Mr. Speaker, this sixth Budget of this Peoples National Movement administration is
being delivered against the backdrop of a vibrant and growing economy.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to present to this Honourable House and
indeed to the national community, a comprehensive account of our stewardship over
the past five years, outlining our many successes and the challenges that we have
Mr. Speaker, as we intend to be in Government for the next five years, I also
propose to couch the Budget for fiscal year 2008 in the context of a longer term plan,
which in essence represents yet another phase in our journey towards Vision 2020.
It is against this background that the theme of this years Budget Presentation is
Vision 2020: Determined to Reach our Goal.
Honourable Members, the completion of the documents laid in this Honourable
House today could not have been possible without the commitment, enthusiasm and
the hard work and sacrifice of the many public officers, especially those in the
Ministry of Finance, who have worked long and tirelessly on preparing these
I want to let them know that their efforts are greatly appreciated. I would also like to
thank my Cabinet colleagues, and all the individuals and organizations who have
contributed to the process which resulted in the preparation of these documents.
Mr. Speaker, in order to put our record of performance into its proper perspective we
must remind our citizens of the Governments vision for Trinidad and Tobago and
the strategy that will get us there.
Mr. Speaker, when this PNM administration assumed office in 2001, we began work
on the transformation of this country into a developed nation in the shortest possible
time but certainly by the year 2020.
The driving force behind this transformation is our enduring passion and desire to
bring sustained prosperity and the requisite higher quality of life to every individual,
family and community across the country.
The vision that emerged VISION 2020 -- was founded on five developmental
pillars: Developing Innovative People; Nurturing a Caring Society; Enabling
Competitive Business; Investing in Sound Infrastructure and the Environment; and
Promoting Effective Government.
Vision 2020 acknowledges that Trinidad and Tobago is in a situation of
unprecedented opportunity and challenge. It recognizes, however, that economic
prosperity does not depend solely on physical endowments or proximity to markets.
Rather, it is based on the full awareness that in todays global environment, the most
successful countries are those that have succeeded in harnessing and nurturing the
creativity, ingenuity and inventiveness of their people, something to which we aspire.
In that sense Mr. Speaker, ours is more than an economic vision. In particular, it
incorporates the nurturing of a caring society; it envisages that the foundation of our
society is based on the creation of strong families with high moral and ethical values;
that all our citizens have access to adequate and affordable housing and first class
health care that enable them to live healthy lifestyles; and that we put in place new
systems to support the most vulnerable in our society.
Over the last six years we have worked hard in pursuit of this vision and we have
had many notable successes. I would now like to share with you some of our major
PERFORMANCE OVER THE PERIOD 2002-2007
Mr. Speaker, over the period 2002-2006, our economy grew at a high rate and real
GDP of 9.7 percent per year, a growth performance which ranks among the highest
in the world. This rapid rate of growth led to a doubling of the economy over the past
six years from $55 billion in 2001 to $114.5 billion in 2006 and an increase in per
capita income from US$7,100 in 2002 to US$14,790 in 2006.
And while the energy sector was the main driver of the economic expansion, the
non-energy sector surpassed expectations, increasing at an average annual rate of
6 percent over the period.
As a result of the boom in economic activity, an average of approximately 14,400
new jobs were created annually, resulting in a reduction in the unemployment rate
from 11.7 percent in 2001 to 5 percent at the end of 2006, the lowest in our nations
history. Mr. Speaker, this has resulted in labor shortages in several sectors and
private sector industries now satisfy some of their requirements by importing labor
supported by Governments new immigration policy.
Mr. Speaker, anyone who needs a job today can find one, a situation totally different
to six short years ago. It is therefore no wonder then that the official data shows a
halving of the poverty rate from 35 percent in 1990 to 16.7 percent by 2006.
Several other macro-economic indicators, point to solid macro-economic
Mr. Speaker, Trinidad and Tobago has been the recipient of significant amounts of
Foreign Direct Investment, amounting to close to US$6 billion over the past five
years. We have maintained overall fiscal surpluses and in so doing we have
reduced both our public and external debt.
Public debt has been lowered from over 60 percent of GDP to 28 percent of GDP
currently, while external debt which was 17 percent of GDP in 2001 is now at 5
percent of GDP.
Our financial system remains robust and resilient and has emerged as the leader in
the region; with oil and gas prices remaining buoyant for most of the period we have
been able to maintain stability in the exchange rate and increase our foreign
exchange reserves to approximately US$6.5 billion, excluding the Heritage and
Mr. Speaker, we recognise that we must plan for future uncertainties and therefore
we have formalized the Heritage and Stabilization Fund in law.
We have, and in the five year period have put aside substantial savings for our
childrens future such that at end of August this year the Fund will be $10.9 billion,
compared with $1.015 billion when we took office in 2001.
However, Honourable Members our achievements are demonstrated not only in the
macro-economic indicators but in the improvement in the quality of our citizens
lives. Let me provide some examples:
When we assumed office, Corporation Tax was 35 percent while Individual Tax
ranged from 28 percent to 35 percent.
Today we have unified Corporation and Individual Taxes at a flat rate of 25 percent
and raised the level of personal allowances from $25,000 to $60,000. Mr. Speaker,
this latter measure removed an additional 300,000 individuals from the tax net.
Mr. Speaker over the past five years, one of our most successful interventions has
been in the area of education.
We are in an advanced stage of developing and implementing a world class system
of seamless education, stretching from Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)
through to tertiary level; and it is all free of charge.
Our early childhood education programme is now on full steam; so far seven early
childhood centres have been completed and it is expected that by the end of
December 2007 twenty three of these high quality centres will be operational.
At the tertiary level, the crowning achievement of this Government, Mr. Speaker,
was the establishment of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) in 2004.
Since then, UTT has been expanded to incorporate several affiliated tertiary and
Currently UTTs mandate is inter alia to help address the countrys need for
scientists, technicians and researchers while the affiliated institutions are to provide
tertiary training in areas such as nursing, health sciences, foreign languages and the
performing and creative arts.
Mr. Speaker, we introduced free tertiary education at the undergraduate level in
2005. This is applicable not only to UWI and UTT and its affiliates, but to all
accredited private institutions in Trinidad and Tobago. Post graduate students are
eligible for up to 50 percent of tuition costs as well as for concessionary loans under
the Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP).
As a result of the increased availability and greater government financial support,
enrollment in post-secondary and tertiary institutions increased from 15,000 in 2001
to over 45,000 at present.
Mr. Speaker, our program for the computerization of all primary schools is in full
train. So far, 340 schools are at different stages of completion.
We have de-shifted 13 junior secondary schools and converted them to full day
secondary schools. Concomitantly we have converted all senior secondary schools
to 7-year secondary schools. The up-shot of this Mr. Speaker, is that an additional
11,050 secondary schools students now enjoy full-day schooling.
We have paid careful attention to the provision of special education. In this fiscal
year `alone, the Government upgraded the physical facilities of 9 public special
schools. We have also agreed to the payment of school fees for students of 6
registered private special schools.
Over the six-year period, the Government has spent approximately $615 million on
the construction of schools, 42 have been completed, including 7 Early Childhood
Care and Education (ECCE) centres and about 30, including 16 ECCE centres, are
In the six-year period, the Government also undertook some 1,000 school repair
projects at a cost of $380 million.
Mr. Speaker, this Honourable House would recall that, for many years, access to
quality affordable housing was identified as a priority issue for national development.
