Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace maintains that the millions of dollars in building material the government has ordered from Jamaica will be used to try to sway voters in the upcoming general elections.
“Those goods are being used for one purpose only: to give out for people for elections purposes,” Eustace told I-Witness News on Thursday.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has said that Vincentians will vote by year-end, ahead of the March 2016 constitutional deadline.
He told reporters this week that the material will be used for his government’s housing programmes.
But Eustace said the materials “are not specifically being used on for projects identified by the government.
“The project is the election,” he said and questioned why the materials were not be bought from businesses in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Why should Tank-Weld get 10 or 11 million dollars in orders from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, when our private sector here is laying off people and you (the government) owe our private sector already? “Isn’t it better for our economy when you are doing that that we order the good from our local private sector here? Won’t a greater amount of the money be retained and benefit our economy?
“These are the questions that follow from that,” Eustace said.
But Gonsalves told reporters this week that the materials are to be used for his government’s “Lives to Live” programme.
Under the programme, wooden houses, or addition to existing houses, and in some cases, bathrooms, are being built for persons who have physical challenges.
He noted that it is not the first time that such an order was being made.
Gonsalves said that EC$5 million in building material ordered and delivered last year were for the “Lives to Live”, damage from Hurricane Tomas and the April Floods, and a limited amount for persons who want assistance over and above what might be given from the Public Assistance programme.
“What happen, I was bribing voters then,” Gonsalves said.
He said the most recent order is the third that his government is making from Tank-Weld.
“Because of the demand on the Lives to Live and also the extent of backlog from Thomas and the April floods, and Montgomery Daniel, the Minister [of Housing], was telling me we are coming under pressure. He said, for instance, though we have a lot of steel, we ran out of cement, … we are running out of plywood, we are running out of some timber.
“I said to him, prepare a list for me of additional material you may require given the programme that you, as minister, are dealing with…
“And when he gave me the list, I said, but the amount of plywood you have here may not — I cross-examined him and the technical people, and some timber — and I have placed an order for over 4 million dollars of materials.
“Now, if my housing policy, the government’s housing policy Eustace wants to call it largess–…
“What you hear he talking about there, is trying to, in advance, set up and excuse for when he loses and election,” Gonsalves said.