Some members of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s newly-established special committee to chart a recovery road map for T&T post-COVID-19, see their task ahead as a challenging and entering new territory.
The committee, headed by Rowley, comprises 20 other members who have expertise in various skillsets such as finance, banking, labour, business, trade and energy.
Among those handpicked by the PM was Public Administration Minister Alyson West, who said the committee was yet to meet and decide how they would move forward.
“We know we have a tough task ahead, but in my view, Trinidad is in a place it has never been before. We need to think broadly and try to come up with a solution that is all-encompassing.”
West said they will have to examine how the economy was operating before and what would now need to be done for survival after this crisis.
“We have to make ourselves more self-sufficient and resilient to deal with challenges going forward. I know we will put our best foot forward,” West told the T&t Guardian.
Food replacement, dependency on energy, diversification, new sources of foreign income generation, reducing unnecessary purchases and savings on foreign exchange are some of the things West said the committee would have to explore and examine. She did not discount that the task ahead will be challenging.
“It will be because we have to try and save T&T in the context of the whole world dealing with challenges, so we have to go forward with the assumption that we can’t rely on others to help. It is going to be a challenging task but interesting.”
She also believes the PM has chosen a high-calibre team who will deliver.
“It has to be a collaborative effort. It can’t be a dictate being pushed down to the people.”
Former T&T Port Authority chair Allison Lewis, one of three women on the committee, said it will be a great opportunity to serve the country once more.
“I look forward to serving the committee. Of course, it’s going to be challenging but the thing about it is that everyone on the committee has faced challenges in the past one way or the other…personally and nationally.”
Lewis said she has no doubt everyone will have their heart in the right place to do what is best for the country.
National Trade Union Centre (Natuc) general secretary Michael Annisette, who will represent the trade union movement, said he’d asked the Government to establish a committee of stakeholders to deal with the fallout of the pandemic since January but it was ignored.
“It was something we were always supportive of. It is better late than never. There are times when differences must be put on the back burner,” he said, promising Natuc will remain committed to the people of T&T.
Annisette said the country will be charting new territory when this crisis is over and everyone will have to think outside of the box.
“We need to put our collective wisdom together. I know we can come up with solid solutions.”
While admitting many people have been put on the breadline as a result of the pandemic, Annisette said T&T has “fallen down” in providing accurate figures in this regard and this has to be addressed.
“We have to put country first and forget about representing constituencies. I believe this pandemic is a blessing in disguise because it will force us to think in new ways. Rather than criticise, now is the time to work in the best interest of T&T.”
Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte said their work will be critical.
“The work ahead will be no easy task. I don’t think we have ever been in this position before. When you look at it, we are dealing with two pandemics…the one we are currently facing and then there is the pandemic of the whole impact on the economy with regards to the falling oil prices.”
He said jump-starting a stagnant economy would require a team effort and careful planning, adding a lot of money was being spent now by the Government that was not budgeted for.
He said the PM has set aggressive timelines for the road map to be delivered.
“We need all hands on deck. It’s exciting times and lots of work to be done.”
Former governor of the Central Bank and government minister Winston Dookeran, who will bring his financial expertise to the committee, said the country was facing its darkest hour and a difficult period “and it requires a Herculean effort to chart the pathway that will build confidence and satisfy our people over time. So I see it as a huge challenge for the committee.”