Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister to reshuffle Cabinet
Friday, May 25 2012 @ 12:20 AM AST
Contributed by: DeoBhagan
"This is a period in which we now take the nation’s development to a whole new phase," Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar told scores of supporters last night at Mid Centre Mall car park in Chaguanas as she celebrated two years since the election of her coalition government to power. "To achieve this I am calling in all my Ministers and members of all state boards to provide an account of their stewardship. Our discussions will be frank and cordial but on the basis of this performance evaluation I will be conducting a reconfiguration of the Cabinet and state boards. I will make the decisions necessary in the interest of what is now required in the new phase of our government"
The following is the full speaking notes of the Prime Minister as released last night by the Office of the Prime Minister. Office of The Prime Minister
SPEAKING NOTES OF
THE HON. KAMLA PERSAD-BISSESSAR
AT THE 2ND ANNIVERSARY OF THE PEOPLE’S VICTORY
MID CENTRE MALL CAR PARK
MAY 24TH 2012
Good evening my fellow citizens.
To all of you who have come out here in what is perhaps the largest gathering of a political crowd ever seen outside of an election season, I say thank you.
Your decision to be here is testimony to your belief in our vision.
Your decision to be here is an acknowledgement of the momentous, historic victory we achieved together on this very day two years ago.
Can you think of a better reason to celebrate than the freedom of a nation?!
Can you think of a better reason to celebrate than the formation of the most representative national party ever in the political history of Trinidad and Tobago?
Can you think of a better reason to celebrate than the great strides we have made in just two short years of which I will account to you tonight?
I am so glad to have this opportunity to share not only our achievements but our plans that will affect each of you positively.
In fact, this evening I will be making a major announcement that will take us to the next phase of our government’s plans.
Your critics have suggested you should not celebrate your anniversary, that you should forget what brought us here two years ago.
Some of them who didn’t get all the gifts they wanted today wanted to call off the celebration, but still wanted to stay around, eat the cake and enjoy the ice cream.
But can you call off this celebration?
The People’s Partnership cannot be cancelled.
The people’s celebration cannot be deferred.
Ask any of the naysayers if they held a political meeting today how many would arrive to hear of the reasons why they shouldn’t be here instead?
The People’s Partnership was born out of the desire of the people and it is easy for anyone to claim such representation but it is quite another to demonstrate that in real terms such as we see tonight.
I know that, you know that and, you know what? Yes, they know that too.
So tonight we make no apologies for a celebration that heralds performance by a Government that is unparalleled in just two short years, with a commitment to nation building that is more robust than ever before.
And even if others would want to betray your trust, to serve the narrow interests of just a few, I will not!
In fact, it is this period of change that has created such stark divisions with some, because the days of Government when the national interest was sacrificed at the altar of narrow, selfish demands are gone!
My friends, in the life of this Government over the past two years, we have seen differing views emerge and we have taken different approaches to ensuring that those views are listened to and as far as possible taken into final decision making.
Within the People's Partnership, we have fostered a culture in which there is open and free expression.
The very nature of our diverse composition and coalition of interests require us to respect different views so that individual philosophies and national agendas would not be stifled nor ever held accountable exclusively to a Maximum style leadership.
Ours is a collaborative approach.
The People’s Partnership is about Diversity not Adversity.
We are about advancing the people’s interests not withdrawing from their representation.
The People’s Partnership is bound by a genuine interest in finding common solutions in the national interest through these diverse perspectives.
This is my preferred type of leadership.
It is one that I believe has held the Partnership together from the moment we urgently assembled in commitment to securing the freedom of our nation and creating a more just and equitable society.
We are strengthened by the diversity of ideas and ideals.
We are enriched by the challenges of enthusiastic difference in approach and perspective.
But in the People’s Partnership, none of us can be considered stronger, nor our interests more important, than ALL OF US working without any sense of surrender.
Withdrawal may be the language of an intense moment, when passions are high.
But to make it a considered strategy, flies in the face of our collective commitment to those who voted for our unanimity of purpose in their interest.
And I say to you tonight, anyone who violates that sacred trust will have abdicated that responsibility to all groups in our nation.
We understand the dynamics of the social and political shifts taking place in the nation today created by the first diverse government of its kind led by this woman from Siparia.
Revolutions such as this rarely occur without the kind of reverberations we are experiencing.
But we are a blessed people and a fortunate nation, when we look at the world around us, we see the price at which freedom came.
In many nations, it cost sacrifice, blood, war and years of walking upon barren lands in search of hope.
Here in Trinidad and Tobago, we armed ourselves with knowledge,
We defended ourselves with resilience,
And won, not by the sword, but by determination and the will of the people!
We must never take that freedom for granted.
We must defend it and be proud of the gains made.
The status quo is changing.
For some members of our society it is all happening too quickly and for others too slowly.
These forces of extremity lie between fear and fanaticism.
Fear from those who don't wish to lose the privileges and advantages they have always enjoyed and benefited from.
Fanaticism from those who demand more immediate sweeping, radical changes without consideration to the financial wellbeing and stability of the nation.
