(Excerpts of Senator Shevern John’s Budget Presentation)
The volcanic eruption has caused tremendous damage to the infrastructure above the dry river. There are many projects that were still left unattended to since the 2013 floods and which are in urgent need of rebuilding.
The people above the river literally have many rivers to cross. TheRabaccaBridge is only one aspect of development but the problem now is that there are many more rivers which create havoc on the lives and movement of people above the river as seen whenever there is slight to heavy rainfall. These include (Savanna gutter, Overland River, Noel, London, Bony, Owiariver and Owia bottom town river and Fancy river). It is sad to report to the constituents that there is nothing substantial in the Budget for technical assistance or work to begin on these bridges.
I cannot overemphasize the need for proper roads and footpaths in the constituency to help improve the lives of the people. I do wish to see work carried out on many of our mountain roads to assist the farmers in transporting their goods, thus adding value. I eagerly await the construction of the road in overland which was damaged since 2010 and has become very dangerous to our little children who have to walk the area to reach to school. The government has now only made to start this project. I hope that this will bring some economic value to the people and that the people in the village will be the ones employed to work on the project.
In North Windward, the effects of the eruption continue to be a major problem for many householders. Many persons lost their homes as stated in Budget 2022 and now it is time for rebuilding and recovery. It must be transformative. To be transformative, we must have the collectiveness of all stakeholders involved.
As it stands now, what we see are rust and ash painted house roofs. We are having partial repairs of roofs despite monetary allocations for repairs that consider the future impact of existing damage. It means that these homeowners will be left to change the other rusted pieces of galvanising on their own, an added burden to the vulnerable, elderly, disabled, single mothers and the unemployed. This added financial burden is definitely not acceptable and I am calling on the relevant authority to give the people what is rightfully theirs. Even the 27 small houses donated by the Trinidadian based group remain locked up and uninhabited. The donors saw the need and rushed to assistance, but the government still lingers.
I’ll now look at small businesses in the North Windward area. They are faced with threats from post-COVID and volcanic eruptions. In building and recovery, we hope that this government will assist the small businessman to rebuild. Meet VibertNanton an old entrepreneur whose business was destroyed by the volcanic ash, according to him up to Friday last week no one has ever come to do an assessment of the building. This is his livelihood, and he needs the necessary assistance in getting him back on his feet. There are many more like him out there. It is important to enhance the economic climate and ensure that there is sustainable growth in the small communities. Unemployment continues to plague us and when members of the communities have an entrepreneurial opportunity we must extend to give them the assistance they need.
In the cleanup process in Owia, we were happy that there were three projects to be done and all at once, so the young men were geared up and ready to work for the period. They got the shock of their lives, as a truckload of men from a different area in the constituency was sent to Owia to shovel ash and work on the project. Not one young man from Owia was employed. The young men cried as they faced this injustice, even those they outsource felt ashamed for them and realized that this was total victimization.
This government boasts about the increased social protection programmes administered. These programmes help to ensure that persons affected can survive, given the state of poverty that exists. The people of the red zone were in need of the money paid out as part of the social protection programme; as many had outstanding utility bills prior to the eruption, so it came in handy for many to avoid disconnection. But, we remain at the same standard of living and are faced with the same economic problem of unemployment and we wait patiently again to get another handout to clear our utilities. Nothing to smile about and as Buju says this Budget is nothing but shine no substance, only who feels it knows, shows glamour and glitter but only “who feels it knows”….
OTR will rise from the ash because Chatoyer blood runs in our veins and we continue to be resilient people. We believe that since most of the spending of 2022 will come from VEEP. We expect that these areas should lack nothing. We do hope that some diversification will also take place to avoid long travelling for our people. The health and wellness of our people is of utmost importance. We are aware of the mental stress that the people of the red zone have experienced. It is therefore of paramount importance that the health facilities in all areas be upgraded.
In the capital estimates of 2022, we see allocation for the upgrade of a health facility in Sandy Bay. I remember prior to the 2020 elections this health centre was refurbished hastily and up to this day, the building is still closed. I do hope that what is proposed is a modern health facility to facilitate the people above the dry river. I am sure that people in overland will be surprised to hear that there is no allocation for the upgrade of the health facility in their village