During Question time in Parliament yesterday, January 23rd, 2023, Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram asked the Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries:
“Will the Minister state the specific incentives or relief measures undertaken to assist fisherfolk to treat with the increased fuel prices?”
In response, the Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Senator Avinash Singh outlined an unrelated list of the available Government incentives pre-dating the current Rowley-led PNM. It is also important to note that such incentives have been made more difficult for fisherfolk to access because of the incompetence and uncaring attitude of this Rowley-led Government. The Minister’s response was therefore totally irrelevant and a complete waste of parliamentary time.
The Couva North MP asked via a supplemental question, “can the Minister advise this House if any progress has been made with respect to the outdated fuel rebate that is offered to the fishing community?” to which the clueless junior Minister responded by citing statistics regarding applications for aquaculture incentives and a waiver of VAT for purchases of items used by fisherfolk.
The fuel rebate has always been an incentive for fishermen, but one that this Rowley-led Government has not been fulfilling. PM Rowley admitted to this in his 2023 budget contribution when he stated, “I know that in the Ministry there are provisions for some relief for fishermen with respect to fuel. I understand that it is not being fully utilized. We are going to look at it, again, Madam Speaker, and to see what kind of support we can give to fishermen, because they have a case that we must look at.”
MP Ratiram previously addressed this issue in a Media Release dated October 13, 2022 with subject heading, “Couva North MP calls on Government to revise and re-activate the fuel rebate for fishermen” (see attached).
Following Minister Avinash Singh’s response, MP Ratiram again posed the question, but was told by the House Speaker that the Question was already asked and answered. It was most unfortunate that a Government Minister, who had a prepared response, was totally unaware of the Prime Minister’s statement and was unable to provide the House with an update on the promised discussions on the outdated fuel rebate.
Up to last week during stakeholder consultations held at the Orange Valley Wholesale Fish Facility, fisherfolk complained bitterly about the drastic increase in the price of fuel, which the Rowley-led Government raised five times, in addition to the prices of all items used by fisherfolk.
MP Ratiram again calls on the Government to make the necessary reasonable adjustments to the fuel rebate programme with a view to easing the financial burden on this hard-working, yet marginalized sector.