KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The central government and its agencies are effective enough, negating the need for a constituency development fund, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said at a press briefing last week.
Opposition legislator and Central Kingstown representative St. Clair Leacock has been advocating a constituency development fund to finance capital projects within the various districts directly.
“I have explained over and over again, as we have seen in countries like Jamaica, where you have a constituency fund, … it adds to a great deal of duplication and you can have a problem with accountability,” Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, said in response to a reporter’s question.
The reporter’s question came after Gonsalves said that some opposition legislators who are also area representatives do not request things for their constituencies.
“Things get done for constituencies all the time through the central government, through the estimates,” he further said, adding that when the Bridges, Roads and General Services Authority (BRAGSA) gets a grant to fix roads, it repairs all roads in the country.
“But if you give EC$1 million to every constituency to do small community projects, that’s EC$15 million for the year. You are going to cut off that amount from somewhere else, where, when you analyse it in a more centralised way, you can say, ‘Well, look, we can spend the money better if we do A, B, and C,” Gonsalves said.
“You have an agency like BRAGSA which would do things. Make representation to them that there is something here in the area [to be done],” he further stated.
“I hear somebody say I didn’t get elected to go and ask somebody in BRAGSA, to go and ask Minister [of Works, Sen. Julian] Francis to do something in my constituency or to get somebody to get some material for housing.
“I was leader of the opposition. Ask Monty Roberts. When he was minister of housing and local government. I will sit down and wait on him for … more than an hour. Even before I became leader and Louis Jones was in charge of that ministry. I would wait,” Gonsalves said.
“Sometimes, they would tell me to come and I will wait – they get delayed, I understand how things are – but I have to represent my half a dozen persons whom I want to get something for. They were the government: I am a legislator. The people elected me to make representations on their behalf. I am not part of the executive, I didn’t expect that government money would come in my hand, which I would control and spend,” Gonsalves further stated.