The 200,000 Sinopharm vaccines which arrived in this country on Monday. The Finance Minister said 300,000 more will be coming soon.

The Ministry of Finance on behalf of the Health Ministry has paid in full for 500,000 Sinopharm vaccines.

So said Finance Minister Colm Imbert in a virtual press conference held yesterday to update on financial matters and COVID-19 relief programmes.

So far 200,000 of that vaccine purchased arrived in Trinidad and Tobago. Those doses came into the country on Monday.

The remaining 300,000 is expected to reach here in a couple of weeks Imbert said.

This 500,00 does not include the 100,000 donations T&T received from China on May 19.

These vaccines were not purchased from the loan T&T received from China, Imbert said.

“So even though we have not yet drawdown on the Chinese loan we have not accessed those funds yet we went ahead because this is so important and we paid in full for 500,000 Sinpoharm vaccines,” he said.

He, however, did not give the price paid for the vaccines, citing a non-disclosure agreement.

Last month Imbert said this country borrowed around $1.4 billion (170 million Euros) from China.

“They put a stipulation in place so that of the $207 million, 15 per cent must go to ‘Chinese elements,’ which was later defined as goods and services. At the time they did indicate that vaccines would be considered as ‘Chinese elements,’” Imbert explained.

Imbert raised the issue of vaccines as he sought to dispel what he called was mischief being caused by a video being circulated.

“When I saw the video that was obviously constructed by some opposition person and the whole point of the video was to show what I said to prove that the Minister of Health was not speaking the truth, there was something odd about it,” Imbert said.

Imbert said while he mentioned last month that the Health Ministry ordered 1.5 million vaccines he was not only referring to Sinopharm vaccines.

The Minister said that figure represented the total number of vaccines the Health Ministry was seeking to purchase including AstraZeneca, Pfizer.

“So whoever did that video was very clever and very mischievous,” Imbert said.

And the Minister of Finance yesterday defended the government’s decision to take the loan from China instead of going to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

He said the loan from China does not carry any conditionalities with it such as cutting public expenditure.

“The Chinese loan is a very attractive interest of two per cent, the IMF is 1.05 per cent so there is not much to choose between them. And therefore if one has to make a judgment call, you are getting one at two per cent and you are getting a loan at one per cent. One loan there is no structural adjustment, you don’t have to retrench people, you don’t have to devalue your currency etcetera, etcetera, that is one loan at two per cent and then another loan at one per cent and you have to do all kind of terrible things and punish your population that is a no brainer. Obviously, you go with the one that does not have any structural adjustment conditionalities associated with it especially since the interest rates are very, very close,” Imbert said.

He added he would be returning to the Parliament on July 2 to present the Finance Bill 2021 and that the primary purpose will be the liberalisation of the retail fuel industry.

Imbert said measures would be put in place to ensure that individuals are protected and that “some conglomerate doesn’t come along or some hidden group will come along to snatch up all those gas stations. That is not going to happen.”