Browne: Trinidad and Tobago diplomats in Brazil safe

Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne -
Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne -

FOREIGN and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne gave the assurance that TT foreign service officers posted at this country's embassy in Brasilia, Brazil are safe.

He gave this assurance in response to a question posed by Naparima MP Rodney Charles during a Standing Finance Committee meeting of the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Charles' question came before the committee approved a $15,567,165 supplementation to the ministry's budgetary allocation to deal with matters related to the operations of TT's diplomatic missions overseas.

Charles asked whether TT foreign service officers at the mission in Brasilia were safe, following riots there earlier this month, after former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro lost that country's presidential election.

Bolsonaro supporters stormed the presidential palace, supreme court and congress buildings during those riots.

He told Charles, "If what I hear in your question is an expression of concern for our staff and our assets in that city. Everything is well with them and that would be my response."

Browne reminded Charles that in the sphere of foreign affairs and other aspects of governance, not everything can be anticipated.

Since the covid19 pandemic began in 2020 and the war in Ukraine began last February, Browne said the cost of providing security and other services has been increasing in several cities in the United States and in Europe. TT's overseas missions are not immune to those changes.

Citing parking for diplomats in cities overseas as an example, Browne said, "What has happened is that the cost of parking in the city of New York and many other cities (in the world) has skyrocketed.'

He added, "In some circumstances there has been a requirement to incur additional expenditure in that regard."

Referring to an increase in the cost of elevator services at a building in New York where TT's consulate is based, Browne said the consulate had to pay the increased costs, along with the other tenants of that building.

"We were not able to anticipate that."

Browne also said the cost of health care in the US has increased.

"Unfortunately, particularly with the covid19 pandemic, members of the public may not be aware of how many of our (foreign) service members became infected (with covid19). Some required hospitalisation and had some very serious outcomes."

Browne said the ministry continues to do all it can "to ensure the maintenance of its operations and its levels of service provision, both at headquarters and at overseas missions in what we can all attest, has been a very challenging period of operations."

The estimates of expenditure for the ministry in fiscal 2021, he continued, was $271,531,682.

The revised estimates of expenditure for fiscal 2022 was $251,125,450."

Regarding the costs for operations for TT's overseas missions, Browne said fiscal 2022 was a period of "dramatic increases in the cost of operation based on several factors in most capitals around the world."

A major challenge faced by overseas missions in managing their financial affairs, he continued, is "missions are at great risk of service providers cutting them off if payments are not made."

Browne said this puts "the work of the missions and in some circumstances, the safety of our staff at risk."

To prevent this from happening, Browne said there was overexpenditure by some missions to the total sum of $50,567,165. He added that this is one of the issues which the supplementation of funds to the ministry would address.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert supported Browne.

While each ministry has budgetary allocations for every financial year, Imbert said there are occasions where there is the need for unforeseen expenditure.

When all regular means to meet that expenditure have been exhausted, there is a need to supplement their allocation.

Imbert said, "It is not something that you would know at the beginning of the year."

The House will sit on January 23 from 1.30 pm to pass a motion to approve the committee's recommendations which approved this additional funding, as well as $800 million additional funding to the Energy Ministry.


"Browne: Trinidad and Tobago diplomats in Brazil safe"

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