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Community Development Minister lists achievements in budget debate presentation

The following is the presentation delivered by the Honourable Winston 'Gypsy' Peters, Minister of Community Development during the Budget Debate for fiscal year 2013 in the House of Representatives on Monday October 8, 2012.

All protocols observed.

Mr Speaker,
Distinguished Members of this Honourable House,

Let me embrace this opportunity to contribute to the Debate on the National Budget for the new fiscal year. The theme of this budget Mr Speaker, “Stimulating Growth, Generating Prosperity” may be contextualized to the mission of my ministry to build resilient and sustainable communities. I note this because it is the resilient sustainable communities that are the foundation of prosperous and developed societies.

Congratulations to Minister of Finance:

Mr Speaker, I want to first congratulate the Honourable Minister of Finance on his maiden budget presentation.

The objectives of this Budget Statement address the needs of our people in Education, Health, Housing, Works and Infrastructure and National Security and encourage productive activities in the areas of Agriculture, Tourism, Sports and Culture.

As the government undertakes these activities, the budget also addresses mechanisms for the protection of our environment and the safety of our citizens.

My contribution to this debate will focus on the achievements of the Ministry of Community Development for Fiscal 2012, and provide an insight to the plans for Fiscal 2013.

Community Development Pillars of Development:

Fundamental to the Government’s achievement of its mission “to promote a process of people-centred development” are the seven (7) Interconnected Pillars for Sustainable Development on which the overarching policy has been built. Four (4) of the seven (7) pillars have direct relevance to the Ministry of Community Development.

These are:

(i) People Centred Development;
(ii) Poverty Eradication and Social Justice;
(iii) National and Personal Security; and
(iv) Good Governance through Effective Representation, Transparency and Accountability.

The Ministry’s efforts over the past year have impacted positively on the socio-economic fabric of the society to contribute to the process of people-centred development.

Mobilisation for Sustainable Development:

Mr Speaker, a key component of the national strategic development programme is the mobilization and engagement of communities throughout Trinidad and Tobago to allow for the establishment of strong relationships between our administration and the communities. This approach ensures that everyone benefits as we partner with the communities to implement the projects in their local area.
Some of our programmes and projects are:
(i) The Construction/Refurbishment of Community Centres;

(ii) Community Education;
(iii) Adult Education;
(iv) Handicraft;
(v) Community Acton for Revival and Empowerment (CARE);
(vi) The Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition;
(vii) The Geriatric Adolescent Partnership Programme
(viii) Retirees Adolescent Partnership Programme (RAPP);
(ix) Implementation of Self Help Programme by the [National Commission for Self Help (NCSHL);

(x) Community Development Fund Programme (CDF);
(xi) The Export Centres Programme [Export Centres Company Limited (ECCL)]

We have recognized that as a government we cannot function effectively in isolation from the people we are elected to serve.

Driver of Community Mobilisation:

Mr Speaker, the Ministry of Community Development is ideally poised to be the key driver of this mission of community mobilization and engagement. At the ministry we interface directly with members of the public in the course of their daily lives and have developed an intimate knowledge of the socio-economic conditions that characterize communities across Trinidad and Tobago.

Mr. Speaker, in the past four months I have undertaken a necessary exercise to visit and assess the physical spaces that constitute the hundreds of community centres, regional complexes and other facilities that fall under the purview of my ministry.
Together with my Permanent Secretary and a hard-working and dedicated staff, we have set out to identify and prioritise the needs, development and maintenance of the physical spaces provided by my ministry. And we are achieving this in consultation with those communities.

Mr Speaker, as recently as last week we were again in the field (this time accompanied by two of my esteemed colleagues, the Minister of National Security Honourable Austin Jack Warner and the Member of Parliament for Laventille North-West, Honourable Nyleung Hypolite) to see first-hand the conditions of several existing community centres in the Beetham Gardens, Morvant Laventille communities.
During that visit we were able to hear the many concerns of residents - all sincerely seeking to transform their lives, all seeking betterment for their families and their neighbours, all emphasizing the need for facilities and tangible services at the community level. And we are responding to those concerns.

