PSIP received an allocation of a little over $4,000 Million TTD and is within its first planned implementation period. Currently midterm assessment meetings for the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) are being conducted by the Hon. Camille Robinson Regis, Permanent Secretary, Deputy Permanent Secretaries of the Ministry of Planning and Development. A technical team comprised of officers from Project Planning and Reconstruction Division (PPRD), Socio-Economic Policy Planning Division (SEPPD) and the National Transformation Unit (NTU) of the Ministry of Planning and Development along with representatives of the Budget Division, Ministry Finance, are supporting the Minister during virtual meetings with some of the Ministries and Departments that are involved in the implementation of the PSIP.
PSIP 2021 received many project proposals, however one thousand and eighty-three (1,083) were approved for funding and implementation. The PISIP for 2021 received an allocation of $4,125.5 Million TTD (MTTD) towards capital expenditure by the Central Government, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), and Other Government Agencies. Initially funds allocated was to the sum of $4,111.0 M; however the sum was revised upwards of $12.5 MTTD during the month of November 2020. The funds allocated were comprised of 54% under the Consolidated Fund (CF) 46% under the Infrastructure Development Fund (IDF). Resources were aligned to the following five thematic areas:
- Building Globally Competitive Businesses;
- Improving Productivity Through Quality Infrastructure And Transportation;
- Placing the Environment at the Centre of Social and Economic Development;
- Promoting Good Governance and Service Excellence; and
- Putting People First: Nurturing Our Greatest Asset.
The over one thousand projects are far ranging and benefit the national community in differing but substantial ways. Projects and programmes include but are not limited to, Development of Judiciary Information System, Digitizing and Archiving of Laws of Trinidad and Tobago, Ministry of Education’s Annual Scholarship and Technical Assistance, Critical Coastal Protection Programme to San Souci and Matelot Shoreline and Manzanilla Beach. The procurement of rehabilitation designs for the existing seawall at Lady Hailes Avenue, San Fernando. Projects geared towards improving the business competiveness driven by the Ministry of Trade and Industry such as the Enhancement of the Single Electronic Window as well as the development of the Fashion Industry, Investment Promotion and Facilitation Initiatives. Living conditions of the populace have also been impacted through the Regularization and Regeneration of Communities project headed by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.
The meetings were necessary to ascertain the progress of projects and programmes in some critical areas, in accordance to planned implementation, budget as well as quality of 2021 PSIP. To aid with evaluations a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) mechanism was developed for the PSIP. This M&E mechanism monitors and measures project performance and tracks the progress towards meeting the objectives of the strategic areas throughout the year.
After several successful meetings with various Ministries during March and April, Minister Robinson Regis commented that, “It is heartening to know that although projects have been stymied by COVID-19, our hardworking public officers have gone the extra mile to ensure PSIP projects have met and surpassed their targets for the period.” The Minister further stated “It is important to note that in some instances Ministries and their executing agencies have reported 100% completion rate for first implementation period, although funds were slow in receipt.” In an effort to expedite funding issues, she implored the representatives of the Budget Division of the Ministry of Finance, to expedite the outstanding releases. Minister Robinson Regis also gave her commitment that further discussions will be held with the Ministry of Finance so as not to have a reoccurrence of delays during the upcoming implementation periods.
According to the PPRD team, historically, the trend in implementation of the PSIP (as reflected in the utilisation of resources) is that it is relatively low in the first quarter of each fiscal year, followed by steady increases over the remaining three quarters. This is based on the fact that Ministries, Departments and their implementing agencies continue to undertake the necessary pre-planning, reprioritizing and review of implementation in the first quarter, as opposed to prior to the commencement of the new fiscal year. This is followed by an acceleration of actual implementation in January which continues at a steady pace until the end of the fiscal year. During the first quarter of fiscal year 2021 the implementation challenges faced were heavily influenced by the impacts of the pandemic.
The challenges being addressed for further implementation in order to strengthen 2021 PSIP delivery are:
- The social and economic shocks arising from the COVID-19 pandemic which fundamentally, has interrupted the implementation of PSIP projects and programmes. This was due to restrictions that have been ordered to contain the spread of the virus. The untimely release of funds which results in the late start of project activities, slowdown of work and work stoppage, increased cost to complete projects, and ultimately delays in the completion of projects;
- Programmes and projects which are not in a state of readiness for effective implementation due to lack of requisite statutory approvals, land for construction, delays in acquiring rental approvals, etc.;
- Understaffing and a lack of trained staff dedicated to project implementation. The high turnover of qualified project management professionals in the Project Implementation Units of Ministries, Departments and Agencies is also a major challenge; and
- Implementation delays. This is due to projects and programmes initially conceptualized based on global developments in alignment with the national development plans, however are now challenged by external factors caused by unforeseen circumstances, such as a global pandemic, faster than predicted decline in energy commodity prices that was not evident at the time when the project idea was being developed.
The wide-reaching and fundamental changes following the onset of COVID-19 and its consequences required a critical review of the prevailing policy context and development initiatives of the country. The decision to increase the allocation was based on the priorities of the Vision 2030 while being guided by the recommendations of the Roadmap to Recovery Committee for the ensuing medium term. Further, in order to ensure that the PSIP meets planned development outcomes there was a medium-term policy and planning agenda within the 2021 PSIP document to guide investments in Fiscal Year 2021 until the adoption of the Vision 2030 medium-term plan 2021-2025.
Additionally, the National Development Strategy 2016-2030 (Vision 2030), as the main planning framework guiding development initiatives, is fully aligned to the United Nations 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals. Trinidad and Tobago successfully presented its inaugural Voluntary National Review (VNR) on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the United Nations (UN), at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development on July 15th 2020. At this Forum, the Government took the opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and share with the global community the ways in which Vision 2030 incorporates the SDGs and other internationally agreed frameworks, across the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. Trinidad and Tobago’s VNR focused on eight (8) of the seventeen (17) SDGs and highlighted positive strides made under these goals. The eight (8) goals are:
1. SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
2. SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
3. SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
4. SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
5. SDG 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
6. SDG 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
7. SDG 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies
8. SDG 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
Going forward, it is noteworthy that the preparation of the VNR has enabled Trinidad and Tobago to identify various areas in which continued work on the SDGs is required. This is of particularly critical importance in light of the UN Decade of Action, which emphasises expediting international sustainable development efforts for the next ten years. As such, Government will seek to ensure that Ministries continue to incorporate the SDGs into public policies, plans and initiatives, through close collaboration with relevant stakeholders.