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While 60 per cent of the Couva/ Tabaquite/ Talparo Regional Corporation (CTTRC) comprise rural communities, chairman Henry Awong believes branding the region as a tourist destination can help lessen the joblessness and economic issues. It is one of several objectives of the newly launched Local Economic Development Planning and Advisory Committee (LEDPAC). Speaking at yesterday’s launch at the Nal Ramsingh Auditorium at the Couva/Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce in Couva, Awong said the LEDPAC’s purpose is to develop communities within the region. He explained that in 2016, the Caribbean Local Economic Development (CARILED) project, funded by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, invited the CTTRC to submit a developmental proposal. The CTTRC proposed to develop the Carli Bay waterfront, and CARILED selected it among four regional corporations. Following this, he said the CTTRC studied the Canadian model of local economic development to incorporate it into the local efforts. “The regional corporation can do much more than drains, roads and garbage collection. We can bring stakeholders together to empower people. Sixty per cent of this region is rural. There are a lot of women in these rural communities who just sit at home. How can we use local economic development to really empower them? That is part of our whole plan and programme,” Awong said. One goal is to brand Couva as the sporting capital of the Caribbean. The National Aquatic Centre, the National Cycling Centre, the Ato Boldon Stadium, the T&T Football Association’s Home of Football and the National Cricket Centre are all in Balmain. Awong said as the Couva Hospital sits without close distance, it is the perfect combination to brand Couva as the sporting capital. But while Couva has most of the activities, he said the LEDPAC would seek to implement tours to the many tourist sites in the rural communities. These include the Siewdass Sadhu Shiva Mandir Temple in the Sea, Waterloo; the 85ft Hanuman Murti, Carapichaima; the Indian Caribbean Museum, Carapichaima; Our Lady of Montserrat RC Church, Tortuga; the La Vega Estate, Gran Couva; the San Antonia Cocoa Estate, Gran Couva and Knolly’s tunnel, Tabaquite. Awong said the College of Science Technology and Applied Arts (COSTAATT) has representatives on the LEDPAC and can train tour guides for this initiative. Committee member and chairman of the Sou Sou Land Ltd chairman Lennox Sankersingh said the LEDPAC was important as it will help develop people.
Sankersingh said this would allow people in the region to get involved in the planning and hopes other municipalities adopt this approach. “We came from a society of colonialism, slavery and indentureship, and people were not involved at all. When people are not involved, a meaningful development is not taking place. It is reversing that historical process and that is what is important,” Sankersingh said. The LEDPAC also comprise members from the Couva Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce, the Caroni Association of Village Councils, the Gran Couva Community Development, the Ministry of Tourism and other organisations.