Vasant Bharath

Some of the solutions presented in the Opposition UNC’s economic transformation plan are clearly valid and have merit, says former People’s Partnership Minister Vasant Bharath who’s now on an agriculture committee which is part of the governing People’s National Movement’s (PNM) Recovery Roadmap team.

“….And I’m certain that the committee, in an effort to look at all positions, will take these (UNC solutions) into consideration,“ Bharath added yesterday.

He was responding to queries on his new role with the PNM committee and his views of the UNC’s transformation plan.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad- Bissessar on Monday presented the UNC’s plan for growth after the COVID-19 crisis. She offered it to Government. Bharath said he hadn’t read all details but had seen parts of it.

Bharath was contacted on Monday morning to serve on the PNM Government’s committee. The Agriculture Committee is part of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s recently-announced Roadmap Recovery Team. The 22-member team’s devising a plan for T&T to adopt for post-COVID movement.

The team which Rowley leads includes former PP Finance Minister Winston Dookeran, as well as businessmen, economists, labour leaders, activists, senior public servants. Members were told they could co-opt assistance. The Recovery report will be delivered to Rowley on Friday.

Yesterday the team’s vice-chairman Robert Le Hunte said Bharath began work on Monday.

“I welcome him. He’s a gentleman with tremendous experience. This team’s trying to get a gathering of professionals to provide service in building this roadmap,” Hunte said.

“He’s on the Agriculture Sub-Committee, a key area of focus. I’m sure he’ll also be able to add his expertise to the wider body of committees,” he added.

On co-opting two former PP Ministers, Le Hunte added, “This was never about politics. It’s about building something for the country. I’m glad (Bharath) accepted the call for service,” Le Hunte said he hadn’t seen UNC’s recovery plan and couldn’t comment on UNC’s offer of the plan to Government.

The PNM committee work is Bharath’s latest endeavour. He was UNC’s St Augustine MP and was a former PP Minister of Agriculture, Trade, Communication and in Finance. Since the PP lost the 2015 elections he’d been largely estranged from the UNC. He and other PP members such as Stephen Cadiz held meetings in various areas during the term. He was among those—including UNC’s Ganga Singh, former UNC leader Basdeo Panday and Jack Warner- seeking a unity platform in 2017. That didn’t materialise. Bharath also dialogued with other political personalities towards an alternative. In 2019 he held a series of citizens’ assemblies across T&T.

And he’s been critical of the PNM, quoted on various occasions as saying it’s the “worst Government.”

During the COVID issue, he’d supported Government’s Stay-at-Home push and spoken about economic restarting solutions.

Still a UNC member, Bharath says T&T’s future is tied to the PNM team’s success.

“I believe I was asked by the Government to be part of the team because of my wide-ranging private sector and Government experience. I’ll assist the Agriculture Committee initially and possibly be available to lend assistance on other teams,“ he said.

On his previous anti-PNM position, Bharath said, “I’ve always maintained country trumps personal ambition and political preferences. Therefore I’ve never looked at matters of national importance through either a red or yellow lens. The current crisis forces us to remove political gloves and work together for everyone’s benefit.”

“Outcome of this team’s deliberations will have far-reaching consequences for people’s lives. I’m honoured and humbled to been asked to serve. There’s a need for people to serve T&T despite political alliances. T&T needs all hands on deck to develop/ implement strategies to exit the lockdown with the least number of economic casualties. I’m hopeful this produces certainty for the population,” he said.