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       “A Platform for Change in a Reformed Local Government System”

                             Feature Address by

                    Senator the Honourable Hazel Manning

 To be delivered at the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce
                               Breakfast Meeting
                            Friday March 14, 2008



Alderman Murchison Brown, Mayor of Port of Spain

Alderman Adrian Cabralis, Mayor of Arima

Mrs. Indra Furlonge-Kelly, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local
Government

Mrs. Gemma Marcus, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government

Members of Council and CEOs of the Municipal Corporations

Mrs. Angella Persad, Senior Vice President of the Trinidad & Tobago Chamber of
Industry and Commerce

Mrs. Joan Ferreira, Chief Executive Officer, Trinidad & Tobago Chamber of
Industry and Commerce

Board Members of the Chamber

Members of the Head Table

Chamber members

Members of the Media

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen

Good Morning
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I must thank the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce for affording

me the opportunity to address today’s breakfast meeting. As an association that

represents the interests of hundreds of businesses and entrepreneurs, yours is a

collective voice of influence and authority on the issues.



I believe that your many contributions towards building a better T&T are well-known and

well-documented. And I commend you. You have contributed to the economy, and the

government’s treasury. You have provided thousands of employment opportunities. You

have contributed generously to youth programmes through sponsorships and support of

education, the arts, sport and culture. You have continuously attempted to mitigate the

negative impacts of the ills affecting our society today. And here I would like to recognize

your Crime Stoppers initiative, which has had significant success.



The Government of Trinidad and Tobago thanks you for your support. We anticipate

your continued assistance towards the development of our beloved country.



Guided by our Vision 2020 National Strategic Plan, our mission is to promote an

effective local government system. This plan will support national advancement, through

participatory governance, greater community involvement and global strategic

collaborations. Needless to say your partnership remains a key factor in these

endeavours and is warmly appreciated. This morning’s meeting is just one of the many

ways in which we can continue to sustain a very vibrant and meaningful relationship.



Ladies and Gentlemen, as you are aware, the Ministry of Local Government is in the

midst of its reform and decentralization programme. As such, we are in implementation

mode.
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What this means is that we are moving ahead, guided by the principles of accountability,

transparency and effective governance. In order to ensure greater people participation in

all our initiatives, we have been engaging our Municipal Corporations in sound,

sustainable planning exercises. Our monthly meetings allow us to flesh out common

areas of concerns that ultimately impact on the quality and timeliness of our service

delivery. With this in mind, Local Government Reform is intended to share decision-

making authority and facilitate effective service delivery through the Municipal

Corporations.



We have identified several areas of responsibility for implementation of the reform. They

include:



   1. Facilities Management

   2. Parks and Recreational Facilities

   3. The Environment

   4. Arts and Culture

   5. Community Development/Services



Ladies and Gentlemen, whereas some of these areas do require the support of

Parliament, there are others that do not.



Consequently, the Ministry has taken action to implement those initiatives, some of

which are:
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   1. Local area and Regional Planning

   2. Municipal Solid Waste Management

   3. The removal of socially-displaced persons from our streets

   4. Disaster Preparedness and Management

   5. Public Health

   6. Municipal Policing

   7. The provision of modern accommodation for our Municipal Corporations



As you have heard this morning, the local area and regional plans of the Municipal

Corporations are currently being synchronized with the recommendations of the National

Physical Development Plan, Vision 2020 National Strategic Plan and the National

Spatial Strategy.



Cabinet has recently approved the Municipal Solid Waste Management Policy, Action

Plan and the contractual extension for existing garbage collectors for the period March 1,

2008 to February 28, 2009.



The new policy forms the required framework and strategies for developing and

implementing a sustainable solid waste management system in Trinidad and Tobago.

The operational plan encompasses the use of demonstration projects in all

municipalities. It would apply a phased approach to the gradual introduction of

separation of waste at source level.



Ladies and Gentlemen, we must reduce the volume of waste that is currently transported

to our landfills. One way to resolve this is to adopt an integrated approach that involves

all our stakeholders including the Environmental Management Authority and of course
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SWMCOL. We must work together to change the long-standing attitudes and behaviours

that ultimately lead to more pollution and greater harm to our environment. We also

advocate greater private sector involvement in the entire process – There is indeed

entrepreneurial opportunities in the business of garbage through recycling methods, and

we shall be exploring these further.



