TAIPEI, Taiwan: – Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has lashed out at opposition leader Arnhim Eustace, describing him as “a caricature of an economist” who is neither mentally, intellectual, nor physically fit for any political office in the country.
Gonsalves, in a campaign-like address to parliament, told legislators on Friday that at age 66, Eustace was in no position to start an administration.
“I am saying, on the evidence before us, the honourable Leader of the Opposition is not mentally, intellectually, and physically fit enough for the leadership, in any capacity, whether in government or opposition,” Gonsalves said, noting that Eustace sat and made a speech at a protest event last year.
Parliament approved the EC$913.5M (US$338.3M) tax fee budget for 2010, which Eustace on Monday dismissed as a “fraud of monumental proportion”.
Gonsalves said Eustace, an economist and former prime minister, lacked “a comprehensive worldview or philosophy to his economic thinking”. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)
“[Eustace] has degenerated into a caricature of an economist because he sees economics as a series of technical functions only, with no set of internal coherence and linkages,” Gonsalves told Parliament.
Gonsalves further said Eustace prepared the budget response before the budget speech was presented and that the opposition did not respond to the “haunting questions” of their vision and economic plan, the education revolution, and the war on poverty.
The opposition did not address, among other things, the three per cent salary increase for public servants, although his government had initially promised five per cent, Gonsalves said.
“No one on the opposition offered any prescription. They gave a sterile description,” Gonsalves said.
“They show they are not ready and will never be ready without a radical rethinking of their philosophy, their vision, policy and programme and, indeed, personnel, including their leader.”
He said the leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) subscribed to “a particularly limited form of economics” that was “worse than a kind of intellectual hopscotch or crochet”.
“A least, with a crochet, there are holes and there are some links with pieces of thread. In his case, it is worse than intellectual crochet; because there are no links, just a series of holes, entirely disconnected,” Gonsalves said.
He said Eustace presented a cockeyed view of data and “has difficulty with basic arithmetic”, dividing a year in 48 weeks to arrive at a national debt payment of $EC$1,293 (US$479) per minute of each work day.
“…It is clear what this government had done. It has fashioned a budget for our times. It has fashioned a budget which keeps the essential programmes going, put other new programmes in place. We are not profligate. We are careful. We have identified the resources, there are no taxes in this budget; we have continued to reduce the VAT on several items,” Gonsalves said.
“I regard these estimates something like a pack of cards from which a building is built. In terms of revenue, it is not there and it will collapse, much like the buildings in Haiti,” Eustace his response to the estimates last week.
“It hit me so hard in my heart and my bones, in my very being. I internalised the shock, Mr. Speaker. Because if I had gotten up and said something, I probably would have said something unparliamentarily at that particular point,” Gonsalves said on Friday.
“Imagine drawing an analogy, looking for a simile in relation to people’s monumental and painful suffering. What manner of man is this?” Gonsalves said.
But the opposition was not in parliament to hear Gonsalves address, having joined supporters outside the parliament building, highlighting the “major issues confronting the nation”, in picket actions that began last week.
Political pundits say Vincentians will go to the polls this year although elections are not due until March 2011. Gonsalves and his Unity Labour Party will be seeking a third consecutive term in office.