Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / MSJ: Gov’t ‘recovery team’ lacks creative minds; NJAC: ‘Human factor’, ‘small business’ missing

MSJ: Gov’t ‘recovery team’ lacks creative minds; NJAC: ‘Human factor’, ‘small business’ missing

MSJ: “Regrettably, the composition of the ‘Recovery Team’ does not suggest that the opportunity to bring about solutions to these problems will be seized. The MSJ does not have any problem with the bona fides of any member of the Recovery Team. The issue is that of balance.

“It is way too heavily weighted with persons from the private sector and from big business in particular.”

NJAC: “It is NJAC’s view that the team is too heavily composed of minds from within the Finance, Economic and big business sector… NJAC is of the opinion that a most significant factor to be addressed, would be that of the ‘Human Factor’.

“It must be noted that there are already indicators of a marked increase in the levels of stress, anxiety and depression amongst the population. It would therefore be of critical importance to include on the team, persons with expertise and experience in the study of human behaviour and development.”

The following are responses from the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) and Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) on the Trinidad and Tobago government’s post-Covid-19 recovery team:

Photo: Prime minister Keith Rowley (centre) arrives at a function in 2018 with his wife, Sharon Rowley.
(Copyright Office of the Prime Minister)

(The ‘recovery team’ is chaired by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and includes co-chair and UTC chairman Gerry Brooks, vice-chairman and Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte as well as former Finance ministers Wendell Mottley and Winston Dookeran, health economics Professor Karl Theodore, Minister in Finance Ministry Allison West, Finance permanent secretary Vishnu Dhanpaul, ex-Finance PS Allison Lewis, First Citizens Bank CEO Karen Darbasie, accounts expert Colin Soo Ping Chow, TSTT chairman Sean Roach, CAL chairman Ronnie Mohammed, UWI economist Gregory McGuire, Tobago-based economist Sylverine Hazel, JTUM’s Christopher Henry, NATUC’s Michael Annisette, public interest representative Rondell Fields, Massy Group chairman Robert Bermudez, BHP Billiton president Vincent Pereira, Prestige Holdings chairman Christian Mouttet and the Tobago-based Allan Warner.)

(MSJ political leader David Abdulah: A missed opportunity and lack of creativity)

The Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) believes that yesterday’s announcement by Prime Minister Rowley of the appointment of a ‘Recovery Team’ to develop a ‘roadmap’ for Trinidad and Tobago, post the Covid-19 pandemic signals that we have missed an opportunity to start a process of transformation of Trinidad and Tobago.

Every crisis presents an opportunity. The health crisis of Covid-19 has precipitated a global economic and social crisis. Trinidad and Tobago is neither immune to the health pandemic nor the economic and social crisis.

Photo: (From left) HDC chair Newman George, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and HDC CEO Brent Lyons listen to a Greensdale resident during a walkthrough.

Indeed, the crisis has made more evident the social and economic problems that we have had since independence.

Covid-19 created the opportunity to fashion solutions to our problems, some of which are:

  • An economy that is not diversified and which is still dependent on external factors (such as oil and gas prices);
  • The failure to develop (in conjunction with Caricom) food security;
  • Wealth and income inequality, and the fact that while we have had immense riches as a country so many of our people are in poverty and see no hope for a better life;
  • The lack of opportunities for our young people to have a secure and decent future;
  • Communities that are neglected and lack the basic amenities of a decent life;
  • A divided society—by class, race, religion, geography and party politics—resulting in the absence of a common vision and objectives around which we could all unite and which would enable us all to truly believe that this is One Nation which we all feel that we own.

Regrettably, the composition of the ‘Recovery Team’ does not suggest that the opportunity to bring about solutions to these problems will be seized. The MSJ does not have any problem with the bona fides of any member of the Recovery Team. The issue is that of balance.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago football fans try to catch a snack during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 24 March 2017.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

It is way too heavily weighted with persons from the private sector and from big business in particular. There is nobody who can speak to the real life problems of and solutions for the small man and woman who have micro, small and medium sized businesses.

There is nobody who can truly identify with the struggles of the tens of thousands of our people who on an almost daily basis have to find some change to put food on the table; or who live in communities that are discriminated against. The poor and the dispossessed have no voice, nor is there anyone on the Team who actively works to empower the poor and dispossessed.

It is also notable that there is nobody involved in agriculture, fishing and food production, as food security must be a key element of our recovery. The creative sector is also not represented signalling that the government does not recognise that this sector is vital to our diversification and recovery.

The gender imbalance cannot be ignored. We needed a ‘revolution of the mind’ and this is not evident.

These imbalances point to a built in bias of the government: a bias towards the strengthening of the status quo and the further entrenchment of an elitist, inequitable society. If that is the outcome it will be disastrous for the majority of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

Photo: A satirical take on capitalism.

We know that there are members of the ‘Recovery Team’ who do not wish for, nor support such an outcome, and we can only say to them that the burden of responsibility that they have at this time is enormous, as the forces of the status quo are formidable indeed.

The MSJ calls on the Government to inform the country of the ‘Terms of Reference’ of the ‘Recovery Team’. A ‘roadmap’ assumes a start point and an end point; and the terms of reference will enable the population to have an understanding of what the intended objectives are and the process by which the ‘Recovery Team’ intends to achieve those objectives.

The process must involve getting very many ideas and input. If there is no ‘buy in’ or sense of collective ownership of the roadmap by the majority of citizens, the eventual outcomes will not be optimal.

The MSJ will, as a responsible political party committed to social justice and equity, in very short time offer our own proposals for recovery, reconstruction and transformation.

(NJAC: Recovery Team needs more diverse cast and a touch of humanity)

The National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) calls on the Prime Minister, the Honourable Dr Keith Rowley, to review the nature of the composition of the team selected in relation to the ‘Covid-19 Road to Recovery Team’.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and wife, Sharon, at Independence Day celebrations 2019
(via Office of the Prime Minister)

Whilst NJAC welcomes the idea, which reflects the effort by the Government to begin planning for life after the Covid-19 pandemic, NJAC is of the view that the task requires a much more balanced team, reflecting a wider cross section of the society and embracing as many disciplines as possible. In this way, NJAC is of the view that the effort can yield optimum results.

It is NJAC’s view that the team is too heavily composed of minds from within the Finance, Economic and big business sector. The small business sector is not represented.

While NJAC recognises the essential need to focus on the recovery and stabilisation of the economy, post Covid-19, NJAC is of the opinion that a most significant factor to be addressed, would be that of the ‘Human Factor’.

It must be noted that there are already indicators of a marked increase in the levels of stress, anxiety and depression amongst the population. It would therefore be of critical importance to include on the team, persons with expertise and experience in the study of human behaviour and development.

NJAC regrettably notes the absence of a representative of the agricultural sector. This we believe is a grave error, as a central focus of the nation’s economic revival must be the issue of food security and diversification.

Photo: A satirical take on life after Covid-19.
(Copyright Dave Grandlund)

NJAC also makes an appeal for the inclusion of a greater number of women and the presence of youth representation on the team as NJAC is of the view that the mobilisation and participation of both the women and youth of the society is very critical to its future growth and development.

NJAC believes that the choosing of a team for such a critical task, should not be rushed, but should be meticulously selected after much thought and consultation.

It is NJAC’s view therefore, that much more thought should go into the selection of members of the ‘Road to Recovery team’ if it is to achieve the required results.

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