THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has said too muany covid19 relief initiatives in Tobago were put in the hands of politicians as opposed to social welfare workers.
He was delivering a presentation on the THA’s financial status at Thursday’s plenary sitting in the Assembly Legislature, Scarborough.
Augustine said he has already begun to change that system.
“I am happy to report in this House that upon assuming office, that the vault that was located in the office of the secretary that contained all the food cards, that allowed for some members of the former executive to give out 400-and-change food cards from his ever-bulging Santa Claus bag, was removed promptly from my office and aligned directly with the directors of that programme, because social support is not for political gain. It is for a human good,” he said.
In this regard, Augustine announced a new initiative – Tobago Social Safety Net (TSSN) – aimed at assisting Tobagonians who have been severely affected by covid19.
“Covid19 has shown us how vulnerable our small economy is to exogenous shocks. Consequently, as we move forward, I intend to roll out a suite of projects and programmes as part of a new initiative for social protection in line with our mandate to protect the most vulnerable members of our Tobago community.
“Immediately we will adopt a robust approach to identifying members of our community who have been severely affected by the covid19 pandemic.”
Augustine said the THA will use all existing channels, including line divisions and departments, non-governmental organisations and faith-based organisations, to ensure social support is “delivered to those who need it and not to those who you think will give you a vote.”
He said all vulnerable Tobagonians, regardless of party affiliation, will get support.
“Any member of my team who thinks that social support is for your party members alone, you do not belong on this team.
“Our goal is ensuring that our Tobago brothers and sisters receive the support at a time when they are most vulnerable.”
Augustine said the Division of Education, Research and Technology has already distributed more than 1,000 electronic tablets to support online learning for students affected by covid19.
“One of the things we have learnt from covid19 is that we do not have the capacity to deliver social service support in an efficient and timely manner to those who need it the most.”
But he said no Tobagonian wiall be left behind.
“I want to reassure every Tobagonian that my administration will work to ensure that the available resources are organised and mobilised towards meeting and satisfying their basic social and economic needs, such as health care, education, recreation, transportation, public health, food, shelter and clothing for every child, family and village. No one shall be left behind in our basic needs policy objective.”