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Re: 2005/2006 Budget
In Response To: 2005/2006 Budget ()

EFFECTIVE SOCIAL SUPPORT

Mr. Speaker, poverty is much more than about low income or the inability to meet one's needs. It is rooted in poor education and knowledge, a lack of choices and opportunities, environmental impoverishment and often an absence of hope and self esteem.

The Government's social support mechanism brings all these dimensions together in a mix of developmental and preventative programmes to empower the poor and the vulnerable to escape poverty along with remedial programmes to provide the much needed support for indigent persons and those who fall into crisis situations.

Unemployment Relief Programme

A key support mechanism for the unemployed is the Unemployment Relief Programme. Between September 2004 and June 2005, 50,000 job opportunities were provided in the various components of the Programme.

As the level of unemployment falls, we will reduce the number of special projects undertaken and reduce the size of the Programme
In addition, we will restructure the Programme and reintroduce a comprehensive training element targeted at the development of construction skills and basic education.

Marginalised Groups

Mr. Speaker, we must ensure that we uplift the status of those who are most vulnerable and marginalised among us; including substance abusers, elderly persons, mentally ill individuals and those who are homeless.

Our programme in the new fiscal year will include:

Provision of short term accommodation at the St. Anns and Tumpuna Road facilities for the mentally ill;
Substance abusers who require special attention relocating to rehabilitation centres;
Establishment of three new facilities - a Social Displacement Centre and a Halfway House in Port of Spain and a Centre for the Aged, in Arima. In addition, a long-term care facility will be established in Aripo.
Development of the capacity of NGOs to provide appropriate care and rehabilitation through training programmes and the provision of technical advice and financial resources.
Establishment of Senior Centres for Older Persons. These Centres will be multi-service facilities, and will be the focal points for older persons to access services, and participate in educational and recreational activities;
Implementation of a Meals on Wheels Programme for senior citizens affected by a disability and/or chronic illness;
Provision of a Continuum of Health and Support Services for Older Persons;
Provision of Business and Entrepreneurial Training for Persons with disabilities;
Training of Personal Assistants for Persons with Disabilities; and
Establishment of five new centres for the Adolescent Mothers Programme.

Youth Support

Mr. Speaker, the Government will strengthen its efforts at addressing the current problems affecting young people, including unemployment, crime and HIV/AIDS through the establishment of a restructured delivery system for youth via community-based and non-governmental organizations.

Several new and existing community-based youth programmes will be offered in fiscal 2006, including Youth Health, Save the Youth in Marginalised Communities and the Youth-Based Support Fund for Community Projects, which will provide funding to youths who propose and execute creative solutions to community needs. Approximately 200-300 community projects are expected to be undertaken in fiscal 2006.

Two important milestones for youth development will be the establishment of the National Youth Council which will promote youth participation in governance and decision-making; and the implementation of the National Youth Policy which will facilitate the establishment of a Youth Leadership Development Institute, a Youth Development Fund and a Youth Employment and Employability Policy.

Community Development

Mr. Speaker, at the heart of the Community Development thrust is the Community Centres programme that focuses on the provision of appropriate accommodations for the conduct of community affairs. We intend to initiate construction of 100 community centres throughout the country commencing in the 2006 fiscal year.

In addition, we propose to spend over $142 million on the upgrading and establishment of community sporting facilities, including swimming pools, playfields and jogging tracks to facilitate the participation of families in recreational activities.

Culture

Mr. Speaker, we must anchor our ambitions of achieving developed nation status in our diverse heritage and the cultural achievements that have shaped our society.

The steel pan, the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago is an intrinsic element of our national identity and a symbol of pride in our country.

Government has decided to transform the National Steel Orchestra into a full symphony of 60 to 70 persons which must be ready for presentation to the national and international community, complete with a full repertoire of music by January 1, 2007.

We will also purposefully use the steel pan to grace our international image and enhance our marketing strategy. It will be a flagship product of Brand T&T.

