From the word go the criticisms about the composition of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s Roadmap to Recovery Committee came pouring in.
While many agreed with the idea in principle, they felt women and youths, in particular, were not well represented.
But, on the day the team met for the first time (yesterday) came a direct response from one of the members.
General Secretary of the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC), Michael Annisette said the committee should only be judged on what it produces.
“You going to have the naysayers always, you going to have those who believe they should have been part of it and it has those who would criticize it, that is part of the democracy that we live under, but, the issue to me is whether or not the committee will deliver.”
He said everyone is entitled to their opinion but let the committee do its work.
Last week, Dr Gabrielle Hosein, Head of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies said, “The Prime Minister’s team to produce ‘A road map for T&T post-COVID’ insufficiently includes women at the table as if they are simply invisible, unqualified or irrelevant.”
Meanwhile, Folade Mutota, Executive Director, Women’s Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD) said, “Not only will there be an increase in DV (domestic violence) and GBV (gender-based violence)(particularly against women and girls) but the majority of sectors that have been closed, and therefore income reduced or stopped, are populated by women yet the committee does not even have the Minister of Gender to say nothing of the fact that there are no women’s organizations or anyone who understands the social sector and gender.”
Criticism aside, many have described the job facing the committee as an uphill battle.
Annisette explained that he doesn’t see the scope of works as a task but rather a labour of love. In fact, he said the idea for the committee came to NATUC and he welcomes the opportunity for the trade union movement to have a voice in the deliberations.
Annisette also expressed the view that the challenges presented by COVID-19 could be a blessing in disguise.
“We believe that there is an opportunity for us to sit down and grapple with all the issues that we would have failed to grapple with, with all the issue that maybe we didn’t have the political will, with all the issue that maybe we didn’t have the vision for.”
As a committee, Annisette expressed the view that “The first major thing is to look at the most vulnerable within the society and then whether or not whatever benefits or programmes that would have been put in place, whether in truth and in fact the people are benefitting from those provisions.”
He said the pandemic has made certain things clearer.
“What this pandemic has brought to the forefront is the fact that workers are critical, the fact that a society cannot just live on the question of profits.”
The trade union leader said it is a fact that there will be no economy without workers and moving forward the country needs a new approach to how people should be treated.
He called for a new level of humanity and humility.
The other trade union member present on the committee is Christopher Henry, President of the Steel Workers Union of Trinidad and Tobago.