SAYING Trinidad and Tobago has become a nation surviving on hampers, Naparima MP Rodney Charles is calling on Government to urgently establish a superministry aimed at achieving poverty reduction.
Charles said a year after a pandemic was declared, covid19 is still battering the economy and people are hungry.
He said the mere fact that hundreds of hampers are being distributed weekly via constituency offices with requests for more in no short supply is an indication people are in dire distress.
“Citizens are hungry. They have run out of money. Children are falling behind in school. They need some kind of sustainable help outside of a one-off food hamper. Does Prime Minister Rowley know how hard it is for a big man to face his family with no paycheque at the end of the month?”
Saying this Government is out of touch with reality and referring to the comment of Social Development and Family Services Minister Donna Cox, who branded people who suffered the indignity of begging for food as greedy, he drew attention to Prof Rhoda Reddock’s comment that only when a matter is highlighted does the Ministry of Social Development provide assistance.
“In other words, there is no direct link between the ministry and the poor. They wait until somebody chop somebody or beat a child to death or go to the newspapers, and then they give out a hamper. That is where we reach.”
He said the Government had created the economic hardship by shutting down businesses for months "and then implying people don’t need hampers. Lord, lend a hand.”
Charles said covid 19 does not seem to be leaving any time soon, and while other countries are preparing for a future return to pre-covid life, there seemed to be no plan by this Government apart from lockdowns.
“Where is the roadmap for recovery team that was designed to bring ideas and plans to ensure TT would be on the road to transformation after covid?” he asked at the United National Congress (UNC) Virtual Report on Monday night.
Charles said the superministry to alleviate poverty should be modelled along the lines of Brazil’s Bolsa Famila programme, which provided cash to poor families to keep their children in school and access health care.
While the programme lasted, Charles said, it promoted immediate poverty relief and strengthened the exercise of basic social rights and opportunities for the development of families.
“We need to focus on co-ordinating, in a serious way, the ministries of Education, Health, Family and Social Welfare, Labour, Public Utiliteis and Food Production.”
He said the nation is falling apart.
“TT has become so starved for employment opportunities, so difficult to live in, that hapless, disoriented Venezuelans who fled that country are running back home in droves – 700 on Sunday. Anywhere but TT. That’s where we reach. That is the legacy of our great country under this PNM administration.
“Many (Venezuelans) have said that TT resembles Venezuela as it was on its way to total collapse. We may very well be, as Lloyd Best would say, in a state of pre-collapse.”