In order for the national instrument to serve as the symbol of pride for all of us, we will begin to showcase its image in our physical landscape, especially in the design of our public buildings and infrastructure.

Mr. Speaker, we will also establish two Academies for the Performing Arts, one at the Princess Building Grounds in Port of Spain and the other at Todd Street in San Fernando. Work will commence in early 2006. These facilities will allow our national instrument to play side by side with and match the virtuoso of international orchestras.

The centrepiece of cultural infrastructure will be a new state of the art National Carnival Centre at the Queen's Park Savannah. Phase I of the project will commence in March 2006, immediately after carnival and will be completed in time for our celebration in 2007.

Sport and Recreation

With the formation of the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited, the implementation of the sport policy has been diversified and strengthened. The Company will have a key role in the management and maintenance of sporting facilities and the execution of programmes for total participation in sport including high performance sport. In addition, the Company will work with relevant stakeholders to establish an Institute of Sports at the University of the West Indies.

Community sporting facilities including swimming pools, cricket and football fields and multi-purpose courts will be developed in Diego Martin, Pleasantville, Toco, Point Fortin and Santa Cruz. In addition, we will develop several regional recreational grounds: Yolande Pompey, Irwin Park, Eddie Hart and the grounds in Morvant, Sogren Trace in Laventille, Charlieville, Lange Park and Patna Village. Additionally, in fiscal 2006, we intend to spend over $100 million upgrading and improving community recreation grounds all over Trinidad and Tobago.

Gender Affairs

The Government recognises the need to develop a Gender Policy. The draft Gender Policy Document currently being circulated was not issued by the Government and does not reflect Government policy. In fact, there are certain recommendations in the document to which the Government does not and will not subscribe. The Government is therefore requesting that the document which purports to be official Government policy be withdrawn from circulation.

STRATEGIC INVESTMENTS SUSTAINING ECONOMIC GROWTH AND BUILDING COMPETITIVE BUSINESSES

Mr. Speaker, I will now outline our policies for the main production sectors. Let me reiterate that the top of our agenda is the restructuring and strengthening of the drivers of growth, so that we can develop a diversified, competitive economy that occupies a more profitable position in the global value chain. This means that we must shift successfully from our primary production mode towards activities that take advantage of our resource endowments, strategic location and the quality of our workforce. In the process, we must build competitive businesses on the basis of efficiency, productivity and innovation.

ENERGY AND ENERGY INDUSTRIES

Mr. Speaker, on a policy level, we have taken the decision that all new project proposals in the downstream natural gas sector, including ammonia and methanol production, must include a value-added element for processing into a higher value product. As a result, plans are in train to establish plants to produce melamine, urea-ammonia nitrate and acetic acid.

In addition, discussions are underway with respect to the feasibility of establishing a world scale polypropylene plant for this country. This US$1.4 billion polypropylene plant will be the first plant in Trinidad and Tobago. Plant start up is estimated for the year 2010. It will be yet another of the basic building blocks towards making Trinidad and Tobago a modern industrial state.

It will provide opportunities for downstream businesses in consumer products, film for packaging food, toys, automotive parts and appliances to name a few. It is estimated that short-term employment during the construction phase should peak at 4,000 jobs while long-term employment should result in 400 jobs.

This will assist in reducing the capital as well as the operating costs of both refineries. In addition, this may provide an investment opportunity for citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.

LNG

The Atlantic LNG Train 4 plant is expected to be commissioned in November 2005 - two months ahead of schedule. In addition to expanding LNG production further, a strategic decision has now been taken to explore investment opportunities along the entire LNG value chain. In this regard, NGC LNG (Train 4) has been renamed the Trinidad and Tobago LNG Company which will be the vehicle by which the Government will make and manage future investments in LNG and promote and develop new business opportunities in the industry.

A Committee has been established to select strategic partners for possible joint venture arrangements with the Government in areas of new LNG investments including a new LNG Train, LNG shipping, re-gasification facilities, distribution and marketing to the final consumer. The evaluation process which employs a bidding procedure is expected to be completed shortly.

