DECRYING the state of the economy and increasing joblessness and desperation, Princes Town MP Barry Padarath said mothers have returned to the days of stealing milk from supermarkets to feed their hungry children.
Against a background of high inflation, shortage of foreign exchange, international shortages due to back-stocking and unavailability of products, Padarath called for consumer protection.
He said companies which were buying forex from the black market were now passing on the economic burden to already stressed consumers.
He said it was unacceptable, under the circumstances, that the Prime Minister said he was unaware of price-gouging when asked about it at a recent news conference.
“If Rowley does not know, who would know?
"Some supermarkets are doubling the cost of products because of the demand. The president of the Supermarket Association has told us he is seeing the trend of demand outstripping supplies. In that case we are going to see more shortages of certain products.
"Anyone visiting supermarkets can see poor consumer protection is at the heart of the situation, so where is the Consumer Division?
“Are they visiting supermarkets to verify price control? Are they cracking down on supermarkets?”
As he addressed the United National Congress (UNC) Virtual Report on Monday night, Padarath said there is serious need for price control in supermarkets and the construction sector.
“Why is the Government silent on the mechanism of price control?” he asked.
As the father of a young child, he shared a personal experience of having to buy diapers at $79.95 one month and at $129.95 the next month.
“Headline inflation, forex shortage and declining manufacturing sector did not start with covid19. These problems existed before. Covid19 made the situation worse. So what is Government doing to stabilise food prices?
“We have returned to the days of mothers stealing milk from supermarkets to mind their children – and yet the Rowley administration tells us we are better off than Haiti.
“Haiti recorded, in the last year, higher foreign direct investment (FDI) than Trinidad and Tobago. Let that sink in.”
Padarath also weighed on the arrangement between the ministries of Health and Finance and the Children’s Life Fund (CLF), which he said has denied children access to funds for life-saving surgery abroad.
He called on Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh to say how many children have died as a result of the CLF’s inability to provide the much-needed funds since March 2020, when the pandemic was declared.
He said his figure showed ten children have died during the period, saying had this Government followed through on the proposal by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in 2015, when she exited office, to have international specialist surgeons train local doctors, those ten children might still be alive.
“Over 70 children, between 2016 to now, have been denied by the CLF. There is only money for Prado, money for Benz, money for Mustangs – but no money to help the children of TT.”
Six years later, he said, recommendations to the PNM to follow through on the PP’s plans to computerise hospital records and train personnel in informatics are only now being undertaken.