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Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert, MP, contributes to the debate on the motion to consider the Senate amendments to the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Property (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

There’s no intention “at this time” to reduce the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) and Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) especially in the current pandemic environment since it’s some people’s sole source of income.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert confirmed that this on Tuesday replying to Independent Senator Amrita Deonarine’s query on possible changes in the programmes and others.

Imbert was replying on recommendations by the World Bank for T&T on social mitigation aspects.

There were to be implemented over the next two to three years. He said Government didn’t agree on all the Bank’s recommendations.

Imbert detailed how changed systems in Social Development—removing overlaps and ineligible people—had reduced expenditure. Costs were cut from $464 million in 2016 to $339 million in 2020 by reductions in public and food assistance grants.

Digitalisation of the system will be done ahead.

Imbert also said finance is looking at “the desirability” of amending the NIB law to have an amnesty. NIB’s debt recovery process is being reviewed and in future there’ll be an electronic-based system to report and monitor debts.

The system collected between $300-to $500 million in arrears over 2016-2018.

Reconciliation of arrears should be completed by the end of the fiscal year. A probe had been launched on state enterprises’ payment of NIS.

Imbert claimed recent teething problems were over as a result of upgrading of Customs’ system to the Asycuda 4 (.2.2) format.

He said not all shippers had upgraded their files as asked, causing issues. But problems were resolved.

Also on Tuesday, the Opposition had a temporary senator, Renuka Rambachan acting for ill senator David Nakhid.

Former UNC MP Suruj Rambachan said it was not his daughter. The Opposition’s Port-of-Spain office couldn’t state Ms Rambachan’s occupation.