I make mention also of the vibrant programs throughout Trinidad – from Warrenville to my own constituency of Rio Claro – where citizens are acquiring the needed skills in sewing and crafts and small business enterprises – all with one common goal: to making a better future for themselves and their communities. And I must make mention of one particular woman who proudly told me that before she entered this program she could not even turn on a sewing machine. Today, she is a producer growing in skills and confidence.

Construction /Refurbishment of Community

Mr Speaker under the Construction and Refurbishment of Community Centres for the Fiscal years 2011 and 2012 , eighteen (18) new Community facilities were opened:
• Guayaguayare Community Centre
• Preysal Community Centre
• La Seiva Community Centre
• Union ( Claxton Bay) Community Centre
• Waterloo Community Centre
• Ste. Madeleine Regional Complex
• Gulf View Community Centre
• La Gloria Community Centre
• Hindustan Community Centre
• Bon Air West Community Centre
• Marac Community Centre
• North eastern (Duranta Gardens) Community centre
• Sister’s Road Community Centre (upgraded)
• Malabar Phase IV Community Centre
• Second Caledonia Community Centre
• Mango Rose Home -Work Centre
• Upper Malabar Community Centre
• Couva / Roystonia

Another twenty- two (22) centres are in various stages of Construction or Refurbishment and four (4) centres are scheduled for opening by the end of 2012.

These centres are located in Talparo, Cocorite, Calvary Hill and Jernignham Junction.

Mr. Speaker, the community centres currently being constructed and refurbished are the hubs that facilitate the Ministry’s community development philosophy, vision and mission. Essentially this philosophy holds that:

• Everyone has the ability to make a contribution to the growth and development of their community;
• All persons are endowed with the ability to learn, to grow and to find solutions to their problems;
• People have the right to and should be encouraged to accept responsibility for their lives;
• Participation in all aspects of community life is the essence of democracy and a reflection of the existence of a truly democratic society; and
• Change and development will be more lasting and as a result will generate positive benefits and greater impact when spearheaded by persons from within a community, rather than by individuals and external agencies.

Mr. Speaker, despite the international financial challenges that are currently affecting the economy of Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the Caribbean, the Ministry of Community Development continues to deliver on its Construction and Refurbishment programme as indicated above.

In Fiscal 2013, the key infrastructural and social programmes that the Ministry will undertake include:
• The Community Centre Construction Programme: The Ministry proposes the completion of twenty-three (23) centres that are currently on-going at a cost of $31,153,131 and the construction of ten (10) new centres at an overall cost of $55,329,627 during FY 2013.
• An Accelerated Programme for the Refurbishment of Community Centres: The Ministry has proposed an accelerated programme for the refurbishment of one hundred and seventeen (117) hundred community centres for the period 2013-2015. During Fiscal Year 2013, the Ministry proposes to refurbish thirty-eight (38) centres at a cost of $29.7mn.

Management and Staffing of the newly Constructed
and Refurbished Community Centres Facilities in Trinidad
Mr. Speaker, the Ministry of Community Development promotes and encourages participation of all by creating avenues for volunteerism and the promotion of harmony and social cohesion.

(i) One such avenue is through the Volunteer Community Facility Management Committees that are appointed to each newly constructed/refurbished community centre to promote equitable use of the facility in areas that are of relevance to the various groups in the community;

(ii) The Community Facility Management Committee is comprised of volunteers from within the community who agree to give their time and talents to guide and oversee the use of the facility;

(iii) The membership of such Community Facility Management Committees comprises:
• two (2) representatives of the Village/Community

• one (1) representative of the local Private Sector;
• one (1) representative of the Youth and Sporting Interest;
• one (1) representative of the Religious Sector;
• one (1) Cultural Representative;
• three (3) representatives of Community Interest Groups.
I am also pleased to advise that the Ministry is currently preparing a draft policy to enhance the governance arrangements of these facilities.

Construction of Environmental
Friendly Community Centres

We are also promoting a culture of environmental awareness. By this I mean that we are “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 (2) community centres with a focus on being environmentally friendly, one (1) centre to be located at Ben Lomond, Tabaquite Road, Williamsville, and the other at Bunsee Trace, Penal. These two (2) centres will be used as a pilot project.
The major benefits to be derived from this initiative include the following:

• increased awareness by the national population on energy diversification;
• increased sensitization, education and awareness on Renewable Energy (RE), climate change and corrective actions being taken at the local and national level;
• reduction of electricity bills in Community Centres;
• reduced dependence on the petroleum and other fossil fuels;
• subsequent decreases in greenhouse gas emissions; and
• more sustainable and disaster resilient communities.
The Ministry has also identified 15 Community Centres which will be retrofitted with solar powered perimeter lighting.

