New Year’s Address to the Nation 2006 by The Honourable Patrick Manning, Prime Minister Of Trinidad And Tobago

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO – My Fellow Citizens, I welcome this opportunity to address you as we approach the start of a new year. I wish to pay tribute to that vast majority of our law- abiding and industrious citizens, who through individual and collective effort, have contributed to the progress of our nation during the year now ending. I am convinced that in the period ahead, we will together ensure the further development of our country and successfully meet the challenges we face as a nation.

The level of criminal activity continues to be our most obvious difficulty. The drug trade and its turf wars have pushed the murder rate to a very high level; and we continue to be faced with the problem of kidnapping by some evil predators in our midst.

My Administration has already outlined the various steps we are taking to deal with this problem. These include the improved efficiency of the law enforcement agencies which we have provided with more manpower, equipment, training and technology. We are also benefiting significantly from the cooperation with our friends at the international level.

The Government is doing its part to improve the Police Service. But I have made the point before, that we need to urgently modernize the management of the Service. In this regard, I am heartened by two important developments.

One is the willingness of the present Police Service Commission to at least listen to our views, and the other is the support of the Opposition for the passage of recent legislation, which hopefully bodes well for more enlightened cooperation and collaboration in the new year.

Our fight against crime also involves the pursuit of a social agenda that seeks to eliminate poverty and underdevelopment. This is of great importance. When we expose all our children to the best education available; when we train marginalized youth for sustainable employment; when we improve accessibility to housing for the needy; when we focus on urban renewal and rural development; when we provide assistance to the distressed individuals throughout the nation; we are dealing with poverty and its problems, including the level of criminal activity that we now face.

We shall relentlessly pursue our present strategies and develop new ones; and we shall not rest until we have succeeded in our efforts to significantly reduce the level of crime in Trinidad and Tobago.

We are doing very well in so many areas of national life. Our economy continues to grow from strength to strength. In one year alone, we created twenty-eight thousand jobs, and the projected unemployment rate for the fourth quarter of 2005 is 7.8%. I am therefore confident that in 2006, we will achieve our goal of full employment in Trinidad and Tobago.

Next year, our country will experience an explosion of increased economic activity.

In the energy sector, we are going further downstream of natural gas to produce new products, and these include Melamine, Urea-Ammonium Nitrate and Acetic Acid for which plants will be built.

Further economic diversification will result from the aluminium industry, an entirely new development in Trinidad and Tobago, and for which plans are well on the way. We have already signed the technical agreement for the establishment of a mega aluminium complex at Union Estate.

Additionally, the Iron and Steel industry will be further expanded through construction of an integrated Iron and Steel complex at Point Lisas which will contain several downstream plants.

Next year, we shall initiate the upgrade of the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery with the construction or revamping of eight plants at the cost of about 600 million US dollars.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the sum total of these investments is $US 8 billion dollars. These projects all begin in 2006 and will create over nineteen thousand jobs by the peak of the construction phase, and some three thousand three hundred permanent jobs.

Significant employment will also be created in the construction industry, where in housing, we shall meet, as promised, our projected target of ten thousand housing starts; eight thousand from the government and two thousand from the private sector.

Additionally, there are several on going building projects, including the Port-of-Spain International Waterfront; the Chancery Lane complex in San Fernando; the Government Campus Complex on Richmond street; the Tarouba Sporting Complex; the Tobago House of Assembly Financial Complex; and the Scarborough Library.

Further, in keeping with our intention to make this country a major transit hub in the region, we shall build six new ports including relocating the major port at Port- of- Spain, and these will be at Cap de Ville in Point Fortin, Point Lisas, Brighton, Galeota and Moruga.

At the community level, we shall be constructing several new facilities, including new schools, community centres and other public buildings.

In 2006, a key focus is the improvement of basic amenities. Already, for example, over fifty thousand persons in thirty-two communities have benefited from improved water distribution. Next year we start the Mamoral Dam and Reservoir which shall both improve water supply and alleviate flooding.

In the coming period, we shall accelerate a massive programme to improve our electricity service. This will see the installation of eighty-two thousand additional streetlights, and the upgrade of thirty-six thousand existing ones over the next two and a half years. This programme shall move into full gear in January when we shall be installing at the rate of three hundred lights per day.

We consider Education and Training to be critical factors in the nation’s progress. From tomorrow, New Year’s Day, free tuition will be available to all nationals of Trinidad and Tobago enrolled at our public tertiary institutions; this at the cost of 350 million dollars over the next year.

Meanwhile, we are moving to graduate workers from CEPEP and URP into higher skills and better jobs through increased training and education. Every citizen must be encouraged to progress. None must be left out of the mainstream of national development. All must be empowered.

This accounts for our new thrust in respect of social service delivery. The Cabinet has already approved a new system for the dispensation of social services which will be implemented in the new year. In our social programmes, we will seek to provide improved assistance and facilities for the needy, elderly, differently-abled and vulnerable.

In a related and unprecedented move, we shall initiate a programme of reorientation and retooling for those rendered unemployable through substance abuse, that is to say, those who have failed the drug test as a prerequisite to employment.

We are also placing significant emphasis on community life, sport and cultural activity to build on the advances we have made in these areas. We are also paying attention to our health sector and protection of the environment.

From tomorrow, New Year’s Day, new tax arrangements become effective. The rate of corporation and income taxes falls to twenty-five percent; and increased allowances for individuals would result in a considerable amount of money being available to the ordinary citizens. Indeed, ladies and gentlemen with effect from tomorrow, any person earning five thousand dollars per month or less pays no income tax.

Ladies and gentlemen, my Administration remains committed to the development of all our citizens and every progressive aspect of life in Trinidad and Tobago. While the government seeks to do its part, as citizens we all have our responsibilities and roles in national development.

At all levels the vast majority of our citizens are daily making progress, strengthening their families and community life and contributing to the development of the nation. For many, however, there is still the need to become more disciplined, more stable and to take advantage of the many opportunities that now exist in our country.

This is a dynamic country that is clearly on the move towards becoming a developed nation by the year 2020 or before. But we must all of us redouble our efforts to move further forward.

I therefore urge you, My Fellow Citizens, to continue with more of your progressive endeavours in the year ahead. There is always room for improvement in everything that we do, in the workplace, at home and in our communities.

Greater Productivity, Stability and Participation are therefore some of the New Year resolutions you could make and maintain. This would help along the path to further personal fulfilment and position us to contribute more to the nation’s development.

A special word to our young people. Time is fleeting, and soon we will again be at the end of another year. Make the best use of the opportunities that now abound for self-improvement.

Even as your parents and the Government do their best to equip you for the challenges of the modern world, you must meet your responsibilities by developing your talents, even whilst you enjoy the days of your youth.

Remember, that the world is now more competitive than ever, and those who are laggards now will find it even more difficult to catch up later. You must get on the move, my young friends. The future awaits you.

Indeed, a very bright future awaits all in our nation. With our present social and economic policies and programmes, we shall experience stronger economic growth, generate more wealth, more jobs, and more opportunities for individual and national development. I am confident that 2006 will indeed be a very successful new year for Trinidad and Tobago.

Best wishes for the New Year. Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen. May God Bless all of you. May God Bless our Nation.

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