THE country has to get serious about tax collection and healthcare delivery.
This was the message from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, as he emphasised the importance of taxes for purposes such as healthcare during the sod-turning ceremony for the new Central Block at the Port of Spain General Hospital yesterday.
He said, “The experts tell us that approximately 40 per cent of (taxes) due is not collected, and that is largely because of the system of collection encourages that circumstance.”
In order to build infrastructure like hospitals and pay staff at healthcare facilities, the prime minister said there is a need to put in place a revenue authority to collect revenues due to the State.
Rowley explained, “I am not here threatening anybody with new taxes. What I’m talking about is collecting what we have already legislated for and agreed for because if we don’t do that, if we don’t collect for the purposes like this, we will find ourselves in a situation not being able to fund what we have aspired to.
“Therefore, the assignment of collecting public revenues and of ensuring that public revenues are not stolen by those hired to watch public revenues, and ensuring that we don’t waste public revenues, ensuring that the priorities are what they are and that individuals don’t take precedence over the population or over the institutions.
“In short, people, we got to get serious. The time has come for this population to get serious about serious things. And healthcare delivery is about as serious as it can get.”
Rowley added, “These commitments are commitments that are calling out to this country to ensure that our obsolete systems are modernised, and to ensure that our bad attitudes are given up...”
The aged structure of the Central Block and damage caused to the building after a magnitude-6.9 earthquake rocked many parts of Trinidad and Tobago on August 21, 2018, meant the facility had to be decanted.
The prime minister said the hospital dodged a big bullet with the earthquake, joking that the reason could only be because “God is a Trini”.
With the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago and Shanghai Construction Group Caribbean Ltd as partners, the new Central Block is expected to be completed in 2022.
In May, the Government signed an agreement with Shanghai for construction of the project, which is to be completed through a public-private partnership.
This is the third health facility sod-turning ceremony for 2019, after the Sangre Grande and Roxborough hospitals.
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the redevelopment of the Central Block at Port of Spain General is a three-year project.
The total budget is $1.2 billion.
It will be a 13-storey building with ten new Intensive Care Unit adult beds, ten new high-dependency unit beds, and a coronary unit of ten beds.
There will also be a 30-bed psychiatric unit, an 18-bed ophthalmology unit, a six-bed plastic surgery unit, along with new state-of-the-art equipment.
The new facility will provide medical, psychiatric, paediatric and ancillary services.
The previous 373-bed capacity of the Central Block will be increased to 540.