National Security and addressing crime and criminality continues to be the Government’s number one priority. National Security is to be allocated TT$6.2371 billion in the 2018 budget making it the second largest component of expenditure after education.
The Minister noted that crime in Trinidad and Tobago has a “deleterious effect on foreign and local investment and business activity.”
The Government’s initiatives in respect of national security include:
- The adoption of a holistic approach to crime fighting.
- Community empowerment.
- Strengthening the intelligence gathering capability.
- Enhancing border control.
- Upgrading facilities.
To assist with meeting these initiatives the Minister announced:
- All new naval vessels used to patrol Trinidad and Tobago’s waters have been received and are now in operation.
- A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with the United States Government to establish a state-of-the-art border control system to document the arrival and departure of international travellers.
- National security operations in Tobago will be strengthened.
The Property Tax
According to the Minister the time has come when property owners must begin to contribute to financing the country’s development.
The process of building a comprehensive listing of all properties in Trinidad and Tobago has begun, and once complete, would be used to assess property taxes to be paid by all property owners. Despite legal challenges, the Government plans to have the Property Tax system fully implemented in 2018.
The Government is implementing several initiatives to improve the transport system in Trinidad and Tobago. These include:
- The planned removal of all traffic lights between Port of Spain and Arima through the construction of inter-changes.
- The widening of several main arteries including the Churchill Roosevelt Highway and the Beetham Highway from the Uriah Butler Highway to Port of Spain.
- The expansion of traffic surveillance and control systems and a corridor traffic management system to ease the flow of traffic.
- The removal of all restrictions on banded maxi-taxis.
Construction of the 150-bed hospital at Arima is expected to be completed in 2019 at a cost of TT$1.6 billion, TT$250 million below budget. The project is currently 35% complete and the necessary funds to complete amounting to approximately TT$1.2 billion will be borrowed on the local market.
Construction of a hospital at Point Fortin is scheduled to complete in 2019. It is intended that this project will be financed through a facility provided by the Unicredit Bank of Austria.
The Couva Hospital is expected to be commissioned in 2018 once a suitable operator has been engaged to manage the facility.
The Heritage And Stabilisation Fund
Following engagement with local stakeholders and the International Monetary Fund the Minister announced that appropriate amendments to the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund Act will be laid before Parliament in early 2018. The Heritage and Stabilisation Fund is expected to be split into two parts – one for stabilisation and one for heritage, with the bulk of the funds being placed into the new heritage funds.
The Minister is in favour of reforming the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund because it would preserve and protect the Heritage element of the fund while providing a guaranteed source of needed foreign exchange to bolster Trinidad and Tobago’s reserves.
Tobago – The Sandals Project Is Still Alive
Tobago was identified by the Minister as having the potential to contribute significantly to the diversification of the national economy and the earning of crucial foreign exchange.
The budgetary allocation to the Tobago House of Assembly for 2018 amounts to TT$2.1936 billion representing 4.34% of the National Budget.
A further TT$1.09 billion has been allocated to facilitate work that will cater for the continued construction works on the Old Grange and Roxborough Police Stations, the construction of a Desalination Plant and the expansion of power generating capacity at the Cove Power Plant.
Tobago has also obtained an international credit rating. In theory this would allow the Tobago House of Assembly to borrow money in 2018 to accelerate its Development Plan.
The Sandals project is still alive, and the Government intends to work with the Tobago House of Assembly to finalise negotiations.
Additional matters relating to Tobago announced by the Minister included:
- Expansion of the Agricultural Access Road Programme, adoption of modern agricultural practices and technologies, and renewed focus on agro-processing.
- Acceleration of the Tobago House of Assemblies Housing Programme with the development of the Shirvan and Friendship areas.
- A statement that the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago has been mandated to find a solution to the existing problems with the air and sea bridge between Trinidad and Tobago.
- Introduction of draft legislation to grant self-government and a greater devolution of power to Tobago. A draft of this legislation is currently before Cabinet.
Closing thoughts – time to consider your investing strategies
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