Just over $559 million is proposed to be moved collectively from five ministries and allocated elsewhere with the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development set to receive the largest chunk.
Monies are also expected to be decreased from several vulnerable areas, including children’s homes, the Children’s Authority and cuts are also expected to be made in the HIV/Aids area.
Proposed decreases in expenditure, which are set to take place in the Ministries of Education, Health, Housing, Sport and Social Development, were discussed at the Standing Finance Committee sitting in Parliament yesterday.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert faced several questions from Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar who at one point said some of the monies were not adding up.
“The amounts coming out of Education are not adding up to the amounts now being transferred. What we are doing here is taking out of one ministry, placing it into another... we are not creating any new projects,” Persad-Bissessar said.
The monies to be decreased from the various ministries were already allocated in the 2016 budget passed in October last year.
In the areas where monies were expected to be transferred from the Social Development Ministry, Minister of Social Development Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn said those included the St Mary’s Children’s Home, $12 million: St Dominic’s Children’s Home, $11 million: St Jude’s, $7 million and St Michael’s Home for Boys, $9 million.
Asked by Persad-Bissessar how much was being transferred from the Children’s Authority Crichlow-Cockburn said an expected $30 million. Recently there have been several cases of children being abused, either physically or sexually.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the $6 million decrease from his ministry was expected to come from the Government’s response to HIV/Aids, social infrastructure, social community services and social marketing. Regarding the $2 million allocated to the Regional Health Authorities (RHAs) community HIV programme, Deyalsingh said that was expected to remain within the Health Ministry.
Asked by Persad-Bissessar on the amount already spent from the $6 million Deyalsingh said that was approximately $1.4 million and included projects relating to HIV/Aids, namely the purchase of HIV kits at a cost of $827,520, UWI workshops which cost $77,206, accommodation in Tobago for a meeting for the director amounting to $1,740, World Aids Day events at a cost of $177,653, seminars and workshops at $29,355, advertising costing $33,917, other UWI workshops $201,000 and the payment of stipends.
Persad-Bissessar said $40,000 being transferred from the Social Development Ministry to the National Security Ministry was expected to be placed in an “emergency cases fund.”
Oropouche East MP, Roodal Moonilal, asked why was there a need to now move the On The Job programme (OTJ) from the Education Ministry to the Labour Ministry and whether there was any contradiction in policy. Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste-Primus said the OTJ was previously under the Ministry of Labour and the Government felt it would be better implemented under that ministry.
Regarding whether the programme would lend support to the recently dismissed ArcelorMittal workers Baptiste-Primus said that would only come into play if they fell inside the age category of 35 years and under. Asked how many of the fired workers were under the age of 35 years, Baptiste-Primus said she was “not in a position to convey this information.”
To date there are 7,381 people already in the programme and there are proposals to increase the $2,500 stipend incrementally. Government is expected to deliver its mid-year review tomorrow while debate on the variations is also expected to take place tomorrow.
Proposals for the variation of appropriation, decrease:
• Ministry of Education: $413,233,000.
• Ministry of Health: $6,000,000.
• Ministry of Housing and Urban Development: $16,000,000.
• Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs: $10,000,000.
• Ministry of Social Development and Family Services: $114,201,129.
Proposals for the variation of appropriation, increase:
• Parliament: $16,000,000.
• Office of the Prime Minister: $122,661,129.
• Ministry of National Security: $40,000.
• Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development: $374,000,000.
• Ministry of Community Development: $7,500,000.
• Ministry of Planning and Development: $39,233,000.