Very soon, you will be hearing more about the Ministry of Local Government’s National

Clean-up campaign that is being developed with our partners. It will not be a one-off

intervention but a sustained programme with your cooperation being one of the critical

success factors. Our research has shown that many persons genuinely do not know how

to prepare their waste for disposal. On the contrary, those who do know, openly flout the

rules and regulations. Our programmes will specifically target these different individuals.



Another major concern of ours - and I am sure it is shared by all of you present this

morning – is the increasing number of socially-displaced individuals who make their

homes on the streets. This situation is an untenable one and to address this challenge,

the Ministry of Local Government, in collaboration with the lead Ministry of Social

Development and Social Services has embarked upon a plan of action to legally remove

these individuals.



The policy encompasses detainment, diagnosis and dispatch to centres for the socially

displaced. This will be achieved under the current Mental Health Act and involves inputs

from the Ministries of National Security, Health and the Attorney General’s Office.

Treating with this sensitive situation requires a kind and caring approach, but ultimately it

must be dealt with. Social Development will champion a Cabinet note to this effect

before the end of March 2008.
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In this effort, we need your cooperation to sustain the initiative. While I am not

advocating any show insensitivity towards the dispossessed, we must adhere to the

pending advisories from the authorities.



The Ministry of Local Government is the first line of response in a disaster or crisis. In

order to respond in a timely manner to the needs of our burgesses, my Ministry has

begun the process towards establishing disaster management units at its head office

and at all fourteen Municipal Corporations. Relief efforts will be coordinated by these

units along with other State Agencies including:



      The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM)

      Fire and Emergency Health Services

      The Defence Force

      And the Ministries of Works and Transport, Public Utilities, Social Development

       to name a few.

These agencies would all assist on the ground with the various needs of the burgesses

in a crisis – for example, shelters, the supply of food, equipment and tools.



The issue of public health continues to be a challenge. Therefore the Ministry is paying

particular attention to this concern. At the local level, the Public Health Inspectorate

continues to manage the extermination of insects, rodents and the spreading of

diseases. They are challenged at times by a shortage of personnel in the regional

corporations and we have already started taking steps to address this.
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We plan to rid our communities of dilapidated buildings and abandoned vehicles. How

can we break entrenched bad habits? How do we influence people to desist from

dumping garbage on vacant lots throughout the country? These are just some of the

issues that our aggressive social marketing and public education programmes will be

addressing.



Local Government Reform speaks to the continued establishment and expansion of the

Municipal Police Service in the Corporations. We are currently ensuring that all

municipalities are adequately staffed with officers. Additionally, it is suggested that the

Municipal Police Service should be placed under the jurisdiction of the Commissioner of

Police, and their duties would embrace the concept of community policing.



As part of our platform for change the Ministry of Local Government embarked on a

programme to upgrade and modernize the accommodation of all the Municipal

Corporations. Designs have been completed for:



      Arima Borough Corporation

      Chaguanas Borough Corporation and

      Diego Martin Regional Corporation



I am pleased to inform you that all three sites have been selected; and already the

administrative complex for Chaguanas is under construction. The others are scheduled

to begin before the end of 2008.



Distinguished members of the Chamber, I view today’s interaction as a platform for your

cooperation in aiding the local government reform thrust. The experience you have
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garnered over the past one hundred and twenty-eight odd years and the signal honour of

being the oldest Chamber in the region, qualify you as an exemplary organization. Your

contributions to the growth and development of our society are innumerable.



Today’s collaboration with my Ministry is testimony to the fact that only through our

collective efforts can we bring about the much needed change in the way we address

and redress the challenges in our country. This is exactly what participatory governance

is about – no one must be left out of the loop. Indeed, the concept of greater

inclusiveness and community involvement were deliberately woven into the Ministry’s

new slogan “Local Government…embracing all.”



Make no mistake; we recognize the value of our most precious resource – our people. At

the same time we are aware that in order for us all to benefit from a new way of doing

the business of the people, we need to take pride in ourselves, our communities and in

our country. We must engender patriotism in all that we do and at all times.



Captains of Industry, Ladies and Gentlemen, I invite you to get on board. Join with Local

Government and make this reform exercise the success that it can be as we move to the

next level.



I leave you with this challenge this morning. Thank you and may God bless us all.