PM: Trinidad and Tobago benefitting from closer Ghana, India ties

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

In this file photo, Prime Minister Dr Rowley and President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo at the commissioning ceremony for the Prempeh I International Airport in Kumasi on May 10. – Photo courtesy OPM

THE Prime Minister has identified the importation of planting materials to grow Ghanaian yams and cassava locally to boost food production as some of the benefits that Trinidad and Tobago could receive from increased economic ties.

Dr Rowley repeated that increased commercial activity with India, through the establishment of a cricket academy in Tacarigua by the Reliance Group, remains very much on the cards.

He said the former UNC-led People’s Partnership (PP) coalition government wasted approximately $12 million on a trip to India during its tenure, which he said brought no benefits to the country.

He made these statements in response to a question from Naparima MP Rodney Charles in the House of Representatives on June 14.

Charles scoffed at previous comments made publicly by Rowley about importing yams from Ghana.

Rowley, who is a registered farmer and former agriculture minister, told Charles, “I planted one Ghanaian yam in my backyard in St Ann’s and got 20 pounds of yams. How many did you plant?”

Rowley has a kitchen garden on the grounds of the prime minister’s official residence in St Ann’s.

Charles claimed that yams from Barbados or Suriname were superior to Ghanaian yams.

Rowley countered, “What you know about yams?”

He told Charles his statements would not improve his standing in the UNC due to his alignment with the Patriots slate in the party’s June 15 internal elections.

Rowley reminded Charles of his current seating arrangement in the chamber, directly to the left of Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who has endorsed the incumbent Star slate.

“That does not improve your position over there. You will eventually be thrown out, way down there.”

Persad-Bissessar has publicly hinted about changing the parliamentary seating arrangements of UNC MPs who are opposing the Star slate. The Star slate won the UNC’s national executive election on June 15.

Returning to Charles’ questions over the quality of Ghanaian yams, Rowley said, “The quality and species of yams that we are interested in, can only be had from Cape Coast in Ghana.”

He added, “We are, in fact, at this moment, taking steps to import significant planting material (for yams) and while we’re at it, we now have growing and testing spots around the country. Cassava varieties have come in from Ghana because we are looking for particular species.”

Rowley told Charles, “I trust you will use it when it becomes available in the marketplace. Grow what you eat and eat what you grow.”

He reminded MPs of his visit to Ghana and India last month.

On the former, Rowley said two Ghanaian business delegations have come to TT to discuss opportunities for collaboration in energy matters.

Last month, he said Phoenix Park Gas Processors Ltd is pursuing an energy initiative in Ghana.

On the latter, Rowley said the UNC has failed to discourage the Reliance Group from its interest in building a cricket academy here.

At a news conference on May 18, Rowley said a parcel of land in Trincity was earmarked as the location for this academy.

After repeating his role as TT’s number one salesman, Rowley said the UNC could boast of no such achievements during its tenure in office from May 2010 to September 2015.

Government MPs thumped their desks as Rowley told Charles, “What I could tell you is that the $12 million trip that you and your friends made to India didn’t produce an ochro far less yam.”

He added, “If you want to talk about expenditure and income, you are talking to the right man. Just give me the notice.”