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Rowley hits $410M ‘MP fund’

By Clint Chan Tack and Sasha Harrinanan Wednesday, August 27 2014

OPPOSITION and People’s National Movement (PNM) political leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday slammed Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s announcement that Government plans to reintroduce the Constituency Development Fund in the 2014/2015 Budget.

Persad-Bissessar made this announcement in the Senate as she opened debate on the controversial Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014.

The idea for a $410 million fund was first introduced in 2012 but was never implemented. Responding to Persad-Bissessar’s announcement from London, Rowley said this was “not surprising.”

“This Government will opt for any system which will provide opportunities for abuse of public funds,” he charged.

While saying the PNM supports increased spending in all local communities, Rowley said, “We maintain that it must be done by a robust and accountable Public Service and not by politicians and their family, friends and the few fortunate associates.”

Reiterating the PNM’s view that this budgetary allocation rightfully belongs to Local Government, Rowley said this is why the party has advanced “a commitment to give Local Government greater responsibility, greater autonomy and greater funding to do just what this misguided MP slush fund is attempting to do.”

Saying Government refuses to be chastened by “the horrors of their disastrous experiment with Life Sport,” Rowley said, “They evade the collective responsibility of that gargantuan waste which passed for a social programme with trumpeted good intentions.”

“So in love with spending public money in their personal capacity that where systems to facilitate that appetite do not now exist to their satisfaction, they set out to invent and create new ones. That is what this fund is,” he declared.

Yesterday in the Senate, in response to Persad-Bissessar, Opposition Senator Faris Al-Rawi said, “We (Opposition) are saying automatically, right now, by way of repetition, that, that Constituency Fund is something which we will resist stoutly.”

Al-Rawi said the fund is mired in a “lack of legitimacy.”

He claimed, “It is illegitimate from our perspective because if you wanted to put that into effect, you should have put it into year one or year two.” Al-Rawi warned the “bomb of the Constituency Fund “can be manipulated to no end ala Life Sport.”

Stating that he is currently preparing for the Budget debate on September 12 which will begin in the House of Representatives with his response to Finance Minister Larry Howai’s Budget presentation in the House on September 8, Rowley said, “I am learning about the business world and I am meeting people who are away from home.”

He indicated that he will go to Germany for a short visit, then return to London on Saturday to meet with TT nationals resident there. Rowley said he will return home next week.

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