No CEPEP cuts, circumstances permitting—Minister

Date: 
Thursday, October 17, 2019 - 01:30

Cir­cum­stances “per­mit­ting,” there will be no cuts in the CEPEP labour force or con­trac­tors, said Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter Kaz­im Ho­sein yes­ter­day.

Ho­sein said if the need aris­es, it may be re­viewed, “but as of to­day there will be no cuts”. He stressed this dur­ing yes­ter­day’s Stand­ing Fi­nance Com­mit­tee scruti­ny of the 2020 Bud­get.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Colm Im­bert, in the back­ground, qual­i­fied Ho­sein’s re­ply say­ing, “If oil (price) drops to $5.”

Both were re­ply­ing to queries from UNC MP Roodal Mooni­lal on whether there’d be cuts in CEPEP’s labour force or con­trac­tors in the com­ing year.

But Mooni­lal had said of Ho­sein’s re­spons­es, “That’s a ‘Petrotrin’ as­sur­ance.”

Mooni­lal had asked Ho­sein if he could give an as­sur­ance that he wouldn’t give a “Petrotrin as­sur­ance” on the mat­ter—a ref­er­ence to con­tro­ver­sial state­ments Gov­ern­ment had made on the com­pa­ny’s clo­sure.

The Stand­ing Fi­nance Com­mit­tee com­pris­ing Gov­ern­ment and Op­po­si­tion MPs met to do the an­nu­al job of scru­ti­n­is­ing items in the 2020 Bud­get doc­u­ments for ex­pen­di­ture and oth­er pur­pos­es. The five-day ex­er­cise be­gan yes­ter­day with the Rur­al De­vel­op­ment/Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­istry be­ing ex­am­ined first.

Mooni­lal not­ed in­creased CEPEP wages and for con­trac­tors as well as a de­creased CEPEP sub­ven­tion. He asked if the min­istry would seek more fund­ing to sat­is­fy CEPEP needs. Ho­sein said, “If the need aris­es...in the mid-year re­view next April.”

Ho­sein was grilled by UNC MPs about fund­ing for wa­ter/truck­ing ser­vices. UNC Princes Town MP Bar­ry Padarath said his area had ma­jor wa­ter truck­ing ser­vice prob­lems and sup­pli­ers re­fused to pro­vide ser­vices in the last year due to ar­rears. He not­ed the Princes Town cor­po­ra­tion pro­vid­ed for ar­eas up to Moru­ga and Na­pari­ma which had been pressed for wa­ter.

Ho­sein, who ini­tial­ly couldn’t com­ment, said he wasn’t aware of this wa­ter truck­ing ar­rears. But he said he’d li­aise with the cor­po­ra­tion’s chair­man and if ar­rears have to be paid “it will be” and in the midterm re­view the min­istry would ap­ply for more mon­ey.

Na­pari­ma MP Rod­ney Charles added, “Up to (yes­ter­day) I’ve got­ten calls from peo­ple all over my area—Garth Road, Iere etc— com­plain­ing of wa­ter not be­ing avail­able and sup­pli­ers don’t want to sup­ply us al­so due to ar­rears. Giv­en the fact that reser­voirs are low and the next dry sea­son hasn’t start­ed, is the cur­rent al­lo­ca­tion enough to cater to the ex­pect­ed 2020 drought?”

Ho­sein said, “We’ll use what we have and if we need more, we’ll ap­ply for mon­ey from the mid-year re­view.”

Im­bert added, “In 2019, Princes Town cor­po­ra­tion got 95 per cent of its al­lo­ca­tion for wa­ter truck­ing and its al­lo­ca­tion is in­creased by 50 per cent for 2020 and there’s a 50 per cent in­crease for wa­ter truck­ing.”

Charles said, “Giv­en the re­al­i­ties on the ground, this al­lo­ca­tion is en­tire­ly in­ad­e­quate.”

UNC MP Chris­tine Newal­lo-Ho­sein al­so said some com­mu­ni­ties sore­ly need truck-borne wa­ter since they don’t have pipe-borne sup­ply and some wa­ter trucks hadn’t been paid $150,000. Ho­sein ac­knowl­edged in San­gre Grande ar­eas where wa­ter isn’t avail­able, wa­ter truck­ing is need­ed and if ar­rears have to be paid, they will be.

Padarath said Princes Town cor­po­ra­tion had been seek­ing re­lo­ca­tion to a new build­ing for three years and rec­om­men­da­tions were made this year for two build­ings.

Ho­sein said he knew they were seek­ing a build­ing but hadn’t got­ten one and he wasn’t aware of the rec­om­men­da­tions.

Padarath said the let­ter on that was sent to and ac­knowl­edged by the min­istry in April.

Ho­sein said each cor­po­ra­tion was al­lo­cat­ed $1 mil­lion for Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment re­form trans­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing mu­nic­i­pal po­lice and $4 mil­lion was al­lo­cat­ed for the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­istry for Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment re­form trans­for­ma­tion.

Ho­sein said it was in­tend­ed 100 mu­nic­i­pal po­lice would be re­cruit­ed in each cor­po­ra­tion save Port-of-Spain which will have 200, “We’ve start­ed re­cruit­ment- there’s 199 in the first batch, 299 in a sec­ond and next Thurs­day an­oth­er batch of 200 is com­ing out.”

There’s al­so an in­crease of $23 mil­lion al­lo­cat­ed for arms and am­mu­ni­tion for mu­nic­i­pal po­lice in 10 cor­po­ra­tions.

On queries about lim­it­ed fund­ing, he said some cor­po­ra­tions ap­ply for funds “late.”

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Story by GAIL ALEXANDER

Image by NICOLE DRAYTON

Image caption: Rural Development and Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein, left, and Chaguanas East MP Fazal Karim share a light moment before the start of the Standing Finance Committee in Parliament yesterday.

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