KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace on Tuesday accused the Dr. Ralph Gonsalves government of implementing an International Monetary Fund (IMF) austerity programme here.
He made the point as he noted that no money has been budgeted to pay public servants the 3 per cent increase owed to them since Jan. 2011.
Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, has reached an agreement with all but one of the unions representing public servants here to wait until June to see if his government can pay the monies then.
He is hoping that the economy would increase enough, after a possible fourth consecutive year of decline, to pay the state employees, who, along with other citizens, are paying higher property taxes, increased excise on drinks, tobacco, and vehicles, and more for water.
“Some money is provided for increments but wages in fact … are frozen for 2012 for civil servants,” Eustace said, noting that there was no provision in the 2012 Estimates for the payment of the 3 per cent owed to civil servants.
“But when you measure that against all the taxes …, increase water rates, increased excise taxes, … [increased] property taxes and its implications for rent, … you have to see it against the fact that wages are frozen for 2012,” Eustace said.
“I have already pointed out in a document I have, which the government commissioned from the IMF, they are asking for three years for freezing wages.
He said that the New Democratic Party, has been “trying to avoid just this kind of thing” by telling the government for years to control its expenditure.
“So what is happening now, we trying to tighten up, which we should have done years ago,” Eustace, an economist and former minister of finance further stated.
“When I talk, they say is doom and gloom. The point is today that the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has already begun the austerity programme … by the International Monetary Fund. Not the NDP. The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines under Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves,” Eustace said.