, the National Oncology Centre
and a new wing of the San Fernando General Hospital will
all be completed. This will be followed by new fully equipped
primary health care facilities for the residents of San
Juan, Barataria, Diego Martin, Carenage, Petit Valley,
Debe, La Romain and Ste. Madeline.
Mr. Speaker, the development work at our health care facilities
has been complemented by a drive to enhance the quality
of service delivery through the purchase of modern, state
of the art diagnostic and treatment equipment and measures
to expand the availability of qualified health care personnel.
This year the University of the West Indies started a
Bachelor of Science Nursing Degree in Advance Nursing
Practice with an initial intake of thirty students. Ongoing
post-basic specialist training of registered nurses in
areas such as Oncology, Intensive Care and Neonatal Nursing
will provide support for the expansion of services provision
in these areas.
The annual scholarship programme for doctors at the St.
George's University will also continue to provide additional
trained medical doctors.
In support of the efforts to modernize and upgrade the
medical records system, a certificate and diploma in medical
records is to be offered through COSTAATT.
Mr. Speaker, implementation of the five-year national
strategic plan for the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS,
which was launched in September 2004, continues to be
a priority for this Government. Laboratory testing, as
well as a programme for voluntary counselling and testing
for HIV are being expanded. The latest data from the National
Surveillance Unit and PAHO indicate a progressive decline
in reports of new infections over the period 2002 to present
Cardiovascular Services - EWMSC
Mr. Speaker, the recent acquisition of two new Angiographic
Catheterization Laboratories will revolutionize cardiac
health care in this country and make EWMSC the premier
tertiary cardiac care centre - not only in the CARICOM
Region but across the wider Caribbean. These two Catheterization
labs will allow for the resumption of enhanced heart testing,
as well as angiogram, angioplasty, stenting of the heart,
interventional radiology, pacemaker implantation, and,
in time, become the centre for electro-physiologic studies
and procedures.Community Outreach
Mr. Speaker, recognising that ill-health is both a consequence
and a cause of a family's inability to function productively,
Government proposes to launch early in the new year, a
community outreach family medicine programme that will
bring primary health care to the doorsteps of families
living in remote areas.
This service will be conducted through the use of mobile
clinics that will provide a broad range of health services
* Glucose sugar testing;
* Screening for hypertension, obesity, cholesterol and
other dietary disorders;
* Screening for vision;
* Promotion of wellness and healthy living;
* General Health Advisory service;
* Screening for mental health;
* Pap smears;
* Immunization; and
* Family education and counselling.
Mr. Speaker, a prime function of any responsible Government
is to ensure that affordable, quality housing units are
available to those who otherwise would not be able to
acquire this basic necessity.
My Government fully understands, Mr. Speaker, that a proper
home means a more settled family, whereby members can
devote themselves to other worthwhile pursuits, including
education, the pursuit of suitable careers, the maintenance
of a stable and cohesive family unit and the making of
a greater contribution to community and national life.
But, there are many in this country who face real challenges
to home ownership. The inability to access mortgages because
of income constraints; the high cost of land combined
with the high cost of construction just takes this dream
beyond the reach of many, particularly females earning
less than $3,000 per month.
This Government's strategy is to make acceptable housing
available through major construction and upgrading programmes
while simultaneously addressing the issue of affordability.
Government has agreed on a strategy designed to give effect
to the affordability of housing. The strategy essentially
* A subsidised interest rate of two percent for mortgages
for Government low income housing;
* Longer repayment terms;
* Standardisation of the mortgage instrument;
* Rent to own policy.
This will result in reduced costs associated with the
purchase of property, further impacting on reduced interest
Mr. Speaker, our housing policy is designed to increase
the availability of affordable, quality homes mainly to
citizens in the low to middle income brackets. This year,
we propose to construct 8,000 units under the Accelerated
Housing Programme. It is instructive to note that over
the period 1996 to 2001 the previous Administration constructed
4,201 houses. In two years this Administration constructed
9,670 houses - more than double what it took them five
years to do.