Despite the challenges that we will get past, this is an exciting time of change in Trinidad and Tobago’s history which began just two years ago.
The change that has excited the majority of our nation has frightened and incited a handful of persons who wish for change on their terms only.
This is why your Government is under attack.
We are under attack from both within, and without!
Those who are standing in the way of change have mounted a vicious and unrelenting attack on us, using every resource at their disposal wherever they may find ready recruits of destabilisation.
Whether they find them in the media, whether they find them in the public service, whether they find them in labour, whether they find them even within our own membership, they will use whatever and whoever to advance their cause against the changes we are working so hard to implement.
But you bought this freedom through sweat and tears over decades of toil and sacrifice and they are not ready to surrender it so easily.
You recognise that as challenging as the change is to be made everywhere immediately, the People's Partnership represents the best opportunity for positive political, economic and social transformation.
Ours is the only true national party.
Representative of you all.
That is what makes us STAND STRONG.
We fought as different parties on one platform, and now we govern with diverse views, but with one common purpose – the upliftment of the people of our country.
We stand for genuine social change, extending helping hands not handouts.
We stand for financial prudence not squandermania and buckling to all demands from every sector.
We stand for a better life not the only life we have to accept.
We stand for equality not for some, but for all.
We know that this Government was voted in with huge expectations and demands for instant gratification.
Decades of despair meant that an impatient world awaited those needs and today some feel a sense of disappointment that the change is not as rapid as they would have expected.
It is what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. referred to as “the fierce urgency of now”.
Some do not recognise that we spent the last two years stabilising the economy while at the same time broadening social assistance, investing more in youth development, budgeting more than in the history of our Republic in education building more schools in two years than previous administrations did in more than a full term and reducing crime by 26.5%, far short of what I want, but at least more than has been done before in nearly a decade and an encouraging sign that finally the political will is here.
Remember what it was like before?
You had a government that didn’t and couldn’t care less, today we are working hard and tirelessly to make you safer.
The results in so many areas are undeniably there for all to see even as much as we commit ourselves to doing more.
While the world is reeling under a recession and cutting back we're still prudently managing the affairs of the state, creating employment, improving wages, setting new standards for a better quality of life despite the inheritance of a depleted Treasury and previous commitments to wanton wastage of the previous regime.
While we face our challenges and we deal with them with the interest of our nation at the forefront, we must not lose sight of our true purpose.
Tell the peddlers of impatience and misinformation.
We must not buy in to the propaganda and misinformation and self-interests of some.
They are telling you that your Government has not performed.
And let me say that while it is the most dishonest form of propaganda, do not let your own anxiety for rapid results cause you to believe the untruths.
That is why we needed to come to the nation and account for our time in office.
This is why we have come to tell you that just because activity is not concentrated in Port of Spain, it doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.
When they tell you that your Government has not delivered, tell them about:
A higher minimum wage at $12 per hour,
Tell them about an Increased Old Age Pensions to $3000 and
Tell them about the comprehensively reviewed and increased grants for housing, household items, medical equipment, funerals, special children, pharmaceuticals, rent payments, school supplies and education.
When they tell you nothing has been done tell them about the introduction of the People’s Card System to support families in feeding themselves properly,
Show them the introduction of the Regional Micro Project Fund to provide grants to CBOs and NGOs to implement poverty eradication projects in communities
When they say what kind of government we are, point out to them the free public transport to pensioners 60 years and students in uniform on all PTSC buses.
Tell them a government with a caring heart has replaced one with a Calder Hart.
When they asked what promises have we fulfilled, show them distribution of lands to former Caroni workers who before this government came in have been waiting since 2003 for their entitlements.
…tell them that in two short years you have seen the light and that it feels good to be bathed in its warmth and sincerity.
Tell them about the many households that have benefitted from our delivery of electric power to their homes, many for the first time ever.
It is a shame that poor rich Trinidad and Tobago would still have to celebrate the delivery of such a basic need.
But decades of neglect under previous administrations created that and now they have the gall to tell you this government hasn’t done enough in two years, two years!
You see even the Opposition is expecting a lot more from us.
Even they have higher expectations of what great performance we are capable of...more of that in my announcement which will be made tonight.
While the last administration was shocking the nation with high handed governance, we quietly, perhaps too quietly, completed electrification projects in communities and community recreation grounds that have benefitted from electric power to provide lighting and an enhanced environment for citizens with another 32 under way.
Tell them about the installation of bulk power transmission lines and substations to bring power northwards from Trinidad Generation Unlimited in La Brea that is almost complete.
In just two years, this is what your Government has delivered!
If they still do not listen, you tell them about the:
Aggressive delivery of water distribution with over 12 water pipeline projects and 70 sanitary plumbing projects already been completed.
Tell them that the land of promises has become the promised land with the fulfiment of promises such as the Navet Trunk Main rehabilitation involving a 29 km stretch of water main completed.
And if they are still thirsty for more information add to that the fact that The Talparo Water Treatment Plant has already been commissioned,
And ask them to travel out of Port of Spain for a change and go into neglected rural communities such as Union Village in Rio Claro where for the first time in the 98 year history of that community, the overjoyed residents finally have a supply of water.
