In T&T: Govt to spend $300m in post-SoE projects to ‘reclaim’ young people

10 November 2011

Some hope for a few ‘lost’ souls, or URP by a different name? Google “Senator Subhas Ramkhelawan, URP” for another view on how the workforce could be directed in T&T.

The Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration is taking the bull by its horns in the fight against crime and would target youth in “hotspot” areas, low-income communities and Housing Development Corporation (HDC) estates for 20,000 new jobs, at a cost of $300 million.

In a statement to Parliament, at Tower D at the Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, the Prime Minister unveiled Government’s most recent job-creation project aimed at the “most vulnerable and communities most in need”.

“We intend to increase our existing capacity in several social intervention programmes… immediately ramping up employment in several existing programmes,” she added.

These would include Community-based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP); and the “popular HDC programme”, Colour Me Orange, which beautify and clean housing estates; National Reforestation Programme, Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) Social and CEPEP Marine.

She said youth “from the previously determined ‘hotspot’ areas” and low-income communities would benefit from the income transfer by engaging to undertake community-based work linked to training initiatives which confer basic literacy and numeric skills, along with instructions in the basic trades.

In the Colour Me Orange programme, Government would increase employment from 450 to 2,000, the Prime Minister said.

The programme which currently targets youths and single women in the 54 Government housing estates in a clean-and-beautify programme for the Christmas season would now include a component which uses local activists to do home improvement to their communities in a private/public partnership with the HDC.

The pilot project, called 58 Duncan Street, will be launched next Tuesday. “I say with regret that due to the neglect of the previous regime, our youth in the HDC communities are among the most vulnerable and some of these are lured into criminal activity. Saving our HDC communities means saving our nation,” Persad-Bissessar noted.

She added that Government also intended to increase job creation in the HDC repair and rehabilitation programme, which aims to bring distressed estates into occupation as soon as possible. “This programme will engage greater numbers of artisans and tradesmen in the small and micro business sector with its supply and demand links to the construction industry,” the Prime Minister stated.

The Prime Minister said CEPEP would ramp up its capacity to engage members of the community and neighbourhoods most affected by crime and deviant behaviour among the youth.

However, she stressed: “May I state categorically that we will not be meeting or engaging the services of so-called community leaders. We left that behind us on May 24, 2010, with the last administration.”

On the contrary, she said, Government would engage communities using existing and proven village councils, residents, tenants’ associations and action committees.

“Civic-minded street activists who have demonstrated leadership and advocacy will work alongside State agencies to engage our youth in developmental programmes which transfer not only income, but equally important, values of hard work, pride in community and love of country,” Persad-Bissessar stated.

She said job creation opportunities in programmes such as the National Reforestation, URP (Social) would be increased in the short term.

The massive job creation programme, entitled Reclaiming our Youth: Embracing our Future, was consistent with Government’s manifesto promise of “prosperity for all” and its belief that employment was the highest form of empowerment, she said. “For a young citizen in a low income and underprivileged environment, a job means the world, it brings meaning to life, a sense of purpose, dignity and the opportunity to participate in all that this country offers,” she stated.

The Prime Minister also announced that the National Security Council had approved on Monday a request from the Judiciary relating to the tendering for setting up electronic video conferencing facilities in the magistrates’ courts, which would remove the need to transport prisoners to court houses to have their cases adjourned.

Yesterday Government also piloted the DNA bill, another crime-fighting tool. It also would be bringing the Preliminary Enquiry bill to bring an end to lengthy enquiries in the Magistrates’ Court and speedier trials in the High Court, and the Electronic Monitoring bill to monitor people released on bail, the Prime Minister said.


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