FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert on Monday said he has been pleading for years for a bridge for Blue Basin in his Diego Martin North/East constituency to no avail, but which he now wants to be built before those bridges being requested by newly-arrived opposition MPs.
His sudden and unusual interjection came in the sitting of the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives, which examined the budget’s spending proposals line by line.
In reply to Oropouche West MP Davendranath Tancoo asking about a seeming drop in allocation for “landslip repair” last year from $15 million allocated to $1.9 million spent, Ministry of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan said the bulk of funding was transferred into a separate Bridge and Landslip Programme.
At that, Imbert perked up to demand his bridge be built first, before those being sought by opposition newcomers.
He said that for four and a half years he had been requesting a bridge for constituents at Blue Basin but to no avail, but he hoped to get it before “those people who have just arrived.”
Committee chairman Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George chided his choice of words, “those people” and asked him to rephrase his remarks. He complied.
Sinanan said he wished to reiterate the same statement he had given earlier and said Imbert’s request would be looked at.
Earlier, when the committee had discussed funding for roads, Naparima MP Rodney Charles had said Garth Road was perhaps TT’s most neglected road, prompting Sinanan to declare, “The ministry does not discriminate. We look at the entire country.”
While Charles used the occasion to complain about the bumps he routinely feels while driving his vehicle in his constituency, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh shot back, “Maybe you should buy a Benz from New Zealand,” in a seeming snipe at an opposition MP targeted by government MPs in a tit-for-tat row over tax-breaks for high-end vehicles bought by MPs.
Earlier, Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein asked about two allocations for a feasibility study for a fast-ferry port in Toco, namely $17.7 million spent last year and $7.7 million allocated for fiscal 2021, with $669,000 spent in 2019.
Tancoo asked about $515,000 spent last year on the proposed La Brea Dry Dock. Sinanan said this funded a Terms of Reference (TOR) and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA.)
Earlier, Charles asked about some $980,000 listed as “losses on foreign currency conversion” under the Port Authority’s estimates of expenditure.
Sinanan said this was incurred in buying a new crane for ten million euros, paid in that currency.
He also revealed a bank will earn $2 million this year for issuing debit cards to Unemployment Relief Programe (URP) workers to be paid rather than by cheque.