Minister Nizam Baksh contributes to budget debate
Tuesday, October 18 2011 @ 06:30 PM AST
Contributed by: AleemKhan
CONTRIBUTION OF THE HONOURABLE NIZAM BAKSH MINISTER OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
Introduction and Congratulations
Mr. Speaker, I embrace this opportunity to contribute to the Debate on the National Budget for Fiscal 2012. The Budget, presented by the Honourable Minister of Finance, represents this Administration’s steadfast commitment to ensure sustainable national development even as we grapple with the challenges and impact of the volatile international economic environment. I further congratulate the Minister and his team on identifying innovative means of sourcing capital for infrastructural development and for the sustenance and expansion in our Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Sector. It is to the benefit of our children and future generations that the country is not being plunged into further external international debt; but the necessary funds are being sought internally through our local stock exchanges and the creation of an Infrastructure Development Bank. This country stands to benefit both in the short term and long term.
As the Minister now responsible for the Division of Ageing, I too share the pleasure and joy of senior citizens as expressed when the increase of National Insurance Pensions to $3000 was announced. The additional funds will not only directly benefit the approximately 80,000 NIS Pensioners but also indirectly benefit those who contribute, their children, grandchildren and others, to the monthly expenses of the aging population.
I, also express dismay that the Leader of the Opposition’s first criticism of the Budget was aimed at the increase in NIS Pensions. How and why would such a measure be bothersome to the P.N.M? I am sure some of you on the other side receive NIS pensions? It is clear that th PNM feels that the $80,000 NIS pensioners should not have an increase to $3000 per month.
As the Minister of Community Development, I share the firm view that no community could experience true growth and development if it is under threat from within and without. This year’s allocation to the Ministry Of National Security of $5.17 billion gives us further comfort that our national community is being secured at ports of entry, along the coastline and in the cities; towns and villages. Why does this become the Leader of the Opposition and M.P for Diego Martin West second point of criticism, the population must ask?
It is in this context, Mr. Speaker, that I congratulate the Honourable Minister of Finance for presenting a Budget which remains securely anchored by the fundamental philosophy, policy perspectives and pledges of our Peoples Partnership Government.
The Budget presentation allows all to benefit from the policies, programmes and priorities as well as the resource allocation of this Peoples’ Partnership Government.
Mr Speaker, the mobilization, engagement and development of communities is key to preparing our nation for sustainable development.
Ministry of Community Development- A Key Driver for Community Mobilization
Mr. Speaker, at the Ministry of Community Development we are ideally poised to be the key driver of this mission of community mobilization, engagement and development. We interface directly with members of the public through formal and informal groups, for example Village Councils, Women’s Groups, Faith Based Organisations and a range of other Non Governmental Organisations. Our interaction with groups enables us to acquire an intimate knowledge of the socio-economic conditions that characterize communities across Trinidad and Tobago. This allows us to mobilize and motivate communities to identify and address issues relevant to their development.
Construction and Refurbishment of Community Centres
Community Centres are the hub of life for a vast number of our citizens. These provide ideal venues for learning, self development, shared leadership and socialization.
Last year I informed this Honourable House of the previous PNM’s Government robust initiative to construct a total of one hundred (100) Community Centres in the country.
The approximate cost to construct 100 Community Centres was estimated in excess of $600 Million dollars.
The allocation of the Community Centres construction programme was highly skewed in favour of the then Constituencies of the PNM Government. County St George alone was allocated fifty four percent (54%) of the Centres. The other seven Administrative Districts in Trinidad got forty six percent (46%).
The then UNC Constituencies hardly got more than one. In some cases the UNC constituencies got none. The Constituency of Naparima which I proudly represent got none under the PNM. In the last election I got the third highest votes cast for any Constituency. I sincerely thank my constituents for their confidence and continued support.
Mr Speaker, the People’s Partnership Government makes a solemn promise that this type of imbalance will never again be practiced. We will ensure that Community Centres are distributed in accordance with Community needs and aspirations.
The reduction in allocation started with the PNM. In their last year at office, i.e., 2010, $40 Million was allocated for the construction of new Centres and $15m for the refurbishment of old Centres. In 2011, we allocated $60 Million for new Centres an increase of 50% and $15m for refurbishment of old Centres.
