Opposition MP Davendranath Tancoo wants the Government to tell the public about the conditions of its loan with the Chinese Government.
He added that the Government had access to funding in the sum of approximately TT $10 billion dollars to aid in its covid19 fight and it should account for what happened to that money. He said the Chinese loan made it over TT$11 billion.
Tancoo was speaking at the Opposition’s weekly press conference on Sunday.
In his almost hour-long presentation, Tancoo said an article by the Media Institute of the Caribbean outlined funding received by the TT Government from international organisations such as the Inter-American development Bank (IDB), the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, CAF – Development Bank of Latin America and the Pan American Health Organisation.
Tancoo said he verified the information and the monies amounted to over TT$11 billion when the recent Chinese loan was added to it.
On May 11, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said, TT has borrowed 170 million Euros (US$204 million) from China with the promise that a percentage will be used to buy what were described as ‘Chinese elements’ – goods and services from China.
Imbert said this was not the only facility that was being used to acquire vaccines.
“Government has done what is required to access more than what is sufficient for vaccines,” Imbert then said.
Tancoo said he could not see why when vaccines were available to the world and when people were openly advertising donations of vaccines, why TT made no effort to procure vaccines.
He added the Government said it had been working on the loan since last year.
“The Government has had access to more than $11 billion in the last year to spend on covid relief and that is outside of budgetary support from our local revenues and expenditures.
“Maybe this loan that the Government has finally signed was the reason why the Prime Minister himself was so hesitant in pursuing vaccines from every other source that was available in the earlier part of this year.
“While the Caribbean got vaccines in February, our Prime Minister held his hand. We said that before. We have been saying it for a while,” Tancoo said.
Tancoo also said this was why the Government refused the private sector’s offers of assistance in the procurement of vaccines.
He said it was also why the Government did not pursue donations from India until the United National Congress (UNC) pushed them.
This led to the death of not only the small and medium-business sectors but also to people, he added.
Tancoo said Dr Rowley never thought about the fierce urgency of the now and as a result of that lives were lost.
He said the only conditionality the country was able to get from Imbert at last Monday’s press conference was the fact that a percentage of the loan must be used to purchase vaccines from China.
“That is why the Government was willing to wait until this money became available until it proceeded with vaccines for this country.
“While they were waiting, citizens were dying,” he said.
For Tancoo, it was also a procurement issue.
Tancoo said Government brought the amendments to the procurement legislation to prevent the regulator from having sight of these things.
“Not just the procurement of vaccines but oversight of the loan arrangements.”
“Today, we ask the Government to tell us more. Provide us with the conditionalities of this loan agreement,” he said.
“When the Government borrows, they borrow on the backs of citizens. It is us who have to pay back and, therefore, it is us who should be told clearly what that loan is for.