“I know of their struggles. No money. No income. I know about the daily crises some people face.”
So said Toco/Sangre Grande MP Roger Munro in an interview with Express Business last week on the plight of his constituents during the Covid pandemic.
He added: “Before I was elected I was reaching out to people, and doing my endeavour best to provide foodstuffs. Now I am helping children with devices. I try my utmost best to assist everyone, and families who visit my office at LP 14 Toco Main Road. I even sent out officers to assist at-risk families. I stand committed to my oath to help all residents and to bring resources to the region to improve the lives of everyone. “I have been participating in the Budget debate. Some adjustments will be made. After the Budget, I have plans to have a special meeting with the Social Development Minister (Donna Cox) to address their concerns. We will look at grants, and food cards.
“I had conversations with Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds, Minister of National Service and Youth Development. Hinds has agreed to pay a visit to Sangre Grande after the Budget debate. We will explore ways to get the people, including youth, involved in agriculture, and different skills. We have talented youth, people are dexterous with their hands.”
On the woes at the Sangre Grande market, Munro said: “The Regional Corporation (Anil Juteram) has a total hold over it. I know there have been deliberations about the poor state of the facilities, especially the toilets. We want to improve the standard so vendors can be more comfortable. Vending is their main source of income. When I attend the statutory meeting, I will raise the market issue.”
“Excited” at Toco port
Moving to the plan for a port at Toco, Munro said: “I’m excited about the port. Road network is ongoing. Contractors have finished work on the Valencia Roundabout. Now they are going to make the trek all the way to Toco Main Road. The port will enhance the lives of people in this region. I am hoping we could get some industries here, too.”
Munro also said he was aware domestic tourism is affected by Covid-19, adding: “I know people are struggling. Bars, small fast food places and restaurants have closed down. Roast and boiled corn vendors outside Salybia Beach have lost income but the State is caught between a rock, and a hard place. We must do what is mandatory to preserve lives.”
$1m needed for drains, toilets
Also interviewed by Express Business, Sangre Grande Regional Corporation chairman Anil Juteram said of the market: “We asked for about $1 million for the first phase, which would include drains, underground drains and toilet facilities to upgrade the market. We wanted an office for the clerk.
“The Council made decisions and that plan was turned down by some members of Council. They wanted to build a steel shed. It would have been built in the outdoor market area. Because of the differing views, we did not get the money. There are times when you have to put aside party symbols in favour of people.”
Juteram added: “I am going to reapply for the money under this financial year, and if we get it in next year’s budget we will do the work. We applied this year, and we lost it. We did not get anything because of the late time the cheques were sent down to Finance.”
On moves to ease poverty, Juteram added: “The Corporation got some unspent balances, We used funding to sanitise the market and the town centre. Councillors in eight electoral districts were given hampers to assist less vulnerable burgesses.
Price gouging worse
The Corporation realised at times two breadwinners (in a household) were laid off. You might see a pleasant bungalow but when you opened their fridge, the family had nothing to eat.”
Political veteran and Valencia East/Toco councillor Martin Terry “Mr Toco” Rondon, said in an interview with Express Business that while Sangre Grande residents are struggling to eke out an existence during Covid-19, they have to contend with price gouging.
In a telephone interview, Rondon said: “It’s the truth. Sangre Grande people are facing tough times. Some people don’t know where the next meal is coming from. I’ve been begging for hampers and devices. Our children need to get on online education. It’s their way out of poverty. Those who work in the private sector are feeling the pinch. Fishermen are struggling in getting their fish out. I had to take hampers for fishermen in Matelot and Toco when Covid-19 struck.”
Thanking the Government for not shutting down CEPEP and URP, Rondon said: “People working in those sectors are still earning a salary (about $800 a fortnight . Agriculture started to pick up. But with Covid-19, a lot of people are not buying produce, because they have no money. We have no industries, so people depend upon agriculture and fishing.”
Toco awaiting port
Rondon also said Toco/Sangre Grande is waiting with bated breath for the port.
“Toco will come alive with the port. We can stand on our feet. We would have a valuable piece of infrastructure, and a legacy for our children and grandchildren. We have fishing for six months of the year. Then we go to the land, but we can’t depend upon it every day.
Rondon said he has witnessed price gouging. “I know for a fact the greed that is manifesting itself. It disturbed me. It’s affecting the poor man and his family. I am calling upon price control officers to start going around and control soaring prices. Co-operatives are no longer here.”
Rondon added: “It’s time for Government to step in and protect the small man. Help him to have a comfortable life. Price gouging is worse than Covid-19. Items like rice, ketchup, and basic staples have skyrocketed.” Rondon advised people to visit Savi Street (just behind the police station) to get assistance from the Social Development Ministry. He also said he was unaware of the number of people who got Salary Relief Grants. He pleaded with people to learn new skills like welding, masonry, carpentry and hospitality. Rondon also advised people to get involved in training programmes and educate themselves.