Several other potential partners have submitted proposals for investments along the entire LNG value chain and these proposals are currently being reviewed.

The National Gas Company is nearing completion of two major pipeline projects that will significantly increase the Company's capability to deliver increased volumes of natural gas to new projects as and when needed. One of these, a 76.5 kilometre 56-inch Cross Island Pipeline (CIP) will have a transmission capacity of 2.4 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d), and will initially service the Atlantic LNG Train 4 expansion. This pipeline will possess significant spare capacity to serve the needs of future LNG expansions and new gas based industries to be developed at the Union Industrial Estate at La Brea.

The second, the Beachfield Upstream Development (BUD) project entails the construction of a 63 kilometre, 36-inch offshore gas pipeline from bptt's Cassia B platform off the south-east coast of Trinidad. The BUD project will increase NGC's transmission capacity to Point Lisas Industrial Estate from 1.4Bcf/d to 2.0 Bcf/d to meet the increased gas demand for the M5000 methanol plant, the largest methanol plant in the work and which is now coming on stream, and the future growth in natural gas utilization.

The Government is at present in receipt of proposals for the development of two aluminium smelter plants, one at Cap-de-Ville, Point Fortin, and the other at Union Industrial Estate, La Brea. In keeping with our policy to increase the value added accruing to this country, one of these proposals has clearly outlined plans that would utilize 100 percent of the produced aluminium in downstream facilities located throughout Trinidad.

The Government is also currently giving consideration to two proposals from NUCOR and the International Steel Company aimed at the revitalization of the iron and steel industry. Both proposals offer commitments that could lead to opportunities for the establishment of plants producing downstream products based either on cast-steel or cast-iron.

Essar, an Indian Company, has agreed to construct an integrated Iron and Steel Complex representing an investment of US$1.2 Billion which will include several downstream steel plants.

This investment will involve, among other things, the manufacture of steel plates that can be used to make tubes and represents a significant new development in the domestic Steel Industry.

Mr. Speaker, all these initiatives spell jobs - sustainable jobs.

Optimising Refinery Operations

Mr. Speaker, PETROTRIN is pursuing a strategy to establish the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery as the premier refining centre in the Caribbean, supplying high-quality, clean fuels to the local, regional and international market.

A threefold upgrade of the refinery is being pursued, including: a Gasoline Optimization Programme, an Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel Programme, and a Bottom of the Barrel Optimization.

The three year gasoline optimisation programme is underway and involves the construction or revamping of eight major plants, along with the associated utilities and supporting units at an estimated cost of US$350M. The construction phase of the project is expected to lead to a considerable number of jobs.

We are also considering the establishment of a new refinery at Pointe-a-Pierre.

Community Partnership Initiative

Mr. Speaker, our drive to capture more of the value in the energy sector via operational and strategic participation is being impeded by an inadequate number of industry-ready professionals and skilled workers. Currently, not enough graduates are produced on an annual basis to meet the demand. It is estimated that we need 620 professionals, 1,310 engineering technicians and 1,030 craftsmen and machine operators annually. This shortfall in human capital can be attributed to, among other things, a lack of information concerning the sector. To stimulate interest in the petroleum sector, the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries will implement a Community Partnership Initiative. The objective is to provide future candidates for the range of tertiary level training initiatives now being implemented by the Government at UTT, TTIT and COSTAATT. The Initiative will have a mentorship component and will encourage energy sector companies and professionals to have closer interface with schools in their fence line communities through the Adopt a School Programme and the Energy Alive School Quiz.

CONSTRUCTION

Mr. Speaker, the construction sector will continue to be a major source of growth in 2006. In addition to the Government's housing programme, work is proceeding on a number of major building projects including:

the Port of Spain International Waterfront Project;
the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba;
restoration of the Red House
the Chancery Lane Complex in San Fernando;
the Government Campus Complex;
new facilities for the Ministries of Legal Affairs, Education, Social Development, Ministry of Public Administration and Information;
the THA Financial Complex and Scarborough Library; and
the construction and upgrade of administrative Buildings for the Municipal Corporations.

