No Free Help

PM to assist neighbours hit by Tomas but…

By Ria Taitt
November 01, 2010 –

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-BissessarNo help for Caricom countries hit by Tropical Storm Tomas without benefits to Trinidad and Tobago.

This was made clear by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday.

She said Trinidad and Tobago stands ready to assist its Caricom neighbours but she stipulated that any aid would only come after discussions with her Cabinet colleagues as well as the Opposition Leader, and must in some measure benefit the country.

Speaking at a news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, Persad-Bissessar said she has received a call from the Prime Minister of St Vincent while Foreign Affairs Minister Suruj Rambachan had been in contact with his counterparts in Barbados and St Lucia, territories in the region which have been hit by Tomas.

She said she intended to speak to her Cabinet colleagues as well as the Leader of the Opposition to see what relief this country could give to the other Caribbean islands.

“We will have to look at ways in which we would be able to assist. But you would recall my comments earlier this year, when I said there must some way in which Trinidad and Tobago would also benefit. So if we are giving assistance with housing for example, and that is one of the areas that we (Prime Minister of St Vincent and myself ) spoke about, … then we may be able to use Trinidad and Tobago builders and companies, so that whatever money or assistance is given, redounds back in some measure to the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” she said.
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38 thoughts on “No Free Help”

  1. Articulating a policy about giving aid to other Caribbean countries and having it tied to benefits to Trinidad and Tobago while those countries are still battling with a storm comes across very uncharitable. To some, this seemed like an attempt to exploit people while they were most vulnerable.

    I wonder how many people have an historical understanding about how so-called aid has been used to advance the interests of colonial powers and business elites.

    Colonizing powers exploit people while they are in a state of shock following natural disasters by getting their governments to agree to terms and conditions that are unfavorable to the common people in exchange for so-called aid. They, at times, also create those traumas to exploit countries through invasions or economically destabilizing them.

    Many NGOs are funded by individuals and organizations that are tied to big business in dominant countries and they serve in the frontline of manipulating the politics of countries to carry out the agendas of foreign powers.

    Without examination of how so-called aid has been used to destabilize countries by exploiting vulnerable people, any policy that attempts to emulate the actions of the U.S. and other European powers would inadvertently be serving the economic agenda of oligarchies and not the common folks.

    Kamla gave us an example of what makes her feel the policy she is advocating is just. Quoting from the Trinidad Express article ’Better for T&T to donate materials instead of $$’:

    “Persad-Bissessar said the approach she used is not novel and pointed out that when the United States invaded Iraq and caused damage to that country, they provided aid from the United States itself for reconstruction.”

    There are several things wrong with this example. The U.S. illegally invaded Iraq – a country that was no threat to them. The U.S. destroyed the infrastructure of the country in order to break the will of the people, and then took Iraq’s oil funds and funds from the U.S. taxpayers to pay their specially chosen U.S. contractors exorbitant sums to rebuild. That is not aid; that is robbing Iraqis and the U.S. taxpayers. That is not something we should be looking to as an example of how to help others.

    Of course, I do not believe that we should just hand over cash and turn our backs. We should examine who we are trying to help and assist in ways that truly benefits them. Assistance can be given in many forms and sometimes in ways that brings no tangible rewards to the giver.

    Also, what Kamla is explaining about sending contractors and materials from Trinidad to afflicted countries has been done in the past. Trinidad sent contractors and materials to Antigua and Grenada among other countries when they were destroyed by hurricanes. Many local contractors profited from those exercises.

    By sending local contractors to St. Lucia, the government could end up paying these big local contractors instead of allowing funds to go to St. Lucian contractors and that is not automatically in the best interest of St. Lucia or even Trinidad and Tobago. Many people have been duped into believing that what is profitable for the business elites is automatically good for our nation.

    In defense of Kamla several people commented about the soft loan that the Chinese government gave to Trinidad and Tobago to construct NAPA with the condition that their contractors and workmen be used. The point that they miss is that this quid pro quo arrangement was a business deal between two countries and not one country providing humanitarian aid to another. These people should also recognise that the timing of her comments, especially linking it to her earlier comment about Trinidad and Tobago not being an ATM machine, was crass and it also served to muddle humanitarian aid and regular business transactions.

  2. Boy, hard to judge!

    Coffers empty, wolves at the door, neighbours vex…

    This woman has inherited a truly difficult situation, but I do hope that she realizes that Trinidad’s is a far preferable alternative to living in the ruins of one’s home after Tomas has made himself known.

    Act quickly Mrs. PM!

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