The Government has responded with great urgency and with innovative approaches
to meet this critical need.
In the past six years, the Government has constructed 26,000 single and multi-family
housing units on greenfield sites and on vacant sites in existing housing units.
Today an individual earning $1,440 per month can access a mortgage loan with 100
percent financing for 25 years at a 2 percent interest rate. This was not available
just six short years ago.
In government-housing programmes persons 50 years and over can now get a
long term mortgage since the liability could be transferred to their estate in the
event of their death.
For individuals who are financially unable to service a mortgage, there is a rent-toown
programme, in which, over time, part of the rental payments could be applied
as a deposit towards the purchase of the property.
Grant/subsidy programmes are also available to qualified homeowners to help
meet the cost of repairs.
Mr. Speaker, we also regularized several squatting settlements and our squatter
relocation programme is well underway in Sangre Grande and San Fernando. A
major goal of the Government is to eliminate the incidence of squatting completely.
Mr. Speaker, in Health we have made significant strides towards the building of a
client-centered system, with a focus on primary health care.
The center-piece of our strategy is the Chronic Disease Assistance Program (CDAP)
through which citizens are provided medical drugs free of charge to treat several
common ailments, including diabetes, hypertension, cardiac disease, depression,
arthritis, glaucoma, asthma and enlarged prostate.
Mr. Speaker, on a regular basis 300,000 of our citizens are benefiting from the
programme, which is being administered through 250 pharmacies located
throughout the country.
We have significantly reduced the waiting lists for most surgeries and have
succeeded in reducing deaths caused by HIV/AIDS by about one-half.
We have built and refurbished several primary health care facilities and have
installed new technology and equipment throughout the health system.
Mr. Speaker, when this administration entered office there was a significant backlog
and long waiting times for elective surgeries in the public sector. There were some
15,000 persons waiting for surgeries, in some instances for as much as 10 years.
To date, we have completed over 12,000 surgical procedures achieving a significant
reduction in the various waiting lists. This represents 12,000 persons whose lives
have been dramatically improved.
We have increased the number of cardiac by-pass surgeries, from 10 procedures
every month to 20 procedures per month.
The entire public health sector is now doing 30,000 surgical procedures annually.
That is more than 15, 000 more than when we came into office.
Mr. Speaker, reflecting our strong conviction that a highly-skilled labor force is the
key to our economic transformation and to the provision of high-quality sustainable
jobs, my Government has allocated significant resources to training. Consequently,
there is now greater access to technical and vocational education than ever before.
Over 6,000 persons have benefited from the Help Youth Prepare for Employment
Programme (HYPE); close to 31,000 in the Youth Training and Employment
Partnership Programme (YTEPP); over 37,000 in on-the-job training; over 7,000 in
the Youth Apprenticeship Programme in Agriculture (YAPA) and almost 12,000 in
the Multi-skills Sector training programme (MUST). Some 6,000 individuals,
including 80 prison inmates, have benefited from retraining programmes.
The Laventille Technology and Continuing Education Centre, established in
November 2004, has graduated over 3,000 persons with marketable skills. A similar
center in Pleasantville which will service San Fernando and surrounding areas is to
be opened shortly.
Centers are also earmarked for Chaguanas, Point Fortin, Mayaro and Diego Martin.
Income Support and Social Protection
In 2002, Mr. Speaker, the minimum old age pension, now called the Senior Citizens
Grant was $800 per month.
Today, the minimum Senior Citizens grant is $1,350. In addition, senior citizens
have access to free medical care and drugs, free bus passes and housing
A Food Debit Card has been introduced to help our needy citizens cope with the
world-wide phenomenon of high food prices.
This arrangement provides a grant of $300, $400 or $500 for relevant vulnerable
families of 3, 4 or 5 and over persons.
Mr. Speaker, in 2001, the National Minimum Wage was $7.00 per hour. This was
increased to $8.00 per hour as at January 16th, 2003. On March 31st, 2005 this rate
was again increased to $9.00 per hour. I will say more about the minimum wage
Mr. Speaker, we have taken significant steps to strengthen our capacity to address
our worrisome crime and security situation on a sustainable basis.
There have been early successes but the full impact of our comprehensive
methodical approach will be seen over time.
In this context the Government has:
Introduced legislation to improve the management of the Police Service and
law enforcement generally;
enhanced detection and forensic capabilities;
provided greater mobility and modern communication facilities;
established constant radar surveillance of our entire coast line. This will
considerably strengthen our hand in dealing with the illegal drug trade which
produces the majority of violent crime in this country;
upgraded and constructed 65 police stations;
provided the opportunity for involvement of the citizenry in the battle against
crime through the 555 Anticrime Initiative;
reorganized the Anti-Kidnapping Unit;
established the Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (SAUTT),
which involved the recruitment of officers from the United Kingdom; and
established an Aerial Surveillance System.
Mr. Speaker, in infrastructure we doubled the fleet of the Public Transport Service
Corporation, wound up the loss making BWIA West Indies Airways and introduced a
streamlined Caribbean Airlines on more viable routes.
We also implemented a most reliable service on the Seabridge to Tobago which has
greatly facilitated and expanded travel between the islands. Final consideration of
the Airbridge is not yet complete.
Mr. Speaker, we implemented the National Highways Programme which in the last
six years rehabilitated approximately 110 kilometres of our road network and
commenced the upgrade and extension of several of our major highways and main
Mr. Speaker, the Street Lighting Programme, which started in September 2005, has
resulted in the illumination of 80 kilometres of main roads and highways. At the end
of July this year 111,320 Street Lamps have been installed either as new
installations or as an upgrade of existing facilities.
Mr. Speaker, a more comprehensive breakdown of the performance of the
Government since assuming office is presented in a document laid in this
Honourable House as part of the Budget package entitled Government at your
Service: Highlights of Achievements 2002-2007.
Mr. Speaker did I hear someone say that performance beats old talk every time?
ACCOUNTING FOR THE PETRO-DOLLAR
Mr. Speaker, as part of the accounting for our stewardship, permit me to give a brief
summary of the Governments revenue and expenditure developments over the last
I will like, Mr. Speaker, to focus on how we spent the resources entrusted to us. In
the process, I will also like to respond to the many voices that accuse the
government of over-spending and of the injudicious use of the taxpayers money.
In the six year period ending this fiscal year 2007, the Government collected
revenues amounting to $162.7 billion, of which $69.7 billion was derived from the
energy sector and $93 billion came from the rest of the economy.
The high level of energy tax collections reflected buoyant oil and gas prices and the
Governments successful efforts at oil and gas tax reform, which increased the
countrys tax take from any windfall revenues received by the companies.
Mr. Speaker, the revenue loss from the non-energy tax reform measures was more
than offset by the revenue impact from rapid economic growth and by major
improvements in tax administration. This demonstrated Mr. Speaker, the
correctness of this bold policy initiative.
