Last update: 06-Dec-2013 1:00 am
Friday, December 06, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Gopeesingh wants $1.5bn for school construction
Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh has lashed out at critics who claim that under the People’s Partnership the construction sector is lagging. “It has been tremendously active. There has been a lot of work in the construction sector...all the Cabinet notes that have passed and the amount of work that we have been doing. We might not have been telling the population all the things that we have done,” he told Sunday Guardian.
Dr Gopeesingh said, “Within the next six months, we would have completed over 80 early childhood centres; completed 13 primary schools and 14 are under way. We are completing another eight secondary schools.” It was for this reason, he said, the Education Ministry will seek $1.5 billion from the Finance Ministry in the upcoming 2013-2014 budget to complete existing programmes, as well as roll-out new projects under the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP).
The figure being requested has been revised upward by $350 million from the ministry’s expenditure for the period 2012-2013. Gopeesingh described the number of school construction programmes under the PSIP as “massive” and said the $700 million in last year’s budget was almost used up for this year.
“From next year, we have almost 15 more early childhood centres (to build) and we are looking to construct 47 primary schools. We have identified the schools already and then we have to complete a number of the secondary schools as well. There are about seven schools that need science blocks,” Gopeesingh said.
His Cabinet colleague Winston “Gypsy” Peters said the Ministry of Community Development is approving two new designs for 24 community centres to be built across the country. He said the allocation to Community Development was $800 million. Asked if that was enough, Peters replied, “No!”
Peters said, “We can’t get everything that we ask for because we are operating under a certain amount of constraint, but the fact remains that we have to work with whatever we get and that is most important.” Gopeesingh said, “I’m sure we wouldn’t get all that amount of money. Last year, the PSIP was $700 million. This year, we are asking for $1.5 billion which we know we cannot get, but if we get a substantial part of that we will be very happy.”
Gopeesingh, laughing, said Howai brought his banking practices into the Finance Ministry which was good for accountability and transparency. “We don’t interfere with the Minister of Finance’s work,” he said. “We can only do what we have to do. We don’t want the country to move between a debt-to-GDP ratio that is excessive and, therefore, he has his constraints to operate with and we work with him.”
Looking ahead to the September 9 budget presentation, he said, “We are a Government that manages for the present, the medium term and the long term. Whatever economic developments taking place in the country, it’s development in the context of sustainable development and human capital development. “The Government always has as its priority the people and how we can improve the lives of people. Crime, health, education, transportation, employment, all these areas are high on the agenda.
“We are guided by what the people have been saying as well, moving to the future: what it is that they feel we have been doing well, what it is we have not been doing as well as we should. We are there to deliver for the people. “The (by) election in Chaguanas West must have given us an eye-opener in a number of areas. As members of Parliament, we need to work harder in our constituencies. We are on the move to regaining Government in the next term. We just have to work a little smarter and keep together.”
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