The Government must provide a detailed and audited account of the $5 Billion which Finance Minister Colm Imbert claims to have been spent on Covid-19 relief. A comprehensive report should be presented to Parliament upon its resumption in September, and then be followed by an exhaustive debate.
Democratic governments around the world, including Britain, from which Trinidad and Tobago obtained its parliamentary system, have displayed transparency with respect to pandemic stimuli packages for their countries.
Those leaders and Finance Ministers have subjected themselves to rigorous questioning.
Imbert has said that in the next Budget address there would be an account of Covid-19 relief, but he clearly plans to engage in his typical political grandstanding.
He is amalgamating the costs of vaccines and the financial assistance granted to workers and the business sector. This would be grossly misleading. Instead, Colm Imbert must account to the country the number of displaced workers who received grants to permit them to put food on the table. Plus the number of small businesses which were kept afloat by government aid. And the total from the $5 billion given to the informal sector such as the many taxi drivers, vendors and others who lost their income because of business closures due to the pandemic.
He must also indicate the total value of benefits provided to defenseless workers and small business entrepreneurs by commercial banks.
If a thorough report as should be done, is done, it would confirm that the Rowley Government did not do enough for the most vulnerable citizens and that social assistance was not equitably distributed.
In another report, the Government must provide accurate statistics on the number of micro, small and medium-sized businesses that have had to close and the number of workers who have been thrown on the breadline.
Since the Government has crippled the Central Statistical Office, the data-gathering must involve the Manufacturers’ Association, business groups, trade unions, NGOs and other stakeholders.
Again, Trinidad and Tobago would realise that about one-third of the small business sector has crashed, unemployment is higher than 20 percent and hopelessness pervades the land.
Imbert’s sleight of hand would not do. He must come clean with Trinidad and Tobago on the use of taxpayers’ dollars.