Over the six year period recurrent expenditure amounted to $125 billion of which the
main items were:
Wages and salaries, including two rounds of salary adjustments to bring the
salaries of civil servants more in line with the private sector and to encourage
higher productivity, amounted to $29.2 billion;
Goods and services like medicines, school books, computers, materials and
supplies, amounted to $17.1 billion;
Interest payments on local and foreign debt were $14.9 billion;
Subsidies amounted to $6.1 billion. These covered subsidies on petroleum
products to keep down the cost of gasoline ($3.9 billion and the subsidization
of the sea and air bridge to Tobago ($1 billion);
Transfers to educational institutions, including UWI, UTT, government
secondary schools, GATE, amounted to $5.3 billion;
Transfers to households, including public officers pensions, social security
grants, social assistance, disability grants amounted to $15.5 billion;
Current Transfers to State Enterprises and Statutory Bodies, amounted $18.8
billion. The largest recipients were BWIA and CARONI in respect of State
Enterprises, and WASA, Local Government Bodies and Airport Authority in
respect of the Statutory Bodies;
Current Transfers to the Tobago House of Assembly amounted to $5 billion;
The Unemployment Relief Program utilised a total of $1.5 billion; and
The Community-based Environmental Protection and Enhancement
Programme (CEPEP) - $1 billion.
On the Capital Account, the three major expenditure items were transfers to the
Heritage and Stabilization Fund $9.5 billion, which in effect is an increase in savings,
the Public Sector Investment Programme $12.9 billion and the Infrastructure
Development Fund $6.9 billion. There was also an increase in Governments
deposits at the Central Bank of $7 billion.
Honourable Members would recall that in 2005, in the face of bureaucratic
bottlenecks that hampered the implementation of the public sector investment
programme, the Government established a number of special purpose companies to
manage a number of public sector projects to be executed by private contractors.
While there were initial delays in operationalizing some of these companies, the new
modality has resulted in a significant increase in the implementation rate of the
PSIP. The funding for the projects implemented by the special purpose companies is
channeled through the Infrastructure Development Fund (IDF).
Mr. Speaker, if you disaggregate our spending you would see that out of total current
expenditure of approximately $125 billion, $17.5 billion, about 14.0 percent of our
revenues was spent on poverty alleviation programmes, including URP.
Mr. Speaker, some of our friends on the opposite side would want us to abandon
these programmes because they allege that helping the downtrodden and disadvantaged
contributes to the creation of a dependency syndrome. Mr. Speaker, we
approach this problem differently and that is why nurturing a caring society is one of
our major developmental priorities. Its a love thing.
Our philosophy is that the able-bodied will be required to work or prepare for work in
exchange for temporary income support. However, outright support will be provided
to those among the poor that are incapacitated, sick or to those unable to work such
as the elderly, the differently-abled and the destitute.
Mr. Speaker, this is, in summary how the revenues were spent to meet our
statutory commitments; to provide subsidies to keep costs of certain basic goods
and services down; to meet operating deficits of some loss making public
enterprises and to finance infrastructural investments, and a significant part was
saved in the Heritage and Stabilization Fund (HSF).
Mr. Speaker, several commentators some well-meaning have sought to chastise
the Government for its spending. Part of the problem is that while they measure
government spending against theoretical benchmarks and spurious indicators of
absorptive capacity, we tend to give equal or greater weight to the impact of the
spending on peoples lives.
Mr. Speaker, for this Government, the object of our expenditure programme is to
improve the quality of life of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
Thus, for example, when we spend $650 million to electrify all areas of the country
through our street lighting programme it is not that we like to engage in large areas
of expenditure, as some will say; nor is it solely a question of electricity; it is that we
wish to provide a higher level of security for our citizens so that they enjoy a better
quality of life.
When the Government embarks on the construction of high rise buildings on the Port
of Spain Port, it is not that we see development only in terms of large buildings, as
our detractors are wont to say, it is that we are providing better office
accommodation for the public sector so that public sector employees will work in
some of the best conditions that the country can offer so as to encourage higher
levels of productivity.
This will, of course result in better service to the public and a better quality of life for
those persons who receive the services.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot over-emphasize that it is about people and about improving
their standard of living.
Honourable Members, I would like to concede that we have faced some challenges
in the implementation of our programme.
Some of these challenges are the inevitable result of our rapid rate of growth; we
have also had problems resulting from the infrastructural bottlenecks from shortages
of skilled manpower, and include managerial deficiencies.
But Mr. Speaker, we have been addressing these problems with increasing degrees
For example, in the face of rapid growth and declining spare capacity inflation rose
to 10 percent in October 2006. As a result of tighter demand policies and supply-side
interventions the rate has been reduced to 7.3 percent as at June 2007.
The target announced in the 2007 budget was to reduce inflation to 7 percent by end
2007 and to 5 percent thereafter.
Mr. Speaker, crime has also posed a major challenge, affecting the security of
families and the quality of life.
The Government has introduced a whole range of measures to deal with the crime
upsurge and they are beginning to have effect as indicated in the significant decline
in the number of kidnappings for ransom and a 22.2 percent fall in the number of
murders over last years figure.
However, Mr. Speaker, the level of crime is still unacceptably high and the
Government is committed to intensify efforts to eliminate this scourge from our
Some of the other challenges that we are currently addressing include the
transportation bottlenecks; expanding the road network, port congestion; the
resuscitation of the domestic agricultural sector; and the provision of water for all our
Each of these areas will be addressed when the plans for fiscal year 2008 and
beyond are outlined.
PURSUING OUR VISION WITH DETERMINATION
Mr. Speaker, our considerable achievements over the past five years provide a solid
forum, from which we could accelerate our march towards Vision 2020.
We are determined to learn from experience; to persevere with the approaches that
have served us well and to find innovative solutions to the bottlenecks and obstacles
that we have faced.
Mr. Speaker, as we intend to be in government for many years to come our budget
for fiscal year 2008 is couched within a medium term framework that represents the
second five year span on our longer term journey. It is certainly not an election
budget as some of our critics anticipate.
No, Mr. Speaker, the welfare of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago is too important
to be left to the vagaries of electoral politics.
Rather, the measures and policies that are being proposed in the Budget are
consistent with and are all designed to bring us closer to our Vision 2020 goal.
PRIORITIES FOR FISCAL YEAR 2008 AND BEYOND
Mr. Speaker, the main priorities that we have set ourselves for fiscal year 2008 are
Continue our efforts to combat crime and to provide a higher level of security
for all our citizens;
Deepen and accelerate the ongoing education reform by upgrading and
modernizing and expanding the system of primary and secondary schools;
and expand our web of training opportunities;
Enhance capacity and improve service delivery in the health sector;
Continue to increase the availability and improve the affordability of housing
for our citizens;
Accelerate efforts to diversify the economy by stimulating investment in the
Initiating a virtual revolution in commercial agriculture and small scale
Initiate urgent measures to improve the delivery of water to the entire
population and to ease transportation and other infrastructural bottlenecks;
Continue to uplift the living standards of our senior citizens, public service
pensioners, the physically challenged and all those who face social exclusion.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, the Government will take specific steps to:
Encourage greater citizen participation in local government, thereby allowing
more people a say in controlling their lives and in the day to day running of
Emphasize racial harmony and racial understanding; greater sensitivity to
ethnic, religious and other diversity and the formation of a more coherent
Better management of the environment.
ENSURING ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION
Mr. Speaker, as is customary in our Budget presentation I would like to review the
Governments plans and policies for our main productive sectors. I wish to begin with
Mr. Speaker, it is no secret that the energy sector has been the main engine of
growth in the Trinidad and Tobago economy. Since the early 1990s the expansion
and diversification of the energy sector have propelled the overall growth and
increased the resilience of our economy.
The current state and international recognition accorded our energy sector is the
result of the foresight of successive PNM administrations, and the initiatives we have
pursued to achieve the development of our oil and gas resources.
