Trinidad and Tobago: “Rowley has abandoned our citizens in need of support.” said Oropouche West MP Dave Tancoo following Dr Rowley’s Press Conference on Thursday.
Tancoo said that “Dr Rowley’s declaration of a lockdown was predictable given the abysmal failure of his government in dealing with the covid spread, the procurement of vaccines and the massive problem of illegal migration on our porous southern and western coastlines. Of great concern too, was that the lockdown announcement included no provision for social and financial support for a large segment of the population who already have been suffering over the past year and who will face further devastating conditions now. Anecdotal evidence suggests that over 100,000 persons have lost their jobs since the PNM took office in 2015.”
Tancoo said, “Small, Medium and Micro industries employ a substantial number of persons and contribute to the broadening of the tax base. The closure of these businesses means that government revenue from taxation
will be even smaller in fiscal 2021. Unfortunately, these businesses are being made to suffer the brunt of the Government’s incompetence in dealing with COVID.
One year ago, the Government boasted that it was ranked number one in the world re: handling COVID. It is obvious now that nothing could be further from the truth.
The collapse of the Small and Medium-sized business sector, particularly since March last year, means that many lower-income citizens lost their jobs and sources of income.
MP Tancoo said, “Thousands of citizens applied for the grants, which were provided for a few months and then discontinued, although the economy was not reopened. However, I am aware of many who never had the courtesy of a response to their applications. The fact remains that tens of thousands remained without jobs in absolute poverty with all the attendant social ills.” The Oropouche West MP expressed the view, “Following Dr Rowley’s announcement of the new lockdown; these persons are now financially worse off, but with absolutely no hope being offered by the Government.”
In comparison, however, this open and callous disregard for the disenfranchised and poor citizens comes at a time when the Government has been announcing new directors on several state boards, with some known friends of the PNM receiving multiple monthly stipends amounting to tens of thousands of dollars for serving on numerous state boards. These board members are also allowed to keep their private-sector jobs while serving on state boards.
Worse, the fact remains that the government has continued to spend additional millions to pay at least one (and likely more) foreign lobbyist who also happen to be known friends of the PNM, with nothing to show for it. Further, even as Covid19 ravaged this country, Dr Rowley’s government continues to spend on vanity projects and preferred contractors.
Tancoo said that “As the economy contracts further, the opportunities for those newly poor or unemployed, similarly disappear, leaving them with no job, no form of income support, no opportunities, and no hope. “It is a fact,” Tancoo said, “that many of these persons live from payday to payday, barely keeping body and soul together. Last year under similar circumstances, the Government boasted of providing critical support to these persons. This year, the same government has abandoned these very persons. “It is a shame that Dr Rowley so easily chose to ignore the needs of so many citizens. It is a shame that the Minister of Social Development has turned
a blind eye and a deaf ear to the crisis facing our citizens.
Tancoo demanded that Dr Rowley must tell this country what happened to the TT $166 million loan from the IDB, signed three months ago for financial support of those most affected by COVID-19. “Where the money gone?” Tancoo asked.
As we await the mid-year review, I expect that a caring Government will reprioritise its expenditure to ensure that an adequate social safety net is provided so that those most in need get some support. Unfortunately, given Dr Rowley’s posturing, it appears that the PNM Government is happy to suffer the citizenry. That is unforgivable.