Rambharat: No bias in distribution of Covid-relief food baskets; UNC allegations “pathetic”

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Rambharat: No bias in distribution of Covid-relief food baskets; UNC allegations “pathetic”

Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat on Wednesday described as “pathetic” allegations of bias and unfairness in the government’s Covid-relief food basket initiative by the Opposition United National Congress (UNC).

“I wish to say that any allegations of impropriety are without basis and totally unsupported by the facts,” Minister Rambharat said. “The facts will show that during a May 10 press conference hosted by the Honourable Minister of Finance, the government extended the food basket programme until July, and possibly the end of September, effectively doubling the number of families who would benefit. The facts will also show that of the initial allotment of 25,000 relief packages, roughly 52 percent have been distributed to UNC constituencies as of today—52 percent.”

According to distribution data supplied by the National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation (NAMDEVCO), 13 out of 19 UNC MPs had already received packages for more than 300 families in each of their constituencies by May 19, just two weeks after the programme was announced.

They include Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram who has so far collected more than 400 food packages based on a list of 400 names he originally submitted to NAMDEVCO, and Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein who received 200 packages precisely because his original list had 200 names.

When disaggregated, the data also show that some 12,000 families across all 41 constituencies had received food packages by late Wednesday, with another 735 packages going to a number of NGOs for distribution.

“It is regrettable that I have to break out the numbers to prove which constituency got what, Minister Rambharat said. “But the UNC is once again engaged in cheap politics at a time when the entire country is hurting.”

While the pandemic continues to impact the local and global economy, Minister Rambharat is assuring the country that the government remains committed to providing for all citizens across all constituencies who need support under the food relief programme.