The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].
Politics has become a lucrative business around the world, including in St Vincent and the Grenadines!
SVG is facing one of the worst fiscal crises of any nation on the planet for more than a decade now primarily because the country has mismanaged its pension system, among other economic fusions — an apparatus that was legislated into policy long before the intervention of the Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) regime; however, the problem became gruesome and prolonged as the country changed governments and adopted changes to its parliamentary pension plan.
For Vincentians in particular, these deficits could potentially mean dashingly colossal taxes and spending cuts to accommodate the greed of these elected officials.
In fact, SVG’s problems resonates well beyond its borders — the United States, Canada and Great Britain are confronting similar issues; however, SVG pension system seemed to be the prevailing paradigm and a vehicle used by politicians here to become pensionable quickly after just two political terms in office. After listening to voters, I believe that most Vincentians are unaware of how lucrative SVG’s pension scheme is for elected members.
With this said, the majority of politicians re-elected in SVG only ride the waves until their second term have expired and at the end of their 10 years tenure they have accomplished nothing — look at the lack of progress and development in North Windward and North Central Windward constituencies just to name a couple. These inactions suggest no real value or worth for the people. A stunning example exists — the North Windward constituency representative has created a disaster of catastrophic proportion and should be charged for choking agriculture and banana industry to death. The only constituency development visible there are: the Langley Park bridge, which was recently destroyed by the floods, the causeway across Rabacca Dry River and the deceased fisheries complex at Owia.
In the Prime Minister’s attempt to correct this heinous act, his true vision was to move this minister to another department, hence, transferring the problem to another area — the Housing Department where this intolerant figure is placed in charge. So far, similar actions are surfacing in the Housing Department as portrayed in the agriculture and banana industry — the only work this representative has produced is the sharing of lumber, cements, steel, galvanize and building materials to people who are supposedly Unity Labour Party supporters — in so doing, other taxpayers are left unnoticed. Meanwhile, the new cardiologist employed to oversee the agriculture and banana industry is faced with difficulties in resuscitating the fields — still, there is no pulse!
The North Windward constituency, blessed with enormous economic potential, is still plagued with considerable amount of unemployed residents liming the blocks daily; rickety roads and derelict agriculture lands, are still visible under the watchful eyes of incompetence, lack of interests, ethics and vision. Yet this Machiavellian stands perfect to collect his pension whether he runs and wins the upcoming election while the struggles continue for the people who have voted this arrogance into power.
One cannot obliterate the scare of this lack of progress and development in this area; however, his neglect serves as a reminder and lesson for the people of this constituency, and the Vincentian society as a whole to demand a reform in the pension plan for elected officials.
Meanwhile, some politicians are disputing that the pensions proffered for parliamentary representatives are generous — I cautioned, some of these politicians are making a mistake to run for office, purely for the pension.
Considering all this, the crafted retirement plan for ordinary citizens in SVG is nothing to celebrate. First, citizens have to work until they drop dead before they are qualified for pension while elected members are deemed worthy after two political terms. Second, citizens pay higher taxes to meet fiscal demands while elected official sustain and enjoy enormous benefits.
This is not all!
According to investigation, the salaries provided for these elected members are also generous in nature, in addition to the perks they received. This investigation also highlight that most of these officials are exempted from customs duties while the ordinary citizens making a penny a month are charged 100 per cent and more. This is unethical.
The big question surfaced, are citizens electing politicians to suffer them while those politicians enact policies that pay them lavish amounts?
Regarding all these detriments, Vincentians from Union Island to Fancy, under the slogan one nation under change, are urged to energize effort across the nation to reform pension schemes and salaries and perks for elected officials, which are protected by regime’s policy. Additionally, reformers are expected to revisit the retirement benefits for ordinary citizens –making pension plans for workers attractive and beneficial.
Lennox Daisley, a prominent Vincentian figure, has recently recommended a reform for a less generous pension scheme for elected officials — his recommendation fell on deaf ears and ignored by the authorities. Having assess his advice for reformation I am obligated to pump life back into these recommendations he submitted. He stressed that an elected member must serve the public for three consecutive terms with a high level of performance and if these criteria are not met the politician is automatically disqualified. He reiterated that most politicians transgressed and will not be eligible for pension. With this I concur.
In my view, if citizens do not demand a reform in the pension plan there will be a pyramid of generous deals and an impending doom for our economy. Conversely, if we failed to accomplish this we should expect the retirement benefits of ordinary citizens to remain at a dangerous low.
For me, I simply beg, the Prime Minister and other lawmakers to cut salaries and perks of elected members and improve the salaries and benefits of ordinary workers!
D. Markie Spring
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].