On June 24, after the devastating rise in flour prices, the line minister Paula Gopee-Scoon advised the public that she will report in two weeks’ time the measures to ease the burden on the population.
Unless my mathematics is wrong, two weeks have passed, and the minister, apart from suggesting that some retailers are overdoing it, have not brought the promised solutions to the population. Knowing that the minister cares for our population, I know the two-week deadline is not an attempt of hoping time-induced amnesia grips the population.
Two weeks are over, Madam Minister, but food security is too serious an issue to not have a solution on the table right now. There may be fortunate households that can cushion the rise. But there are many households where this rise means our citizens, including children, go without. These are the men and women I am concerned about. I know you may not be able to remove fully the brunt of prices, but I am sure any ease will be welcome.
Since I am not someone to just criticise, I will provide some solutions for consideration, not just by yourself but by your colleagues, as the solution may be multidisciplinary.
1. Active engagement of stakeholders to see what duties may be temporarily waived.
2. Public releases and advertisements of price ranges considered acceptable weekly, so the public can avoid locations that you are suggesting are unreasonably marking up.
3. Create a fixed retail price for flour, so as to avoid unfair mark-ups.
4. Upscale the school feeding programme to cover for the possible increase in children and homes who may find themselves going without on a daily basis.
5. Since we are suggesting that alternatives to wheat be used, start using those in the school feeding programme and in the meal plans at Government functions and Parliament as well.
6. Increase capacity of the food card programme, which will allow for more families genuinely in need to receive these.
I am sure there are many other short-term solutions that can take place while the long-term partnerships and plans kick in. Food security is possible. I am sure we can engage the Indian government, for example-which went from a nation susceptible to repeat famines post-independence to a food-secure economy-for technical advice.
Vedavid Manick Sangre Grande