Finance Minister Colm Imbert moves the second reading of the Appropriation (Financial Year 2021) Bill, 2020, during yesterday’s Senate sitting.

An electronic register or e-identity is being created for every citizen to facilitate data transmission to all agencies. And an electronic card system is also being developed to keep track of vulnerable people in Trinidad and Tobago, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said so during yesterday’s 2021 Budget debate in the Senate.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic “has brought with it a paradigm shift which has never been seen before in our lifetime.”

He said this was why Government was investing in digitisation and technology, together with a renewed thrust in improving ease of doing business.

“We expect this initiative to streamline processes, promote efficiency and eliminate waste and duplication,” Imbert said.

Also proposed is an e-Governance ecosystem which will include a new government service delivery model allowing for passports, drivers’ permits, tax returns, business registration, social grants and licensing arrangements transactions.

A new automated construction system known as the DevelopTT Automated Construction System will be developed to expedite government transactions associated with building construction.

Imbert said a database is also being built to identify the most vulnerable in society so their needs become priority.

“We’ll prioritise development of an Integrated Community First Responders System which will identify those households headed by single parents, the elderly and older siblings; vulnerable persons who live alone; those who care for persons with mental health challenges and shelters for displaced women, children and men,” Imbert said.

“To improve efficiency, a National Social Services e-Card System will be introduced to track vulnerable persons and families, modernise the delivery of social support programmes, encourage the use of locally-produced goods and develop a register of agencies and individuals supportive of the vulnerable population.

“This card will minimise abuse and double-dipping within the social services sector and ensure that those who really require assistance actually receive it.”

He said a commitment was given to establish the much-needed T&T Police Service medical facility providing critical care to officers on a 24-hour basis.

Imbert also warned,”We must confront the fact that we can no longer afford as a country to subsidise WASA to the tune of over $2 billion per year. “

He added, “As part of our institutional strengthening agenda, we’ll be assessing the National Insurance System to ensure we can continue providing citizens with pension security. In this context, to address the shortfall between expenditure on benefits and income, the feasibility of extending the retirement age to 65 will be examined.”

Imbert said all gas stations owned by NP “will be offered for sale to the private sector, with first preference given to existing dealers and concessionaires.”

He also warned, “If the price of oil recovers, the price of gasoline and diesel will naturally increase proportionately.”

A Workforce Recovery Programme administered by YTEPP will provide 4,000 courses and 400 specialisations to youths and the unemployed, underemployed, retrenched, or displaced workers to develop skills to enter the labour market, he said.

He said Government was also still engaged in negotiations with Patriotic Technologies for the sale of the Guaracara refinery “… and barring unforeseen circumstances, hoped to satisfactorily conclude a sale and purchase agreement for the refinery by the end of this month.”

Apart from what was given to Tobago, he added, “We’re in active discussions with the THA to see what else can be done to assist Tobago businesses/Tobagonians in general.”

Government’s housing programme will also generate 20,000 jobs annually.