Trinidad & Tobago to host Americas summit, taxpayers unhappy

April 15th, 2009 - 1:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Paras Ramoutar
Port-of-Spain, April 15 (IANS) Trinidad and Tobago is agog as it hosts the Fifth Summit of the Americas April 17-19 that will bring together 34 leaders, including US President Barack Obama, in this tiny oil-rich nation.

Obama, who is expected to arrive here April 17, will be making his first visit to the Caribbean since he became president.

The world leaders will discuss a host of issues, including climate change, terrorism and poverty.

Taxpayers, however, are not happy with the huge amount of money being spent on the summit.

Minister of Trade and Industry Senator Mariano Browne, who is responsible for the Fifth Summit of Americas, has not revealed the cost for the conference to be held at the city’s waterfront Hyatt Regency hotel.

Earlier estimates put the figure at approximately TT $500 million ($80 million) but that figure has skyrocketed. It is now said to be in the vicinity of TT $1 billion.

A Sunday Guardian poll reveals that 83 percent of those polled felt that the summit was a big waste of money. More than half of the people saw it as merely an “eye game” opportunity for Prime Minister Patrick Manning to walk with US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.

The Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FITUN) are opposed to the conference. They have been refused permission to stage demonstrations during the summit over the socio-economic conditions in the country.

The security arrangement is unprecedented for Trinidad and Tobago. Several Caribbean countries have chipped in and supplied military personnel.

Some 5,000 specially-trained security personnel are on guard at several hotels and places where the heads of state/government may visit.

Several banks, corporate and business organisations, and foreign missions have announced closure of their offices on the opening day, as employees would not be able to access their workplaces.

Major medical facilities, including the Mt Hope Medical Complex, will be closed or will offer very limited services.

Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday has announced that his United National Congress would boycott the conference as there were more serious issues where money could have been spent.

Over 44 percent of the Trinidad and Tobago population of 1.3 million are of Indian origin. Their forefathers came from India’s Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states to work on the sugar and cocoa plantations here between 1845 and 1917.

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