The Government has stopped the distribution of hampers until it can successfully determine who most needs, Moses Nagamotoo, chair of the COVID-19 Task Force said Thursday, adding that a stimulus package for businesses is affected by the current political crisis.
He said the lack of a national budget is significantly affecting the Government’s ability to stimulate the economy during the pandemic.
“We need to resolve our political problems and we need to move on as a nation and as Government to deal with this very pressing matter of how to stimulate our economy, how to keep production going, how to keep jobs going. We need to address these very, very important issues but as I said we are hamstrung by the political problematics that face us at this time,” Nagamootoo said during a virtual press conference on Thursday.
He was at the time referring to the current delay in the declaration of the March 2, 2020 elections results, which now hinges on a national recount.
In fact, Nagamootoo said the stimulus package being considered by the Ministry of Finance in partnership with the Ministry of Business is unlikely to come on stream until a new Government is in place.
“Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, has alluded to the long-term view of stimulus packages that will see actual assistance to small businesses and the business sector. That, he said, will happen as we go over the hurdle of the elections problematic with the recounting of votes and the declaration of results and we’ll move into a normal situation where we have a budget and we will be able to stimulate the economy,” the Prime Minister explained.
The Civil Defence Commission (CDC) had also rolled out relief packages for the less fortunate but this was discontinued.
Asked when the programme will recommence, Nagamootoo said the aim is to ensure the relief caters for each persons’ needs but did not give an indication of when this can restart.
“We have assigned a sub-committee of the NCTF to work with the CDC to reconfigure how this ought to be done on a long term basis,” he said.
Nagamootoo said the CDC is working with the National Data Management Authority, using the last census, to be able to determine the location of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.
“…it may not be very very accurate…but it will give you an idea as to people who have fallen below the poverty line.”
“We view the coronavirus  as a long term project that we shouldn’t just be taking knee jerk measures but how we should be planning on a long term basis to deal with the comprehensive look at how the nation has to tackle this issue,” he added.
Nagamootoo said work has been ongoing with the Ministry of Social Protection to reach out to convalescent homes and other vulnerable persons.
Before the programme was paused, the CDC through its National Emergency Operations Centre, started the hamper distribution on April 5 and completed the exercise in several vulnerable communities in Regions 3,4,5, 6, and 10.