In the 2012 Budget we have maintained the sixty million dollars allocation for the construction of new Centres and we have increased the sum allocated for last year’s refurbishment of Community Centres by five million dollars. This figure represents an increase of thirty three and one third percent (33 1/3 %)
During Fiscal 2011, 20 Community Centres were targeted for completion. To date, 8 have been completed and a total of 17 would have been opened by the end of December 2011.
Mr. Speaker, we from the People’s Partnership Government deliver more than we talk, unlike the previous PNM Government with lots of grandiose plans and inability to implement or deliver. Whatever we promise, Mr. Speaker, I give you the assurance that we will always deliver promptly on our promises, and this is exactly what we are doing.
Expression of Gratitude- Ministries of Public Utilities and Works and Infrastructure
Mr. Speaker, before I move on I would like to place on record, my deep appreciation, for the collaboration and support provided by the Ministry of Public Utilities in ensuring that all Utilities are up and running at these new Community Centres, and the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure where we needed to repair or lay down the access roads.
Community Facility Management Committee
Mr. Speaker, the core concept of the Principles of Community Development is based on the voluntary efforts and initiatives of citizens. The spirit of volunteerism is therefore critical in the practice of Community Development. We from the People’s Partnership insist on volunteerism in many aspects of work at the Community level.
We have decided that citizens from the village and environs where modern Community Centres are located must be involved in the Management of the facility. We have as a result, appointed voluntary Community Facility Management Committees, to oversee and to organise and promote activities at the Centres. These persons are selected from among representatives of NGO’s, FBO’s CBO’s and Business Organisations, within the geographical area of the facility. We agree that volunteers must not only give their free time in the Management of Facilities but they must be made to feel that they are part owners of the facility and that they must ensure that the facilities are utilised properly.
Management Staff at Community Centres
Mr. Speaker, in consideration of the substantial sums expended on the construction of modern centres, the People’s Partnership Government has decided further that each of these Centres must be equipped with competent staff to ensure that the Centres are not only utilised effectively but maintained properly as well.
I am happy to announce that the Cabinet has conveyed approval for a Facility Administrator and an Administrative Secretary to be appointed as full time staff for each of the modern Community Centres. These shall be employees of the Ministry of Community Development.
The Administrator will be responsible for maximizing the use of the community facilities through the development of a programme of activities by representative organizations to meet their stated objectives and the collective good of the community.
The Administrator will also be responsible for marketing the facility to the community. This will allow for effective governance for community facilities, private sector engagement in local communities, and creativity from all strata of the society.
Construction of Environmental Friendly Community Centres
The People’s Partnership will also promote environmental awareness, “going green”, and maintaining the “Clean and Beautify Trinidad and Tobago” initiative year round. In this context, Cabinet has taken a policy decision to construct, initially two Community Centres with a focus on being environmentally friendly. One (1) Centre will be located at Ben Lomond, Tabaquite Road, Williamsville, and the other at Bunsee Trace, Penal. These two (2) centres will be part of a pilot project.
Community Education Programme (CEP)
The Community Education Programme is a major component of Community Development’s portfolio for Social Action Programmes aimed at community capacity-building. Its main focus is the promotion of an equitable distribution of educational opportunities for the people in local communities. It is a response to the national poverty eradication thrust in that the focus is on the developmental needs of our citizens who are considered less fortunate in the society.
The mission of this programme seeks to focus on the needs of householders, the unemployed, the under-employed, the vulnerable, the less fortunate and ‘at risk’ in our society by providing the opportunity to learn a skill which can be used to improve and uplift their quality of life.
The Community Education Programme (CEP) focuses on:
• Skills Training- During the 2011 fiscal year, 9 134 citizens were trained from this programme. Training is also focused on small business promotion.
• Community Awareness and Sensitization – During fiscal year 2011, one hundred and forty three (143) awareness projects were conducted.
• Group Leadership, Development and Management- In fiscal year 2011, two hundred and eight nine (289) courses were conducted throughout the eight administrative districts.
• Handicraft Development-
The Handicraft Development Programme is an annual feature of the Handicraft Research and Development Unit and is one of the Ministry of Community Development’s poverty alleviation, skills training and employment generation initiative.
• We plan during this fiscal year to harmonise the Handicraft Research and Development Unit and the Export Centre Company Limited in order to avoid duplication and to select and promote Handicraft Training which will produce finished goods for the export market.