First time in 98 years of history.
Decades of opposition neglect washed away in just two years of our government being in office.
Tell them ask the villagers in Union Village and Talparo if they believe there is nothing to celebrate tonight.
Tell the opposition to get out of their ivory towers and come among you the people and discover where the real change is taking place.
And when they ask you what has your Government done about empowering people, tell them about the Workforce Assessment Centres that are now assessing and certifying persons who have so many skills but previously did not have certificates.
Tell them that while they were looking skyward for more tall grandiose empty buildings your government was working hard on the ground making it possible for persons to qualify in food preparation, welding, electrical, IT, plumbing, masonry, carpentry and even cosmetology so that they may finally be able to access job and self-employment opportunities that they couldn’t dream of acquiring before.
And remind them that when they used to tell you how a People’s Partnership government would take away social programs like YTEPP, tell them how these programmes have been expanded and improved.
YTEPP now reaches out to Las Lomas, Freeport, Biche, Tabaquite, Waterloo and Canaan opening access and opportunities to thousands of our citizens whose communities were previously left out.
Go into those communities and ask those residents if they feel there is anything to celebrate tonight.
Something the Opposition never knew about.
So help them, inform them on COSTAAT’s commencement of operations in Sangre Grande on January 23rd this year with 800 students enrolling!
Communities such as Arima, Wallerfield, Guaico, Cumuto, Toco, Matelot and Biche will no longer be left behind!
How do you think the people from those areas feel about the opportunity to make something out of their lives?
Ask the people of Tobago how they feel about the years of Opposition neglect.
Ask Tobagonians how they feel about being part of oil rich Trinidad and yet never getting the just rewards of that relationship.
I know because Ashworth keeps us abreast of things there and I hold the people of Tobago very dear to me.
And while I will not upstage Ashworth’s by telling you of his ten point plan for Tobago, I tell you it will mean Tobago no longer just stands side by side with Trinidad but hand in hand as equal partners of a renewed and revived Republic.
It’s been a long time coming Tobago but the People’s Partnership is here and we will make you proud.
We know you have had your challenges with the Opposition controlled THA and we have been trying to do all we can to help but Ashworth advises me that those problems are but temporary in nature.
But even before Ashworth can present his ten point plan for Tobago ask them about the Tobago Technology Centre which has already been built and will house UWI, UTT and COSTAAT classes for those who wish to pursue their academic ambitions.
And this comes ahead of the integrated campus which we will construct to make education and training more accessible for the people of Tobago.
Ask the beneficiaries of those initiatives in Tobago if they feel like celebrating the life changing opportunities.
UWI SOUTH CAMPUS
At the same time work will also begin on the south UWI campus in Debe this year and we anticipate by August of next year, over 450 students will be accommodated and on course to achieving their academic dreams.
NURSES TRAINING ACADEMY
Continuing our road tour of development across the country, we have also completed the Nurses Training Academy in El Dorado and completed and delivered the UWI south residence quarters for medical students at the San Fernando General Hospital.
In education and training, and its link to sustainable economic development, the creation of a more diversified and knowledge-intensive economy”, our performance has outstripped any previous Government in our history.
Eight new OJT offices have been opened in Trinidad in areas of Sangre Grande, Point Lisas, Princes Town, St. Madeleine, Rio Claro, Point Fortin, Fyzabad and Debe. Next week we will open one in Tobago.
These offices will not only coordinate career guidance support for our young men and women, but also allow citizens to register for any of the Ministry’s Training Programmes including MuST, HYPE, MYPART, YTEPP and OJT.
One thousand six hundred and three (1603) persons have graduated from the Workforce Assessment Centre. One thousand and six hundred and three (1603) of our citizens who previously did not have any certificates are today Certified and employable!
From Nursery to Tertiary we are investing heavily on training and educating our people.
All of these new opportunities for students who would otherwise have not been able to achieve their ambitions continue to be solidly supported by the very GATE and HELP programmes which the Opposition said our government would remove.
Well we removed certain things yes.
We removed arrogance in government.
We removed Maximum style leadership.
We removed squandermania.
We removed the prophetess or rather it seems she removed herself and is banished somewhere.
We removed corruption.
And of course we removed the former administration, two years ago on this very day, Freedom Day for the nation.
And we replaced it all with sincerity of purpose, with humility, with courage, with respect for all people regardless of colour class or creed.
And more than anything else I lead by listening to all views.
Even as discredited as they are I even listen to the Opposition though I must admit that I listen to the Opposition Leader so that I know what not to do.
CHILDREN’S LIFE FUND
When they ask you what has your government done for children tell them about the lives saved through the Children’s Life Fund,
tell them about the Twenty two early childhood centres which have been handed over to the Ministry of Education.
Show them the Primary Schools in Penal, Palo Seco, Enterprise and Lengua which are just about complete amongst others.
Educate them that a further three early childhood centers are being constructed in Arima, Monkey Town and Fanny Village.
