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Commentary: The Essentials of Doubles

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By ALICIA CHAMELY

DOUBLES is a national treasure.

If I was on death row, doubles would be my last meal. Like the rest of the nation, I mourned their absence. But I understood that if we wanted to avoid an uncontrollable spread of Covid-19 that would collapse our healthcare system and result in a massive loss of life, sacrifices would have to be made.

To be honest most doubles establishments are not particularly set up to encourage social distancing and in some cases not even set up to encourage basic hygiene…the grimier the more delicious if you ask me.

So when the Government first started closing “non-essential” businesses I put aside my love for doubles and figured it was for the greater good.

Not everyone felt the same way apparently. If restaurants were allowed to keep their doors open and allowed to provide curbside or delivery, why couldn’t doubles vendors? Shouldn’t all food establishments be treated fairly?

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Wellll…yes they should in theory. Realistically speaking even keeping restaurants open wasn’t going to work out because Trinbagonians, despite being told time and time again, seem not to understand the importance of self-distancing and keep your tail home.

 “We all know Trinis love fast food and we all know we are harden as hell so the lure of not having to cook would always win over the fear of death.”

So the rabble rousers started throwing allegations of racial bias or accusing the Government of giving in to big businesses that finance their party. We all know the rhetoric and eventually the Government called for all restaurants, small and large, to shut their doors.

Now bear with me for a moment. I began to think about why the Government was so hesitant to close restaurants from the get go. We all know Trinis love fast food and we all know we are harden as hell, so the lure of not having to cook would always win over the fear of death.

Therefore eating out would be considered an essential activity for many Trinis and this would only promote social congregation.

Wouldn’t it have been the common sense move to close all food establishments, restaurants and food vendors, at the same time to prevent community spread of the virus?

Yes it would have. So why didn’t the Government shut everything down earlier?

The answer is quite simple and sadly doesn’t involve racism or elaborate plots by the nations wealthy to continue making money to fund the PNM.

The restaurant industry in TT provides thousands of jobs both directly and indirectly. Direct employees include cooks, servers, cashiers, custodial staff, drivers etc. Indirect employees include purveyors of meat, vegetables and other food stuff, businesses that provide cleaning chemicals and grease trap services, the businesses that provide boxes, cutlery, napkins to take out joints and many others.

With the closure of restaurants we are now seeing a massive amount of people on the breadline and I assure you not every business owner will be providing their employees with a stipend or salary during this period of closure.

Give jack their jacket, Global Brands Ltd, which owns Pizza Boys, Churches, Rituals and Wok N Roll, announced they would continue to provide their employees with a stipend for the foreseeable future. The owners of Pappy’s Friend Chicken pledged to do the same.

This is particularly admirable as many food businesses, even if they can afford it, simply let their staff go with the advice, “apply for Government grants.”

Unfortunately many small food businesses, without the financial clout of the larger establishments, have no choice but to let their staff go without anything.

The secondary employees of the restaurant industry, many who are self-employed or belong to small business, are also out of luck.

As such we now have an influx of people applying for Government relief and maxing out the Ministry of Social Developments already bare-boned resources.

Our Governments, past and present, have continuously failed to explore this amazing concept of economic diversification and as a result we depend solely on oil and now gas. Now this is fine and dandy when the prices are up, but thanks to this marvelous pandemic, oil prices have plunged due to the lack of demand… because you know the world has literally come to a standstill…and those stubborn Saudis and Russians…

This forced our extremely pleasant faced Minister of Finance to dip into all kinds of rainy-day funds such as the Heritage Stabilization Fund, which has only led to members of society crying he’s doing this to “raid the treasury.”

Now before you jump up about “people should be saving their money!” etc. etc. Please remember not everyone is so fortunate and many families in TT barely survive on a pay check to pay check basis. So no, many people are not getting grants from the sake of “free-ness,” they are doing so for survival.

Unfortunately there are no easy decisions to be made during the pandemic. Sadly those who are feeling it the hardest are those who were already having a hard time.

So again I implore you, if you know of a family in your community who is hungry, if you can spare a little of food, do so. Any help, no matter how small, can make a significant difference.

In the mean time for those of you who are now being forced to use your stoves, I have a copy of the Naparima Girls Cookbook and a copy of Caribbean Cooking for sale –  $350 each or $200 in photo copy form.

Stay strong, stay inside and stay safe TT.

 

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