Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley is predicting there will soon be an inadequate supply of drugs at hospitals due to the foreign exchange shortage.
However, Health Minister Fuad Khan is insisting this is not so because there is no shortage of foreign exchange.
“I have read in the papers that we have enough foreign exchange for the business people to acquire. So therefore shortage of drugs and shortage of anything would not happen, if there is no shortage of foreign exchange,” Khan said yesterday.
At a People’s National Movement (PNM) public meeting in the Croisee, San Juan on Thursday night, Rowley had drawn attention to a report that one of the biggest business houses, which supplies medicines to the hospitals, needed US$2 million to bring in a batch of medicine from their various agents.
“All they were able to raise was US$100,000. It means that there will be a short supply of drugs in our hospitals and, if you don’t have that, it means that people like me and you will die,” said Rowley.
“And then the Governor (of the Central Bank) had the unmitigated gall—when the problem (in acquiring foreign exchange) arose and we pointed it out—to accuse us of playing politics. Well, tonight, I want to say to him, (Jwala Rambarran) ‘if your job is playing politics, our (the Opposition) job is informing the people’,” Rowley stated.
Khan, responding to the report about the particular business involved in supplying medicine, said: “The Minister of Finance has said there is no shortage of foreign exchange, so I don’t think the company was looking hard enough for the foreign exchange, because the banks have enough foreign exchange from what I understand. I can’t make an intervention when one is not necessary.”
Rowley said there was a “raging black market” in the sale of foreign currency going on in Trinidad and Tobago today.
“For 21 years we didn’t have that problem, but in secret in April 2014, the Governor of the Central Bank changed the allocation procedures. No announcement, no information, just secret.”
Rowley said the loss of confidence was leading to the “accelerated leak” of foreign exchange.
He said the country was now in danger of losing significant amounts of foreign exchange because of the Governor’s interference with the system, which caused a loss of confidence.
Rowley said not only did people wanting foreign exchange have to walk with their ticket and itinerary to the banks, but he heard on the news that someone went to get US$15 from a bank to pay a bill and they could not get this money.
“You have children abroad, you have to pay for their upkeep and you go to the bank, but cannot get US dollars,” he said.