Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is recommending unique e-identity cards for every citizen as a means of eliminating wastage and corruption in the post-COVID-19 world.
Addressing the team during last week’s meeting with the Roadmap to Recovery team, Rowley said T&T has been underperforming and had failed to utilise technology like other countries.
Saying the COVID-19 pandemic was forcing T&T to become better than before, Rowley said, “I want to tell the presenters that you have given me such great hope that this exercise will produce what I anticipated.”
Making reference to the presentation done by labour stalwart Michelle Annisette, Rowley said the use of key e-identity cards such as those used in Estonia will go a long way to better management of the country’s resources.
“It is interesting that this idea has come from labour. I was very intrigued that he mentioned Estonia, which tells me that we are on the same wavelength, Estonia is the same size of T&T in terms of population. It is a slightly bigger economy...and Estonia is such a well run country on the basis of that key identity and it helps with effective management of that population,” Rowley said.
He said if a key e-identity system was in place in T&T it would have been easier to distribute the social grants to the vulnerable members of the population during the current COVID lockdown measures.
“When we look at what is available to us, we have been underperforming and we should take this opportunity and try to perform better. Nothing will make us perform better than a transformation where public governance and administration is based on key identity,” Rowley added.
He said Government currently has the laborious task of examining every social assistance grant application to ensure help went where it was needed.
Meanwhile, former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance Allison Lewis admitted it was difficult getting resources to the people through the current system.
“Having a proper database and the ability to address the people most who are in need is one of the most critical things we have to do. The Ministry of Social Development has a particular database and with this present situation, it is bringing more people into this system.
“We are not in a position and there is no mechanism for us to get them into the system and to ensure they get their needs met. We have mentally and physically disabled children that have to be dealt with as well,” Lewis said.
She noted that while non-governmental organisations were doing their part, there was no way of knowing whether the social net was including everyone or whether there were people benefiting from aid not intended for them. (See page 6)
Economist and specialist in health economics Professor Karl Theodore also said there was a significant portion of the population who could not provide for themselves. He questioned the efficiency of the aid, noting there should also be training programmes for people so they could eventually look after themselves.
Businessman Gerry Brooks, who is vice chairman of the team, said the return to work protocols were now being developed.
“We want to return to work in a safe and constructive manner. We want to make sure there are COVID-ready responses. Ninety-nine per cent of the sectors say they are ready to mobilise,” Brookes said.
He noted that the HDC had 72 ongoing projects which employed 13,000 people. He said there were 12 projects which could start within a month and nine tendered projects which could employ 600 more people, adding the HDC alone could generate $1.6 billion in activities.
Ernst & Young Caribbean executive chairman Colin Soo Pin Chow said small entrepreneurs had developed protocols for the eventual reopening of their businesses, adding he hoped the ease of doing business could be improved in the future.