Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 8th 2014 Contents A6
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, September 8, 2014
The 2014-2015 national budget being delivered by
the People s Partnership Government this afternoon is
expected to be just over last year s package of $61.4 bil-
lion, economist Indera Sagewan-Ali predicted yester-
She said she believed that Government will continue
its pattern of social delivery, but questioned whether this
was healthy for the economy at this time.
"I anticipate it would not be small a budget. I believe
National Security will get a larger portion than that of
last year, but I do not see it necessarily getting one of
the largest chunks as perhaps education," Sagewan-Ali
"I also expect larger allocations for the Ministry or
Works and for the Ministry of the People and Social
"We are going into an election and these are the areas
where we can see a lot of action taking place, like the
paving of roads and the building of drains.
"And we have already seen the prime minister s monthly
allocation to babies."
In a sneak peek of the budget, Prime Minister Kamla
Persad-Bissessar on Saturday said there would be a $500-
a-month allocation for babies born to the most vulnerable
families. This will take effect from October and the allo-
cation will continue for the first year of the child s life.
Sagewan-Ali said yesterday she disagreed with this
measure, saying it will create another dependency syn-
drome within the society. This is not what the country
needed at this time, she added, noting there are other
measures in place for the socially vulnerable.
Persad-Bissessar said she believed Government will
adopt a spending pattern similar to the last year, with
an emphasis on allocating more to the underprivileged.
Finance Minister Larry Howai, in an interview in yes-
terday s Sunday Guardian, also hinted that education will
get the largest chunk of the budget. He said education
will receive 12 per cent of the entire budget figure.
Government has also already said the Gate programme
will not be touched and there will be no hike in gas prices.
But Sagewan-Ali said Government needs to diversify
its spending, as oil and gas will not last forever.
"Looking at how Government would spend, I don t
believe this is what is needed at this time. We need to
see more of the spend going towards diversity. Oil and
gas have been serving us well but we all know it will not
continue forever," she urged.
"What we need to do is to use the opportunity to
transform the future, especially when you see the amount
of social interventions taking place. We need to take the
opportunity to diversify."
Last year s budget allocated $9.8 billion to education,
$6.5 billion to national security and $5 billion to the health
sector. Public utilities were allocated $3.8 billion, while
housing received $2.7 billion and local government $2.4
billion. Works, which now falls under local government,
received $2.4 billion last year with agriculture being given
the least at $1.3 billion.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Congress of the People (COP)
leader Prakash Ramadhar blow out the candles on a cake celebrating the
COP's eighth anniversary at an interfaith service and dinner at Plaza
Montrose, Chaguanas, on Saturday. PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH
A 33-year-old Jamaican
national, who was arrest-
ed at the Piarco Interna-
tional Airport with more
than seven kilos of mar-
ijuana hidden in his
wheelchair, was spared
jail after pleading guilty
to drug trafficking on Fri-
During a hearing in the
Arima Magistrates Court,
Kevon Francis, from
Kingston, Jamaica, was
placed on a bond to keep
the peace for two years,
after he pleaded guilty
before Senior Magistrate
In passing sentence,
Cedeno agreed with the
submission of his lawyer
Delicia Helwig, who
claimed prison authorities
would not be able to prop-
erly care for her client.
Francis, who spent more
than two and a half years
at the Remand Yard facility
at the Golden Grove Prison
after being arrested on
Christmas Eve 2011, was
paralysed from the neck
down after a car accident
almost six years ago.
Helwig said Francis s
medical condition wors-
ened during his stay at the
correction facility, as he
was kept in unsanitary
conditions, was forced to
stay in his disposal diapers
for days and was only
allowed to bathe once a
week, when he was assist-
ed by his fellow remand
She noted that Francis
wanted to plead guilty to
the charge when he first
appeared but had to wait
until last month, when the
office of the Director of
Public Prosecutions (DPP)
agreed to allow his case to
be heard before a magis-
trate as opposed to a judge
and jury in the High Court.
Helwig also claimed
Francis was remorseful for
his actions, as he claimed
he only agreed to traffic
the drugs because he was
desperate to earn money
to assist his family in
Jamaica. Francis also
admitted he was paid
TT$2,000 by a drug
smuggler to complete the
job.Francis also pleaded
guilty to two additional
Paralysed Jamaican on drug charge spared jail time
Economist worried about sweet hand budget
charges under the Customs
Act for importing an illegal
substance and failing to
declare the narcotics on his
custom declaration form.
Cedeno fined him $20,000
for the two charges.
Francis was jointly
charged with his friend
Marvin Richardson, who
was pushing Francis s
wheelchair at the airport.
Richardson admitted he
accompanied Francis on
the trip for medical treat-
ment, but maintained he
had no knowledge of the
drugs. He will reappear in
court on September 23.
Jamaican High Com-
missioner Sharon Saunders
was present for the hear-
ing, as her office provided
medical supplies and a tes-
timonial for Francis.
Francis, who will be
deported in the next couple
of weeks, is the second dis-
abled Jamaican to plead
guilty to marijuana traf-
ficking this year. In July,
one-legged Aaron Lewin,
who was arrested a day
before Francis after police
found 11 kilos of marijuana
in the battery compart-
ment of his motorised
wheelchair, was sentenced
to four years in prison.
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