NEW GROWTH SECTORS

Mr. Speaker, I indicated last year that seven priority industries have been identified with potential for business development and job creation. To date we have completed strategic plans for all of these areas and implementation of three such plans has begun.

MANUFACTURING

Assisted by investments and the provision of generous fiscal incentives, our manufacturing sector has grown to be the leader in the Caribbean. The Government is committed to helping the sector maintain this dominant position and to become competitive in new markets further afield. Accordingly, in line with the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Business Development, we are taking steps to:

i) complete the Technology Park at Wallerfield;

ii) modernize existing Industrial Parks and develop new Industrial Parks;

iii) increase market intelligence and product development capabilities among manufacturers;

iv) introduce a Degree Program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT);

v) improve the customs services, port facilities and the various institutions facilitating business;

vi) intensify efforts (along with our CARICOM partners) to heighten negotiations on free trade agreements with MERCOSUR, Canada, and Central America;

vii) establish a Research and Development Fund for technology and innovation to support the local research environment;

viii) develop a comprehensive legislative framework that would facilitate the expansion of trade and investment; and

ix) create an environment for fair competition in the domestic market.

THE SMALL AND MICRO-ENTERPRISE SECTOR

The Business Development Company and its subsidiary company, Caribbean Leasing Company, will continue to provide comprehensive technical support and loan guarantees to enable small and medium-sized enterprises to maximize their potential.

At least 80 companies will benefit from its Loan Guarantee Programme in support of loans from financial institutions exceeding $13 million, in sectors including printing and packaging, electronics, agriculture, food and beverage, light manufacturing and distribution. In addition, over $16 million in leases will be disbursed through the Leasing Company for the acquisition of machinery and equipment for plant modernisation and upgrading.

Fair Share Programme

Mr. Speaker, in order to develop the Small Business Sector further and facilitate the development of the entrepreneurial experience and skills set, we will introduce a "Fair Share Programme" as part of the reform of the procurement regime in the Public Sector.

Under the programme, public sector contracts of a value of $1,000,000 or lower will be reserved exclusively for registered small businesses of various sizes.

AGRICULTURE

I now turn, Mr. Speaker, to our plans for the development of the agricultural sector. Global imperatives require the agricultural sector to build and sustain competitiveness by being resilient, adaptive and technology and market driven. The sector must also be managed intelligently using an efficient information technology support and information system.

Over the medium-term our strategy will be to:

Improve food security and food sovereignty by the development of strategic agricultural sub-sectors;
Pursue a sustainable rural development agenda;
Encourage youth involvement in agricultural activity;
Increase competitiveness in export and domestic markets.

The main drivers of success will be the quality of our access roads, drainage, irrigation and water management systems; land use rationalization; the availability of finance and credit; effective marketing and the policy and regulatory framework; fisheries management and infrastructure; and the quality of our human capital.

CARONI

The centrepiece of our intensified agricultural thrust is the restructuring of Caroni (1975) Limited. With the allocation of two-acre plots of agricultural land in fifteen (15) locations throughout Trinidad to former employees, we have created 7,247 new land owners and brought into productive use an additional eighteen thousand, three hundred and thirty eight (18,388) acres of land.

Mr. Speaker, the Ministry of Agriculture Land and Marine Resources will register these new land owners as farmers which will entitle them to benefit from Government's Agricultural Incentive Programme. Some of these incentives will subsidise the cost to farmers as follows:

50% of the purchase price of machinery and equipment;
50% of the cost of irrigation equipment including water pumps;
25% of the cost of tillage of land; and
15% of the purchase price of agricultural vehicles.

