Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 22nd 2015 Contents A10
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, August 22, 2015
For Further Information
Cabinet has already approved an
electronic system to follow the Bio-
metric Smart Card which will
monitor recipients of all social
grants, case by case.
If Minister of the People and
Social Development Christine
Newallo-Hosein gets a second term
in government, this system will be
put in place soon after.
Newallo-Hosein made the state-
ment on Thursday when asked to
elaborate on the decommissioning
of 4,000 people from the food card
(Targeted Conditional Cash Transfer
Programme) programme because of
The minister said names were
simply taken off the system as soon
as they could not be verified.
"The permanent secretary has to
do an audit and we can t give details
as yet," she said.
Asked if the food card and other
social grants had actually alleviated
poverty, the minister said they could
not tell as yet either.
She said the new electronic sys-
tem would be able tell, as recipients
of all the grants would be monitored
on a case by case basis.
"We will be able to gauge where
you were at when you came into
the programme and where you are
at the present," she said.
The minister said while the Bio-
metric Smart Card would be per-
manent, there were other grants
which were given to help people
start businesses, for instance, which
She said while it might be too
early to tell, based on feedback she
recieved, people were excited about
the Biometric Smart Card.
"They are saying it will make col-
lecting the grants easier for them."
Recipients of the food card did
not wish to be identified. Others
did not even want to admit they
had food cards.
One woman, who said many oth-
ers shared her views, said the card
had helped reduce her food bill.
"I get $410 a month which is
almost half of my grocery bill. I buy
basic items with it and then put the
rest of the money to get all my food
She seemed more cautious than
relieved, however, about the new
"I normally go to the post office
to get a disability grant for my son.
I will no longer have to do it since
the money will be coming on the
card," she said.
"It would be safer too and reduce
the chances of being robbed when
I get the money."
However, she was a little uncom-
fortable about having her fingerprint
on the card and had questions about
whether she still qualified since she
was no longer a single parent.
The Women's Institute for Alternative Develop-
ment (Winad) is expecting that the plight of 200
workers who lost their jobs when their workplace,
Hearty Foods Supermarket was destroyed by fire
last Tuesday, would not be exploited for political
Winad made the comment in a release on Thursday.
Their statement came after the announcement Wednes-
day by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar that
Government was considering giving the workers $5,000
each. Cabinet on Thursday ratified the decision.
She also said the Government would try to source
work in the public and private sectors for the jobless
Winad executive director Folade Mutota said, "While
we recognise that the scale of this tragedy has impli-
cations for many families and possibly the economy
of Arima, we expect the plight of these workers will
not be exploited for political expediency."
Mutota said Winad has taken note of the PM and
Arima Congress of People candidate Rodger Samuel s
statements on the issue and "expects that the collective
wisdom of the Cabinet will not compromise the systems
that are in place to provide support and relief to
She said Winad "trusts that the organs of the state
which have the mandate to serve the needs of citizens
in such unfortunate circumstances have been mobilised
and are delivering the necessary services."
Mutota said Winad stands in solidarity with the
two hundred plus workers of Hearty Foods Super-
Former attorney general Ramesh
Lawrence Maharaj has criticised
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-
Bissessar for her decision to give
employees of Hearty Food's Super-
market a one-time grant of $5,000,
labelling it an election gimmick.
Speaking during a press conference
at his San Fernando law office on
Thursday, Maharaj said Persad-
Bissessar has never been minded to
give grants to employees of fire vic-
Two hundred people were left job-
less when the Arima supermarket
caught fire and burned on Tuesday.
During the launch of the Biometric
Food Card on Wednesday, Persad-
Bissessar announced her intention to
take a note to Cabinet for a "one-off
"The decision of the PM, however,
brings into focus the question of
whether the PM is using this tragedy
for election hearing purposes?"
"There was a fire in May of this
year of MDCUM in which 170 persons
became unemployed and there was
about $180M in property damage."
"The PM did not take similar
action to assist the victims of the
Maharaj said Persad-Bissessar
would be paying out one million dol-
lars to Hearty Foods employees and
setting a precedent for future fire vic-
"All fire victims in the past and in
the future would claim entitlement
to the same treatment. The act of
the PM is the act of the government
and therefore all similarily circum-
stanced persons would be entitled to
get equal treatment from the gov-
ernment." See Page A14
Minister: Audit will identify abusers
New Smart Card to weed out fraud
Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar, centre, look son as Cheryl Worrell
left, one of the first recipients of the national biometric card scans her
fingerprint to purchase grocery items at Xtra Food in Grand Bazaar during
the launch of the card on Wednesday. PHOTO: NICOLE DRAYTON
$5,000 grant to fire victims
"Winad calls on all institutions that are mandated
to serve the people to do so now," she said.
The Prime Minister made the announcement that
the Government plans to help the Hearty Foods workers
at the launch of the Biometric Smart Card at Grand
Bazaar on Wednesday evening and later at a UNC
meeting in Arima.
Women's group advises
Don't exploit jobless workers
ABOUT THE FOOD CARD
In the 2008 budget statement, former prime minister Patrick Manning
announced that "a Food Debit Card has been introduced to help our needy
citizens cope with the world-wide phenomenon of high food prices".
Manning said the arrangement would provide a grant of $300, $400 or
$500 for relevant vulnerable families of three, four or five and over people.
The Targeted Conditional Cash Transfer Programme was launched in
2006 and over 32,000 people benefited, he said.
In 2006, the then ministry of social development launched the Smart
Card initiative which was later renamed TT Debit Card.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, opposition leader at the time, in her budget
response in October 2006 in Parliament, said the proposed cash transfer
through a Smart Card, was expected to target about 60,000 families.
"The Smart Card will allow for the purchase of food on a defined list of
items of $300 for families of three or fewer persons; $400 for families of
four to five persons and $500 for families with six or more persons."
PROBLEMS EXISTED LONG BEFORE
Several efforts to contact former minister, Dr Glen Ramadharsingh,
were not successful.
However, according to media reports, in 2011 Ramadharsingh called for
an audit exercise into the food card programme.
He said then the ministry was aware there were people on the
programme who did not deserve to be there.
"Persons who are driving luxury cars have food cards and this cannot
be. We're going to bring in people who really need it and take out those
who don't," he said.
Ramadharsingh said he was shocked to discover that under the
former PNM government, "wealthy people" had access to the food card
which is supposed to help the most vulnerable people in society to
"When we began to clean up the programme, it was the supermarket
dealers who were able to identify many people who we put under an
internal review process and we were able to weed out almost 3,000
persons from the programme," he said.
He said many supermarket dealers were troubled that some people
who were wealthy were carrying cards and they reported it to the
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