KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace says that while the government here has been paying civil servants on time, many state employees often have to wait weeks to collect their salaries.
“And it shows you how this government is operating. It is keeping back the payments of the poorest people but making sure that the civil service is all right,” he said on Monday.
Civil servants in some Caribbean nations have left banks empty-handed at the end of the month as the region grapples with the effects of the global economic crisis.
But while Vincentian civil servants have collected their pay packets every month, Eustace said the Dr. Ralph Gonsalves Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration has had to borrow to make these payments.
“But there comes a time when you wont be able to borrow anymore,” the New Democratic Party (ULP) leader said.
“There are a lot of people who are not civil servants who are working with government who are not getting paid. And it shows you how this government is operating. … A lot of people, who you call minor salary workers, they are not getting their pay on time,” the former finance minister added.
“… They have obligations, too,” Eustace said, adding that not paying these workers “doesn’t make the same impact as if you couldn’t pay civil servants at the end of the month.
“It is really a serious matter,” Eustace further said.
He stated that the situation exists in the face of “these whole set of consultants who this government has hired” — some of whom are pensioners.
“And all you do is hear them on radio everyday. That is their job? So when you have your economy in that kind of state, you are opening the door to get very harsh measures from the IMF (International Monetary Fund),” said Eustace, an economist.
Eustace further said that he believes that Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, will in December present a budget that is even smaller than the EC$786 million budget lawmaker approved for this year — $127 million less than for 2010.
He, however, criticised Gonsalves for presenting a budget he said the Prime Minister knew was not implementable, specualting that the government will once again present a deficit budget.
“We don’t have the money, revenue is down badly this year. … That is why government is only spending $5 million on road repairs,” Eustace said.
Gonsalves in his Independence Day address on Oct. 27 told citizens that revenue was down but the economy is expected to register 0.8 per cent growth this year, after three years of decline.
“This is the kind of situation that we are facing and we have to live with; but it should not be so. And it needs some prudence, … some basic wisdom on the part of the government to deal with this issue,” Eustace said.
He further spoke of an IMF assessment of the Vincentian economy under NDP leadership 20 years ago, when it said there was much to praise and little to fault.
The IMF in its next assessment of the economy will say of the ULP “much to fault, nothing to praise,” Eustace said.