In fiscal year 2011, 2,580 persons graduated from this programme. We plan as well to have a new dimension in all our training programmes and that is to measure the impact of these programmes and the extent of its contribution to alleviating poverty
Community Action For Revival And Empowerment Programme (CARE)
Another programme with which the Ministry of Community Development was widely successful is the CARE Programme. This social programme provides priority funding for human development activities. It is a critical community intervention strategy which focuses on interaction, community cohesiveness and employment generation. Between October 2010 and August 2011 the CARE Programme provided financial assistance for projects which addressed the basic needs and development aspirations in communities.
The Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition (PMBVTC) began in 1963 and was introduced as a conscious effort to build a shared social and cultural identity in our newly independent nation. The Programme started with one category (Handicraft) but eventually evolved into eight (8) competitive events which included
Traditions of Carnival, Village Olympics, Environment and Sanitation, Food and Folk Fair, La Reine Rive, Folk Theatre and Village Chat.
Mr. Speaker, during fiscal 2011, 120 groups participated in the Best Village Food and Folk Fair, 66 young women in the La Reine Rive, 121 groups in the folk show/folk presentation, 27 groups in Folk Theatre, 96 communities in the Clean and Beautify T&T (Environmental Sanitation), 91 groups in Handicraft and 52 communities in Village Chat.
There will be greater emphasis on all categories of the Prime Minister’s Best Village Competition especially the Clean and Beautify T&T Competition. I am happy to announce that starting next year, $1M worth in projects, chosen by the community will be awarded to the winning community in the Clean and Beautify Competition
Clean and Beautify Trinidad and Tobago:
Mr. Speaker, the Clean and Beautify initiative was promoted by the Honourable Prime Minister in 2010. The Ministry of Community Development has since adopted this initiative in an effort to promote total community involvement in this programme. As we all know, Mr. Speaker, Environmental Awareness is an ongoing thrust of the Government and this programme is geared towards the promotion of this objective. The programme will focus on:
- Beautification of spaces within communities that allows for people interaction
- Plant distribution to community groups, schools and households
- Clean up campaigns
- Collaborative efforts with various government and non-governmental agencies.
Projects were initiated through the eight (8) administrative districts of the Ministry and were community driven whereby our Community Development Officers worked with the various community groups and developed projects that were appropriate to the communities.
The Geriatric Adolescent Partnership Programme (GAPP):
Mr. Speaker, GAPP is a Social Programme which trains and employs Care Givers 18-25 years of age to look after senior citizens. This programme commenced operations in 1998.
The Peoples Partnership Government rates GAPP high in status among the list of Social Programmes administered by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.
GAPP welcomes the Division of Ageing under the umbrella of the Community Development Ministry. This innovation will allow for coordination and collaboration of programmes aimed at improving the quality of life of senior citizens.
I am aware that GAPP was launched in 1998 by the former UNC Government. During that period I was Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Social Development and therefore had direct input in the formulation and establishment of this programme.
At that time we had the foresight and vision that a programme of this nature was necessary to provide care for the elderly because in our quest to achieve developed status we did not want to leave them without proper care and attention. Moreover, the fact is that we have an ageing population. An ageing population is defined as one where 10% of the population is over the age of 60, in Trinidad and Tobago we have 12% in this age group.
Mr Speaker, following the launch of this training programme the former UNC Government commenced a placement agency for GAPP graduates in 1998. At that time we started the placement agency with 25 graduates.
This programme ensures that support and care are administered to senior citizens who either live alone or whose relatives are unable to look after them.
Senior citizens who benefit from GAPP do not only represent those from the poorest classes in our society.
As our society develops and the population becomes more mobile the need for GAPP will become more evident.
More and more in our society, senior citizens are more inclined generally to show a preference for their own homes or the family home environment rather than a commercial or state-owned home.
The need for GAPP will continue to reflect a progressive increase in the forthcoming years. In other words, GAPP is here to stay.
Innovations in GAPP
In recognition of the importance and indeed the potential of GAPP, in less than one year the Peoples Partnership Government has initiated meaningful changes.
Increase in Care Givers
• We have increased the number of Care Givers who will be employed on an annual basis from 400 to 600. An increase of 50%. The previous PNM Government did not increase the number of Care Givers since 2006 – a period of five (5) years even though the programme was overwhelmed and bursting at its seams. This lack of response on their part was so typical of their incompetence and inability to enhance an important programme as GAPP; There is now a high demand for our Care Giving services.
