Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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Who are we as a people if we ignore the suffering of others?

Dear Sir

I wish to preface this note by saying that the goodwill and patriotism exhibited by some members of our society fill my heart with hope that despite the bacchanalian nature of our people at times, there are those with big hearts who are actively helping to put food on the table for those unable to work during this pandemic.

I wish to see our country succeed in fighting this pandemic and as such, as a responsible citizen, attorney and manager in the private sector, I am baffled by the bureaucracy, red tape and literal hurdles that our people face in applying for assistance from the State for job displacement grants, rental assistance, and salary reduction grants.

At the time of writing, my office and my colleagues have helped many citizens in applying … weeks now… But not one individual has received a red cent as yet.

Pandemic leave seems to be another still-born initiative with no start insight. On a hunch, I made a call to the ministry of labour roughly ten days ago which was met with confusion and surprise and I was told “the prime minister make that promise … We don’t know anything about that and we have no money”.

Furthermore, if we are interested in helping the citizenry, why must we discriminate. Why pick and choose who to help? Why does owning a property/having your name on a deed or being in receipt of a salary over a certain amount disqualify you from government assistance?

There are middle-class families also struggling at present. With entire families being home for extended periods means that the food bills are hefty and new expenses arise.

Mortgage and loan deferral helps if you have a salary… but for those earning reduced sums, self-employed or otherwise, the struggle is very real.

And on the topic of loans and mortgages. I am urging the powers that be to direct our financial institutions to freeze the accumulating interest on these facilities whilst the deferral takes place. These banks make hundreds of millions in profit per year. Why should every other sector sacrifice whilst the banks’ profit on our misery?

Extend the life of the loans and mortgages if need be, the banks will not lose anything but that saved interest payment will genuinely help those in need and those who may continue to suffer the economic fall outpost COVID-19.

I urge our government to stop discriminating. The vast majority of our citizens are feeling the negative impact of COVID-19.

“Coronavirus will bankrupt more people than it kills — and that’s the real global emergency.” The US government and other nations are direct depositing relief into the accounts of their citizens. No lines, no ridiculous paperwork, no discrimination.

Don’t politicise relief. Don’t deprive families of sustenance. For all the money borrowed from international agencies, the depletion of the Heritage and Stabilization Fund … who has benefited or rather who ought to benefit? If you are a citizen residing in Trinidad and Tobago, some sort of relief ought to be provided similarly to the United States.

The time will come when most of us will sit back and analyze the government’s response or lack thereof to this pandemic. Please be guided accordingly and do the right thing.

Rishi N.D. Tripathi

Corporate Attorney at Law

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