When they tell you that your Government has not delivered, tell them that in two years, we have delivered more educational institutions for our young people than the previous administration delivered in almost a decade! In just two years.
But we don’t stop there.
We recognize the need for not just creating educational structures but building the lives of the children who will be attending the schools.
And in that regard, let me announce formally tonight that on June 11th 2012 our nation will turn a new chapter in the history of education.
That is the day the government through the Ministry of Education launches The Character Education and Citizenry Development programme in all primary schools.
It has been over a year in planning with consultants and sponsors to introduce what will without a doubt be the most transformational educational initiative ever launched in Trinidad and Tobago.
Yet another reason to be here tonight in celebration of future generations of Trinidad and Tobago.
Character Education has only recently been mandated to be introduced in schools in countries like China.
Imagine this from a country in which key cities such as Shanghai and Hong Kong have been outstripping leading education systems around the world.
They have recognized the benefits of teaching children from primary school the benefits of a sound moral education.
Our Character Education and Citizenry Development programme will meet the ideal of raising emotionally balanced, socially compassionate individuals with a solid value system.
Isn’t that a reason to celebrate?
The day when a child can learn self-confidence, how to resolve conflicts, the art of social behavior, they will develop better presentation and communication skills.
Through the Character Education and Citizenry Development initiative which will be introduced in all primary schools in the first instance, a revolution in education will take place and we’re proud to be the innovators and pioneers of this programme in the region.
So as we light the way for another child in life you can light another candle tonight to commemorate the 2nd anniversary of the people’s victory secured on May 24th 2010.
Our theme and pledge then was We Will Rise and tonight in the eyes of every child there glimmers a hope and a promise for a nation in which they will be raised with the right kind of guidance and support to become not just better educated but better citizens.
And as enormous as that initiative is I still have not reached the major announcement which will be made tonight.
So you see when you hear all the old talk about change not coming fast enough it really is about us not talking loud enough about the significant way our policies, programmes and projects have been helping people everywhere.
So when they say give them examples of lives that have been changed ask them to hop on any of our increased flights to Tobago and ask the of members of about 5570 families who were among the beneficiaries of house repair grants distributed to families in Tobago and Trinidad through the National Self-Help Commission.
We also re-opened the Community Development Fund office in Tobago which will take forward our strategy to eradicate poverty by engaging communities in achieving their own solutions.
The Ministry of Community Development has also launched an ambitious and aggressive programme for the refurbishment and repair of all centres in Trinidad and Tobago constructed over 10 years ago.
And this will be done alongside the construction of new facilities in different communities across our country.
Ask those people who need the support most how they feel today.
That is where and how the People’s Partnership sees development.
…The People’s Partnership has also focused a significant amount of attention and resources on Sports development, both as a way of embracing and developing the sporting talent of our country and of providing strong positive alternatives for our young talented and at-risk men and women.
We have commenced work on 94 community recreational grounds across Trinidad, anticipated to serve a quarter million citizens spread from La Horquetta to Pelota and from North in Diego Martin to Debe High School.
Work has begun on the National Aquatic Centre in Couva, after it was promised 46 years ago by Dr Eric Williams when Miss Laura De Neef won this country’s first international swimming medal.
Forty six years after one of hundreds of empty promises by the Opposition, it is the People’s Partnership that has come to deliver!
Work has also begun on the National Cycling Velodrome, next to the Ato Boldon Stadium, so Jisane Phillip our Olympian in cycling will no longer be at a disadvantage as he takes on the world.
Over 1500 community groups, village council, NGO’s, NGB’s, charities, religious bodies, teams and clubs have received funding and assistance to boost their work in communities across Trinidad and Tobago amounting to over $60m.
Of great importance to us in Trinidad and Tobago, as a source of pride, is that we will be represented at the LONDON 2012 Olympics in the Sporting Disciplines of Track and Field, Swimming and Cycling.
For the first time since 1996, we will be represented in the sport of BOXING with Carlos Swarez.
And for the first time in 48 years, since the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, we will participate in the Olympics in SAILING through young local hero MR. ANDREW LEWIS.
Two years! In just two years! This is what we have done.
Healthcare remains an area for me of major concern and one of the platforms which we committed to transforming.
And while in two years we have done so much, the state of the health sector as we met it means that today so much more has to be done to get it anywhere near where I can feel satisfied.
We also turned our attention to our current stock of healthcare facilities and undertook major refurbishment and upgrade works on buildings and infrastructure at the:
• Mt. Hope Women’s Hospital
• San Fernando General Hospital
• Couva District Health Facility
• Sangre Grande Hospital
Over in Tobago, in one of our Government’s proudest moments, we have finally commissioned the Scarborough District Hospital after 14 years of waiting.
I said then and I say now, the people of Tobago deserve the highest praise for their patience, their understanding and their resilience!
But that will not happen under a government I lead.
Tobago is not to be treated like an orphaned child.
Tobagonians have an equal right to equal treatment and development for my brothers and sisters on that beautiful isle isn’t for a handout but a hand-up.
