ST. VINCENT: – Civil servants can be going home with an especially big pay packet this Christmas if they re-elect the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) to a third consecutive term in office on Dec. 13, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr Ralph Gonsalves has said.
Gonsalves announced at a campaign event on Tuesday, Nov. 23, that he has given instruction for civil servants to be paid a two per cent increase in salaries retroactive to Jan. this year.
He further said that his administration has allocated income support of EC$260,000 (US$96,296) for banana and plantain farmers whose crops were destroyed by Hurricane Tomas at the end of Oct and that aid was still arriving from within the region.
Civil servants had asked for a five per cent increase in their wages as part of a reclassification exercise, but Gonsalves had granted only three per cent, saying that he will compensate when the economic circumstances of the country improve.
He said the compensatory payment is scheduled to be made on Dec. 20, one week after the elections, but suggested that the increase would only be paid if the ULP is returned to office.
“I want to tell you this … that you know you could out your pot on fire and you [will] get it if the ULP [is] in office because the computer them don’t make up the thing on the 13th you know. It’s the 15th and 16th and 17th. So, the only way you could be sure of your two per cent this year is to make sure that the comrade is prime minister and minister of finance,” he said.
Gonsalves announced the retroactive payment as he said Barbados was increasing taxes.
Bridgetown on Monday announced an increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT), the removal of tax-free allowances for public sector workers, as well as increased gasoline taxes, bus fares and passport and immigration services among other revenue measures.
Gonsalves also said that his administration has reduced taxes on the hospitality industry to 20 per cent, in addition to lowering company taxes.
“And while they are asking for a wage freeze in Barbados, I want to respond and I want you to hear this announcement. I want to tell the teachers, the public servants, the nurses, the police men and women, I asked you earlier this year when I was supposed to pay you five per cent, I tell you to take three and hold on and when I catch my hand a little bit I will pay you the other two percent. Well, in your December pay packet, you will get, backdated from January, the two per cent,” Gonsalves said.
“What a government,” he further said, adding “They’re increasing taxes in Barbados, I reducing it here.
“They’re telling you they have a wage freeze in Barbados. In Trinidad, an oil-rich country, they offered one per cent to the civil servants,” he said, adding that he remained silent when the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) was calling for the civil servants to be paid.
“I leave the NDP people you know. They were prancing — prance and dance. But when you know when you hear the comrade is silent on certain things, when you hear I am silent on certain things and when anybody ask me, I tell you simply when I catch my hand,” Gonsalves said.
“…the civil servants and the teachers will thank me, and the nurses and the doctors and the police men and police women because you would have spent it already. And, I am giving you the two percent, not just for December,” he said.
More hurricane relief
Gonsalves also announced that Guyana will donate US$100,000 (EC$270,000) to the Hurricane Tomas relief effort.
“So far, we have been getting good assistance from the Caribbean,” he said.
He said Dominica has sent a shipment of aluminium zinc from which 2000 sheets of galvanise will be made and Grenada has sent foodstuff.
Trinidad sent “a significant gift of under US$10,000 in food and galvanise” while “small Cayman” sent US$50,000, Gonsalves said.
He said he had asked the leaders of Jamaican and St. Kitts/Nevis to help lobby international agencies for help.
Jamaica’s Bruce Golding is the chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) while Dr Denzil Douglas of St. Kitts/Nevis chairs the eight-member sub-regional bloc, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
“So, I am satisfied that our Caribbean brothers and sisters have responded well within their means and they have tried and we are thankful. That is why when we had lent Dominica $3 million at three per cent [interest] when [Leader of the Opposition Arnhim] Eustace criticised me, he doesn’t understand the principle of casting our bread upon the waters.”
Gonsalves further said that a delegation from Venezuela had met with the Housing and Land Development Corporation (HLDC) to find out what other aid could be provided by Caracas, which has given US$2 million (EC$5.4 million) and has another US$1.7 million (EC$4.6 million) on the way.
Gonsalves further said that Venezuela has committed to train teachers, students and technicians and will provide all accessories needed for internet broadband connection for the one laptop per child programme.
“There are a lot of people [who] don’t understand solidarity. And, when people ask me what Venezuela is getting out of this, there are countries in the world who just want friendship and we all make peace,” he said.
He further said the income support to farmers is in addition to the fertilizer and monies for labour they have already received.
“And the way we are doing this in relation to the banana farmers is that we taking your average sales for three years and see what would have been your average loss and give a figure in relation to that average which we have computed,” he said.