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Rambachan on $410m for constituencies: MPs fund no ploy to win elections
Parliamentarians would have the opportunity to debate the proposed $410 million Constituency Development Fund (CDF) during the current Parliamentary term, Local Government Minister Surujrattan Rambachan has said. In a statement issued yesterday, Rambachan said all expenditure of taxpayers’ funds is subjected to budgetary approval and “the Parliament will have a chance to debate the $410 million in the upcoming budget.”
The fund was first announced by Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie at a post-Cabinet media briefing in early August and has since stirred debate in the public domain. Rambachan said in the statement that the fund is “not a government development plan” but allows all members of Parliament to access $10 million each to implement projects on behalf of their constituents and for projects chosen in consultation with the people.
Commenting on whether the fund would be used to gain political points, especially as local government elections and the Tobago House of Assembly elections are upcoming, he said: “The people of Tobago are principled and are very au courant with the issues of governance. As well, they have a good understanding of which political entity will best be able to advance the interests of Tobago.”
Rambachan suggested if it is an election tool, it will be used by the electorate to judge their Member of Parliament. “This criticism does not hold water since it is spread across the board and benefits all MPs,” he said. “If it is an election tool it is because the constituents will be able to determine from the use of the funds how well their problems have been addressed. This means that the fund will cause MPs to be measured on efficiency, effectiveness, responsiveness and constituency management.”
Responding to the suggestion that the funds should be put into the hands of the local government corporations or the Selfhelp Commission, Rambachan said: “These organisations have their functions demarcated in the laws which govern what they do.” He said while the Government embraces public scrutiny, “it also has to take the decision to move on with its development programme in the interest of improving the quality of life of people everywhere
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