Continuing in the area of health, Tobago will also benefit through a collaborative agreement with the Ministry of Health for the provision of pediatric services.
As the health sector begins operating the in the way it should, and serving our people the way it must, Government has also approved the construction of a National Public Health Laboratory to support an active and efficient health system.
Point Fortin might have already heard the news of the construction of a 100-bed hospital that will make the world of difference to that area.
Development spread around and across the nation.
Yet again we didn’t look only at erecting structures but at educating our nation towards healthier lifestyles.
We adopted a preventative approach to Healthcare by instituting the Health Education Caravans and Eduvans in schools across the country to directly interact with our children on health choices and lifestyles.
The Ministry of Health has also developed an aggressive public information programme on healthy lifestyles, and managing diseases to still live full, happy lives.
CHILDREN’S LIFE FUND
The issue of Child Healthcare has always been one very close to my heart.
For years, we looked on as children suffered and died from curable, treatable, preventable diseases.
And the previous Government did nothing.
Those people who want to compare us to the previous administration seem to forget baby Maurisa Ramlal, who was in desperate need of a liver transplant at the age of nine months!
Do you remember the former Minister of Health said the law only allowed $60,000 to be granted to the family?
Do you remember when he said in the Newsday on 1st November 2008:
And I quote the former Minister of Health from that article “We cannot operate outside of our budgetary circumstances. We cannot operate outside of our policy circumstances.”
A child in desperate need of care, and this is what the Minister of Health of the former administration said.
They failed our children.
It is tragic to think that today that this little child would have benefitted from all the help required through the Children’s Life Fund.
And they want to know what changes have taken place in Trinidad and Tobago under the People’s Partnership?
It was the People’s Partnership that ensured the Children’s Life Fund (Act 12 of 2010) became law to provide funding for children needing life-saving, tertiary-level healthcare services.
To date, more than 50 children have benefitted from life-saving treatment with over $10 million in funding…
And we didn’t stop there.
We turned the sod for construction of a Children’s Hospital in Couva to provide the highest quality care for our nation’s children.
The People’s Partnership will not only fund the protection of our children’s health, we will also ensure that we provide it!
And with these historic moves no child who is a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago will die from illness through a lack of financial resources ever again!
We promised you that, and we delivered on our promise! So light another candle, there is yet another reason to celebrate the election of a more caring, nurturing government with the true interest of the people at heart.
My friends, in the very critical area of public safety and national security, I have heard our opponents saying that we have not addressed crime!
They ask what has the Government delivered!
I can tell you that what we didn’t deliver was funding for criminals and criminal gangs.
What we didn’t do it say that the victims of crime were merely collateral damage.
What we didn’t do was spend hundreds of millions of dollars in blimps in the sky that couldn’t fly. Limp blimps.
That’s what we called them. Limp blimps.
Now before I give an account on what aggressive measures the government has taken on crime let me say I am not satisfied with where we are in our war.
Successful battles have undoubtedly been scored but the war is far from won.
But in the two years of being in office we have demonstrated that there is the political will.
We have shown the necessary courage and fight at every level.
From the declaration of state of emergency to appointments of new leadership, major investment in police facilities, tools and equipment.
But the best measure is not by listing all that has been invested but by examining the results.
What we did deliver was an increased crime detection rate, up by 16.6%!
That is measurable.
It isn’t enough but for the first time crime statistics reveal a downward trend.
Our policy initiatives have brought down the rate of murders by Murders have decreased by 25.6% in 2011!
Again, not enough but a 25.6% reduction cannot be scoffed at…it means the strategies are working and we have to acknowledge and pay tribute to the hardworking members of the Protective Service, the Police service, the Defence Force, the Ministry of National Security and all the dedicated, patriots of the protective services.
Serious crimes reduced in the areas of robberies by 27.4% , kidnapping reduced by 57.1%, larceny decreased by 34.4% and burglaries decreased by 19.7%. These figures are for the period of 2011.
So when they say what we have done with crime, remind them that we took the tough decisions, that we have demonstrated our willingness and deep commitment to doing everything possible.
Today criminals know they can longer meet a Prime Minister or government ministers and officials in hotels to negotiate arrangements.
They know that today the picture is different and that we go inside hotels and hovels or wherever they hide and hunt them down.
Just think back two years ago to the helplessness we all felt looking on aghast as a government wined and dined with criminal elements and embraced them as community leaders.
All of that is gone.
One of the critical areas that may not be often considered is that the Police Service now has greater autonomy over their own spending and budgeting so that they can make faster decisions, and implement strategies without the hindrance and frustration of bureaucracy.
We have also focused our strategies training and recruitment and turning out more Police Academy graduates thereby putting more officers on the streets, in the police stations and in community patrols.
Knowing that farmers faced immense losses year after year, we also introduced the Praedial Larceny Squad to work with Police in protecting farmers against this scourge so that their losses can be minimized and their trade can thrive.
Through our own strategies and cooperative support from the Government of the United States, we have also strengthened the fight against illegal drug trafficking and money laundering.
At the same time, our country has finally satisfied a longstanding obligation to enact legislation that strictly prohibits all forms of human trafficking and institutes victim protection measures.
