Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 11th 2015 Contents A5
October 11, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
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Minister of Social Develop-
ment and Family Services
burn has promised to launch
an investigation into the Tar-
geted Conditional Cash Trans-
fer Programme popularly
known as the food cards, since
it has not been helping the
needy and has been haemor-
rhaging the ministry.
Crichlow-Cockburn said she
would also undertake a com-
prehensive assessment, evalu-
ation and cost benefit analysis
into the recently launched bio-
metric smart card, which mon-
itors recipients of all social
Delivering her contribution
in the budget debate in the
House of Representatives yes-
terday, Crichlow-Cockburn said
while the biometric card has
technical capabilities, "it has
proven to be very costly in its
She revealed that $49 million
was spent in the card s start-
up stage, while an additional
$39 million was invested in
technology. Annual maintenance
of the card costs $23.2 million.
Crichlow-Cockburn said a
staff of 142 was also retained to
oversee the card s operations.
In August, then prime min-
ister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
launched the card.
"After having spent over $100
million exclusive of salaries, only
44,331 enrollments have been
completed. This administration
will not leave this situation
unchecked. A comprehensive
assessment and evaluation of
this programme, inclusive of a
cost benefit analysis, will there-
fore be conducted and a decision
made going forward."
The Lopinot/Bon Air West
MP also spoke about the food
card which was implemented
in 2006 to help the most vul-
every month the ministry inject-
ed $24 million for food cards.
"While it was introduced with
noble intent it has become an
avenue for less than noble peo-
ple to take what was intended
for the poor to fatten their pock-
ets and those of their friends."
She disclosed that the 14
regional corporations were
granted 7,960 cards in the last
12 months, while 13,950 tem-
porary food cards were distrib-
uted to MPs.
"There is haemorrhaging tak-
ing place with respect to the
Crichlow-Cockburn said 80
per cent of the temporary food
card recipients "do not apply
for the permanent cards" since
this would require documenta-
tion for eligibility. As a result of
this, Crichlow-Cockburn said,
food cards would only be grant-
ed at her ministry s offices
"since this would reduce the
chances of misallocation and
Managing director of Caribbean
Chemicals Joe Pires is accusing
Finance Minister Colm Imbert of
creating problems for local chemical
importers by announcing the Gov-
ernment s proposal to make
approved chemicals and pesticides
tax and duty exempt, beginning next
Pires said Imbert s statement had
led farmers to query chemical
importers as to how much they were
going to reduce the cost of chemicals,
which they sold to agricultural shops.
Pires said he became perplexed
and confused by Imbert s announce-
ment since duties and VAT on all
agricultural chemicals were waived
"His (Imbert s) statement has cre-
ated a lot of problems for companies
like us that import chemicals. Now
farmers are asking us what is our
new pricing and when are the prices
coming down. But there has never
been any duties or VAT on agriculture
chemicals. I don t know what the
minister is talking about."
In presenting the budget, Imbert
stated that he would exempt from all
duties and taxes inputs into the agri-
cultural sector, including approved
chemicals, pest control, approved
vehicles, approved fishing vessels and
equipment, which will take effect on
January 1, 2016.
Caribbean Chemicals is one of the
country s largest chemical importers.
Manager of Carlsen Chemicals Ltd
Kamal Hakim also admitted that
farmers called his Carapichaima busi-
ness to find out "what is going to
Hakim said as long as he could
remember there had been no duty
and VAT on agriculture chemicals
that came into Trinidad.
"That is the law."
Pires said when VAT was intro-
duced over 20 years ago by the then
National Alliance for Reconstruction
(NAR) administration "no VAT was
put on agriculture chemicals. The
government at the time realised that
the cost of chemicals to the farmer
would have amounted to 60 per cent
of their inputs and labour. They need-
ed to keep food prices down in order
for farmers to be competitive."
In the coming days, Pires said,
chemical importers would issue a
statement to Imbert to clear the air
on the matter.
"We are hoping that this issue will
be addressed," Pires said, "because
it s causing a lot of confusion with
Following the budget, Pires said,
he also heard that some agricultural
shops had begun to increase the prices
Pires accused the shops of price
gouging and "trying to make a fast
buck" at a time when the country
was facing a downturn in the econ-
omy and citizens were asked to tight-
en their belts.
Plum Mitan rice farmer Hansraj
Ramlal said from Tuesday, a 110-
pound bag of urea which he originally
paid $200 for had increased to $225.
Ramlal said a three-litre bottle of
Amine, a selective weedicide, which
he uses on his 300-acre farm, had
skyrocketed from $125 to $145.
Pires said these businessmen had
no reason to increase their prices
since chemical companies would
deliver goods to their shops when an
order was placed.
He said the owners were capital-
ising on the hike in the price of gaso-
line, which moved from $2.70 to $3.11
per litre, and of diesel, which
increased from $1.50 to $1.73, and
taking advantage of farmers.
"This is price gouging. This should
not be happening. In most cases we
deliver to the shops. We have not
raised the prices of our chemicals
even though fuel has gone up. And
we have no intention of raising our
prices. So why should they raise
theirs?" Pires said he was willing to
work with Imbert to help improve
the agriculture sector.
Parliamentary Secretary in the
Ministry of Agriculture, Land and
Marine Resources Avinash Singh said
Government was considering import-
ing some environmentally safe chem-
icals that are already on the approved
list by Customs and Excise Division.
Singh said other countries that sold
these chemicals imposed duties and
taxes, which Imbert would waive for
the buyers and importers.
probe into food cards
Confusion over cost of agrochemicals
...importers stumped by Imbert's announcement as duties, VAT waived years ago
Dancers from the
Caribbean School of
Dancing perform one of
their dance numbers
during their Fantasy In
Dance 2015 show at
Queen's Hall, St Ann's,
FANTASY IN DANCE
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