Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is chairing a team of experts—including former People’s National Movement and People’s Partnership finance minister economists Wendell Mottley and Winston Dookeran—who are drafting a recovery roadmap for Trinidad and Tobago following the COVID-19 crisis.
And by the end of next week—as the April 30 “Stay-at-Home” end date approaches—Government will assess how T&T’s fared with virus infections in April and will then look into May and June to see what may be done further.
Rowley announced the developments at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.
While he said he was happy to hear that more infections weren’t being seen, given what other countries have experienced, he said the situation wasn’t guaranteed to show what’s available to Government beyond April 30.
“Let’s get closer to April 30 and see the infection rate and rate of acceleration or deceleration and that’ll give us another decision,” Rowley said.
He said well before April 30, Government will evaluate the national response and state of infection and that will determine what decisions are made and what new deadlines are issued. All decisions will be based on scientific advice from professionals and those on the frontlines, Rowley added.
Rowley said while T&T was fortunate to get the kind of infection report they got up to yesterday meant “…. we’re getting away.”
“We’re in a relatively good position, we have to hold the line,” he said.
Rowley said Government was preparing for the next phase via a roadmap to recovery, but couldn’t say when T&T would emerge from the COVID crisis. Due to the crisis’ damage on the country, Rowley said the appointed expert team is currently analysing the position.
Rowley’s chairing the team, the vice-chairman is Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte and co-chair UTC chairman Gerry Brooks.
Other members include former ministers Mottley and Dookeran, health economics Professor Karl Theodore, Minister in Finance Ministry Allison West, businessman Robert Bermudez, First Citizens’ Karen Darbasie, businessman Christian Mouttet, accounts expert Colin Soo Ping Chow, businessman Sean Roach, CAL chairman Ronnie Mohammed, businessman Vincent Perreira, Finance permanent secretary Vishnu Danpaul, former Finance PS Allison Lewis, UWI economist Gregory McGuire, Tobago economist Sylverine Hazel, JTUM’s Christopher Henry, NATUC’s Michael Annisette, Tobago businessman Allan Warner and public interest representative Rondell Fields.
The team will consult others also.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert received the team’s first draft recently and asked them to refine it. They’re expected to return a report to Imbert in a week. The report will be made public.
Rowley’s hoping by month-end they have another draft and it can work in May. If T&T isn’t out of the danger zone until May-June, he’ll allow until the end of May to finish the plan. He said the development will give Government an opportunity to “do something we’ve had difficulty doing before.”
He added Government has to determine the level of risk to take regarding returning to normal activities. Rowley said Government would make decisions based on an assessment of the rate and cause of infections and population levels. Depending on levels, T&T may have to walk alongside the “realities” of the situation as some activities restart.
As a result of the current situation, he said the mid-year Budget review (in May) may not be done as it usually is, though Government would report on the situation, which changes daily.
Rowley said T&T couldn’t expect to come into the virus and get out within 90 days.
“We hope by the end of three months we should be in a better position than at the beginning. But there’s no country exposed to this that has come out of it and declared victory,” he said, noting some South Koreans who’d tested negative were now positive again.
“That’s frightening – it’s a tack back as we’d say. We don’t know what this virus will leave us with but we have resilient population. The assignment will be for us to pick up the pieces, and rebuild our lives, post-COVID.”
Yesterday, Dookeran who at one point was working in Washington, briefly told the T&T Guardian, “I’m pleased for the opportunity.”