Mr. Speaker, our housing policy also provides subsidy
programmes aimed at reducing the cost of acquiring a home;
and home improvement grants designed to assist existing
homeowners who face difficulty in terms of improving their
Subsidies of up to $36,000 are available for beneficiaries
earning between $12,700 - $27,000 annually, while a subsidy
of $24,000 is applicable for eligible beneficiaries earning
between $27,000 and $44,000 annually. Home improvement
grants are available to assist persons who earn less than
$30,000 annually, to effect repairs to their homes.
This year, Mr. Speaker, our housing programme will give
special emphasis to two specific modalities: squatting
communities and the redevelopment of our inner cities.
Central to addressing the squatting issue is the Land
Settlement Agency, which has been given the mandate to
deal with the regularisation of squatting communities.
The Agency has been directed to put in place the necessary
arrangements to begin operations by November 2005. Mr.
Speaker, the Government is convinced that squatting has
gone beyond necessity. This trend has to be stopped.
East Port of Spain Development Company
Mr. Speaker, Laventille and surrounding environs are considered
one of the most depressed areas in the country with high
crime and unemployment rates and with many of the residents
living in sub-standard conditions.
East Port-of-Spain, the area bounded broadly by Charlotte
Street, the Lady Young Road, and the Eastern Main Road,
and includes Never Dirty Morvant and Caledonia, .has been
declared a special development zone. This means that special
attention will be paid to both the economic and social
challenges faced by residents of the area. The Government
is committed to making a much greater intervention effort
and in order to give effect to this the Cabinet has agreed
to the establishment of the East Port-of-Spain Development
Company which will access funding under the Infrastructure
Development Fund (IDF) to carry out its mandate.
Construction of Commercial Complexes
Mr. Speaker, strengthening the family unit also involves
building facilities to ensure integration and sustainability
of communities. In order to facilitate the development
of small businesses in existing and new housing schemes,
as well as encourage the development of entrepreneurial
skills, three commercial complexes are under construction.
The Maloney Multi Purpose Complex Project is now 100 percent
complete and work is ongoing on facilities at La Horquetta
and Pleasantville. Three additional complexes will be
constructed at Bon Air, Couva and Edinburgh 500 during
the new fiscal year.
Mr. Speaker, poverty is much more than about low income
or the inability to meet one's needs. It is rooted in
poor education and knowledge, a lack of choices and opportunities,
environmental impoverishment and often an absence of hope
and self esteem.
The Government's social support mechanism brings all these
dimensions together in a mix of developmental and preventative
programmes to empower the poor and the vulnerable to escape
poverty along with remedial programmes to provide the
much needed support for indigent persons and those who
fall into crisis situations.
Unemployment Relief Programme
A key support mechanism for the unemployed is the Unemployment
Relief Programme. Between September 2004 and June 2005,
50,000 job opportunities were provided in the various
components of the Programme.
As the level of unemployment falls, we will reduce the
number of special projects undertaken and reduce the size
of the Programme
In addition, we will restructure the Programme and reintroduce
a comprehensive training element targeted at the development
of construction skills and basic education.
Mr. Speaker, we must ensure that we uplift the status
of those who are most vulnerable and marginalised among
us; including substance abusers, elderly persons, mentally
ill individuals and those who are homeless.
Our programme in the new fiscal year will include:
* Provision of short term accommodation at the St. Anns
and Tumpuna Road facilities for the mentally ill;
* Substance abusers who require special attention relocating
to rehabilitation centres;
* Establishment of three new facilities - a Social Displacement
Centre and a Halfway House in Port of Spain and a Centre
for the Aged, in Arima. In addition, a long-term care
facility will be established in Aripo.
* Development of the capacity of NGOs to provide appropriate
care and rehabilitation through training programmes and
the provision of technical advice and financial resources.
