Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace. (Photo: Oris Robinson)

ST. VINCENT: – The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) is proposing to allocate monies to it ministers for small constituency projects if it is elected to office in the upcoming general elections, due by next March.

“That money will go through the same civil service procedure, but the candidate, who I believe at that time will be ministers of government, will decide … along with his constituency council, on projects that need to be done in his constituency,” NDP president and leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace said on Saturday, Nov. 13.

“So, you can hire contractors, especially for small projects, hire back workers from the constituency and when that happens, the money circulates in the constituency. And, some of those small shops that have closed down will again be able to open their doors and provide employment and provide a future for many people in our country,” the former finance minister said at an NDP rally in Sion Hill.

Eustace, an economist, said unemployment was “one of the most difficult and one of the worst” issues affecting the country.

He said that with many person unemployed, they have been having problem paying for their children’s external examination, the fees for which were due recently.

Eustace said that the NDP has “decided as a matter of policy” to pay the examination fees for all Vincentians registered to take external exams.

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“We believe strongly in education. … I want people to know that we are thinking about these things and we will make a change. But, to make that change, you the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have to change Ralph Gonsalves and his government,” he said.

Eustace said that the Dr. Ralph Gonsalves Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration was “ demonstrating, even in this crisis [after Hurricane Tomas], that they are prepared not to change their ways at all, and you cannot put them back there to run this country for another five years”.

“Let the New Democratic Party come forward now with a chance to show you that change, and meaningful change can take place in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the benefit of all Vincentians,” he said.

Eustace spoke of the US$1 million in cash which was allegedly deposited in government accounts at the National Commercial Bank (NCB) last year.

The government has since sold 51 per cent of the NCB to private investors and Eustace said “we lost the bank” because of bad management by Gonsalves, who is also minister of finance and was principal nominal shareholder of the NCB.

Eustace noted that the government borrowed EC$100 million (US$37.03 million) from the Caribbean Development Bank to service public sector loans at the NCB before it was sold.

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He further said that tax payers would have to repay these loans even as the country’s National Insurance Service’s (NIS) investments in British American Insurance Company were in jeopardy.

Eustace said that the ULP administration owed the private sector some EC$30 million (US$11.11 million).

An NDP government, he said, would remove value added tax (VAT) from basic food items and float bonds to repay the private sector and pay civil servants the 2 per cent in salaries owned to them.

“But we have a lot of things to do in that regard to bring some confidence back in the private sector, to bring some confidence back in our economy. We have all sort of small businesses that have closed. … We want them to come back alive,” he said.

He further said that the party will detail its plan in its manifesto election for the elections, which are widely expected next month.