Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace is standing by his statement that the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines registered negative growth in 2014.
He first made the assertion on his weekly radio programme on Monday, and Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, did not confirm or deny Eustace’s claim when he was asked about it on Wednesday.
“The figure that the IMF gave us, that is the figure which they gave us, having done the analysis,” Gonsalves told a press conference.
In November 2014, Elie Canetti, International Monetary Fund (IMF) advisor, Western Hemisphere, told reporters in Kingstown that preliminary findings suggested that the Vincentian economy registered “modest growth” in 2014, but the government was having difficulties meeting its obligations and keeping the budget together.
“We are still working to finalise the numbers, but it looks as if there has been some modest growth in 2014,” Canetti said during a joint press briefing with Gonsalves at the end of the IMF’s article IV consultations.
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Gonsalves said on Wednesday that the IMF gives the estimates for a particular year based on the performance of the economy during the first nine to 10 months of that year.
“By the half of the subsequent year, they will be able to give you the revised figure,” Gonsalves said.
“And sometimes, if you study the data over the period, a year and a half may go by and when they are reviewing the data again, they even would come up with a number to you which is either up or down from what they gave you a year ago,” he however, added.
But Eustace told I-Witness News on Friday that Gonsalves already knows how the Vincentian economy performed in 2014.
“I will like the Prime Minister to say what was the growth rate for 2014 … I know that the prime minister knows what was the growth rate because by now he will know the growth rate. We are getting into May and that exercise started even before the end of the year, when they started to pull their figures together. I know the Prime Minister knows the growth rate,” said Eustace, an economist and former minister of finance.
“The point I am making with all this is that all sorts of proposals are being made and all sorts of statements are being made about our performance as if we are some growing performer in the OECS,” Eustace told I-Witness News.
“The fact is that we are not, and we are having serious fiscal problems and fiscal deficits and none of the major sectors of our economy is really flourishing. All are down,” Eustace said, mentioning agriculture and tourism, even as he noted that there was some growth in some aspects of manufacturing in 2014.
Asked if he knows what the growth rate is, Eustace said, “I will disclose it at a time when things are opportune to do so, but the growth rate is negative.”
Gonsalves, speaking at Wednesday press conference, said that Eustace has been wrong “on every occasion” regarding the performance of the Vincentian economy.
“When you hear Mr Eustace make any comment about economic growth in any year, sometimes if you say every single year for 14 years that the number is less than what the prime minister says, you may get it right some year, but it’s like lotto.
“When I hear Mr. Eustace with predictions from way back when, I had formed the conclusion that when he makes economic predictions by comparison, astrology becomes and esteemed science,” Gonsalves said, and accused Eustace of dwelling on the negative.