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Garcia: Budget cuts for school feeding programme

The trinidad Guardian / Despite 2018 budget cuts for School Feeding Programme funding, all students in T&T will still get breakfasts and lunches, says Education Minister Anthony Garcia.

“We’re not cutting the quantum of meals served,” Garcia stressed as he was questioned about the matter during yesterday’s final day of Parliament’s Standing Finance Committee scrutiny of 2018 Budget documents.

Garcia confirmed the 2018 School Feeding Programme will be $43m as a result of funding reduction. He, however, assured students would not be disadvantaged.

“Discussions have been held with the Schools Dietary Services to ensure no student is affected and we’re also talking to our caterers to ensure all students receive,” he said.

Garcia also confirmed funding cuts to privately-operated Early Childhood Centres since he said information shows some operators are not interested in this any longer and others are charging high fees despite receiving Government subvention.

Garcia said the Education and Health Ministries will be taking information to Cabinet soon to treat with students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This is a mental disorder characterised by problems of paying attention, excessive activity, or difficulty controlling behaviour. Children with ADHD may find it more difficult to focus and complete schoolwork.

In 2016, UNC MP Dr Suruj Rambachan piloted a motion – supported by Government – on the need to treat with children with ADHD and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), which both affect him. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Ayanna Webster-Roy said the motion resonated with her because of suggestions her son may also be afflicted with this.

Garcia confirmed funding cuts for several programmes as well as the University of T&T – whose board will soon work out which programmes would be affected by this and the National Training Agency among others.

When UNC’s Dr Tim Gopeesingh expressed concern about the cuts, Finance Minister Colm Imbert asked what Government should cut to be able to provide for all the programmes.

Following yesterday’s scheduled SFC conclusion, the debate of the 2018 Budget begins at 10 am today in the Senate. This concludes Friday.

$5m to relocate squatters for Sando waterfront project

The Planning Ministry has allocated $5m for 2018 to for temporary relocation of squatters as a result of the San Fernando Waterfront project ahead, Planning Minister Camille -Robinson-Regis said yesterday.

At yesterday’s Standing Finance Committee, she said sites haven’t been located yet, but the $5m will deal with site planning and building structures for the squatters.

She also said Government has paid a total of $14.4m so far to sugarcane farmers in settlements owed. She said 1,153 accepted payments under $12,000 and 2,328 fall into the category for payments over $12,000. A third phase involves 2,300 other farmers. No court action is pending. “We told them there’s a certain amount to be accepted and some of them accepted it,” she added.

Robinson-Regis said the Ministry is up to the level of “a six” (out of ten) where Central Statistical Office efficiency is concerned. Recommendations on climate change programmes in synch with the Paris accord will soon be taken to Cabinet, she added.

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