TRINBAGONIANS Drive for Progress launched a national call to action at Library Corner, San Fernando on Saturday morning, with an initial request for 50,000 signatures to pressure Government to reduce high food prices and fuel cost.
The umbrella organisation which is made up civic organisations, including of fisher folks, maxi taxi drivers, the Scrap Iron Dealers Association, the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) among other groups, is demanding a reduction in the price of flour, eggs and chicken.
Spokesman David Abdulah, who is also political leader of the MSJ, said the petition will be presented to the Prime Minister and his Government to take decisive action.
If Rowley refuses to act, he said citizens will be called upon to take further action against rising crime, adequate security for fisher folks, regulation of the scrap iron industry, ensuring tertiary education is accessible for all, to stop retrenchment and create jobs.
At the launch on Saturday, Abdulah explained the organisations feel very strongly Government’s inaction to intercede is creating a very dangerous and vulnerable environment for citizens who cannot afford to put food on their table.
While governments around the world are taking measures to mitigate fuel and food prices, he observed, “The Dr Keith Rowley Government is folding its arms and doing not a damn thing.”
As a result, prices are escalating to crisis proportions, causing the rich to get richer, the poor and middle-income earners to get poorer.
He alluded to NFM’s 33 per cent increase in price of flour and the immediate ripple effect it has had on companies like Kiss, KFC, Nutrimix Group of Companies, which has marked up the cost of its products.
“We are saying this must stop. It is only when people come together and take collective action, we can force the Government to do something differently.”
As the majority shareholder of the National Flour Mills (NFM), he submitted, “Government can inject equity capital so as to absorb the increase in the price of flour, keep the cost down and reverse the increase announced a few days ago. This is very possible.”
Abdulah also demanded Government subsidise the price of animal feed for livestock farmers, fertilisers and seeds.
He explained the price reversal could be achieved if a wealth tax is imposed on multinational energy and other companies which have been making super profits as a result of high oil and gas prices, but are not contributing their fair share based on what they produce from this country’s natural resources.
Government can maintain reasonable cost of goods and services, from the wealth tax, as well as settle outstanding negotiations with public sector and other workers.
Signing the petition, he declared, “is one small step for citizens to take action in your own interest.”
Carli Bay Fishing Association president Imtiaz Khan said they can aid in food security, but there are too many mitigating factors against this reality.
He said from the start of the pandemic when Government asked them to be patriotic, the “unpatriotic Government” raised the price of fuel by over 150 per cent.
Being the largest consumer of fuel on a daily basis, he said this has impacted negatively on their livelihood as they fish daily but don’t always enjoy a catch to make the trade worthwhile.
Added to this, the lack of security on land and in the sea has severely hampered their ability to care for their families.
“We fisher folks feel like immigrants in our own country. Too many of our members have been killed, robbed by pirates at sea, had their boats, engines and nets destroyed or stolen.” He reiterated his call for the implementation of recommendations put forward over the years, including patrols, rapid response by Coast Guard and Police Marine Unit