Training support will also be provided through the extension services division of the Ministry and thirty (30) buildings owned by Caroni (1975) Limited are to be used for this purpose. The Ministry will also provide support in research and development, agro-processing and marketing.
Mr. Speaker, these farmers will be encouraged to extend from primary farming into value added products, particularly agro-processing and marketing through the creation of Co-operatives and agri-businesses. These initiatives will transform the traditional semi-commercial and primary-production-based agriculture into a set of profitable viable agri-businesses, and have a positive impact on employment, incomes, trade and production in agriculture and allow them to take advantage of the export opportunities that are available.

New Initiatives by ADB

The Agricultural Development Bank is now positioned as the driving force in promoting business development, growth and competitiveness in the agricultural sector.

The Bank has developed three new products in support of its business development thrust:

The 'Cocoa Revitaliser' to support the revitalisation of the cocoa industry;
The 'Grow Safe Loan' to promote the use of good agricultural practice; and
The "Youth Window", which offers the lowest interest rates to attract our young people to the sector.

Demonstration Farm

To provide the feedstock for the agribusiness sector, Government intends to establish 2 or 3 large farms in the country through joint venture arrangements with private investors

Agri-business Development

Mr. Speaker, the Government is also moving towards the development of new agri-business activity including the establishment of an agro-industrial park. We are in the process of finalizing plans to develop competitive industries from seven primary products: Cassava, Paw Paw, Hot Peppers, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkins, Tilapia and Rabbits. The objective is to develop new value added processed products for the domestic, regional and extra regional markets.

We are also considering a proposal from the private sector to use Caroni Lands as a basis for the development of an agro-processing industry. This is a promising new initiative which has many possibilities for the agro-processing industry.

Development of Strategic Agriculture Sub-Sectors

Mr. Speaker, a major objective of our agricultural strategy is food security. We have commenced programmes to increase the level of sufficiency in five (5) strategic foods, namely Rice; Root crops and tubers; Small ruminants; Aquaculture and Dairy.

Family Farms

Mr. Speaker, over the past twenty years, the number of family farms has declined from approximately 30,000 units to 20,000. Yet they remain central to food production, the economic livelihoods of rural communities and good natural resource management. In implementing our rural development policy we will focus on:

Providing infrastructure to facilitate increased production and productivity by family farms;
Increasing the production of local foods through the Growbox and Community Aquaculture projects;
Expanding youth-oriented programmes such as YAPA and the 4H and Young Farmers' Programmes;
Establishing agricultural settlements in rural areas; and
Providing training and facilitating the transfer of appropriate technology, to farmers, fisher folk and agri-businesses.

TOURISM

Mr. Speaker, in testimony to the success of our marketing strategy, which positions Trinidad and Tobago as a destination of choice for leisure, events and conference tourism, visitor arrivals are projected to increase to 481,000 in 2005 some 8 percent higher than last year.
Nonetheless, a significant amount of work is required to bring our tourism product on both islands to internationally competitive levels.
The Government, Mr. Speaker, intends to exploit fully our enormous tourism potential in Trinidad. Our strategic thrust is to:

upgrade the existing room stock to international standards, and establish a critical mass of new rooms led by the 5-star end of the market;
position Port-of-Spain as the Meetings and Conventions Capital of the Southern Caribbean and the Business Centre of the Sub-region;
Upgrade selected sites and attractions and develop various facets of the product;
Increase airlift service to both islands;
Enhance industry standards and quality service through human resource development and on-going industry training; and
Generate a higher level of tourism awareness among the population.

In keeping with our focus on product development, the Chaguaramas Development Authority is in the process of establishing a National Heritage Park and Cultural Village in the Chaguaramas Peninsula. In addition, we propose to develop a National Heritage Park in each Municipal Corporation, which will encourage exploration and conservation of the cultural resources of each municipality.

SOUND INFRASTRUCTURE AND EFFECTIVE TRANSPORTATION

Mr. Speaker, we recognize the adverse impact the quality of public infrastructure has on the productive sectors as well as the quality of life of our citizens. We must, therefore, respond in creative and innovative ways to bring relief in the short, medium and long-term.

