By Kamla Persad-Bissessar
November 06, 2010
Trinidad and Tobago, as a responsible friend and partner, stands solidly behind the humanitarian and reconstruction efforts of our Caricom neighbours who were devastated by Hurricane Tomas.
In this regard, we have created a model of support that will involve contributions from government, local business and NGOs.
This initiative will be integrated with a new policy of emergency assistance that sees the Trinidad and Tobago government sourcing and providing much needed relief supplies to affected islands from local partners where available.
This new initiative removes the burden for huge cash donations from the government in these challenging economic times while allowing us to provide much needed assistance to our neighbouring brothers and sisters swiftly and effectively.
The government of Trinidad and Tobago is not unaware of the economic difficulties being experienced by our Caricom neighbours.
We undertake to lend whatever assistance is practical in the circumstances.
We continue to hold fast to the belief that we must all rise together in the region.
And the government is ever mindful that sometimes it may be necessary to lift others in the process.
As a result of slowdowns and contractions in the economy there now exists a slump in construction activity in Trinidad and Tobago.
As a result, there is a surplus of building material locally.
The government will therefore seek to purchase some of these materials, and offer them to the affected Caricom territories to assist in their reconstruction effort.
The government expects that this approach will be a boost to the local construction industry whilst simultaneously assisting those persons who are in urgent need of these supplies.
The accruing benefit to local business will place Trinidad and Tobago in a healthier economic circumstance.
This would in turn allow us to provide further assistance if and when required, to our brothers and sisters in Caricom.
To do otherwise would be to put additional pressure on our economy which we can ill afford to do at this time.
I am in regular communication with my colleague Prime Ministers of the badly affected States.
As a result of what they have requested, I, together with members of my Cabinet, have engaged the support of local partners to put together a joint relief effort.
As a result of this partnering exercise, some 27,000 pounds of water as well as mattresses, food stuff, medication, snacks and children books, clothing, construction material and other urgent relief supplies have been sourced and have been prepared for immediate shipping.
Tomorrow, I, together with a team of Ministers, military, technical, engineering and partnering organisations, will be visiting the island of St Lucia to gain a first-hand look at the devastation caused by Hurricane Tomas.
We will stop at nothing in ensuring that our brothers and sisters in the region receive the level of support required in this their time of urgent need.
Cognisant of the fact that there will be an on-going need for crisis relief efforts, the government of Trinidad and Tobago is now seeking to establish a sustainable partnership with the local private sector comprising a working committee of government officials, NGOs and members of the business community.
This group, to be known as Helping Hands, will identify innovative means and ways of providing emergency assistance whenever required and stockpile anticipated supplies for such purposes.
Helping Hands will recruit volunteers for their on-going efforts which will include fund-raising activities and the donation of regional public educational campaigns on safety during times of natural disasters.
This strategy will see a better prepared response to any crisis which may develop rather than the one which currently applies that sees donors scrambling to put together resources and various forms of assistance.
I wish to acknowledge and congratulate all our partners who have come forward to offer their assistance and to lend support to the Helping Hands initiative of Trinidad and Tobago.
Helping Hands will be seeking the support of external agencies involved in relief efforts to best guide us on some of the initiatives used elsewhere which can be of benefit regionally.
A logo has already been designed and the name registered for use.
I am pleased to announce that the government of Trinidad and Tobago in partnership with the local NGO and business community is supplying, and will continue to supply in immediate response to requests that have come from our Caricom brothers and sisters affected by Hurricane Tomas and any future disasters.
The government of Trinidad and Tobago will continue to act responsibly in securing the future of its citizens whilst extending a helping hand to its friends and neighbours.
Reprinted from trinidadexpress.com