These are:
Union, Malabar Phase IV;
• Duranta Gardens;
• Upper Malabar;
• Diego Martin;
• La Seiva;
• Thick Village;
• Gulf View;
• La Gloria;
• Hindustan;
• Marac;
• Ortoire;
• Sisters Road;
• Roystania;
• St. Johns Village;
• Bunsee Trace; and
• Ben Lomand Community Centre.

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 been adopted this programme as one of the components of the Prime Minister Best Village Trophy Competition (PMBVTC).This initiative promotes total community involvement. As we all know, Mr Speaker, Environmental Awareness is an on-going thrust of the Government and the Clean and Beautify Programme is geared towards the promotion of this objective. Some of the current and prospective benefits derived from the C&BTT include:
- Beautification of spaces within communities that allows for people interaction;
- Sensitization and participation through plant distribution to community groups, schools, churches and households;
- Clean beaches and rivers; and
- Collaboration with various government and non-governmental agencies.

For fiscal 2012 One hundred and nine (109) communities participated in the Clean and Beautify component of the Best Village Programme.

Adult Education

The Adult Education Programme seeks to develop and deliver a range of academic vocational and leisure programmes outside of the formal school system.

This includes:
• the raising of national levels of literacy and numeracy through organized programmes;
• the development of other basic skills;
• support and technical assistance to community groups desirous of developing and delivering their own programmes but with the aim of making such groups self- reliant.
At the end of the course students are awarded an N.E.C Level 1 Certificate.

Over 2,400 persons have been trained in fiscal year 2012 at a cost of approximately $3 Million.

Community Education Programme (C.E.P.)
The Community Education Programme is a major component of my ministry’s portfolio for Social Action Programmes aimed at capacity-building and poverty alleviation. Its main focus is the promotion of educational skills enhancement opportunities for persons in local communities with the ultimate goal of creating and nurturing a culture of entrepreneurship.

The overall mission and objective of this programme therefore 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 their quality of life.
C.E.P. consists of the following programmes:
• Skills Training
Training is provided in a variety of marketable skills geared towards home-based production of goods and services and employment generation. The project includes training at both the basic and advanced levels.
A total of 9,134 trainees benefited from this project in fiscal 2012.

Small Business Promotion
Recent graduation exercises at County level saw the display of skills acquired in crafts and vocational courses of a very marketable standard.
In 2012 my Ministry introduced a new element of the C.E.P. programme. This was a ‘Sales Day” exercise at each county where participants were able to get hands-on experience in preparing products, high in quality for sale on the local market. We are in the process of identifying and selecting the trainees for advanced courses, and advise that in the course of the skills training programme participants are exposed to the tenets of small business establishment and development.

• Community Awareness and Sensitization
This programme provides a platform for the dissemination of information on social, economic and other issues and developments that impact upon the day to day lives of people in local communities. Such programmes serve to assist individuals and groups in particular, in making the choices that improve their lives and by extension their communities.
The programme addresses the following:
• Life style diseases (obesity, heart disease, diabetes);
• Family life;
• Crime and safety;
• Sexually transmitted diseases (HIV/AIDS);
• Conflict Management;
• Consumerism;
• Disaster Preparedness, etc.

In fiscal 2012, one hundred and forty-three (143) community awareness projects were conducted.

Craft Training Partnership Initiative between
the Community Development Division and
Export Centres Company Limited

• The Handicraft Development Programme is an annual feature of the Handicraft Research and Development Unit/the C.E.P. and the Adult Education Programme, and is one initiative of the Ministry of Community Development which directly addresses poverty, promotes skills training and initiates employment generation.

