(Trinidad Express) Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has announced that lands belonging to State-owned Petrotrin will be made available to former workers for housing and agriculture.
Speaking in the House of Representatives yesterday, Rowley outlined six opportunities which would be offered to the retrenched workers in the coming months.
The first opportunity, he announced, was to own a serviced housing lot. Through the Government’s Aided Self Help Housing Programme workers would be able to benefit from high quality housing via access to fully developed lots supported by subsidised interest rate mortgage loans from the Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance Company (TTMF) as well as pre-approved house plans, technical assistance and oversight for the construction of affordable houses.
Rowley said there were already substantially developed housing lots available under the Aided Self-Help Housing Programme in La Romaine, Picton, Cedar Hill, Couva, Carapichaima, California and Chaguanas.
“Within this Aided Self-Help Housing Programme, the Government will provide priority access for former Petrotrin workers who require state support to own a house, with initial emphasis on those who are to be first time home owners,” he said.
Secondly, Rowley announced, the Government has identified residential sites for the development of more housing lots in Usine Ste Madeleine, La Romaine, Pointe a Pierre, Claxton Bay, California, Waterloo, Jerningham Junction, and Chaguanas. “These sites would be added to the Aided Self Help Housing Programme and made available on a priority basis to former Petrotrin workers,” he said.
In southwestern Trinidad, where Petrotrin conducted its Exploration and Production operations, Rowley said the Government had also identified residential sites for the development of housing lots in Warden Road, Point Fortin; Sudama Village and Standard Village in Fyzabad; Sand Pit in Fyzabad; Sobo Extension Road; at the old Antilles Camp; in Vance River, Cashew Patch, Guapo Road, Quarry Village, Santa Flora, Los Bajos, Palo Seco, Rancho Quemado, Buenos Ayres, Los Charos and Los Iros.
Fourth, Rowley announced, the Government has identified suitable agricultural land for former Petrotrin workers who are either already in agriculture and wish to expand or those who have an interest, some experience or a business plan for agri-business. These lands are in Chatham in particular and other areas in Felicity, Basta Hall, Windsor Park, Quarry, Los Iros, La Brea, Point Fortin, Barrackpore and Guayaguayare.
“These lands are currently owned by Petrotrin, Trintopec, Trintoc, PSAEL or the State. This and similar programmes of land identification, preparation and distribution are to be a well-organized and managed program and is not a licence or encouragement to squatting. Even as these programmes are underway the competent authorities will rigorously protect state land, from unauthorised access as the law requires,” he said.
For those who meet the requirements of the Agriculture Development Bank (ADB), Rowley said, the Government will support ADB in the provision of a special financial support package of up to $500,000 for former Petrotrin employees.
And for those former Petrotrin workers who currently reside on or carry on agriculture or other activity on State Land or land owned by a State entity, the Government, through PSAEL and the Land Settlement Agency, will give priority attention to assessing each situation. And where it does not infringe on exploration and production activities or other planning strictures or ownership interests, the Government will deal expeditiously with the issue of regularization where such occupancy can be shown to have been in existence before December 1 2018, he said.
“Even as difficult as the Petrotrin issues have been to deal with, the Govern-ment’s approach and attitude are that it must give the former Petrotrin workers an opportunity for success beyond the financial packages offered. The opportunity to own a housing lot and access land and funding for agro-business will provide stability for those who access these six opportunities announced today,” he said.
Rowley said in less than a month following the closure of the oil company employees were being re-hired to staff the new efforts which are already well underway.