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400 new URP jobs next month

By ANDRE BAGOO Saturday, September 29 2012

THE GOVERNMENT will start 400 new Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) jobs in October at an estimated cost of $40 million, according to Minister of Local Government, Dr Suruj Rambachan.

The projects were one aspect of a package of pre-Budget ‘goodies’ announced at the post- Cabinet press briefing on Thursday, as the PP Government seeks to move beyond the Section 34 scandal, and look towards 2013, when Local Government and Tobago House of Assembly elections are due.

Other measures announced on Thursday include: the allocation of $340 million to fast-track distribution of Caroni lands by Caroni (1975) Ltd; $65 million in funding for CDAP drugs; 50 scholarships funded by the Ministry of Local Government; and $28 million to $98 million worth of funding, for Local Government development plans.

Rambachan announced the start of 400 new projects by the (URP) in October, a measure which may potentially result in temporary jobs for thousands

Questioned by Newsday, Rambachan said these projects would be “all over the country” and would mainly involve small-scale contract work, such as the construction of box-drains. A total of 200 of the projects will involve URP regulars and 200 “contractors”. He said the projects would last about six weeks. Total cost estimated at $40 million.

The Office of the Prime Minister, which is in charge of the administration of the URP, on Thursday announced it was opening registration of workers for the programme. Advertisements noted registration activities would be carried out at Diego Martin; Port-of-Spain; San/Juan Laventille; Tunapuna; Arima; Sangre Grande/ Rio Claro; Princes Town; San Fernando; Point Fortin; San Fernando; Fyzabad; Couva; and Chaguanas.

No registration appears planned for URP offices at Tobago, where the URP has been at the centre of a dispute between central government, and the Tobago House of Assembly.

Also on Thursday, at a post-Cabinet press briefing held at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, Minister of Health Dr Fuad Khan announced expenditure of $63 million for the CDAP programme.

“Cabinet has approved approximately $63 million for the procurement of the CDAP drugs,” Khan said. “We have heard recently that there has been a bit of a shortage in these items. We will facilitate the drugs to the public health sector institutions, the anti-viral drugs, the CDAP programme, the national organ transplant programme and also the provision of the blood-glucose monitoring machines, as well as strips for the chronic disease programme.” He continued, “We have approved the management procurement, the storage and distribution for pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical items in the public sector.”

Khan said the Ministry of Health will also be “embarking upon” a new warehouse, at an undisclosed cost.

“The Ministry of Health will also be embarking upon its own warehouse in Real Springs, Valsayn,” he said “We will be procuring and developing the construction of a new modern warehouse, and this will facilitate easy access and distribution.”

Rambachan said he expects his ministry to receive a larger allocation for 2013, and among the projects to be funded, is the implementation of aspects of 14 Local Government development plans. Each plan will be funded to the tune of between $2 million to $7 million, he said, but he declined to give an overall estimate of cost. He said corporations —with the exception of the Port-of-Spain City Corporation -– had submitted their budget requests ahead of the Budget presentation, due on Monday, a measure he said, was new.

Rambachan also announced 50 scholarships meant to fill 20 vacancies for the post of public health officer. He said the scholarships would cover associate degree studies at COSTAATT.

In relation to the $340 million, Food Production Minister Devant Maharaj on Thursday told reporters at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, that the money would be used for financing what he called the ‘Former Sugar-Cane Farmers Tenancy Regularisation Project’.

The bulk of the money ($300 million) would be used to push infrastructure on the lands, a measure which will no-doubt have a dual effect of fast-tracking of process of deep symbolic importance for the UNC political party, as well as bolstering the economy’s construction sector, in an environment where contractors have been complaining of lack of work.

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