We plan during this fiscal year to harmonise the work of the Handicraft Research and Development Unit and the Export Centre Company Limited in order to create a seamless value chain from handicraft training at the C.E.P. classes to the production of finished goods for both the local and export markets.
Mr. Speaker, the Export Centres Company Limited (ECCL), an agency of the Ministry of Community Development proposes to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with this Ministry, for the streamlining and standardization of the training programmes initiated and offered by both agencies in an effort to eliminate duplication and realise a holistic and increased value from the respective investments in handicraft training.
The benefits of this plan will include inter alia:
• Standardization of all craft training courses throughout Trinidad;
• Pooling of staff resources between the two Units in the Ministry;
• Craft training will be taken to an advanced level ensuring master crafts-men and women are produced;
• Elimination of the duplication of courses taught by both organization;
• New and improved avenues for citizens to have sustainable incomes;
• Revitalizing the existing craft industry and boosting the economy.

In fiscal year 2012, three thousand four hundred and three (3403) persons graduated from the Handicraft Programme.

Export Centres Co. Ltd (ECCL)
Mr. Speaker, consistent with its Strategic Plan 2012-2016 the Company proposed for inclusion in the 2013 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.
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
• Conducting a total of 20 craft Design workshops for practitioners.

These initiatives are expected to:
• Increase the availability of local craft raw material;
• Increase the number of trained local craft practitioners;
• Reduce annual imports of craft and craft materials; improve the quality and design of local craft;
• Encourage market-driven product manufacturing by craft entrepreneurs; and
• Build work class capability within the local craft industry.

Community Action For Revival
and Empowerment Programme (CARE)

Another programme with which the Ministry of Community Development was able to impact positively and successfully on the national population is the C.A.R.E. Programme.
This social/direct impact 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 2011 and September 2012 the CARE Programme invested $4.459 million in programmes and projects which addressed the basic needs and development aspirations of communities.

The Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition

Mr. Speaker, The Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition is an annual developmental programme with a competitive element. Its overall purpose is to discover and develop latent talent and preserve the traditions of our communities.
This programme was conceptualised in 1962 and next year 2013, will mark the 50th anniversary of the competition.
Over the years, this flagship programme of my Ministry has been expanded to include environmental practices and sporting skills of people within the context of indigenous traditions.
The main objectives are to provide an opportunity for communities to develop a sense of self-worth and national pride, and to build community spirit and cohesion through healthy competition and social interactions.
An evaluation of this programme was conducted in fiscal 2011. The purpose of this evaluation was to assess the extent to which the programme has achieved its objectives and to examine the continuing relevance of the programme as well as strategies to widen its base of support and participation. My Ministry will continue to implement the recommendations arising out of this evaluation.
The Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition is a major social initiative reaching communities across Trinidad and Tobago and the sum of approximately $8M was invested in the Programme for 2012.
Mr. Speaker, during fiscal 2012, fifty (50) groups participated in the Best Village Food and Folk Fair, 64 young women in the La Reine Rive, 153 groups in the folk show/folk presentation, 17 groups in Folk Theatre, 109 communities in the Clean and Beautify T&T (Environmental Sanitation), 45 groups in Handicraft, 51 communities in Village Chat, 70 groups in Traditions of Carnival, 107 groups in Village Olympics and 675 participants in the Junior Best Village Competition.

Mr Speaker, the Best Village Programme has left an indelible mark on the social landscape of Trinidad and Tobago, contributing most significantly to shaping our cultural identity and helping us to embrace who we are as Trinbagonians. Yet even as we celebrate its successes, the evidence of social decay in the society suggests that the potential of this is yet to be realized.
As we celebrate the achievements of this programme over the last 50 years, we are conscious of the need and opportunities available for Best Village to move beyond its current potential of preparing groups for participation in “the competition”.
Mr Speaker, we see Best Village as an ideal tool for setting the foundation for a burgeoning arts industry in each community. We see Best Village as a platform for the development of character, productive ethics, positive attitudes and true unity within and among our people.

