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Winston: Heritage Fund now US$4b

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

The Heritage and Stabilisation Fund now stands at US$4 billion, Finance Minister Winston Dookeran said yesterday.

Dookeran was speaking at yesterday's post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair.

This information forms part of a 2011 report which is to be laid in Parliament shortly.

Dookeran said the returns on the Fund have been modest but positive, given what is happening in the international environment in which the Fund invests.

He said the legislation establishing the Fund is currently the subject of public consultation and one of the issues being considered is whether there should be a separation of the Fund and the creation of a Heritage Fund and a Stabilisation Fund.

Dookeran also disclosed that Cabinet has taken the decision to seek "enhanced membership" in the Andean Development Bank. He said this country which took class C membership in 1990, will now become a class B member.

He said the benefit for Trinidad and Tobago is that it would have additional sources of financing at relatively low interest rates for infrastructure. The first item for such funding would be the Pt Fortin Highway. He said the country would have to buy additional shares in the bank to move from class C to class B.

Asked about the audit into Programme for Upgrading Road Efficiency (PURE) done by the Ministry of Finance, he said the audit looked at "systemic deficiencies" and came to the view there was need for some changes to the operationalisation of the PURE.

"A proposal to adjust the entire structure for delivering expenditure is now being proposed and discussed," he said. He said the ministry found there were procurement procedures that were not "being efficiently followed" and "as such we needed to rectify that". He said there was no evidence of corruption or misconduct in the programme, according to the report.

He said the report, an internal document, would not be made public.

On the issue of the Trinidad Cement Ltd strike, he said industrial peace was paramount and one needed to ensure the process comes to an early completion so it does not add any more risk to the macroeconomic stability of the country.

On the payment of the minimum $3,000 pension which was announced in the National Budget and which was due to be implemented from January, Dookeran said he was informed by the National Insurance Board it will be ready to make the payment by the end of this month.

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