Kamla defends controversial stance on aid
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC):
Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, appeared to further underline national interests in offering humanitarian assistance to hurricane-ravaged Caribbean Community neighbours while defending herself against criticism of her remarks that Trinidadian aid must benefit her country.
The Trinidadian leader, now five months into office, told journalists that under a new partnership with the private sector called 'Helping Hands', emergency assistance and reconstruction efforts will be offered to Caribbean nations in need rather than cash. But she appeared to further underline the link between Trinidadian assistance and a boost to the local economy.
"The government expects that this approach will be a boost to the local construction industry whilst simultaneously assisting those persons who are in urgent need of these supplies," Persad-Bissessar said in a news conference, flanked by local private sector partners. "The accruing benefit to local business will place Trinidad and Tobago in a healthier economic circumstance," she said.
To act responsibly
"The government of Trinidad and Tobago will continue to act responsibly in securing the future of its citizens whilst extending a helping hand to its friends and neighbours," she added.
The Helping Hands project "removes the burden for huge cash donations from the government in these challenging economic times while allowing us to provide much-needed assistance to our neighbouring brothers and sisters swiftly and effectively," the Trinidadian leader said.
In the wake of Hurricane Tomas, which reportedly killed more than a dozen people in St Lucia, the Trinidadian leader drew the ire of Caribbean nationals for suggestions that her country must benefit from any humanitarian efforts.