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3-hour Independence show cost State $27m

By Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

A THREE-HOUR show celebrating the country's 50th anniversary of Independence cost the State $27 million, Opposition Member of Parliament for Point Fortin Paula Gopee-Scoon has said.

This was among over $72 million which was spent by the State for last year's 50th anniversary celebrations, Gopee-Scoon said.

Gopee-Scoon made the statement on Tuesday night as the Lower House debated a motion to approve the Finance (Supplementation and Variation of Appropriation) (Financial Year 2012) Bill, 2013, at Tower D, Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.

Gopee-Scoon said last year Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie stated that $50 million was budgeted for the anniversary celebrations but only $42 million was spent.

"We are being asked to transfer $9 million from the Office of the Prime Minister which was used for a special cultural presentation and that only covered one third of the cost of that event," Gopee-Scoon said.

"Government spent $27 million on a three-hour show for Independence, $27 million which could have gone to more hospital beds that we always talking about, and more policemen etcetera and so on or to ease the burden of high food prices," she said.

Gopee-Scoon said the show in question used the "same presentation and same costumes" that were used for the Fifth Summit of the Americas in 2009.

"That is what you call wastage and extravagance," she said.

"The obscenity does not end there, in addition to the $9 million spent by the Office of the Prime Minister another $4 million was spent for a connecting advertising campaign so there you have $13 million additionally spent by the Office of the Prime Minister for these Independence celebrations. This is ridiculous. This is ludicrous," Gopee-Scoon said.

"The Minister of Housing and the Environment spent another $9 million. That is $9 million which could have built 36 houses for low income families. That is what that $9 million could have done," she said.

Gopee-Scoon described the situation as "absolutely appalling".

"Only to buy a set of cups, and cups and cups not even a programme informing the population for prosperity sake on how we achieved our independence, nothing educational, the money was not spent on that," she said.

Gopee-Scoon said the funds were being funnelled through "for the benefit of particular persons".

"I have been told that the very advertising agency that handled (Housing Development Corporation) HDC and handled the advertisement coming out of the Office of the Prime Minister and out of the Ministry of Housing, funny enough it is all the same agency Ross advertising, I believe it is called, I don't know Ross or Moss or something like that I am not sure is the very agency the (People's Partnership) PP also used for the (THA) election as well," she said.

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