One of the most disturbing things we encounter almost on a daily basis is the road carnage.
It is heart rending situation which needs to be addressed in larger measures than we are doing now.
We have established the Road Safety Council comprising interest groups involved in road safety, and finally established 13 surveillance bays along the Uriah Butler and Sir Solomon Hochoy highways.
These surveillance bays will increase the police presence and improve response times to distress calls!
These surveillance bays will also place our Police in better locations to minimize the incidence of dangerous driving and also respond quickly where criminal activity is suspected or in progress.
Barriers along highways have been erected all across the country but barriers everywhere cannot replace the best protection of all and that is the individual responsibility each driver has to observe the law.
An educational programme in this area is being developed to help carry the urgency of such messages and we will intensify our strategies by meeting with organizations such as Arrive Alive which have been doing such great work as advocates of safety on our nation’s roads.
I know there is a huge demand for more barriers along highways and while there is merit to that there is nothing more important than the barrier to drunken driving, reckless driving and indiscipline by drivers.
We have expanded the Police Service fleet with an additional 229 new vehicles, and 1,479 refurbished vehicles.
In just two years! This is what we have delivered
But we cannot and will not celebrate this area where so many lives are lost and the level of brutality is so evident by these thugs and heartless vagabonds.
There too many mothers and fathers who still grieve for their children, and children themselves who have had to endure the pain of the vicious attacks on their parents.
The madness must stop and I have thrown down the gauntlet in the area of crime reduction to all concerned and said, while I recognize the rot we inherited, I need innovative, hard hitting, anti-crime strategies that will show fast results to reverse the crisis bequeathed us by the former regime.
I can tell you all about the hundreds of millions of dollars poured into areas by the former administration in so called job programmes in exchange for political patronage but which financed the very gangs we wage war against today.
So while it is necessary to put things in perspective no one cares too much on what caused it, they want to know what is being done about it…but let not those who created the monster we all face today not understand they have no moral authority to ask what are we doing to fix the madness which they fostered upon our nation.
This Government will not rest until we have made this country safer again.
If there is one thing that I desire more than anything else it is to put every available resource and ounce of energy towards achieving that goal.
We all know it isn’t easy but I will stop at nothing to returning Trinidad and Tobago to the peaceful society it once was.
I ask for your support in this task.
My friends, they have tried to cause divisions between our two islands, by asking what we have done for Tobago!
But I want you to tell that about our belief and commitment that Tobago must have the space and leverage to continue rising and achieving its fullest potential.
Tobago and Trinidad must always walk hand in hand, as equal partners and we have already implemented strategies to deliver on that promise.
Cabinet has approved an award to NIPDEC for the design and construction of the new building for the Meteorological Services Division (MSD). The construction of the new building will:
o Facilitate the much needed expansion of the A.N.R Robinson Airport
o Facilitate the provision of a state of the art facility for Tobago inclusive of dormitory facilities; and
o Function as a substitute facility in the event that the Trinidad office is unable to function due to a natural disaster or other emergency
Tobago now celebrates its newest luxury Hotel to fully meet the demands of a discerning high-end Tourism market. The Vanguard Hotel and Spa has been upgraded at a cost of US$25 million and having already been opened, is being hailed as one of the premier luxury hotels in the Caribbean region.
We have significantly advanced the construction of community facilities at Buccoo, Pembroke Heritage Park and Glen Road.
And earlier, I told you about plans to ensure the people of Tobago have access to education and training, to proper housing and to better healthcare.
As I mentioned earlier in the coming weeks and months, we have a few surprises in store for Tobago in the context of infrastructure and facilities which will greatly enhance access to services and the quality of life of the people of Tobago.
This is how we have delivered!
Tell those who want to misrepresent your Government’s performance that this is how we have delivered!
When they ask what we have done for agriculture, Tell them that one of the most significant steps taken by your Government has been the release of 4,223 acres of land back into productive agriculture use.
To safeguard our farmers against the dangers of prolonged dry seasons or periods where the water supply is interrupted, we have delivered 300 water ponds in the past year, in keeping with our commitment to dig 300 ponds annually.
This simple and progressive measure will directly enhance our food security and address issues of flood abatement.
We have also completed than 400 kilometres of agricultural access roads aimed at reducing the cost of producing food, reduce the costs incurred by farmers in running their businesses and increasing our national output.
We have also taken our fishing industry seriously and following our quick action to refurbish the Morne Diablo Fish Landing Site, 24 other sites throughout the country are undergoing similar refurbishment.
Two years my friends! In two years, this is some of what we have delivered in agriculture!
In Labour relations, some want to talk about the level of tension in industrial relations, they want to make you believe that we have not performed and delivered.
They say we as a Government, with such an enormous level of delivery, have nothing to celebrate.
I find that to be not only dishonest, but a complete misrepresentation of the facts, for the fulfillment of some sinister, unknown agenda.
If this is the position held by this small group of people, will they celebrate Labour Day?
If as they say, there is nothing to celebrate, will they celebrate Labour Day?