The energy sector has experienced a fundamental shift towards a predominance of
natural gas instead of oil. Natural gas is the major raw material, spawning a number
of down stream industries and making Trinidad and Tobago a major world exporter
of gas-based chemicals.
The Governments energy policy includes the diversification of the sector by
promoting the downstream industries that maximize the multiplier effect and value
added, through the creation of linkages between the energy sector and the rest of
I would like to remind this Honourable House that Trinidad and Tobago is the
number one exporter of ammonia and of methanol in the world; we are the number
one exporter on LNG in the Western Hemisphere and a major exporter of Direct
Reduced Iron (DRI).
I would like to reassure this Honourable House and the national community that
Trinidad and Tobagos energy fortunes and prospects continue to be very bright and
that we could expect the energy sector to continue to be the driver of our economy
and our transformation efforts for many years to come.
Mr. Speaker there has been tremendous confusion and deliberate mis-information
arising out the Ryder Scott natural gas audit which this Government commissioned,
with the expressed purpose of informing our energy sector policy.
Let me remind this Honourable House that the first Ryder Scott Report in 1974 gave
a reserves to production ratio of 8 years.
Mr. Speaker, 33 years later we are now having a reserves to production ratio of 12
The reserves to production ratio is an industry indicator that was never designed to
determine how long oil and gas resources will last. It cannot do that, was never
intended to do that, and does not now do that. This position was underscored by the
many experts who spoke at the recent Energy Conference.
The reserves to production ratio indicator was designed as a signal to the relevant
authorities of the need to increase exploration activity and the timing of
Governmental measures to achieve this.
Mr. Speaker, the situation revealed by the latest Ryder Scott Report was known to
the Government for some time now as a result of which in the year 2005 appropriate
adjustments were made to the income tax regime to stimulate exploration activity in
the various provinces existing in Trinidad and Tobago. As a result a lot of
exploration is now taking place both on land and in marine areas.
Four Rigs are now engaged in exploratory drilling and 16 wells are carded to be
drilled in the last quarter of 2007 and in 2008. Earlier this year B.P an EOG drilled a
deep exploration well - Ibis Deep to 19,000 feet at a cost of US$80 million or some
TT$500 million which did not discover any new reserves.
This is the nature of exploration activity and we have no doubt that as the
programme progresses new discoveries would be made. The exploration effort over
the next three years anticipate an expenditure of some TT$3,530 million.
What is needed now is a new fiscal regime of incentives to stimulate further drilling
in the Deep Marine areas of East Coast, marginal fields, heavy oil and farm in and
farm out arrangements. We propose to introduce this new regime in Fiscal 2008.
By these new arrangements we confidently expect as has happened in the past,
new discoveries of oil and gas, and the preservation of Trinidad and Tobagos
position as an industrial centre in the region.
Mr. Speaker, the Ryder Scott audit information does not affect in any way the priority
projects, which are set to come on stream in the short term.
These include the five large gas-based projects: the Alutrint Smelter at Union Estate
in La Brea, the Essar Steel Complex, the Methanol Holdings AUM Complex at Pt.
Lisas, the Gas-to-Liquids plant at the Pointe-a-Pierre Refinery; the Petrotrins
Gasoline Optimization Programme which is the first phase of the refinery upgrade,
and the Methanol/Propylene/Polypropylene Project manufacture of a basic building
block of a plastic industry.
In respect of the latter project, the Cabinet has now taken a decision to proceed to
development of this new industry, and this complex, which will be built at a cost of
some US$1.5 billion is expected to come on stream in 2011. Construction is
expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2008.
The upgrade of the Pointe-a-Pierre Refinery in Petrotrins Gasolene optimization
programme is proceeding at a cost of US$850 million and the industrial estate at
Pointe-a-Pierre is now being cleared of old plants to make way for a brand new
state-of-the-art refinery which we are seeking to attract.
New Industrial Estates
Mr Speaker, given the ongoing expansion of the downstream petrochemical sector
and numerous proposals for new energy based projects the Government is taking
steps to establish new industrial estates to accommodate energy-based industries.
We are developing new industrial estates at La Brea, Point Lisas South and East,
and we have now identified Cap De-Ville and the Oropouche Bank for further studies
to determine their suitability as industrial sites.
In addition, the government also proposes to develop industrial port facilities at
Brighton and Galeota.
The Petrochemical Sub-sector
Mr. Speaker, the gas based heavy industries include among others, 10 large scale
Ammonia Plants, 7 large scale Methanol plants, 3 Direct Reduced Iron (DRI)
modules, one Hot Briquetted Iron Plant and a gas processing plant.
A new 5000 tonne per day methanol plant, Atlas Methanol, and a 2000 tonne per day
ammonia plant, N2000, were commissioned in 2004.
There are also five gas-based projects which are due to come on stream in the short
term. They are:
the Essar Steel Complex which involves the establishment of an integrated
steel complex producing flat hot rolled coil as well as hot briquette iron and
Methanol/Propylene/Polypropylene (MTP) - Discussions on Project details
between Lurgi and the Government are ongoing. Basell, a joint venture
between BASF and Shell is proposing a 160,000 tonne per annum plant at a
capital cost of TT$9.5 billion;
the Methanol Holdings AUM Complex with a proposed capacity of the plant is
1.5 million tonnes per annum of Urea Ammonium Nitrate and 60,000 tonnes
per annum of Melamine: the capital cost is TT$10.1 billion;
World GTL Trinidad Limited (WGTL-TL) Gas-to-Liquid plant which is a joint
venture between World GTL Inc. (New York) and the Petroleum Company of
Trinidad and Tobago Ltd. (Petrotrin). World GTL-Trinidad Limited will own and
operate the 2,250 bpd Gas to Liquids (GTL) plant; and
the Alutrint Smelter Complex: the capital cost is TT$1.65 billion and will
produce 125,000 metric tonne per annum, all of which will be used for
Aluminium Smelter Projects
Mr. Speaker, in 2005/2006 the Government received proposals to construct two
Aluminium smelters, one by Alcoa and the other by Alutrint.
An Agreement in Principle was prepared by Alcoa in November 2005, to conduct
feasibility studies to explore the establishment of an Aluminium facility at
Chatham/Cap De Ville. A decision in principle to relocate the proposed site of the
Plant has delayed this project.
Mr. Speaker, in April 2005, the Government agreed in principle to the development of
a 125,000 metric tonne per annum Aluminium Transformation Facility.
Part of this Facility will reside in Union Estate, La Brea, as an Integrated Aluminium
Complex. The remainder of the Facility will comprise additional downstream
industries which will be located in the Tamana InTech Park.
We plan to establish an Energy Park of 250 acres in San Fernando. Office
complexes for NGC, Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries and other energy
services companies will be established in this San Fernando Ener-Tech Park.
Mr. Speaker, the Agricultural Sector has been earmarked for intensive focus in 2008
and in the coming years.
Mr. Speaker, the entire world is currently experiencing a period of unprecedented
increases in food prices.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), global food prices have risen by
23 percent in the past eighteen months.
In the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries
the food component of the consumer price index has accelerated to 12-year highs.
In the United Kingdom food inflation is more than double the rate of the consumer
price index, the highest rate of increase in six years.
According to the experts, Mr. Speaker, the rise in global food prices reflects the
growing demand for food in emerging markets, most notably in China and India.
