The fight against crime is a high priority and, if there is need for additional funding to national security, Finance Minister Larry Howai says he will consider it.
He said yesterday, “There has not been a request for an additional allocation for crime-fighting but if it were made it will be given consideration.”
He made the comment during the first meeting of the Social Dialogue Task Force at the Hyatt Regency (Trinidad) Hotel in Port of Spain yesterday.
Among those present were Trade Minister Vasant Bharath and Labour Minister Errol McLeod.
Asked if additional funding would be channelled into national security, Howai said: “I did make a large allocation in the last budget. It depends on the Ministry (of National Security) and the National Security Council. If there is the need, we will consider it. It is a high priority.”
Howai allocated $6.497 billion of his $61.4 billion 2013/2014 budget to national security last September.
Commenting on the oil spills across South Trinidad, Howai said Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine “has been working to put things in place and engaging in immediate clean-up”.
To date, there have been 11 spills of varying degrees. The first occurred on December 17.
Howai said: “The big cost is the clean-up cost for Petrotrin. It is a source of environmental concern.”
In the aftermath of the oil spill, Petrotrin was fined a whopping $20 million by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).
Asked about it, Howai said: “The EMA is an independent body. Their fines can have impact.”
With regard to social dialogue, Howai said it was important towards achieving a knowledge-intensive economy.
He also spoke about the challenges of the global economy.
“Global economic growth is forecast in two years. The current pace of economic growth is insufficient to address challenges. We need a coordinated strategy to adopt social dialogue in spite of unsafe economic conditions. There are several risks. The challenge is to build a competitive economy. Government is committed to an equitable sharing and the need for solutions. Government will not have all the public solutions. Social dialogue enables us to move the economy forward.”
He cited Barbados as a leader in social dialogue.
“The experience is something for which we should all be keen about and to learn new and different circumstances,” he said.