The Ministry of Finance, on behalf of the Health Ministry, has paid in full for 500,000 Sinopharm vaccines.
So said Finance Minister Colm Imbert in a virtual press conference yesterday held to update on financial matters and COVID-19 relief programmes.
So far, 200,000 of the vaccines purchased have arrived in Trinidad and Tobago. Those doses came into the country on Monday.
The remaining 300,000 is expected to reach here in a couple of weeks, Imbert said.
This 500,000 doses do not include the 100,000 donations T&T received from China on May 19. These vaccines were not purchased from the loan T&T received from China, Imbert said.
“So even though we have not yet drawn down on the Chinese loan, we have not accessed those funds yet, we went ahead because this is so important and we paid in full for 500,000 Sinopharm vaccines,” he said.
He, however, did not give the price paid for the vaccines, citing a non-disclosure agreement.
Last month, Imbert had said this country borrowed around $1.4 billion (170 million Euros) from China.
“They put a stipulation in place so that of the $207 million, 15 per cent must go to ‘Chinese elements,’ which was later defined as goods and services. At the time, they did indicate that vaccines would be considered as ‘Chinese elements,’” Imbert explained.
Yesterday, Imbert raised the issue of vaccines as he sought to dispel what he called mischief being caused by a video being circulated on social media.
“When I saw the video that was obviously constructed by some opposition person and the whole point of the video was to show what I said to prove that the Minister of Health was not speaking the truth, there was something odd about it,” Imbert said.
Imbert said while he mentioned last month that the Health Ministry ordered 1.5 million vaccines, he was not only referring to Sinopharm vaccines.
The minister said that figure represented the total number of vaccines the Health Ministry was seeking to purchase, including AstraZeneca, Pfizer.
“So whoever did that video was very clever and very mischievous,” Imbert said.
The Minister of Finance also yesterday defended the Government’s decision to take the loan from China instead of going to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
He said the loan from China does not carry any conditionalities with it, such as cutting public expenditure.
“The Chinese loan is a very attractive interest of two per cent, the IMF is 1.05 per cent, so there is not much to choose between them. And therefore if one has to make a judgment call, you are getting one at two per cent and you are getting a loan at one per cent.
“One loan, there is no structural adjustment, you don’t have to retrench people, you don’t have to devalue your currency etcetera, et cetera, that is one loan at two per cent and then another loan at one per cent and you have to do all kind of terrible things and punish your population, that is a no brainer. Obviously, you go with the one that does not have any structural adjustment conditionalities associated with it, especially since the interest rates are very, very close,” Imbert said.
He said he will return to the Parliament on July 2 to present the Finance Bill 2021 and the primary purpose will be the liberalisation of the retail fuel industry.
Imbert said measures will be put in place to ensure individuals are protected and that “some conglomerate doesn’t come along or some hidden group will come along to snatch up all those gas stations. That is not going to happen.”
Moderna, J&J approved for use locally
Two more vaccine brands have been approved for use in this country.
Yesterday Moderna and Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines were approved in Trinidad and Tobago for emergency use.
The Minister of Health, Terrence Deyalsingh, signed the order.
The notification about the vaccines was issued by the Minister on the recommendation of the local Drug Advisory Committee.