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Biggest slice for crime control—PM
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday defended his Government’s allocation of the largest portion of the national Budget to national security, saying the crime problem was a major national concern.
He was speaking during an interview with reporters following yesterday’s two-hour 2016 Budget presentation by new Finance Minister Colm Imbert in the House of Representatives, Tower D, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain.
Speaking in the lobby of the Parliament, Rowley said the more than $10 billion allocated to national security “should be a matter of serious concern to the national population.”
He said that was because in every Budget since the People’s National Movement (PNM) first assumed office in 1956, education was given the largest allocation.
According to Rowley, the decision to allocate the largest portion to national security was because of “a chronic and rampant criminal conduct in T&T.
“That is the dollarising of crime and this should let the population know that crime is having a serious effect on the population.
“We just cannot go on that way. We have to treat and roll back the cost of criminal activity in this country. Otherwise, if it continues like that, we keep funnelling money away from health, education and other productive areas trying to cope with the crime of hopefully a small minority,” he added.
He said dealing with the crime problem was an assignment for the Government and “we are currently reviewing what we have been doing in responding to the criminal element and we intend in very short order to conduct a major manpower audit of the security apparatus of T&T.”
Rowley said that audit was intended “to determine what we have available, how it is being used and how we can improve upon it.”
There was a record 50 murders in T&T last month.
The Prime Minister was also asked to comment on the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) programme.
He said the funding for tertiary education was to be reviewed because of the prevailing economic conditions.
Rowley said funding for GATE was being challenged because the country’s income had been cut by 50 per cent.
He said based on those conditions “should we set about to provide for those who really do not need it or should we proceed to ensure that those who need it get it, under the reduced income by having a means test.”
According to Rowley “citizens who can pay their way will be asked to do so in the not too distant future — either part way or whole way — and others who without Government help will not be able to advance, they are guaranteed that support.”
The Prime Minister said any existing wastage and corruption under the programme would be eliminated.
Dealing with measures to reduce the annual billion dollar fuel subsidy, which Rowley said “in some instances it benefit most of those who are better able to afford it.”
Commenting on the Children Life Fund, set up by the previous Kamla Persad-Bissessar regime, Rowley said there were serious concerns with the initiative. The fund was established, via contributions from the former Government ministers and other contributions, to help children in need of costly medical attention abroad.
“A number of those situations are already before the Fraud Squad (and) that indicates to us that there was something wrong in there,” Rowley said.
He said the fund would be audited and improvements in its management implemented.
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