Every morning, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves meets with Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Godfred Pompey and National Security Advisor, Vincent Beache, an octogenarian, retired politician, who the opposition says should retire permanently.
But trade unions trying to secure one month’s salary increase for workers in the absence of wage increases since 2011, also believe that the government can save money by getting rid of Beache.
According to Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security, the unions have said the government can also cut cost by getting rid of his press secretary, Hans King, and Communications Director in the office of the Prime Minister, Elson Crick.
Discussing the salary increase proposal this week, Gonsalves told a conference of non-commissioned officers of the Police Force that he had read that persons who are not involved in the negotiation have said that government, without presenting the data, says it cannot afford to one month’s salary payment.
“… on every occasion I go through the numbers,” Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, however, said.
“I go through the macro numbers for every category of revenue and expenditure every time. And I tell you what I could afford to do it if I cut the following things…
“You may not agree with what I say, but don’t say that I didn’t say that. That I didn’t give you the information,” he said.
Gonsalves told the police officers that he brings, to the negotiations with the trade unions, officials from the office of the Director General of Finance and Planning.
He said he told the unions to set up a meeting with those officials to discuss their ideas on what areas he could cut or save to afford the one month salary payment.
“What do they come with? They say that I hire — I have Vincent and I have Hans, and I have Crick. Well I will tell you something: If you even were to take away those salaries, it wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans in relation to the 25 million dollars.
“But, for heaven’s sake, how could you reasonably tell me that in this age of modern information communication that I can’t have a Communications Director at the office of the prime minister and I can’t have a press secretary?
“So wait? You just want everybody to murder me metaphorically with words and I don’t have anybody to coordinate any response. What happen? Isn’t political communication a function of the political system? Once you accept it, you have to accept those. And then in the case of Vincent Beache, Vincent Beache is worth his salary and more.”
Gonsalves, who is also Minister of National Security, said Beache is at work every morning at 7:30 and they meet, along with Pompey.
“And when the permanent secretary at a particular stage, I say, ‘Pomps, Vincent and I have some matters to discuss above your pay grade’,” Gonsalves said, noting that he and Beache have about 100 years of political experience.
“I wish if I had ‘Son’ Mitchell to put him on some boards and to have coffee with me at 7:30 on mornings, tap into his experience and knowledge,” Gonsalves said in reference to retried politician James “Son” Mitchell.
Mitchell’s New Democratic Party governed St. Vincent and the Grenadines from 1984 to 2001 and he is the nation’s longest serving prime minister.
While in office, and even after, Mitchell had come in for stinging criticism from Gonsalves, who, in recent years, seems to be attempting to exploit a rift between Mitchell and the NDP.
“I wish if I had him (Mitchell). Not because I have disagreed with him, but he will tell me things and advice on things which I can reflect on to improve my governance even though he may tell me also things with which I disagree. But because I am the jefe, I could decide what to accept and what to reject…” Gonsalves said.
“So leh we don’t go down those kinds of roads, please,” Gonsalves said in reference to the suggestions that Beache, King and Crick should be fired.