2769696
Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Reduce taxes for citizens and businesses most affected by the COVID-19 crisis, remove VAT from basic food items to help people regain their feet and restart the Guaracara refinery.

The recommendations are among a five-pronged economic manifesto plan which the Opposition has compiled to restore growth and transform T&T, post COVID-19.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who presented the plan yesterday, is offering it to the Rowley Government to help T&T recover from the economic cost of the crisis.

Persad-Bissessar said, “The work the UNC’s done for economic recovery is in the national interest—for every citizen. It would be selfish of us to hold on to it, given how valuable it is to rebuilding our country right now. The lives of our citizens matter more than politics. I appeal to the Prime Minister and his team to put people before party and politics and accept our plan.”

“Within the next month the Government’s economic recovery team is expected to present a draft plan with recommendations to restart the economy. That’s why, in the true spirit of national unity and bipartisanship, the UNC is willing to share our economic manifesto with the Government so we can get a head start on turning our economy around.”

The Opposition presented its plan several days before Government’s Recovery Roadmap team presents its plan to the Prime Minister on Friday. Yesterday, Government called on members of the public to submit suggestions.

At the same time, Persad-Bissessar premiered UNC’s economic manifesto (via video), adding, Government’s stimulus package focuses only on the short term.

“The UNC’s National Economic Transformation Masterplan is more than a stimulus package. It’s our economic manifesto for how we’ll protect and create jobs, bring benefits to everyone, and generate a sense of hope that things will get better.”

UNC has five “economic booster shots” for recovery, growth and restarting diversification away from the dominant energy sector.

The Opposition estimates its plan can create 50,000 new jobs within the next five years and double non-energy exports to US$5 billion by 2025. The plan involves steps to:

• Reduce the tax burden

• Jumpstart food security

• Restart a reformed oil refinery to regain fuel security

• Invest in renewable energy.

• Creation of three innovative funds to mobilize finances.

Persad-Bissessar said apart from human loss in the COVID issue, “We now see many struggling to get food for families…thousands have been out of work for over a month and wonder what will become of their jobs when lockdown ends.”

“Businesses struggling to pay employees and cover costs wonder if they’ll have customers when they reopen—if they are able to reopen.” She said serious planning is needed since even before the pandemic, T&T was in a very vulnerable economic state.

The UNC recommended leasing 25,000 acres of former Caroni lands to create agricultural parks and spending at least 10 per cent of the Public Sector Investment plan (PSIP) to develop agricultural access roads, irrigation and drainage for parks.