KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – While the government lauds its initiatives to combat poverty here, the opposition says that these very initiatives are evidence that Vincentians are getting poorer.
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, speaking at a Unity Labour Party rally on Sunday, said that his government is concerned about the recent increases in commodity prices and its impacts on citizens.
He said that the price increases were caused by external factors, such as when Guyana upped the price of brown sugar by US$100 to US$660 a metric tonne.
Gonsalves said his government had anticipated the increases and, in an effort to protect “the dirt poor”, increased the monthly public assistance payments by EC$40 and EC$45, respectively, costing the state an additional EC$4 million.
Gonsalves further noted that while millions of American have to rely on food stamp to eat, his government has provided income support to Vincentians farmers affected by adverse weather and banana marketing regime.
But Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace said on Monday that Gonsalves’ statements are “are designed to fool our public,” adding that Public Assistance “is a form of food stamp”.
“All of them are welfare payments so he is doing it here, too, and in increasing amounts because more and more people are getting poorer,” Eustace said.
“Food stamp is a welfare programme, so is Public Assistance. … There is no difference,” Eustace emphasized.
“The food stamp allows them (Americans) to buy. The welfare money here – Public Assistance – allows you to buy something. What is the difference? He can’t talk about their food stamp and don’t talk about our welfare here,” Eustace said.
“These things are designed to fool our public,” he added.