In addition, rising purchasing power; climatic changes; and the increased global
demand for ethanol and biofuels in response to higher oil prices are reducing the
amount of arable land for food cultivation.
The current world situation has given new urgency to the Governments push to
expand agricultural production to help reduce food prices and begin the move to
Consultation on Food Prices
Mr. Speaker, on the 15th and 16th of this month the Government hosted a Public
Consultation on Food Prices.
The objective of the forum was to share with the public the initiatives undertaken by
the Government, and to solicit ideas and suggestions from industry experts and the
public in general, on the best ways in which the country can use its available
resources to increase the supply of food and control the level of food prices.
The Government acknowledges the concerns that emanated from the Consultation
but I wish to reiterate that food prices in Trinidad and Tobago remain among the
lowest anywhere in the English speaking Caribbean.
Mr. Speaker, while the Central Bank is applying various monetary policy instruments
to control liquidity and influence the overall price level, the Government is
implementing measures aimed at impacting the availability and marketing of food
supplies which are critical factors behind the rise in food prices.
One such measure is the establishment of Farmers Markets at Macoya, Debe, and
Diego Martin. Additional Farmers Markets are planned for Arima, Chaguanas,
Marabella, Rio Claro, San Fernando and Sangre Grande. Mr. Speaker, these
Farmers Markets have had an immediate impact on the level of food crop prices.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, we have imported basic food items from non-traditional
sources, including Latin America and removed VAT and the Common External
Tariff on a number of food items.
Mr. Speaker, emanating from the Public Consultation on Food Prices, the
Government will be implementing a number of actionable interim measures, designed
to expand the supply of food and ensure that the momentum with respect to the
reduction in food prices and inflation is maintained. These actionable items include:
The establishment of a Prices Advisory Council chaired by Dr. Sharon
Hutchinson with a mandate to address comprehensively, from a supply side
perspective, the level of prices in the economy;
The establishment of a Consumer Advisory Board chaired by Mr. Brian Moore
to advise the Minister of Consumer Affairs on all matters relating to prices and
consumerism and to monitor prices;
Accelerating the setting up of a Competition Commission;
The establishment of an Agricultural Development Commission comprised of
representatives of a wide cross section of stakeholders in the sector, to
advise the Minister of Agriculture on the development of Agriculture in the
A review of the entire package of incentives related to small and large farms,
organic farming, and agro processing;
As part of a CARICOM effort, continue discussions with the Government of
Guyana to make lands available for agriculture since Guyana has the
resources, especially land space, for large scale agricultural production. This
combined with the possibility of expanding the domestic sea-bridge, involving
initially, the countries of the southern Caribbean, will assist in reducing
potential food shortages in this country;
The establishment of a Special Regime of incentives for new farms;
Putting in place new arrangements outside the Police Service to address
praedial larceny in hot spots by the end of the first quarter of 2008;
The use of Cuban farming expertise to provide technical assistance to small
farmers including former Caroni workers;
The reallocation of 417 acres of land at Mon Jaloux to be allocated to the
Small Ruminants Society for their use subject to the submission of a viable
The injection of $75 million into the Agricultural Development Bank in the new
fiscal year and we propose an additional $25 million should it become
The design and implementation of a three year plan to review the
development of agricultural access roads, irrigation and other infrastructure
by the end of the first quarter of 2008;
The expansion of the Youth Apprenticeship Programme in Agriculture (YAPA)
as a programme for the development of new farmers;
Providing up to 100 acres each to the three ammonia manufacturers in the
country to create demonstration farms.
Plans are already underway for the establishment of one such farm which I will
address later in the presentation;
Introduce in the short term a system for making agricultural lands readily
available to farmers;
Proposals from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) on how agriculture
production can be expanded on the sister isle. In the meantime the
Government will expand the cold storage and warehousing capacity in
The implementation of a new arrangement of contract farming with
appropriate marketing arrangement for select commodities developed in
collaboration with the National Agricultural Marketing and Development
Corporation (NAMDEVCO) and the Trinidad and Tobago Agricultural
Business Association (TABA);
The restructuring of the National Agricultural Marketing and Development
Corporation (NAMDEVCO) to allow the Corporation to play a more pro-active
role in the development and expansion of the agricultural sector, including
using a venture capitalist approach in the development of innovative projects;
A review of the restrictions on the importation of food items from low price
Latin American countries subject to the observation of all health requirements.
Mr. Speaker, let me reiterate that these are interim measures and more long term
measures will be announced as the new fiscal year progresses.
The Use of Former Caroni (1975) Limited Lands
Mr. Speaker, in 2003 the Government took the bold and courageous decision to
restructure an unviable Caroni (1975) Ltd.
In the process of restructuring Caroni (1975) Limited, we freed up prime agricultural
land to be used for diversified crop production in both the primary market and the
Mr. Speaker, we have created over seven thousand potential new farmers, from the
former workers of Caroni Ltd, each with two-acre plots to produce food for this
A significant portion of the former Caroni lands will also be utilized to establish large
commercial farms through joint venture arrangements with the private sector.
We are also improving the infrastructure of these lands through an enhanced system
of access roads and bridges and are moving towards better water management and
supply, including retention dams.
All the support systems will be provided for the thousands of our smaller farmers
who will continue to play their very important role in providing food for the nation.
Large Commercial Farms
Mr. Speaker, as announced in the last Budget Statement, under our National
Agribusiness Development Programme the Government will be creating 16 large
scale farms of a minimum of 100 acres each, all utilizing modern techniques and
management for the large scale production of food.
These estates will be operated along commercial lines and will involve participation
by the private sector, including established international companies in the field. The
Rural Development Company is presently seeking proposals from domestic and
Mr. Speaker, work is now proceeding apace for the establishment of a large farm to
be located in Tucker Valley, Chaguaramas. What is special about this farm, is that it
is to be operated jointly by the Governments of Trinidad and Tobago and Cuba.
The farms would be utilized for root crops, vegetable crops, mixed farming livestock
and integrated farming, using the most modern farming methods.
The large farms will be focused mainly on those commodities that have export value
and the potential to develop into major food industries.
Their major output will be largely directed into processing, thereby fuelling the
growth of the agro-industry. As much of the output will be earmarked to be exported
the large farms will not be in competition with the smaller farmers for the domestic
Mr. Speaker, by putting all of these structures in place, the Government is laying the
foundations for high volume, quality food production at a reasonable cost to
Mr. Speaker, it is not the intention of the government to promote large farms at the
expense of small farms. What we envisage is a new mix in the farming community of
large and small farms.
Mr. Speaker, the Government is also proposing to partner with PCS Nitrogen Limited
in establishing a Model Farm, Resource Centre and Greenhouse in Central Trinidad
to provide the local farming community with free access to state of the art training
facilities, technical assistance and technology which are currently unavailable in
Trinidad and Tobago.
The project will introduce the farming community of Trinidad and Tobago to
revolutionary crop production and management techniques. It will provide scientific
expertise by making use of available PCS Nitrogen resources including agronomists,
the International Plant Nutrition Institute and fertilizer.
Mr. Speaker, the Government is pursuing a multi-pronged industrial strategy in order
to accelerate the economic diversification of the country.
One important aspect of this strategy is the provision of assistance and incentives to
the manufacturing sector to allow the sector to expand and to introduce new
innovative technologies to be able to compete in the global market place.
