People clean up in Real Spring Gardens, Valsayn with members of the Regiment, MTS and HDC’s facilities management officials helping affected residents. Photo by Roger Jacob
CABINET on Thursday authorised the release of $150 million towards alleviation of the negative impacts of recent flooding, a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) said.
“Following the Cabinet meeting today and discussions with the Minister of Finance, a decision has been taken to allocate an immediate $40 million to the national flood relief programme.
“These funds are to augment existing budgetary allocations in relevant ministries to provide sustenance and comfort for those directly distressed by the recent weather emergency.”
Apart from the $40m for flood victims, $100m was allocated for urgent repair work to flood-damaged roadways and also repairs on damage caused by landslides. Some $10m was allocated for those in the farming community adversely affected by the flooding.
The brief release did not indicate how or when the funds would be disbursed, which ministries were involved or how flood-affected home-owners, businessmen and farmers could access relief envisioned by this emergency release of funding.
The allocation drew a mixed response in political circles.
Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation chairman Kwasi Robinson keenly welcomed the allocation.
“I’m grateful for the allocation by Government and I’m happy citizens will get much-needed help. I think it’s very timely. I look forward to the disbursement of the funds.”
Newsday asked if the allocation was a proverbial drop in the bucket, relative to demand nationwide, or would it actually help his burgesses.
Robinson replied, “In the context of the Tunapuna/Piarco corporation getting almost double the allocation (relative to last year’s budget) and the Secondary Roads Company getting almost $200 million, it improves the building blocks toward improving the infrastructure of the country.”
Oropouche East and Tabaquite MPs Dr Roodal Moonilal and Anita Haynes were both unimpressed.
“Government has failed miserably to respond to the urgent needs of the people. This is too little, too late. This money will be given out on the basis of discrimination and political favouritism rather than needs and equality. Their track record is known, as is their incompetence,” Moonilal said in WhatsApp message when asked to give a comment.
Haynes questioned how allocations in past budgets had actually been used.
She plans to raise this matter in the House of Representatives on Friday by way of urgent questions to ministers.
Haynes said every year the budget allocates hundreds of millions for road repair and road construction under the remit of the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government, yet she repeatedly has to raise questions about repairs to landslips, derelict bridges and deteriorating roads.
This was as recent as last October in the House’s Standing Finance Committee, she said.
She said the Government in the House had admitted the extent of such infrastructural damage, but she said in three years she’d seen no work done.
“So I’m not comforted by the promise of money. I’m only comforted by the evidence of work.”
Newsday asked about the $40 million national flood programme.
“Honestly, I don’t know what they mean by that, if that means social intervention for families or if it means additional drainage money and that sort of thing. We just don’t know. What we do need, I can tell you, is accountability.”
She cited the Auditor General’s questions about covid19 relief at a recent sitting of a parliamentary committee.
“Several questions arose over what was actually spent and who received the relief money. We do need to ensure that those who are most in need are those who are accessing these grants.”
Haynes questioned the adequacy of the $10 million to help farmers, reflecting on the needs of those in her own constituency.
“There are significant questions to be raised in terms of farming access roads that have been cut off.
“I have a problem in Tortuga where farmers have acres of tomatoes that they cannot get to because the access road has been completely cut off by landslips. So they are currently picking and walking produce out at great inconvenience. Not just great inconvenience, but it really is an impossible task.”
Penal/Debe Regional Corporation chairman Dr Allen Sammy had discussed flood relief with Newsday on Thursday just before news of the $150 million allocation.
He said that since 2018 some of his burgesses had not yet received flood relief, but alleged that residents of Greenvale had received their’s within 24 hours.