• We have increased the monthly stipend paid to Care Givers from $1800.00 to $2500.00 (that is 38% increase). For five years the Care Givers pleaded for an increase indicating that inflation had reduced considerably the value of their stipend and the insensitive PNM Government did nothing to assist them;
National Commission for Self Help Ltd
The NCSHL - is one of the Ministry’s agencies which has worked diligently to partner with communities and low income home owners to improve community infrastructure and to provide the highly demanded home Minor Repairs and Reconstruction Grant.
The NCSHL is charged with the responsibility to undertake projects in the following areas:
• Immediate Disaster Reconstruction and Crisis Intervention
• Community Enhancement and Upliftment
• Construction and Repair of Roads, Bridges, Retaining Walls, Schools and;
• Social, Cultural, Recreational projects (Pan Theatres, Basketball Courts, Turf wickets, Houses of Worship;
• Infrastructural work for the supply of Water and Electricity;
• Drain Works; and
• The Minor Repair/Reconstruction Grant (MRRG)
The NCSHL provides finance, material and technical services while the communities supply the labour.
In fiscal 2010/2011, the NCSHL was able to positively impact upon an estimated 12,851 citizens in both Trinidad and Tobago through our Minor Repair Reconstruction Grant and community Infrastructure Development Programmes (CID).e.g. Gonzales.
The focus of the NCSHL is to ensure that there is an equitable distribution of funds to treat with the applications received. In February, 2011, the NCSHL had 4,291 MRRG applications and 1,066 Infrastructure applications being considered. Mr. Speaker these figures represented the backlog of applications from previous years, some as far back as 2003. In Fiscal 2011, an estimated $37.2 Million Dollars was applied to the successful implementation of 2,094 MRRG projects and 179 Community Infrastructure Development (CID) projects.
Our aim and objective in this fiscal period is to use the arms of the Ministry of Community Development through agencies such as the NCSHL to work assiduously to achieve Government’s Medium Term Policy Framework 2011 – 2014 towards the “reduction of socio-economic and regional inequalities…move people out of poverty and promote social inclusion through more meaningful economic participation.”
To achieve our “priority for action” coined as “Poverty Reduction and Human Capital Development”, the NCSHL’s aim for this new fiscal period is to leverage our projects to mobilize and empower communities thereby accomplishing our objective of building strong and resilient communities. Our goal is to revive the principles of “self-help”, “self-reliance” and the old adage of “where there is a will, there is a way.” So that the mindset of waiting on Government to provide will be dispelled and the community spirit will be rejuvenated so that every man, woman and child will be motivated to participate in improving their community and upgrading their standard of living through their own efforts and the resources provided by the Ministry through the NCSHL and corporate citizens. E.g. Project in Tobago.
Mr. Speaker, in many communities the concept of Gayap is not known anymore. Gayap is an Amerindian word that means “lend a hand”. Through the Ministry of Community Development and the National Commission for Self Help, we plan to re-establish this system of Gayap as we implement certain home improvement projects. We recognize and acknowledge that the restoration of this initiative symbolizes the institutionalization of community participatory systems. It is our belief that a resurgence of the Gayap will assist with community empowerment and by extension national development.
Our aim is to work with community groups, NGO’s, CBO’s and FBO’s to identify ambassadors in villages and neighbourhoods who will act as “point persons” to the NCSHL to identify the specific needs within a community and spearhead the Gayap initiative with respect to the actual implementation and labour component of a project. We are confident that this collaborative approach will ensure that the venture is successful.
It is our firm belief that if this is also applied to our MRRG programme, then senior citizens, single mothers and the physically challenged, who, having received a Grant, will benefit and have readily available labour to assist with repairs to their homes at no extra cost.
Another aspect of the MRRG Programme that we plan to explore in fiscal 2011/2012 is the allocation of funds for the installation of “flush toilets” in targeted communities across the nation. Our work in these communities has revealed that there are hundreds of households in catchment areas in North, Central and South Trinidad and in Tobago, that still depend on outhouses for the disposal of human waste.
Not only is this a major health hazard to those that live within the immediate surroundings, but destructive to the environment as well.
When Gayap is applied to this proposal, it will ensure that all sectors of the community are actively participating and contributing to the development of our people and our nation.