Through a Business Expansion and Industrial Reengineering Programme (BEIRP),
the Government will assist domestic firms to be reengineered with greater state of the
art technologies and processes and to expand their capacity to innovate and produce
more sophisticated, value-added products for the international market place.
This is critical as we engage new markets in Central America in the expanded
CARICOM/Costa Rica trade agreement and in Europe under the Economic
Another major element of the strategy is the implementation of the strategic plans of
the seven industries, which have been targeted for special focus by the Government
because of their tremendous developmental potential.
These industries - Music and Entertainment, Printing and Packaging, Merchant
Marine, Film, Fish and Fish Processing, Yachting, Food and Beverage - are being
proposed as areas of investment for the private sector, with special government
These are in addition to our ongoing focus on Tourism, energy services and a
renewed emphasis on Agriculture and agro-processing.
Moreover, when the new initiatives in financial services, especially the
implementation of our plans for an International Financial Centre and our efforts in IT
at Eteck are taken into account one sees clearly that the diversification agenda is
well in train.
The intention Mr. Speaker is that industrial development would leverage a cluster of
technology industries, which are being established in Tamana InTech Park, a nexus
for knowledge-based manufacturing, research and development and training,
strategically linked to the University of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Business Expansion and Industrial Reengineering Programme (BEIRP) is
designed to assist the manufacturing sector to address four major issues: the
expansion of existing plant capacity through an increase in the accelerated
depreciation facility; and the introduction of new technology; marketing; quality and
production management; and human resource development and training.
Accordingly, the Government will consider the following initiatives to complete the
package of incentives of the Business Expansion and Industrial Re-engineering
An Innovation Facility;
A Marketing Facility;
A Quality Management/Production Management Facility ; and
A Human Resource Management Programme.
These measures will be supported by an education system, which produces the
skills required, the provision of a facilitating business environment and the legal
system that supports Intellectual Property.
Small Business Development
Mr. Speaker, we are beginning to see a burgeoning of the small and microenterprise
sector, thanks to NEDCO and the Business Development Corporation
More than the establishment of small and medium-sized businesses, NEDCO has
been having considerable success in promoting an entrepreneurial culture among
the small-man; NEDCO has been uncovering the small mans potential for
The hard fact is, Mr. Speaker, that the small man, whatever his potential for
entrepreneurship, has traditionally been denied access to funding because of his
lack of collateral; and this is so not only in Trinidad and Tobago, it is so all over the
world, in both developed and developing countries.
Against this background the philosophy behind NEDCO is to provide funding, but in
conjunction with education and training.
We are convinced, Mr. Speaker that this is an excellent way of empowering people;
of providing wealth-producing options for the common man; of getting some people
out of poverty and on to the road of financial independence. Mr. Speaker, this
approach is displaying remarkable success.
Mr. Speaker, the ownership and management of a small or micro-enterprise, are
more and more being pursued as a preferred career path by many who previously
would have thought it unthinkable or impossible.
In the past five years, NEDCO has helped to establish over 7,600 small and microenterprises.
Going forward, Mr. Speaker, the target is to establish 5,000 additional
new small or micro-enterprises per year. NEDCOs lending portfolio is
complemented by the Entrepreneurial Training and Incubation Centre (ETIC) which
conducts business and management training programmes, provides advisory
services, and business incubation facilities for Small and Micro Enterprises.
Mr. Speaker, in November last year the Government implemented the Fair Share
Programme (FSP), which reserves ten percent of all contracts awarded by
Government up to one million dollars for qualifying small businesses.
To access the Fair Share Programme, businesses must be independently owned
and owner-managed, with up to 25 employees and assets up to 1.5 million dollars,
excluding land and building.
Permit me now to turn to the tourism sector.
Tourism is now well recognized as an important earner of foreign exchange, as a
strong generator of sustainable jobs, as a meaningful contributor to economic growth
and diversification, and as a platform for social and economic progress. We in
Trinidad and Tobago have only now begun to exploit fully our considerable tourism
potential which exists on both islands.
Mr. Speaker, there are significant developments taking place in the tourism sector
starting with the expansion of our upscale hotel room stock.
With the construction of the Waterfront Project almost completed, the Hyatt Regency
Hotel is carded to open its doors for business in the first quarter of 2008, affording the
industry 428 new first-class rooms and an addition of 50,000 square feet of Meeting
and Conference space.
Mr. Speaker, the Government has already won the bids to host two major tourism
conferences at the Hyatt in 2008: the Caribbean Hotels Investment Conference in
May and the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Conference in October. Trinidad and Tobago
is also scheduled to host the 34 Country Summit of the Americas and the 54 Country
Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2009.
Additionally, following the recent opening of the 80-room Holiday Inn Express in
Trincity, 530 more rooms will come on stream in 2008 with the opening of the Cara
Suites Piarco Hotel, the Piarco International Hotel, the Carlton Savannah Hotel in St.
Anns and the refurbishment of the Trinidad Hilton and Conference Centre.
Mr. Speaker, other hotel investments are under active consideration in Port of Spain,
Chaguanas, South Trinidad, and Tobago. We are currently reviewing our Tourism
legislation with a view to facilitating even further investment in the accommodation
and ancillary services sub-sectors.
Mr. Speaker, along with the expansion of hotel capacity we are also securing an
expansion of airlift arrangements into the country.
We are positioning Trinidad and Tobago as the Meeting and Conference Centre as
well as the Events Capital of the Caribbean, and to achieve this goal, adequate
accommodation and airlift are critical.
British Airways has served Tobago from Gatwick admirably, and just recently, the
airline reintroduced its service from Port of Spain. In addition, there are now new air
links with Atlanta, Huston, Panama City and Curacao and links will be established
with Fort Lauderdale and Holland shortly.
Mr. Speaker, having brought the visitors to our shores, we need to provide them with
a unique experience.
Accordingly, we are taking steps to enhance our customer service standards on all
fronts; to build awareness among our population about the importance and benefits
of tourism; to market effectively our islands internationally as well as locally; and to
build our tourism product.
Mr. Speaker, plans for the re-design of the Maracas Beach Facility are well underway
with the Master Plan, Conceptual Designs and stakeholder consultations completed.
The objective of this Project is to transform Maracas Beach and its facilities into a
modern, safe, clean, well-managed and environmentally-sustainable attraction of the
highest international standard. Work is expected to begin on this project upon the
completion of the Environmental Impact Assessment.
MAIN AREAS OF FOCUS
With the leave of the Honourable Members, I now wish to outline our strategies for
the major areas of policy intervention first Education.
Mr. Speaker, Trinidad and Tobago is well on the way to truly revolutionizing its
education system -- a seamless education system that would underpin the countrys
thrust to sustainable economic development; an education system designed to
strengthen the social fabric, deepen our democracy and give our citizens the tools
for success in todays world.
Now that the foundation has been laid, we need to focus on broadening accessibility,
ensuring curriculum relevance even as we recognize the diversity of talent; infusion
of technology for improved teaching and learning, mandatory teacher training for
more effective delivery of the syllabus and de-centralized management for more
efficient decision-making and greater community involvement.
The Government has developed a policy on Early Childhood Care and Education,
has established standards for the establishment of the centres, curriculum guidelines
and has embarked on a massive training programme for centre administrators and
During fiscal year 2008 we plan to construct 33 ECCE Centres and to train about 300
ECCE Teachers and Administrators. By the end of 2008 we expect to have a
population of 2,550 three and four year olds in these ECCE Centres.