The Geriatric Adolescent Partnership Programme (GAPP):
GAPP is a Social Programme which trains and employs caregivers 18-25 years of age on a short term basis to look after senior citizens. This programme commenced operations in 1998. This programme ranks highly among the list of Social Programmes administered by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.
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 come from all sectors of our country. This programme is of major relevance to our society because our statistics show that over 150,000 Trinbagonians are categorized as senior citizens. It is therefore critical to design and establish policies and standards for proper elderly care which are benchmarked to international standards. The reality is that we need to address the fact that we are an ageing society.
Moreover, 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.
Therefore our GAPP graduates can choose to develop their skills through short term employment with the Ministry, pursue self employment or business for themselves, and even work with established senior citizens homes /institutions or to further their education in the field of nursing.
In fiscal 2012:
• Graduates of the Level I Programme for 2011 joined with 15 caregivers to participate in an International Volunteer Day activity which was held on the 5th December 2011, where they assisted in cleaning senior citizens homes across the country.
• Level I graduates from the programme have also been inducted into the Red Cross Society in October, 2011;
• 216 persons graduated from the Level II programme in August 2012;
• Home care continues to be provided by GAPP graduates to 600 senior citizens through this Government financed programme. The sum spent per annum is $18,000,000.
GAPP continues, to provide care giving service and companionship for the elderly, while equipping young people with care-giving and self-development skills and attributes.

Innovations in GAPP
In recognition of the importance and indeed the potential of GAPP, we have initiated the following changes:

Stipend Increase:
(i) We have increased the number of care-givers who will be employed on an annual basis from 400 in Fiscal 2011 to 600 in Fiscal 2012. An increase of 50 percent.

(ii) We have increased the monthly stipend paid to care-givers from $1,800.00 to $2,500.00 (that is a 38% increase).

17 Contract Positions created
(iii) 17 additional contract positions at varying levels in the organization in order to improve the quality and delivery of the care-giving programme;

(iv) We plan as well to increase at a rapid pace the number of Centres where care-givers will be trained. People were being trained in remote areas where hardly any opportunity existed for care-giving service.

We have decided to relocate the Centres to densely populated areas and other fast developing areas where opportunities for care-giving service would be available and required;

(v) It is our intention Mr Speaker, to train care-givers from areas where we will be able to allocate them for duty a short distance from where they reside at present.

Retirees Adolescent Partnership Programme (RAPP)
The RAPP programme provides a platform for learning enrichment and mentoring. It is geared towards helping adolescents, especially ‘at risk’ youths, to appreciate the learning experience by providing a stimulating environment for positive social interaction. RAPP utilizes the expertise of skilled retired persons to provide support services at the community level in the areas of academic assistance, sport, art, craft, music, academics, life skills and general guidance.
In fiscal 2012, five (5) RAPP centres were in operation at:
- Couva
- Belmont
- La Horquetta
- Valencia and Shekinah
- Laventille.

Mr Speaker in Fiscal 2013, the Ministry proposes to expand the programme beyond the five (5) centres where it is currently operated and will shortly present its marketing strategy for the expansion of the programme to increase:
• the participation of male students;
• the level of advertising to further enhance public awareness programmes; and
• enhance general awareness of the programme.

The Ministry also proposes to increase the level of financial provision to improve maintenance (such as paved outdoor spaces, air conditioning as well as fencing of centres to allow the use of grow box for agricultural products) and overall functionality of the RAPP Centres.

National Commission for Self Help (NCSHL):
The NCSHL – though now under the purview of the Ministry of Local Government - had been hard at work under the Ministry of Community Development during Fiscal 2012. The Agency celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2012 and I will therefore report on that agency’s performance in the following areas.
• Immediate Disaster Reconstruction and Crisis Intervention;
• Community Enhancement and Upliftment;
• Construction and Repair of Roads, Bridges, Schools and Retaining Walls;
• Social Cultural and Recreational activities;
• Infrastructural work for the supply of Water and Electricity;
• Drain Works; and
• Minor Repairs and Reconstruction Grant (MRRG)

NCSHL provides finance, material and technical services while the communities supply the time and labour.
In fiscal 2012, the NCSHL completed 811 Minor Repairs and Reconstruction Grant (MRRG) projects and 1008 are in progress.
Under the infrastructure projects, building material was provided to NGOs, CBOs and FBOs for refurbishment to buildings and surrounding compounds, etc. Material has been provided to four (4) schools for paving of the school compound and for minor repair works. Materials, skilled labour and supervision were provided for minor and construction/repairs. Two roads have been completed and 38 are in progress. The overall cost under the Infrastructure Projects amounted to $30,339,174.31.

Under the Emergency Repair and Reconstruction Assistance Programme (ERRG):
• In Fiscal 2012, building materials, equipment and services have been provided to persons whose homes have been severely damaged by floods, fires and strong winds. Three hundred and twenty seven (327) such victims have received assistance and have completed refurbishment work; repairs to two hundred and fourteen (214) homes are presently in progress at a total cost of $7,024,945.00.