Income Generation Projects
In June 2011, the NCSHL sponsored its first hydroponics project. This project which is now producing lettuce, cabbages and patchoi in a six week period is located in Maracas, St Joseph. Mr. Speaker. A low cost prototype of this model will be offered to communities in Fiscal 2012. The intention is to cause more homeowners to produce ‘short crops’ in their backyards. E.g. Pilot Project- Habitat for Humanity / NCSHL / Gayap / CDF- Income Rabbit Rearing / Grow box
Community Development Fund (CDF)
Mr. Speaker, the CDF continues with its main strategic objectives to alleviate poverty in the poorest communities and to assist with strengthening the institutional capacity of Non-governmental and Community-Based Organisations.
In fiscal 2011 the CDF approved approximately thirty (30) Community based Projects which have been submitted by NGO’s, CBO’s and FBO’s. These projects cover a very wide area of Community Activities.
Export Centres Co. Ltd (ECCL)
Mr. Speaker, consistent with its Strategic Plan 2009-2014 the Export Centres Company Ltd has proposed for inclusion in the 2012 Estimates, the establishment of a Craft Research and Design Centre and commercially viable Community Craft Business Outlets. The latter involves the establishment and operation of eight (8) community craft retail outlets which will offer for sale the output from the production of trainees of the programme, and the Community Education Programme. Additionally, a warehouse and a retail/wholesale outlet for high-end products will be established.
The Craft Research and Design Centre is expected to provide entrepreneurial support for craft practitioners through:
• Consultancy engagements re craft development and research, with partners;
• A research programme for the development of indigenous material in partnership with CARIRI, UTT and in collaboration with international agencies; and
• Conduct of 20 craft workshops (Design) for practitioners.
Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to inform this Honourable House that as Minister of Community Development I am very pleased to welcome the following new Divisions to my Ministry:
• Mediation Division
• Division of Ageing
• NADAPP- National Alcohol Drug Abuse Prevention Programme
• The Adult Education Division
Mr Speaker before I conclude and once again thank my colleague, the Member for Tunapuna, The Honourable Minister of Finance for a comprehensive, compact and sound Budget I would like to recognize a few of my other colleagues who have contributed in no small measure towards the improvement of the quality of life of my Constituents in Naparima.
This particular Constituency has been openly neglected by the former PNM for as many years as they served in Government.
I want to say thanks to all our service delivery Ministers- The Honourable Minister of Works and Infrastructure, the Honourable Minister of Local Government, the Honourable Minister of Sports, the Honourable Minister of Public Utilities, the Honourable Minister of Housing and the Environment, the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, the Honourable Minister of the People and Social Development, the Minister of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education and the Minister of Education for their projects completed in Naparima.
To name a few, Mr. Speaker, these are as follows:
• Papourie Road, Barrackpore
• Iere Village Branch Road, Princes Town
• Halfway Drive, Harmony Hall
• GP Barrackpore
• St Croix Extension
• Rig Road
• Lothians Road
• Marcano Road
• Centenary Road etc
• Garth road Princes Town
• St Croix Road, Lengua
• Reform Village
• Toruba Link Road
• Jaipaulsingh Road
• Mt. Stewart Village
• Papourie Road etc
• Realise Road
• Tabernacle Street, Iere Village
• Solomon Street, Cedar Hill
• Sattar Avenue
• St Croix Extension etc
• Oropouche River Barrackpore
• Cumuto River Barrackpore
• Lengua River
• Congo Hill River
• Jaipaulsingh Road River
• Matabar Trace River
• Seebarath Road River
• Usine Ste Madeline River
• Ben Lomond
• Cunjal Road River
• Borde Narve Road River
• Guaracara River – HDC under the former PNM reclaimed the river to build houses.
At present, works are in progress and I know other critical areas will be addressed soon. I also want to recognize and pay special tribute to the Honourable Minister of Public Utilities, through whose assistance thousands of my Constituents have been able to obtain pipe borne water for the first time in their lives. Through this Ministry I was able to have wiring and rewiring electrical installation to dozens of houses owned by low-income citizens. I also want to place on record my gratitude to the Minister of Public Utilities for the new enlarged 28 km WASA trunk line from Navet to San Fernando which he commissioned at Ste Madeline in Naparima. This facility has increased considerably the flow of pipe borne water to Constituents.
I would like as well to express my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the Honourable Minister of Housing and the Environment who has responded readily and provided urgent housing to citizens of Naparima who suffered as a result of natural disasters.
Mr Speaker, I am confident as a member of the People’s Partnership Government; we are on track to improve the quality of life of our citizens. We are in delivery mode. Thank you for the opportunity to support the 2012 fiscal measures presented by the Honourable Minister of Finance.
I thank you.