UNC chairman David Lee

Government’s Recovery Roadmap team may be necessary, but it’s missing senior public health officials, bright young people, small retail business representatives and people from South and Central T&T.

There’s also a gender imbalance.

These views were expressed yesterday by UNC MPs David Lee and Ganga Singh, COP leader Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan and political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath.

The Recovery team, which included four women, was announced Thursday by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley who chairs the group.

The vice-chairman is Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte and the co-vice-chair is the Unit Trust Corporation’s Gerry Brooks.

Among the team is former People’s Partnership Finance Minister, economist Winston Dookeran.

UNC deputy leader Lee said, “Several names on the team – Brooks and others – have been around the PNM Government all term. Missing from the team are bright young minds – the millennials – people like UWI economist Valmiki Arjoon and others.”

“Also missing are agricultural and tourism experts, small/medium retail representatives and people from Central and South T&T. Mr Dookeran has a wealth of experience. Members are Government’s choice. But if it was a true bipartisan team, the Opposition’s not there. Whatever Government comes up with, we hope it’s not a PNM manifesto,” he said.

The UNC’s Singh said, “With the level of fear and uncertainty here and overseas, we’re required to find an economic path through the pandemic so putting together a team was important. This pandemic requires fresh thinking. It presents the opportunity to rethink the economy but there must be a concrete plan or this team will be merely illusionary.”

“Some businesses can be restarted. Some will have to totally reset. However, the digital world wasn’t embraced on the team though access to bandwidth and the Internet will become even more important now.”

“There’s also a gender imbalance and lack of senior public health officials. They’re necessary given the situation’s fluidity. I hope they access people with core competencies in different areas. Winston (Dookeran)’s an excellent choice, he has experience at different levels and academic competence.”

Congress of the People leader Seepersad-Bachan said the gender issue was never taken seriously. She also lamented lack of small/medium-sized business on the team.

“This plan is for the future – which will be totally different – so it can’t be about economic recovery alone and must be sustainable beyond current survival plans,” she said.

On Dookeran’s involvement, she said, “COP’s philosophy is country first. I imagine they have a non-partisan approach and will seek others outside.”

Political analyst Ragoonath said he supported the team following what’s happened globally.

“They see the virus as long term. We have to start thinking along such lines. While a good team’s been put together, I’d have thought there’d be more gender balance and more millennials- young people.”

“Bright young minds have a role to play in charting the course over the next two years. I’m assuming they’ll co-opt others and that’ll bring some of our best minds together.”

Ragoonath added, “There’s concern also about their tight deadlines. I’m unsure they’d have been given adequate notice to wrap their minds around the issue and I’m also unsure how much (virtual) face to face time they’ll have. Or whether there will be individual submissions which later be pooled.”

Team vice-chairman Le Hunte said the team has strong human resource capacity and is a “high powered entity.”

He couldn’t comment on why certain elements were absent.

Rambachan also called

for recovery plan

The same day the team was announced, UNC’s Dr Suruj Rambachan had said, given T&T’s circumstances, that the Government should have presented “an economic recovery plan and recall Parliament for debate. He added, “T&T cannot afford to spend money on projects that won’t facilitate job creation and a sustainable economy and businesses. A new economic model is required in which food security through aggressive agricultural production is necessary. The era of village cooperatives is also needed to produce import substitution type goods while we put people to work. This is now urgent in an economic recovery plan.”

“If we continue to draw down on the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund without creating economic activity we’ll run broke. A revolution in productivity and work attitudes will be a necessity. In the current situation, a lot of employers are transferring the burden of salary payments to the salary relief program. What will happen in three months unless we have a workable plan for restarting business activity and economic recovery?”

He urged Government to re-examine the estimated US$200 million borrowed from the Andean Bank and redirect a major part into a programme to resuscitate small/medium businesses for job creation.