Mr. Speaker, our emphasis at the primary and secondary levels is complete
modernization modernization in terms of infrastructure, curriculum, administration,
teacher education planning and having the schools as learning organizations.
As regards primary education the aim should be zero per cent of students scoring
less than 30 per cent. At the secondary school level, our goal is to ensure that 80
per cent of secondary school leavers exit the fifth form level with appropriate
Mr. Speaker our construction programme in respect of primary schools will continue
in 2008. We are well aware that in some schools the situation is dire, demanding
immediate redress. As an interim measure, therefore, temporary pre-engineered
classrooms will be provided as a means of alleviating acute accommodation
problems at some Primary and Secondary Schools.
In the new fiscal year the remaining six junior secondary schools will be deshifted
and converted to secondary schools.
Mr. Speaker, in 2008 the junior secondary schools system will be a thing of the past.
The National Open School of Trinidad and Tobago (NOSTT) was established in
2006 in response to the challenges of delivering primary and secondary education to
the out-of-school population. To date, the initial five National Open School Centres
have been identified and once established will cater for two hundred and fifty
students and will offer tuition in five key subject areas Mathematics, English,
Science, Social Studies and Spanish.
By June next year the National Open School System will become fully operational
with a total of twenty schools with trained tutors and a target population of 4,500
Mr. Speaker, one of the Governments major focus is the infusion of Information and
Communications Technology (ICT) in the curriculum of our schools. The main
objective of this programme is to prepare students to live in a knowledge-based
Under the Primary Schools Computerization Programme infrastructural work on
computer laboratories has been completed at 340 primary schools and eleven
special schools and before the end of this fiscal year the majority of these schools will
boast modern, fully equipped computer labs.
Mr. Speaker, Phase I of the ICT in Secondary Schools Programme commenced
with the provision of computers and network and security systems. Free internet
access is now available at one hundred and eighty primary and secondary schools.
In the new fiscal year, we intend to complete the computerization of 193 primary
schools, and 11 special schools. In addition computers and networking will be
provided for 133 Secondary Schools throughout the country.
Phase II of the Secondary Schools ICT Project, which includes purchase of teaching
software and provision of classroom collaborative solutions, will also be completed
during the coming fiscal period.
Mr. Speaker a part of the proud legacy of this Government will be that a high quality
tertiary education is no longer a privilege of the rich and influential.
In 2001 enrollment in tertiary education was around 15,300 or about 11 percent of
the age category 17-25 years. Over the last six years enrollment has increased to
about 45000 or about 33 percent of this age cohort.
Mr. Speaker this is no easy accomplishment for any government in a developing
country. We plan to increase the enrollment to 60 percent of this age cohort by the
We have made tertiary education affordable through the Government Assistance for
Tuition Expenses Programme (GATE) and the Higher Education Loan Plan (HELP).
We have supported more than 66,000 students through the GATE Programme
Mr. Speaker, we are establishing UTT Campuses all over the country for students to
access tertiary education opportunities, including through distance learning.
Additionally, our policy is one which caters to flexible admissions for students at all
levels in the system as we embrace lifelong learning.
Mr. Speaker, we are ensuring that our tertiary education is industry-relevant.
Accordingly, both students and graduates will have to access workplace
This is seen in the range of learning centres that we are establishing, from the
National Academy of the Performing Arts to the Natural Gas Institute of the
Mr. Speaker, having a competitive workforce and improved quality of life can only be
achieved through quality tertiary education. We are therefore committed to the
highest standards of excellence at the tertiary level and have established a national
system for quality assurance and accreditation being driven by the Accreditation
Council of Trinidad and Tobago.
The University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT)
Mr. Speaker, the construction of the main campus of the University of Trinidad and
Tobago at the Tamana Intech Park in Wallerfield will continue in the new fiscal year.
The establishment of the main campus will allow the University to:
Increase the number of students who can afford university-level training in
science, engineering and technology;
Widen further the scope of teaching and research programmes beyond the
traditional areas now offered by the University of the West Indies;
Facilitate rationalization of the universitys support services;
Establish more lecture rooms and laboratories; and
Create a positive economic effect on the community areas near the
The UTT will also upgrade its infrastructure in the following:
Construction of the UTT Centre for Sports;
Establishment of the Academies for the Performing Arts;
Expansion and upgrade of the facilities at Valsayn and Corinth Teachers
Upgrade of the library facilities at UTT campuses.
College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of T&T (COSTAATT)
The mandate of COSTAATT has been changed from its original broad orientation to
one focusing on certificate, diploma and associate degree programmes in critical
areas of nursing and health sciences, humanities, foreign languages and the
performing and creative arts.
In line with this mandate legislation is being prepared to convert COSTAAT into a
Community College preparing students for professions in the specified fields and
also serving as a transition to University Education. The College will construct three
campuses located in North and South Trinidad and in Tobago.
University of the Southern Caribbean
Mr. Speaker, the University of the Southern Caribbean is currently seeking to
expand its facilities to accommodate greater enrolment and the upgrading of the
University residence halls and faculty buildings. The University has requested
assistance from the Government.
Given Governments interest in expanding access to tertiary education among the
wider population the Government has agreed to provide some financing towards this
project under a specific protocol with the University.
The Government is considering providing financing of approximately $97 million over
the next four years. The benefits that would accrue to the Government from this
agreement are currently being worked out.
Mr. Speaker let me focus now on the Health Sector.
Mr. Speaker, during the coming year we intend to quicken the pace of upgrading all
health facilities, infrastructure and human and other resources as we seek to provide
our citizens with the ability live longer, healthier and more productive lives.
Mr. Speaker, the incidence of so called lifestyle diseases is giving the Government
much cause for concern. An area of critical concern to this Government is the
number of persons suffering from diabetes mellitus. On the CDAP alone, the
statistics show that there are 145,000 persons accessing medication with
approximately 5,000 of that number being insulin dependent.
We view the promotion of healthy lifestyles as a key strategy for affecting behavioral
changes that will ensure not only a healthy, but a health conscious nation as well.
We will continue to emphasize good nutritional habits and exercise.
Mr. Speaker, the computerization of CDAP is now 90 percent complete. To date, two
hundred and ten pharmacies have been supplied with terminals in readiness for the
C-DAP Smart Card which was launched last month. The remaining 30 pharmacies
will be computerized during 2008.
The Chronic Disease Assistance Programme will be expanded further with effect
from January 1st 2008 to include diabetic testing strips which will be available at no
cost to these insulin dependent patients through the Chronic Disease Assistance
Oncology Developmental Programme
Mr. Speaker, as part of the Governments commitment to providing quality health
services to the population, work has begun on the establishment of the National
Oncology Centre. The Centre, which is expected to be in operation in two years will
offer cutting-edge cancer treatment for our citizens. It is also expected that the
Centre would provide an agreed level of service to CARICOM nationals under
Organ Tissue Transplant Programme
Mr. Speaker, Trinidad and Tobago is also providing First World medical care in other
Since the inception of the Programme in January 2006, the National Organ
Transplant Unit has completed eighteen transplants compared with thirty-six similar
procedures performed in this country over a seventeen year period. In addition, fortytwo
donors have been screened and a campaign for the sensitization of public and
medical personnel was launched.