* Establishment of Senior Centres for Older Persons. These
Centres will be multi-service facilities, and will be
the focal points for older persons to access services,
and participate in educational and recreational activities;
* Implementation of a Meals on Wheels Programme for senior
citizens affected by a disability and/or chronic illness;
* Provision of a Continuum of Health and Support Services
for Older Persons;
* Provision of Business and Entrepreneurial Training for
Persons with disabilities;
* Training of Personal Assistants for Persons with Disabilities;
* Establishment of five new centres for the Adolescent
Mothers Programme. Youth Support
Mr. Speaker, the Government will strengthen its efforts
at addressing the current problems affecting young people,
including unemployment, crime and HIV/AIDS through the
establishment of a restructured delivery system for youth
via community-based and non-governmental organizations.
Several new and existing community-based youth programmes
will be offered in fiscal 2006, including Youth Health,
Save the Youth in Marginalised Communities and the Youth-Based
Support Fund for Community Projects, which will provide
funding to youths who propose and execute creative solutions
to community needs. Approximately 200-300 community projects
are expected to be undertaken in fiscal 2006.
Two important milestones for youth development will be
the establishment of the National Youth Council which
will promote youth participation in governance and decision-making;
and the implementation of the National Youth Policy which
will facilitate the establishment of a Youth Leadership
Development Institute, a Youth Development Fund and a
Youth Employment and Employability Policy.
Mr. Speaker, at the heart of the Community Development
thrust is the Community Centres programme that focuses
on the provision of appropriate accommodations for the
conduct of community affairs. We intend to initiate construction
of 100 community centres throughout the country commencing
in the 2006 fiscal year.
In addition, we propose to spend over $142 million on
the upgrading and establishment of community sporting
facilities, including swimming pools, playfields and jogging
tracks to facilitate the participation of families in
Mr. Speaker, we must anchor our ambitions of achieving
developed nation status in our diverse heritage and the
cultural achievements that have shaped our society.
The steel pan, the national instrument of Trinidad and
Tobago is an intrinsic element of our national identity
and a symbol of pride in our country.
Government has decided to transform the National Steel
Orchestra into a full symphony of 60 to 70 persons which
must be ready for presentation to the national and international
community, complete with a full repertoire of music by
January 1, 2007.
We will also purposefully use the steel pan to grace our
international image and enhance our marketing strategy.
It will be a flagship product of Brand T&T.
In order for the national instrument to serve as the symbol
of pride for all of us, we will begin to showcase its
image in our physical landscape, especially in the design
of our public buildings and infrastructure.
Mr. Speaker, we will also establish two Academies for
the Performing Arts, one at the Princess Building Grounds
in Port of Spain and the other at Todd Street in San Fernando.
Work will commence in early 2006. These facilities will
allow our national instrument to play side by side with
and match the virtuoso of international orchestras.
The centrepiece of cultural infrastructure will be a new
state of the art National Carnival Centre at the Queen's
Park Savannah. Phase I of the project will commence in
March 2006, immediately after carnival and will be completed
in time for our celebration in 2007.
Sport and Recreation
With the formation of the Sports Company of Trinidad and
Tobago Limited, the implementation of the sport policy
has been diversified and strengthened. The Company will
have a key role in the management and maintenance of sporting
facilities and the execution of programmes for total participation
in sport including high performance sport. In addition,
the Company will work with relevant stakeholders to establish
an Institute of Sports at the University of the West Indies.
Community sporting facilities including swimming pools,
cricket and football fields and multi-purpose courts will
be developed in Diego Martin, Pleasantville, Toco, Point
Fortin and Santa Cruz. In addition, we will develop several
regional recreational grounds: Yolande Pompey, Irwin Park,
Eddie Hart and the grounds in Morvant, Sogren Trace in
Laventille, Charlieville, Lange Park and Patna Village.
Additionally, in fiscal 2006, we intend to spend over
$100 million upgrading and improving community recreation
grounds all over Trinidad and Tobago.
The Government recognises the need to develop a Gender
Policy. The draft Gender Policy Document currently being
circulated was not issued by the Government and does not
reflect Government policy. In fact, there are certain
recommendations in the document to which the Government
does not and will not subscribe. The Government is therefore
requesting that the document which purports to be official
Government policy be withdrawn from circulation.