In 2006, the Government will provide the necessary resources to treat properly with these issues. We have allocated the sum of $489 million specifically for road rehabilitation and repair work, and for the first time the sum of $292 million has been allocated specifically for the clearing, de-silting and improvement of rivers, drains and watercourses.

Allow me now to inform this Honourable House of specific plans and programmes to upgrade our main infrastructure systems.

Roads

Mr. Speaker, the major road infrastructure projects scheduled for fiscal 2006 include, inter alia:
Extension of the Solomon Hochoy Highway from Golconda in San Fernando to Debe;
Commencement of a new highway from San Fernando to Princes Town;
Extension of the Churchill Roosevelt Highway from O'Meara Industrial Estate to Wallerfield this project is already underway, and will provide proper highway access to the new University of Trinidad and Tobago and the Technology Park under construction at Wallerfield;
Commencement of the Interchange at the intersection of the Churchill/Roosevelt and Uriah Butler Highways;
Commencement of the Western Freeway to Chaguaramas;
Commencement of the Mamoral Dam which will reduce significantly flooding in the Caparo River Basin;
Extension of the Diego Martin Highway to Diamond Vale to be completed within the next two months; and
Commencement of an Overpass and Highway improvements in Cocorite which will facilitate the construction of new secondary schools planned for the Westmoorings area.

The newly formed National Infrastructure Development Company, NIDCO, will be responsible for the execution of most of these projects on behalf of the Ministry of Works & Transport.

The IDB-funded National Highways Programme will continue in fiscal 2006 with the rehabilitation of 70 kilometres of roads and the commencement of construction of 19 new bridges. Our Programme for Upgrading Road Efficiency (PURE) will target the repair of landslips, and road rehabilitation generally, as well as the development of alternative vehicular access routes linking key population centres throughout the country, and the construction of additional lanes on our major highways and main arterial roads. Two major areas of focus will be the development and improvement of roads in Chaguanas and Maraval to relieve traffic congestion.

Drainage

Mr. Speaker, the Government will embark in 2006 on the development of a Comprehensive National Drainage Plan that takes into account existing studies.

In the interim, the Drainage Division will continue work on the projects already started, which are geared to address specific situations. These include the commencement of construction of the Mamoral Dam and Reservoir in 2006 to alleviate flooding in the Caparo River Basin. Because of the magnitude and complexity of this project it will be undertaken over a two and half year period, costing in excess of $100 million.

Mr. Speaker, the issue of flooding in the City of Port of Spain is an urgent one. In this regard, as a short-term measure, the Ministry of Works and Transport, in conjunction with the Port of Spain City Corporation, will undertake the responsibility to flush out all of the underground drains within the City. New pumps will also be installed for the Sea Lots area, and the identification of a permanent solution to the problem of flooding in Port-of-Spain will be one of the key deliverables of the Comprehensive National Drainage Study.

Mr. Speaker, it will be remiss of me not to refer to the situation where previously flood-free areas are now being transformed into flood prone areas, as a result of poorly-engineered and poorly-constructed land and building developments. I can assure you that the Government intends to deal very firmly with unscrupulous land developers who contribute in no small way to our flooding problems.

Transportation

Mr. Speaker, in our 2004 Budget presentation, we advised this House of the award of a contract for the Comprehensive National Transportation Study. This study has commenced and is expected to be completed by July 2006.

One of the major issues which the consultants have encountered in the initial review of the land transportation sector is the general gridlock that occurs on the nation's roadways and, in particular, along the main East-West and North-South arterial roads in Trinidad. It is our intention to reintroduce a rail system in Trinidad to provide a viable solution to our public transportation problems. In this context, we have already embarked on a Mass Transit Study, and in 2006, we shall invite proposals for the first trial phase of our new light rail system. The new Mass Transit Rail System is expected to cost at least $15 billion, when it is fully implemented, but we believe that this expenditure is justified and required.

