Urban Upgrading and Revitalization Programme Subsidy Agreement Distribution Ceremony
The Honourable Camille Robinson-Regis, MP
Minister of Housing and Urban Development
Government Campus Plaza
Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain
Wednesday, November 23, 2022
- The Honourable Adrian Leonce, Minister in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and Member of Parliament for Laventille East/Morvant
- Ms. Nirmala Ramlogan, Permanent Secretary (Ag), Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
- Dr. Jeffrey Reyes, Programme Director, Programme Monitoring Coordinating & Evaluation Unit (PMCEU)
- Other Heads of Division and staff of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
- Beneficiaries of the Affordable Housing Subsidies
- Members of the media
- Ladies and gentlemen
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Good morning everyone, and season’s greetings to you all.
This is the time of year when we gather with family and friends, to celebrate and give thanks, for the many blessings bestowed upon us, and to reaffirm our faith. We all know how important this is – especially in these times, still in the wake of a pandemic, when life cannot be taken for granted.
We all agree that the past two (2) years were extremely challenging globally and right here in our beautiful nation. Some persons were challenged not only in their health, but also in their finances.
As a nation, we were not spared the global pressures, which forced an increase in food, health care and gas prices and an increase in the cost of building materials. In spite of all the increased costs and external economic pressures, this Government remained focused on protecting the most vulnerable sections of our population, and those affected the most by the ravages of the pandemic.
Throughout 2020, 2021 and 2022 not a single public servant lost their job, nor was a single pension payment to our senior citizens late. All beneficiaries of government assistance continued to do so seamlessly, as this Government did much with little.
Your Government though, is very mindful of its responsibility to its citizens, and so for fiscal 2023, approximately $1 Billion has been allocated to Housing; over $7 Billion has been allocated to Education and Training, approximately $5.5 Billion allocated to Social Grants; $6.8 Billion to Health. Ladies and gentlemen, if you were attempting the maths while I spoke, you will realize that more than one-third of the annual national budget was allocated to these four (4) areas. Notwithstanding the naysayers and arm chair critics, this is how we demonstrate that we care. We ensure that our citizens have a decent roof over their heads, have access to health care and education, and for those who cannot afford it, we provide the social assistance.
One of the areas in which we know there is great need, is that of housing repairs and renovations. And while no Government will ever be able to afford to finance the housing needs of every citizen, there are a few things we can do. As a caring and responsible government, we know that there are people we can and should help, based on need and circumstance. In fact, if I may be permitted a small boast, we have been doing so, at an increasing pace since I took office.
In the last fiscal year, we distributed 577 Affordable Housing Subsidies, of which 380 were Home Improvement Subsidies, and 197 were Home Construction Subsidies. Since being assigned to this Ministry, we distributed 59 Subsidies in August; 143 in September; and today we will distribute another tranch of 189 to the 40 families here with us, who are representative of the 189. This means that already in November, we are distributing more than three times what we distributed in August, and the fiscal year has only just begun. We still have 10 months to go, so we are well on track to help a record number of people in 2023!
There is general agreement too that the 1,995 subsidies processed, since the start of the programme, have uplifted the standard of living of thousands of families from just about every region in our country. Of immense significance for us too, is the fact that of the 391 subsidy recipients, between August and November, 120 – or almost one third – are persons over 60 years; and 282 or 72 percent are women leading female headed households.
As for the geographic spread of beneficiary communities, it is clear that we are staying true to our promise made in the Roadmap to Recovery, to leave no one behind. Beneficiaries for this month, for example, reside in every Municipality and Regional Corporation scattered through the length and breadth of Trinidad.
Other residents of these communities have also benefitted as construction works have allowed tradesmen, labourers, semi-skilled workers and their respective families to increase their income. Additionally, the evidence suggests that local hardware stores and other construction material suppliers also share in the income boost, as the disbursement of these subsidies have the knock-on advantage of creating ripple or multiplier effects leading to increased economic activity.
It is worth remembering that this all started in 2020, under the leadership of the Honourable Dr. Keith Rowley, at a time when I was Minister of Planning and Development, and had the honour to assent to this programme, in my then capacity as Trinidad and Tobago’s Governor of the Inter-American Development Bank. The Government borrowed US$50 million loan from the IDB to fund this project because we knew then and understand even better now, that the socio-economic benefits and community enhance impact would be tremendous.
Through these subsidies, the Government is able to:
- improve habitability for low-income households and therefore reduce the strain on the HDC to provide housing for citizens;
- attain environmental sustainability by including eco-technologies that reduce the consumption of water and electricity; and
- help redress the disproportionate vulnerability of women-headed households, with the allocation of at least 40 percent of the subsidies to such households.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Government is doing its part for you. It is our responsibility so to do, as it is equally your responsibility to use the monies for what it was intended, to upkeep your houses post the renovations and repairs, and to ensure that your community benefits in very tangible ways.
As I close, please allow me to reiterate my gratitude to all the staff of the Programme Monitoring, Coordinating and Evaluation Unit, and its director Dr. Jeffrey Reyes, for continuing the work of helping families to benefit from these subsidies.
Thank you and may God bless us all with his abundance.