(TrinidadExpress) The Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) is being shared among three ministries because it had become unmanageable and corrupt, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said last evening.
Persad-Bissessar said she would be the administrator of the programme, controlling the disbursement of funds to the ministries.
She was speaking to the media following a special Cabinet meeting at her home in Phillipine, nearSan Fernando, yesterday.
The URP has been spilt into the Ministries of the People and Social Development, Food Production and Local Government.
“And the Minister of the People and Social Development has already used this and made a kick start. He is using it to help the parents of children with cerebral palsy. And the URP would also be used under the Food Production Ministry in training and labour,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar said the URP had grown to an extent where it had become unmanageable and corruption levels were very high. “The level of management would now be greater, provisions greater and productivity greater,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar said she would continue to control the financing of the programme, until it is moved to another ministry—the Ministry of Finance. “I have thought about this for a long time and I wanted to keep that administrative aspect of it,” she said.
The majority of Cabinet ministers and senators attended the meeting which was held in a conference room downstairs the Prime Minister’s private residence. “We held two meetings—the first to do with infrastructure and the second with all of the parliamentarians. I thought it was a nice place to have the meeting, an informal setting … in the nature of a retreat. We did not have to go to Palo Seco or Toco or evenTobago. It was nice to sit informally as a family of the Partnership and share our thoughts and feelings about things we are happy about and not so happy about,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar said the Cabinet agreed that the issue of communication needed to be addressed. “Often times we come over disjointed— each minister may have different things to say from time to time when really we should speak as a government with a collective voice. So we discussed those matters as to how we can improve, everyone is here and that is such a great sign,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar admitted that some members were not happy with the recent realignment of portfolios. “But at the end of the day we are a Partnership, we want to work, we want to succeed and a personal feeling cannot override the greater good. I did it as my duty and as Prime Minister of the country,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar also said the trade union movement had placed her in a predicament but she intends to respond to their demands before next Thursday’s deadline.
She said she had reviewed the Labour Day Accord delivered by unions who marched to the Prime Minister’s residence last week.
“But they have put me in a predicament because they are saying they will not meet with anyone else and, secondly, they are saying we are not talking until you move the five per cent cap, so where do I stand and I have to think about it,” she said.
She said the unions failed to understand that she cannot negotiate and had placed her in a false dilemma. “I am considering the document. There are seven items, most of them are in fact being addressed,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar said the issues of labour legislation, national youth policy and land use policy were already being addressed by the relevant ministries.
The unions have threatened to shut down the country if the Government does not remove the five per cent cap on wages and salaries.
“The Government always has contingency plans and we have looked at what we have in place to ensure country stays up and running. As a Government we cannot allow anyone to derail the agenda of the people,” she said.