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Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar believes the country’s unemployment figures have jumped from 60,000 last year to over 100,000 during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 40,000 increase, Persad-Bissessar said may just be a fraction of the actual figure, as she anticipates “more job losses are likely,” to happen, stating that after five years of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s administration and billions spent, the Government tried to use the pandemic as an excuse for the crisis they have created.

“When it comes to accounting to the nation, this government has never been cooperative. Their unwillingness to account to the public on this urgent matter is troubling. The Government must account as to how these grants were distributed. It could very well be a case where applicants from Opposition constituencies are being neglected. It is unacceptable that so many are kept waiting for relief up to till today.”

Persad-Bissessar was responding to Guardian Media about the delay in payments to applicants of the rental assistance and salary relief grants.

Since the PNM assumed office in 2015, Persad-Bissessar said workers have been thrown on the breadline while businesses continue to close.

While citizens are being urged to tighten their belts, Persad-Bissessar said the PNM continues to enjoy lavish lifestyles.

She said from last October the unemployment figure was estimated at 60,000.

With the advent of the pandemic, Persad-Bissessar said “I am sure this figure has increased to well over 100,000 job lost under this Rowley regime. Furthermore, more job losses are likely. Once again they have let the people down. Their entire administration has been running the same way these grants are- with no plan or direction. The application form itself had to be altered several times in the initial stages.”

She said every day constituents have been flooding the offices of Opposition MPs begging for assistance, as they await their grants.

At Thursday’s post Cabinet media briefing, Finance Minister Colm Imbert admitted that some applications may have fallen through the cracks and some human error.

Imbert also stated that the life of the Salary Grant Unit will be extended to year’s end to deal with the backlog of people who applied but did not qualify because they did not put all the information needed.

Persad-Bissessar said it was not unreasonable to consider that the grants were a general election ploy to woo votes. (SH)