With reference to the state of affairs in T&T, I would like to express my personal views as a concerned citizen and a businessman with more than 60 years of experience in the supermarket industry.
The announcement on Thursday of the single confirmed case of COVID-19 in T&T, has created a surge of panic buying. Citizens should be responsible and exercise control over their disposable income and be aware of overstocking unnecessary items. Asking "What do I need?" in relation to "What do I want?" should be considered when deciding what items to buy. If the situation were to become more serious, items necessary for basic survival are what should be given priority.
Advice from the Ministry of Health, and the medical fraternity as a whole, should continuously play a crucial role in the decisions being made by citizens, paying special attention to the elderly and ill. This virus enters a person’s body via mouth, nostrils, and eyes. Practising good hygiene, therefore, is the first defence against contracting the virus. Secondly, having a strong immune system, should one become infected, is vitally important. Apart from the variety of medication available, to assist in boosting one’s immune system, one can try lemon juice in warm water can provide a natural source of Vitamin C. We can also acquire Vitamin D by spending 15 minutes a day in the sun.
Permit me to express some areas of concern that have a negative effect on our fellow citizens’ bodies, minds, and souls.
The impact of the decline in income from the energy sector as a result of the rift between Russia and Saudi Arabia, as well as the competitiveness of Shale Gas. Our Minister of Finance suggested that there are three areas which can be explored for alternative sources of income:
ii) Heritage Fund
iii) Selling of Assets
My concern is based on the First Citizens Bank’s Report “A Look at the Trinidad and Tobago Economy” published July 2019, which stated that 13 months ago, "data from the CBTT showed that domestic debt was TT$69.51 Bn and external debt was TT$25.96 Bn as at the end of February 2019." It would be interesting to know what the debt is to date.
Foreign exchange reserves are now reduced to seven months of purchasing. If this continues to the end of the year, there will be increased negative effects, especially considering our high national import bills. What plans can be implemented to replace items (growing food items, for example) to reduce this high import bill? Every time there is a decline in oil and gas prices, there is a song that we sing, and it is not Savannah Grass, it is "Diversification of the Economy."
I believe with the present crime situation, our CoP and Minister of National Security need additional experts assisting them, regardless of political affiliation, to bring added value to our communities and the country. The entire National Security organisation structure needs to be revised.
Regionally, Guyana, who is now being considered one of the richer Caribbean countries, is now bubbling with civil unrest. Nevertheless, I am happy to see our CARICOM leaders stepping in and doing all in their power to prevent this volatile situation from escalating.
Employees should be mindful that for these issues to have successful outcomes, they should do their part—giving an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wage. This will have the effect of making businesses more productive and ensuring that all bills are paid in a more timely fashion.
This is a call to encourage volunteer assistance from knowledgeable and experienced, honest people who have the country and region at heart to add support.
I would further like to call upon the Honourable Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition to stop playing games and to end the "kicksing" in Parliament. We need an inclusive approach to prevent a national crisis, with all hands on board.
May God bless our nation, and may we demonstrate that every creed and race have an equal place.