“Trinidad and Tobago is hurting.”
This admission came on Monday from Rural Development and Local Government Minister Faris Al- Rawi.
He has, however, hinted at 1,000 jobs to come in Local Government sectors, promised an app for the public to report issues and detailed methods to assist Local Government corporations to work more efficiently to serve the public.
Speaking in yesterday’s Budget debate in Parliament, Al-Rawi also noted that there were 18,000 people cutting grass in T&T—9,000 in CEPEP and about 9,000 daily-rated workers.
Al-Rawi said, “Trinidad and Tobago is hurting. Our people feel a sense of…how should I say… difficulty, that’s expressed on a daily basis in many places: online, if you look at the print media, listen to the airwaves. The world has come and all issues affecting us reside here in T&T.
“I recognise that people don’t want to hear what’s happening in the Ukraine or other countries. People want to know what’s happening (here) and how they think their lives can be better done.
“I appeared on a programme recently with Fazeer Mohammed, who characterised the budget contributions as ole talk and I had to recognise for a moment that many people do think there are a lot of talk issues that should be discussed. But I respectfully say, as I recognise and the Government recognises, the feelings of the people of T&T—that context is important.”
Al-Rawi said the increases in T&T and globally were well known, but the items Government had to spend on—housing, food hampers, construction etc– had also increased.
He added that the Budget was an attempt in a situation where everything costs more, to shift the burden “a little bit..”
He noted Government was paying $1 billion on the fuel subsidy and taxpayers are paying $550 million.
“Yes, we know people are hurting, yes, wage negotiations are ongoing, yes, global inflation has arrived at our doors, yes we have to take a little bit more here and there,” he said.
But he added he was confident of job creation, improved service, ensuring road and services are better delivered and that municipal police can bring safer environments, as that force is increased to 1,500 as opposed to 770.
Al-Rawi added, “Trinidad and Tobago we hear you, it’s tough, your Government is with you. We’re prepared to take the lash–we have to! We signed up for the job…but I’m here at your service.”
He said 700 new jobs would be created in the municipal police sector and approximately 150 with litter wardens being hired.
“We have roughly 18,000 people cutting grass in this country– 9,000 in CEPEP and between 7,000 to 9,000 daily-rated workers.”
He said there were new jobs to come as posts of road supervisors and managers are vacant—200 in the supervisory level—and the ministry intended to digitalise access
On road problems, he said, “People of T&T, I hear you, the Government hears you, the Prime Minister hears you….it burns us.”
Al-Rawi said the Ministry’s 2023 allocation was significantly higher, since people’s cries about service were noted.
Ahead, Local Government corporations will be advised to spend money in different ways—roads, schools, markets, public health etc. Some corporations hadn’t spent all of their development funding in the past
He said it was now the intention to spend all development funding up to mid-2023.
The ministry received $375 million more for development funding due to Local Government reform and corporations all got increased development funds–with a 381 per cent increase for Siparia – the highest.
He aims to rectify another situation where corporations have huge unspent balances and also some $55 million went back to Finance from the Development Fund.