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Imbert: Gov’t looking at flood relief funds

Published: 
Saturday, October 21, 2017

Government is exploring with its Caribbean Catastrophe insurance provider whether it can access money to help with damage caused by this week’s extraordinary heavy rainfall, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said yesterday.

During yesterday’s Parliamentary Standing Finance Committee’s examination of the 2018 Budget, Imbert responded to a query by UNC MP Suruj Rambachan on whether insurance money could be used to assist flood victims. He said the Minstry has a $15 million allocation to the insurance policy which caters to regional disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes He said Government would look to see if the insurance could be applied for the current period of heavy rainfall.

Imbert said Government intends passing regulations for casinos by year end and appealed for Opposition support.

“You see what’s going on out there in the unregulated sector. The legislation has been in Joint Select Committee status for over a year. We tried to meet people and they weren’t available. I urge the Opposition, let’s work together. It’s pending a year—that’s enough. I’m pleading with the Opposition.”

He also said the T&T Revenue Authority must be established in 2018, “or we’ll have revenue collection problems.”

The Finance Minister said $15 million was allocated for property tax systems and more than 100 property valuation officers were recruited and more will be next year or the first assessment step. He said the tax will be based on the 2009 law with some legislative tweaking in Parliament .

He said Government and Parliament isn’t holding up procurement legislation and reiterated that applications for appointment of a procurement regulator are with the Office of the President for a decision. He said Government wants the procurement system operationalised next year.

Imbert repeated that the President is evaluating applications and a decision will come in “due course.” Ministries are already on alert to have procurement units, he added.

He said Finance will be auditing the 100-odd state enterprises for the first time to ensure efficiency and savings.

In addition, there are public-private partnership plans for the Vehicle Maintenance Company, Trinidad Generation Unlimited’s divestment and for the International Financial Centre (IFC) to explore opportunities for T&T to be used as an outsourcing location.

Imbert and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said Government couldn’t compel the independent Public Services Commission to fill posts. Rowley said a meeting held with PSC bore some “fruit but the tree was still the problem.”

The minister also explained that ex-diplomats and MPs experienced delays to get pensions and gratuities due to lengthy public service record processing He said every location a person served had to be checked and delays caused by closure of offices due to PSA protests had increased backlogs.