Mr. Speaker, the framework for an Eye Bank has been developed and in the new
fiscal year we expect to have a functional Eye Bank for the supply of corneas for
Neo-natal Facilities at Mt. Hope Women's Hospital
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to report that the refurbishment of the Intensive Care Unit at
the Mt. Hope Women's Hospital has been completed.
The Unit contains a wide range of specialized equipment including incubators,
ventilators, warmers, intravenous pumps, monitoring equipment, and photo therapy
With the acquisition of these state-of-the-art pieces of equipment, the survival rate for
newborn and premature babies is expected to increase markedly.
National Health System (NHS)
Mr. Speaker, in keeping with the Governments overall objective to reform the Health
Sector and improve the delivery of heathcare to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago,
we have taken the initial steps towards the establishment of a National Health
Under the National Health System the State will maintain financial responsibility for
the provision of an essential basket of services to all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago,
and every citizen will be able to exercise choice of provider.
A Steering Committee has been appointed to prepare a design proposal for the
National Health System.
Over the next fiscal year, the Committee will engage the National Community in
dialogue on the proposed National Health System.
Mr. Speaker, significant progress has been made in addressing the incidence of
HIV/AIDS over the last five years, particularly as the anti retroviral (ARV) treatment
has been made more accessible to the population as a whole. At the same time,
there has been a 69 percent decline in the number of HIV/AIDS cases reported.
Between 2001 and 2006 the Government has spent more than $30 million on
providing comprehensive treatment to more than 4,000 people living with HIV.
Despite this encouraging development Mr. Speaker, AIDS remains the leading cause
of death in the 15-44 age group. The Government therefore will continue to remain
vigilant as it seeks to further develop and consolidate a comprehensive and
collaborative approach for treating with HIV/AIDS.
The priority areas, Mr. Speaker, include: prevention; treatment, care and support;
advocacy and human rights; surveillance and research; programme management,
coordination and evaluation. The Government is also reviewing a Draft National
Workplace Policy on HIV/AIDS in an attempt to curb discrimination on the job.
Over the next fiscal year, we will extend free HIV/AIDS treatment to six major
centres. In addition, there will be improvements in both the procurement and
distribution of drugs to treat HIV/AIDS, as well as the institutional strengthening of
Mr. Speaker I will turn now to the Housing Sector.
Honourable Members will no doubt agree that secure home is fundamental to family
and personal well-being. Many of the households with affordability challenges
include low-wage workers, the elderly and differently-abled citizens and these are the
people for which our National Housing Policy was targeted.
Mr. Speaker since 2002 we have constructed approximately 26,000 housing units
while more than 8,225 units are currently under construction.
The Government recognizes that there is still more to be done in ensuring that every
citizen has access to a basic human need, the need for shelter and we intend to keep
affordable and quality housing at the top of our list of priorities.
To this end, Mr. Speaker, in terms of housing finance, one of the major changes in
the housing sector implemented by the Government has been the reduction of
mortgage interest rates.
Prior to 2002 interest rates varied from eight percent to twelve percent for the
Approved Mortgage Companies (AMC) Programme and since then has hovered
between 6 to 8 percent.
Mr. Speaker, in 2007 the Government introduced a subsidized interest rate of 2
percent for beneficiaries with income of up to $8,000 per month for a house costing a
maximum of $450,000.
Additionally, Mr. Speaker, prior to 2002 the required down payment for mortgages
was 10 percent. It was subsequently reduced to 5 percent and in the last fiscal year
the Government eliminated the down payment altogether.
Further, Mr. Speaker, persons who qualified for a mortgage are also eligible for a
further loan of $15,000 towards the purchase of household appliances, and this
further loan is to be incorporated into the mortgage arrangements.
Other measures implemented by the Government aimed at making housing more
affordable include: the increase in the ceiling for the Exemption of Stamp Duty for
residential properties from $350,000 to $450,000; transferable mortgages; and a
Rent to Own Programme.
Mr. Speaker, the Governments Housing Policy also focuses on making houses more
affordable by indirectly subsidizing the cost of houses.
Beneficiaries of government housing will only be required to pay for the cost of the
raw land, while the Government will meet the infrastructural costs for the
In addition Mr. Speaker, the Government also provides through the Beneficiary
Owned Land Subsidy an upfront subsidy to be given to beneficiaries in possession of
land who wish to construct a home and who satisfy the relevant criteria.
Mr. Speaker, we are now developing 22,023 residential plots including the service
plots provided to the former employees of Caroni (1975) Limited. The infrastructure
work is almost completed on most of the 27 sites.
These will result in modern communities with all utilities underground. The price of
these lots include substantial subsidy on both the infrastructure cost and cost of the
land. These lots are priced at $4 $5 and $6 per square foot, that is $20,000, $25,000
and $30,000 per lot.
The designs of 5 model houses would also be made available to these home owners.
Mr. Speaker, in an effort to maintain the existing housing stock the Housing Policy
also provides Home Improvement Grants and Home Improvement Subsidies to assist
persons in undertaking repairs and making improvements to their homes.
The Land Settlement Agency, through its mandate, is undertaking the Squatter
Regularization and Containment Programme.
This programme is intended to regularize the security of tenure for families living in
squatter settlements and to improve the overall living conditions of squatters by
providing basic services, communal facilities, and formal land tenure to families. A
major goal of the Government is to eliminate the incidence of squatting completely.
Mr. Speaker, I should note that our housing model implies more than building
houses; it envisages the development of sustainable communities, which include the
provision of public amenities such as playgrounds, community centers, schools,
open spaces, clinics and other facilities.
Mr. Speaker, a major component of providing accessible housing in sustainable
communities involves developing sustainable housing on green field sites through the
creation of New Towns. In this respect, the Government has commenced the
development of a New Town at Wallerfield. Four more New Town developments
have been earmarked for Sangre Grande, La Brea, Princes Town and Chaguanas.
Mr. Speaker I turn now to the Social Sector.
While the Government has no immediate plans to introduce new social programmes
we will continue to foster social development and integration on multiple fronts,
including the provision of a network of integrated, effective and accessible social
programmes and services.
The Government recognizes and commends the selfless and dedicated service of
civil society organizations in the many aspects of social service delivery. Indeed we
view these organizations as full partners in this work.
In the next fiscal year we will establish, through policy and programme initiatives, a
structured approach to the provision of social services by civil society organizations
and the private sector.
The Government will also partner with international agencies, where appropriate, with
a view to crafting a more effective and efficient delivery of services, to inform decision
making and to enable and empower research-based policy and programming.
Mr. Speaker, the poor and marginalized are not a homogenous entity. A sustained
effort must be made to gather information pertaining to each group on a continuous
As we craft a more relevant and targeted response to the needs of the poor and
vulnerable among us, the Government will conduct research and needs assessment
pertaining to vulnerable and at-risk groups including: persons addicted to drugs and
other substances; persons with disabilities; older persons; socially displaced persons;
and at risk children.
Mr. Speaker, the family, as the principal teacher and transmitter of ethical, social,
spiritual and religious values is indisputably the core of our social fabric.
It is no surprise therefore that many of the social ills that now imperil our society can
be directly traced to the disintegration of the family unit.
It is possible that the major contributory factor to this denigration of the family is the
disadvantaged economic situation of low-income and single-parent families
especially households headed by a single female.
As a response, Mr. Speaker, the Government will continue the implementation of the
National Family Policy which we have adopted as our blueprint for creating and
promoting a family-friendly society and for mainstreaming family issues into every
aspect of policymaking.
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