Air

Mr. Speaker, allow me to address the important issue of BWIA. As the national community is well aware, the Task Force appointed by the Government to evaluate options for the future of our national airline has submitted its recommendations. After careful deliberations, we have chosen to pursue the option of creating a new National entity using as a basis, a restructured BWIA. I acknowledge, Mr. Speaker that there have been numerous efforts at 'restructuring' over the past 45 years but we must put these efforts in the context of the dynamics of the airline industry and especially state-owned airlines across the world. We believe strongly that we are now in a position to complete a seamless transition from the existing BWIA to this new entity. But, this will involve a substantial investment of taxpayers' dollars by the Government and some major departures from the status quo. We will therefore proceed with a plan that will involve:

recapitalisation of approximately US$250 million to ensure this new entity could manage its operations. The new entity would continue to be majority owned by the Government with a plan for further divestment to the private sector;
a significant change in the management of the company and improvement of corporate governance;
to ensure that the new entity is not put to a disadvantage to charter flights;
a restoration of maintenance capability in the Company; and
fundamental changes in the work rules and culture of the airline.

In this regard the Government will appoint a new board of BWIA under the Chairmanship of Mr. Arthur Lok Jack to undertake this exercise of the transition from existing BWIA to the new entity.
With this approach, Mr. Speaker, we believe we can arrive at a new airline designed abinitio as a Regional Carrier and open in due course to participation from Regional Governments and the Regional Private Sector.

Sea

Mr. Speaker, feedback from the travelling population in respect of the Government Shipping Service (G.S.S.) has been overwhelmingly positive.

Citizens experienced increased comfort and decreased travel time.

Mr. Speaker, the data reveal that between January to July 2005, total passenger usage on the Government Shipping Service (G.S.S) increased by approximately one hundred percent (100%) and total vehicle transportation increased by approximately eighty-two percent (82%) on the Port of Spain Scarborough route, over last year.

You will be aware by now that in November 2005 there will be two leased fast ferries on the inter-island route, and I also wish to advise that in 2006, the Government proposes to purchase a fast ferry (if an appropriate one is available) to service the sea bridge between Trinidad and Tobago, when the CAT is taken out of service in April 2006.

Refurbishment and construction works will be undertaken on the Passenger Terminal Building at Port of Spain at an estimated cost of $11Mn, with physical works commencing in early 2006. The expansion of the Terminal Building at Scarborough is estimated to cost $1.5Mn with designs to be undertaken in fiscal 2006 and actual construction works will commence in fiscal 2007.

The Public Utilities

Mr. Speaker, our economic development plan focuses on the provision of adequate utilities, especially electricity and water.

Accordingly, several capital-intensive projects will be implemented that will provide additional power to facilitate the planned housing, industrial and commercial activities across the country. These include: establishment of a power station at Tobago; the bringing of 132 kv supplies to Wallerfield, Union Estate, Tarouba and Point Fortin; the upgrade of the electricity supply to north and east Trinidad; and the upgrade of several substations across the country.

Additionally, electricity supply will be provided to those rural communities where previously it has been uneconomic to do so. All major roads and highways across the country will be illuminated to aid in reducing night time road accidents, providing a greater sense of security to residents and facilitating greater commercial activity through longer business hours.

T&TEC will continue its programme of activities designed to enhance living conditions throughout the country directly. Currently there are 70,000 street lights in the country. The aim is to install 50,000 additional street lights in the next three year period and upgrade the wattage of 36,000 street lights.

T&TEC will also undertake approximately 300 electrification projects between the NSDP and the Rural Electrification Programme, a joint intervention funded by the Government and the European Commission.

Water

Further, Mr. Speaker, in an effort to improve the quality and supply of water and wastewater services, the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) will commence implementation of the three-year Water Sector Modernization Programme estimated to cost $1.2Bn. The Programme will result in an increase in the number of persons receiving a 24/7 water supply from 26 percent to 36 per cent and an improvement in supply to much of the country.

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