Minister of Housing and Urban Development Pennelope Beckles has assured there will be no job losses when the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund is dissolved.
She was speaking on day two of the Standing Finance Committee on the draft estimates of income and expenditure, statutory bodies and other bodies of the ministry’s 2022 budget allocation. The 2021/2022 allocation for the housing ministry is $647,060,100. The last fiscal allocation was $1 billion.
UNC MP for Couva North Ravi Ratiram questioned Beckles about the decrease in salaries and cost living allowance estimates for 2022 which was $2,637,600 a decrease of almost $1.5 million and whether this meant staff were dismissed.
Beckles said within the administration of the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund no staff member lost their job and there were plans to relocate them to other areas.
“There is no reduction in staff. What will happen is that the 45 employees would be transferred to different ministries. As you know this is an organisation that was agreed to be dissolved for quite some time but because of what is required to be done, we kept the staff on. There will be no loss of jobs.
“The responsibility given by the Cabinet note which is the divestment of land, the closure of files, preparation of deeds, the audit, that is what is being processed at this time. That should come to an end in March next year.”
The Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund was formed to provide housing solutions for sugar workers and cane farmers.
Rudy Indarsingh, UNC MP for Couva South queried about the infrastructure under the remit of the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare committee and its status of transfers to other ministries or regional corporations and implications on the communities.
Beckles said, “We know that there are some 38 housing developments and, at present, arrangements have been made with the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government to service these areas. We have also sought some advice from the Attorney General as it relates to some of those issues and the issue of continuity.”
Additionally, Beckles said the ministry has earmarked several projects to be undertaken in the upcoming fiscal year such as maintenance of Land Settlement Agencies roads and drainage works at squatter sites, regularisation of squatter sites, renovation of New City Mall in Port of Spain, upgrade to East Side Plaza, and infrastructural development in housing developments.
She added that 7,692 mixed family units were expected to be constructed in the next fiscal year.