The focus of the NCSHL is to ensure that there is an equitable distribution of funds to treat with the applications received. The NCSHL received 4,291 MRRG applications and 1,066 Infrastructure applications. An estimated $22.1 Million was expended for the implementation of 2,094 MRRG projects and 179 CID projects.
Mr Speaker, reducing the impact of poverty in Trinidad and Tobago remains a priority for my Ministry. In order to achieve this effective social transformation through the creation of conditions which will engender greater equity and inclusiveness in the society is required. This can be accomplished through the effective utilization of human resources, engagement and integration.

Building a poverty-free society is possible with the improvement and sustenance of quality living conditions of individuals, families, communities and society through prudent investment in - and effective use of - human, physical, institutional and productive resources, while fostering social and economic integration nationally and internationally.
The thrust of the poverty reduction programme for Trinidad and Tobago is rooted in a programme of social transformation which involves not only changing values and attitudes but undertaking strategic reform measures within the social sector. Some of these measures include, but are not limited to:
• Restructuring of the economy to provide meaningful income-generating opportunities for sections of the population that have traditionally operated on the margins of the economy;
• Empowerment of the poor and targeting the most vulnerable groups in society for social support with direct impact on a family by family basis;
• Strengthening social capital at the community level; and
• Building our human capital through education, training and skills building.

Community Development Fund (CDF)
Mr. Speaker in this context, the CDF’s main strategic objectives are to alleviate poverty in the poorest communities and to assist with strengthening the institutional capacity of Non-governmental and Community-Based Organisations.
The focus of the Community Development Fund (CDF) programme under my Ministry is to continue to assist in the delivery of social services and infrastructure to low income and most disadvantaged sections of the population using non-governmental (NGOs) and community-based organisations (CBOs). It seeks to strengthen and build the capacity of NGOs and CBOs and to increase beneficiary participation in poverty alleviation initiatives such the Basket of Funding Programme (BOFP).

In fiscal 2012 under the CDF:

• 7 new projects have been approved by the CDF Steering Committee and are scheduled to commence in the 4th quarter of fiscal 2012;

• 15 Groups have received technical support to strengthen their proposals on poverty reduction;

• Knowledge base of staff has been expanded through action learning processes;

• The Organizational Development Programme (ODP)
Thirty (30) organizations/60 persons have been identified for a Proposal Development Workshops. These workshops were undertaken during the months of August and September 2012;
• The Community Enhancement and Regeneration Programme (CERP), Phase II of the Palatuvier CERP was approved by the CDF Steering Committee, with implementation set to commence in the 1st quarter of 2013;

• The Visioning exercise has been completed in the Icacos Community. An Aquaculture project is currently being developed to address one of the community's objectives identified in the Community Action Plan.

The Community Mediation Services Programme

Under the current Act, Community Mediation would be available as a mechanism for handling/negotiating the settlement of disputes in a wide variety of areas including, but not limited to the following matters:
• Landlord/Tenants;
• Merchants/Consumers;
• Small Claims (Quantum to be determined);
• Threat and harassment problems;
• Neighbourhood problems;
• Family and Relationship disputes, for example, Visitation Rights, Access, Custody and Maintenance;
• Small Contractors and Home Owners;
• Community Disputes;
• Juvenile conflicts including truancy and delinquent children

The benefits of successfully mediating a dispute to settlement, may vary, depending on the needs and interests of the parties. The most common advantages include:

• Parties are directly involved in coming up with the solution to the dispute;

• As the neutral party, the Mediator can assist the parties in exploring alternatives that are free of bias;

• The mediation process is faster than the court process;

• It is free of charge as there is no cost to the disputing parties;

• The process is simple and lacks complex proceedings;

• Parties are flexible and use creative solutions;

• It eliminates any pressure and tension which usually exists during the court process;

Mr Speaker, today many countries are experiencing social problems. Meaningful conversations and collaborations to settle minor disputes are something of the past, and people choose violence as the ‘best’ approach.
Through the certification process of the Mediation Board the Mediation Profession, a culture of conflict resolution and mediation continues to develop. Mediation transforms a society from being violent to becoming more compassionate. This is achieved by allowing a third party to assist in the decision making process by helping people to have meaningful conversation.
By transforming people, the numbers of lawsuits are reduced and violence in communities is minimized notably. The Community Mediation Programme helps to empower people to change their lives, take control of their future and develop realistic and practical road maps for peaceful existence. This in turn builds stronger communities and provides a greater sense of value.

