UNC MPs hit Government over food price rise: Roadmap to hardship

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PROTEST: St Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen beats her pot during a protest over food prices in Penal on Saturday. A day later, during a press conference, she blamed Government for the rise in food prices. –

A DAY after the UNC’s Women’s Arm led a group of women in a protest in Penal over the acute spike in food prices, St Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen attacked government’s post-covid19 plan known as the Roadmap to Recovery, describing it as a failed political stunt.

Government’s failure to ensure food security even as the country enters the endemic phase of the virus, Ameen said, was akin to it waging war on the country especially women including single mothers. She raised these issues during the UNC’s weekly Sunday morning press briefing which was also attended by Chaguanas East MP Vandana Mohit.

Ameen challenged government to provide proof of meeting its promises for social protection and food security as outlined in Objective One of the Roadmap to Recovery plan under the heading: Leaving No One Behind.

She also called for proof that Government was rebuilding the economy which was badly hit by the pandemic, using key pillars of economic growth, stimulus packages and managing the health crisis as outlined in objectives one and two of the recovery plan.

On April 16, 2020, Prime Minister Dr Rowley appointed a multi-sectoral committee to draft a Roadmap for TT on dealing with the fallout caused by the pandemic.

Ameen said the protest on Saturday was a reflection of the “undue stress brought on women to sustain their homes” which she linked to government’s mishandling of TT’s resources prior to the start of the pandemic for this country, in March 2020.

“You have waged war on people of this country. You have waged war on the mothers of this country. You have waged war on farmers long before the war in Ukraine. Rowley has had a continuous war on farmers – the people who can produce the food to feed our nation,” Ameen said.

“Don’t come now and blame the increase in prices (of food and transportation fuel) on the war in Ukraine when it was your own callous decisions, long before the covid19, that caused us to be in the economic turmoil we are in now.”

Pointing to the high cost of food items, Ameen said it costs upwards of $300 to purchase very basic food items such as sugar, flour and rice and that the rising costs made it difficult for many families to put food on the table.

“So we continue to call for VAT to be removed from basic items to allow more people to afford these items. This must include books and electronics that come into the country.”

Ameen expressed shock and dismay that at a time when the earning power of many people has fallen especially due to the pandemic, the Government was actually considering raising the cost for water and electricity and also resuming the property tax.

“This government seems to be very disconnected from the reality based on their decisions and their decision-making. They do not realise that mothers have lost jobs and they don’t have food to feed their children. Their income has decreased while food prices have sky-rocketed.” She said that added to this was the impending increase in the cost of transportation fuel.

Agreeing with her colleague’s call for action. MP Mohit said many women are on the brink of desperation as they struggle to acquire even basic food items.

Mohit said while the pandemic had exacerbated food security issues, government must fully accept its responsibility to cushion the public – especially those who are particularly vulnerable such as single mothers – from the effects of the pandemic.

She said Rowley’s recent warning to citizens to brace for an increase in gas prices has now left men and women under tremendous stress. “We are saying today that is the waging of war on the belly of our citizens.

“People are still trying to recover from the government’s lockdown measures. People are still trying to pay utility bills and now we have the added stress of increase in fuel. We are asking the government again this morning, are you aware that people are living month to month and families have been engaged in borrowing. Is the Prime Minister thinking about what is going on in the lives of our citizens?”