They will, and they should!
Because in two years, your Government, the People’s Partnership, has settled 39 wage negotiations.
Did you hear that? We have settled 39 wage negotiations! Take a bow Honourable Minister of Labour Errol McLeod.
Some of the negotiations settled have been outstanding for years without protest yet we have settled them and still there are those who feel the need to create a hue and cry about what has not been achieved.
Among those, the labour movement can celebrate wage increases for the Public Service, settlement of terms with the SWWTU, the end of a decade old dispute with Civil Aviation workers and an increase for workers of the State oil company Petrotrin.
This is what we have done in two years and this is why I will not accept the distortions of some that we have not lived up to our commitment to holding Labour close.
We have and we will continue to hold Labour close as an important partner in national development.
Obviously we cannot fritter away the precious reserves of the Treasury and just hand out whatever is demanded willy nilly.
That would be irresponsible and when the bottom falls out it would be those very workers which the unions represent that will come demanding their lost jobs and income.
We will continue to foster good relations with labour.
My friends, in two years, the amount of infrastructure development and renewal work we have done is unmatched, I believe, anywhere in the Caribbean region!
One of the most important assets a thriving nation must have is solid, reliable and efficient infrastructure.
And if people want to talk about what we have delivered to earn that reputation tell them about:
The completion of the dueling of the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway from Omera to Santa Rosa Heights after six years of limbo.
The completion of the Aranguez Overpass and related infrastructure far below the original projected cost.
The completion of the Couva/ Preysal Interchange which has immediately and positively impacted the residents of Couva and the Point Lisas Industrial Estate.
The completed Maraval Access which involved the widening of Saddle Road and work on the intersection of Long Circular and Saddle Roads.
The upgrade of the Scott’s Road Network – the Scott / Mendez network runs from Penal Rock Road onto Scott’s Road, Mendez Trace, Kay Trace, Penal Quinam Road onto SS Erin Road.
The upgrade of Goodman Trace in Penal. This road is 4700 metres in length and runs from Latchoos Road in Penal onto Penal Rock Road.
The contracts awarded to construct the $520 million interchange to connect the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway to the Uriah Butler Highway.
This will lead to the removal of the traffic lights between Kay Donna and Grand Bazaar junctions which will greatly alleviate the traffic situation in the area.
The commencement and significant progress with road rehabilitation in a $750million programme including $30 million for San Fernando East, $5 million for Diego Martin West, and $13 million for Diego Martin North/East.
The largest allocation of $44 million was made to the Moruga/Tableland constituency.
$158 million has been allocated to road repairs in the constituencies of Arima, Caroni Central, Cumuto/Manzanilla, Diego Martin central, Laventille East/Morvant, La Brea, Mayaro and Naparima respectively.
We have Completed work on the St. Helena Bypass Road Project so that there is an alleviation of traffic congestion in St. Helena, Piarco and Kelly Village.
We commissioned a $22 million runway instrument lighting system at the ANR Robinson airport, to replace a non-directional beacon system.
This improves the level of safety for aircraft to land at the airport in any type of weather and should result in a greater number of flights coming to the sister isle.
Work has commenced the on the reconstruction of the Tarouba Link Road in south Trinidad.
In public transport, tell the critics that the
PTSC launched three new routes which are now available to all commuters to service communities in East Trinidad; These routes will provide needed transportation to commuters in these rural areas at a cost of $4.00 per trip.
PTSC introduced new routes to the deep South constituencies of Siparia, Oropouche West, Oropouche East and Fyzabad. Let them ask the people of Siparia, Quinam Rock Road, San Francique, Massahood Junction, Morne Diablo and Barrackpore who will benefit from these services whether they have cause to celebrate.
The PTSC increased its Bus Fleet through maintenance and repair.
Around August 2010, the PTSC had an average of 190 buses on the road.
As at today’s date there are approximately 307 buses on the road.
And it’s just two years.
Ministry of people
And when they want to tell you about stagnation, and ask you what your Government has done for the economy, tell them not to look at the rich getting richer but at the poor and needy in our society being helped with the provision of social support through the Ministry of the People.
We introduced a programme called RISE UP an acronym for Rights of Individuals to Social and Economic Security, Universal Prosperity.
Through this we introduced the food card support to those who urgently need it.
Better that than a few grandiose empty buildings in Port of Spain.
Again we reacted compassionately whenever the Ministry of the People encountered desperate situations delivering over 6,000 hampers to the underprivileged.
In fact the Direct Impact Outreach programme of the Ministry of the People provided social services to over 50,000 citizens as compared to an average 3,000 per year under the previous administration.
Again let our critics ask any of those 50,000 citizens if they feel the help received is worth celebrating.
Or let them ask pensioners whether the increase from $2,000 to $3,000 per month effective February 1st of this year isn’t an initiative that makes them happier today.
Again the Ministry of the People employed over 200 mothers of children with cerebral palsy to work in social centres, allowing them to earn an income and provide care for children with special needs so that, in turn, other parents of children with special needs may seek employment.