During fiscal 2011- 2012 a total of 5,861 persons accessed the services of the Community Mediation Programme. This figure comprised 2,758 men and 3,889 women, while 1,240 were managed by the mediation centres 765 of these cases were referred to the courts and 470 were self-referrals.
The management of these cases included counselling, mediation or referral to other agencies for the appropriate treatment. In this regard six hundred and forty-three (643) counselling sessions were conducted and five hundred and four (504) cases were mediated, four hundred and forty-seven (447) of those being court-referred matters.
The Division continues to fulfil its mandate by impacting positively on the parcel of cases under the purview of the Courts.
These facts also suggest that there is growing confidence in the Community Mediation Programme and its ability to deliver a quality service, as well as confidence in mediation as a viable mechanism for dispute resolution and the creation of a peaceful and harmonious society.

The National Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Programme (NADAPP)

The National Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Programme (NADAPP) coordinates drug abuse prevention and demand reduction initiatives in Trinidad and Tobago and supports the efforts of non-governmental organisations involved in the struggle to rid the nation of the scourge of drug abuse.
Mr. Speaker, NADAPP’s goal is to reduce both legal and illegal drug abuse through a preventative approach. This involves informing the public of the health and social consequences of substance abuse as well as the benefits of adopting healthy lifestyles.
Provision of Consulting Services for the Conduct of a Primary School National Survey on Alcohol and Other Drugs for the National Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Programme (NADAPP)

In 2003, NADAPP commissioned a Rapid Assessment Survey (RAS) of Primary School Students in Trinidad and Tobago that sought to paint a picture of the knowledge/attitudes, prevalence and patterns of drug use/abuse within the primary school system. The purpose of this survey was to collect information on the prevalence of drug use among young persons enrolled in the primary school educational system in Trinidad.

This survey has:-
• Provided us with a foundation of specific information that informs NADAPP’s primary school drug prevention programmes;
• Provided various stakeholders with a detailed analysis of the prevalence of drug use in primary schools across the nation; and
• Allowed us to implement the recommendation/s of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Commission (CICAD) under the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM), that speaks to developing “...drug use prevention programs in accordance with evaluation being carried out” (MEM report, 2010)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform this House that the Ministry of Community Development will fulfil its obligations as outlined in the four (4) Pillars of the Peoples Partnership Manifesto. These are:
(i) People Centred Development;
(ii) Poverty Eradication and Social Justice;
(iii) National and Personal Security;
(iv) Good governance through Effective Representation, Transparency and Accountability.

Mr Speaker, in keeping with the theme of this Budget Statement “Stimulating Growth, Generating Prosperity” my Ministry will continue to:
• develop and maintain a professional and effective service delivery system for clients and communities;
• encourage voluntary community-based organizations to create projects and programmes that address current and emerging social issues;

• design and implement programmes and projects to empower especially the disadvantaged, less fortunate, and ‘at risk’ in our communities to cope with the effects of their social and economic realities;

• encourage and facilitate viable community driven initiatives by providing financial and technical assistance;

• develop the human resource potential of community leaders through sustained programmes of training in leadership management;

• collaborate and co-operate with other Public and Private Agencies and organizations in promoting the “community development” process;

• promote the development and growth of indigenous industries by providing an enabling environment for the implementation of micro-enterprise initiatives;

• encourage programmes and projects that provide opportunities for citizens at all levels of the society to participate in communal and national activities.

Mr. Speaker, these initiatives would impact positively on the socio-economic fabric of our society and assist this Government in promoting People-Centred Development and People’s Participation through building stronger communities.
As Minister of Community Development, I am ready to face the challenge of meaningful change and innovativeness, confront the issues that lie ahead, and mitigate the risks that may arise.

Mr Speaker, I thank you.

Caption: the Honourable Winston 'Gypsy' Peters, Minister of Community Development.

CREDITS: Photo courtesy the Ministry of Community Development

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