Kamla foresees pandemic of economic turmoil

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar. -
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar. -

OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has extended an olive branch to the Government, offering to work with it to find a solution as she foresees an "economic pandemic" in the aftermath of covid19.

With thousands more workers unemployed as non-essential services remain closed for at least three weeks, Persad-Bissessar called on the Prime Minister to say what his plans are to prevent mass business closure.

“If we do not protect the economy, when we exit this pandemic, we will enter another – a pandemic of economic turmoil,” Persad-Bissessar predicted as she addressed the United National Congress (UNC) Virtual Report on Monday night.

She urged the Government “to stop playing petty political games with citizens’ lives and work with stakeholders, including the Opposition, to develop a real, workable plan to address the issues affecting people, national issues, with political maturity and bipartisanship.”

Among alarming pronouncement by health officials that the parallel healthcare system is on the brink of collapsing, Persad-Bissessar advanced, “We are not saying, 'Do not lock down,' or, 'Don’t take measures to protect our citizens,' but do it with a plan that protects people.”

She said the additional restrictions the PM announced on Monday will further decimate micro, small and medium-sized businesses, and lead to greater job losses.

She was critical of the short notice given to lock down businesses, especially the food sector, which would have invested in perishables.

She questioned the lack of support for the private sector and called for immediate measures to ease the burden, such as a loan deferral scheme, lowered rates and debt-work-out scheme for companies which have fallen below “bank risk,” in consultation with the Bankers Association and the Central Bank, as well as VAT rebates.

She also called on Dr Rowley to say what his plans are for the vulnerable who have lost their jobs.

“Today, when thousands are unsure where their next paycheques will come from, where their next meal is coming from, the Prime Minister has simply abandoned them.

“Prime Minister, I call on you to tell us now, what will you be doing to help the thousands who have suddenly lost their livelihoods due to this lockdown?"

She said politicians had a responsibility to protect the people of TT not only from covid19, but also from starvation and from being thrown out from their homes, and to ensure they can buy medication for a sick child or relative.

“Tonight, I am telling you to stop the ole talk and start working. Have a heart for mothers, have a heart for workers, have a heart for businesses. Have a heart for the people of this country.

“Mr Prime Minister, if you fail to act, if you continue only to abuse and blame the citizens for your incompetence and shortcomings as you have always done, our economy is heading for a catastrophic collapse.”

Referring to Government’s stated difficulty in providing the same relief grants to the vulnerable as this second wave hit TT, Persad-Bissessar called for an audit of money actually spent on covid relief thus far.

“In the last lockdown, the Rowley Government spent billions on election gimmicks. They claimed billions were spent on covid relief. But where did the money go?”

She said money was withdrawn from the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund,

“And then we found out it was to pay contractors, to pay your friends, your family and your financiers. Not one cent from those billions was spent on covid.

"Where has the $18 billion gone?” she asked.


"Kamla foresees pandemic of economic turmoil"

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