A New Democratic Party (NDP) government will not discontinue increments for public servants, and the low-income housing or Youth Empowerment Services (YES) programmes, as Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said on Sunday.
In responding to Gonsalves claims at the Unity Labour Party (ULP) convention, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace on Tuesday accused Gonsalves of lying about NDP policies.
“… all of them are lies, straight lies,” Eustace said on radio.
He said the NDP will improve the Low-Income Housing Programme by building the house and charging only the cost of construction and an administration fee of about EC$15,000.
Eustace said that under the current initiative, low-income house recipients pay mortgages of EC$600 a month for up to 30 years.
“Not many people who are low-come can pay $600 a month for 30 years, which virtually triples the price of the house that they bought for 70-something thousand dollars,” he said.
He added that with a 30-year mortgage, a person can end up paying EC$200,000 for a house for which they could have paid EC$85,000.
“We want to make the housing programme affordable to low-income people. They are not going to low-income people now. They can’t pay those kind of mortgages,” Eustace said.
He further noted that the houses cannot be altered before the mortgage is paid off.
“You have a mortgage for 30 years and you can alter the property, you can’t do anything to it for 30 years? Come one!”
Meanwhile, Eustace said regarding the YES Programme, an NDP government will try to bring back to this country some of the information communication technology companies, such as call centres, that left after the ULP came to office.
He said the businesses left because the shareholding was for the Government.
“But the purpose of those types of businesses is to get more people employed,” Eustace said, adding that he doesn’t want the government to own the shares, but for maximum employment of people.
He said that the call centres closed soon after the ULP came to office and the country has been having difficulties attracting that kind of business, despite new legislation.
Eustace said that as an additional incentive to attract businesses here, the NDP is proposing that the government assigns some of the same YES programme workers to these businesses to work for about 6 months, and then the businesses would employ them.
“We see that as an additional incentive to attract people. Not to close down, or to cut off the YES programme. We never said that.”
Regarding the charge that an NDP government will discontinue increments for public servants, Eustace said, “What you going to do that for?
“But Gonsalves, since 2012, and including 2013, and now 2014 when you look at the Estimates, has not given any civil service increases in salaries.
“He has frozen salaries now for what will be the third year. But he say we not going to pay increments,” Eustace said, adding, “I haven’t heard a single trade union that has representation in the public service make a noise about that in any meaningful way.
“But he talk about we going to stop increments. What he is doing is something much harsher than that. And these are the kinds of contradictions and lies that you get from Gonsalves all the time,” Eustace said.
“A lot of what he said was very contemptuous and I basically ignore a lot of what the Prime Minister says. That has been my pattern over the years and I have my reason for that,” Eustace said.