Economic hardships continue as mid-year review looms- Part 2

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The TTWhistleblower continues this series looking at economic hardships, even after three budgets by the Keith Rowley Administration.

In this series, previous budgets will be analysed together with the Rowley Administration’s delivery and performance.

With the mid-year review of the 2018 budget on its way, the present conditions and forecasts for the immediate future will also be examined.

Early Childhood education

Looking deeper into education, in the 2017 PSIP it is said: “The Seamless Education System Project and Build 100 Programme were allocated $90 million and $40 million respectively for the construction of Early Childhood Care and Education Centres (ECCE).”

However, only $19.5million was utilized for 2016, and it seems there is a PNM proclivity to making promises without delivering.

The 2001-2010 PNM Administration also had a poor delivery record on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Centres. The PNM then promised to build 600 ECCE’s, and in nine years delivered 50.

The Build 100 Programme for ECCEs undergoing construction were put at various stages of completion by 2016:

ECCE PROJECT                         STAGE OF COMPLETION
Marabella ECCE                                            98%
Wallerfield ECCE                                           98%
Tulsi Manas                                                    95%
La Platta ECCE                                              94%
La Horquetta North ECCE                              90%
Waterloo SDMS ECCE                                   85%
Cedros ECCE                                                 82%
Avocat ECCE                                                  78%
Chaguanas ECCE                                           78%
Cypress Gardens ECCE                                 64%
Glenroy ECCE                                                 50%
Race Course ECCE                                         64%
Swaha Madras ECCE                                      42%
La Paille ECCE                                                33%
Spree Simon ECCE                                         32%
Upper Penal Rock Road ECCE                       19%
San Francique SDMS ECCE                           19%
Forde Street ECCE                                          17%
Iere ECCE                                                        13%
Belle Vue, Maraval ECCE                                11%
Maracas Bay ECCE                                         11%
Felicity ECCE                                                   11%
Chatham ECCE                                                 5%
Macaulay ECCE                                                5%
Sangre Grande ECCE                                       5%
Morton Street ECCE                                         5%

An example of the progress being made by the Government in project execution is found when one notes that the Sonny Ladoo ECCE which was 95% complete in the 2016 PSIP review of the previous 12 months, remained 95% completed for the 2017 period.

No progress was made on the El Dorado SDMS ECCE either, as well as other projects, and the population waits to see what progress is made by the time the 2018 budget is reviewed at mid-year.

Housing

In the mid-year review of the 2017 budget, an already hefty allocation of over $1 billion for the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development was increased by some $376.8 million.

Under what was referred to as the “Accelerated Housing Programme” an allocation of $160 million was provided under the Infrastructure Development Fund (IDF) to the HDC for the construction of one thousand, nine hundred and forty seven (1947) housing units at nine sites:

•          Real Springs, Valsayn
•          Edinburgh Towers
•          6th Avenue, Malick
•          Fairfield, Princes Town
•          Malabar
•          Victoria Keys (Phase 3)
•          Bon Air, North (Phase 2)
•          Bon Air, North (Phase 3)

•          Vieux Forte, St. James”

By the end of 2016, PSIP funding utilization amounted to $294 million for ‘Housing and Shelter’. Budgeted expenditure under the 2016 PSIP was originally $348.7 million, amounting to a utilization failure of $54.7 million.

The 2017 PSIP promised: “An allocation of $160 million will be provided under the Infrastructure Development Fund to assist with the construction of approximately 2,300 housing units in fiscal 2017 under the Accelerated Housing Programme of the HDC.”

A further allocation of $15 million will be provided in fiscal 2017 for the rehabilitation of rental apartments and housing units in the HDC housing estates located in the North, East and South of Trinidad.”

In 2017, after failing to achieve softer targets in 2016, the Housing Ministry’s allocation increased by an amount larger than its utilization failure the previous year?

The question really arises on the level to which Government is achieving its housing provision and estate improvement targets, given that its best PSIP achievement and execution score hovers at 61% so far.

The 2017 period

Coming on the heels of stark failure to execute capital expenditure with funds that were in fact available, one might wonder how the PSIP and capital projects have fared since then and into 2018. The mid-year review should give some indication.

Agriculture

As for the 2017 period, however, it is stated in the 2017 PSIP, the Government committed: “The Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries will be allocated an investment budget in fiscal 2017 in the amount of $112 million, to be administered by the various divisions of the Ministry ($86.5 million) and the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) ($25.5 million).”

Of the total allocation proposed for the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries $32 million will be sourced from the Infrastructure Development Fund while $80 million is intended to come from the Consolidated Fund. The funds will be utilized for several development projects and programmes proposed by the Ministry in the following areas:

•          Upgrade of fishing landing facilities

•          Land development for farmers
•          Provision of irrigation systems and access roads
•          Development of the agriculture business and the continuation of scientific research

•          Development into new agricultural technologies.

With food and product prices increasing and a transport and food availability crisis in Tobago, we wait to hear the Minister’s reporting on the 2018 PSIP and development programme performance.

In fact, we wait to hear about the food import bill which was on the decrease in the pre-2015 period.

Energy and Energy Industries

The 2017 PSIP also stated: “The Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries will also continue to spearhead the Government’s thrust in the development of renewable energy and energy initiatives, to reduce the country’s carbon footprint, as well as the dependence on traditional sources of energy.

“The Ministry will commission a consultancy on the analysis of waste to energy potential for the country.

Furthermore, it will continue with its Outreach and Awareness Programme to promote energy efficiency with CARICOM Energy Month, which would involve the participation of schools, as well as the Programme’s roving caravan covering the country. The sum of $18 million will be allocated for these activities.”

With economic diversification waiting to be fired up, and an energy sector that is now experiencing higher prices and volume production, we wait to hear what progress has been made with these commitments, and what level of utilization failure the Energy Ministry will report for this fiscal period.

Trade and Industry

On the key pillars of trade and industry, the 2017 PSIP stated: “For 2017, the Ministry (of Trade and Industry) is expected to advance and transform its reach by focusing on restructuring the internal dynamics of the organisation as well as by strengthening relations with existing and new countries. The sum of $16 million will be allocated to assist with these initiatives.”

No mention is made of the current bilateral and partial scope agreements and any progress made in the advancing into new markets such as Panama, El Salvador, Cuba and Brazil.

By 2015, at least five agreements were in force, including:

•          Trinidad and Tobago-Panama Partial Scope Trade Agreement;
•          Trinidad and Tobago – Guatemala Partial Scope Trade Agreement;
•          World Trade Organisation (WTO) – Agreement on Trade Facilitation;
•          Trinidad and Tobago – El Salvador Partial Scope Trade Agreement;

•          The Cariforum/EC Economic Partnership Agreement;

Little or no mention has been made of these despite the potential for local manufacturing and service sector companies.

Indeed in the 2018 mid-year review of the budget, we wait to hear what progress was made with the State Visit to Chile by the current Prime Minister

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In the next of this series we look at the state of financial stability in the past years, as well as high school education, poverty and unemployment

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