Some $12 million allocated for “Repairs and Maintenance: Buildings” will mostly be spent to repair the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission in London, said Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Denis Moses on Tuesday when grilled by the Lower House Standing Finance Committee.
He could not give a full breakdown of the $12 million to Princes Town MP Barry Padarath. (Budget documents showed some $6 million was spent on the repairs subhead last year, plus $11 million in rent for this year, the same sum as last year.)
Cumuto/Manzanilla MP Christine Hosein asked if this hefty $12 million expenditure was necessary? Moses replied, “The average annual figure is even more pronounced. We are treating with a historical building, an old one. I can give you an average figure.
“We’re talking about $15 million, $13 million, $16 million, $23 million and $16 million, (respectively) for 2011/2012, and coming forward to 2015/2016. So it’s an expensive enterprise and undertaking and those are the actual expenditure levels incurred relative to our chancery at the High Commission in London.”
Naparima MP Rodney Charles noted a paltry $40,000 allocation for the repatriation of TT nationals overseas, noting some were caught up in events in Iraq. He asked, “Is it enough?”.
Moses replied that the sum has actually already been completely exhausted by his ministry recently making a commitment to bring back the bodies of two nationals who died in St Martin. These are thought to be Melan Salvary-Doyle, 54, and her grandson Oliver Gedio who died when swept away by a wave during the passage of Hurricane Irma in September.
Moses said, “In the next year if exigencies arise, we’ll see what we can do.”
Asked about a zero allocation to the National Reparations Committee compared to $500,000 allotted last year, Moses blamed this on the country’s economic circumstances.