The URP’s Ray of Hope programme targeted groups within distressed communities, providing support through clean-ups and general maintenance of property to more than 200 persons with disabilities, 43 convalescent homes and 26 homes and centres for persons with disabilities.
Through the Positive Transformation programme, former gang members are prepared to put down their weapons and instead take up tools to give back to their community by way of cleaning up their environment, a positive development if ever there was any.
Some of them do not understand that.
They think if you are not building a 20-something storey building in Port of Spain, then there is no development!
They don’t see beyond Port of Spain so when work is happening in Couva, San Fernando, Penal, Arima, Sangre Grande, La Brea…they don’t see that as development.
Port of Spain cannot rise while San Fernando falls.
Chaguanas cannot rise while Charlotteville falls…
Toco cannot rise while Cedros falls.
This is why our policy implementation strategy has not been focused only on Port of Spain, but all across our country to ensure that our entire nation can fully rise.
In every area one looks at you can see the government working hard at people centered development, the profile of a caring compassionate government.
That is where our attention is, that is where the money is going.
Currently, our senior citizens, are entitled to renewals of a drivers permit free of charge, we will extend this facility to ensure that our elderly citizens can now renew their passports free of charge.
We care for our vulnerable citizens.
Currently, persons applying for a housing grant journey to Port of Spain to submit application forms, return to the city to check on the status of their applications, and return to the Ministry of Housing to sign an agreement and collect their grants.
A poor citizen seeking this help must take as much as 4 maxi taxis to get to Port of Spain and spends long hours at the Ministry's office.
Apart from the inconvenience of travel, our poorest and neediest must expense money to go to the city and buy food and wait hours for service.
With a new program called "Grants on Wheels" the officers of the relevant Ministry will visit the poorest applicants to conduct interviews, undertake inspections and yes - they will return to sign agreements and present your housing grants.
Underprivileged and poor citizens can stay at home, send a letter to the Ministry or use the internet application on one of the 17,000 laptop computers given to their children or grandchildren and receive grants to repair their homes at their doorstep.
That is what we celebrate tonight.
Victor Dell waited 45 years to get an HDC house - he, along with 1,500 citizens have received housing units in our 24 months, another 3,000 will collect keys in the next 5 months.
We have started construction of 1800 units in the last 12 months in what is the most aggressive housing drive in the history of Trinidad and Tobago.
Villagers in Moundo Nuevo in Talparo waited since independence to get water.
The Shouter Baptist community waited since Emancipation to get their primary school.
And in just two years we are delivering on their needs.
These are just a few reasons to celebrate!
My friends, tell those who are asking that our plan for economic growth and sustainable development, and the knowledge intensive economy we will build, will be further supported through measures we have taken which include:
The repositioning and rebranding Trinidad and Tobago in the context of the wider global economy.
Bilateral trade and cooperation agreements with Brazil, Panama, Columbia, Canada, the United States, India and other agreements still in different stages of negotiation have opened our doors to trade and related opportunities in Trinidad and Tobago.
A bilateral air services agreement between India and Trinidad and Tobago.
It allows designated air carriers to operate flights connecting destinations in each country which will assist in promoting development of trade and tourism links.
The formation of the Fashion Industry Development Committee (FIDC) to oversee the development of a feasibility study and strategic plan for the fashion industry.
Cabinet approved negotiations between the Ministry of Energy & Energy Affairs with SABIC and Sinopec for the establishment of a methanol-to-petrochemical complex and methanol-to-olefins complex in Trinidad and Tobago.
My friends, these are only some of the accomplishments of the Government you voted for and stand strong with this evening.
So when they ask you what your Government delivered…
STAND STRONG and tell them!
Ladies and gentlemen, we are at midterm and as much as we celebrate all the achievements made there is so much more to
This is a period in which we now take the nation’s development to a whole new phase.
To achieve this I am calling in all my Ministers and members of all state boards to provide an account of their stewardship.
Our discussions will be frank and cordial but on the basis of this performance evaluation I will be conducting a reconfiguration of the Cabinet and state boards.
I will make the decisions necessary in the interest of what is now required in the new phase of our government.
I believe we have built a solid foundation upon which to advance what will be known as the blueprint for national development that will be historic in nature.
The details of this blueprint for national development has been in progress over the past few months and will be presented to the business and national community within two weeks along with those who will hold the portfolios as members of the Cabinet and state boards, the A Team or Advance team who will take us forward over the next few years.
This is perhaps the most significant announcement I have made since we assumed office.
The nation can look forward to the exciting developments with interest confident that it heralds yet another huge step forward for Trinidad and Tobago as we go from strength to strength.
Our nation is ready to take off to new heights.
We are poised for the most exciting chapter in our nation’s history.
I invite you all to join with us as we deliver on the potential of this great nation.
There is no time for division, no room for the faint hearted, no opportunity for the self serving.
We will continue to rise on the wings of hope and prayer with boundless faith in our destiny.
May God Bless you all, May God Bless our Government, May God Bless our nation.
I thank you all!
- Photos and speech from the Office of the Prime Minister. Special thanks to Kevan Gibbs for the first two photos.