Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says “absolutely not” did he contribute to the politicisation of the airport. (IWN file photo)

Recipients of Public Assistance — money given monthly to poor Vincentians — will see a monthly increase of EC$25 dollars from January, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves restated on Sunday.

Political observers say this is the clearest indication that the ruling Unity Labour Party will pit public sector workers and recipients of welfare benefits against each other ahead of the general elections, expected before year-end.

Public sector trade unions have demanded that the government pay the Vincentian teachers, before they go to the polls, one month’s salary tax-free in lieu of salary increases since 2011.

But, speaking on his party’s radio station on Wednesday, Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, maintained that his government cannot afford to pay the one-month salary, which will amount to EC$25 million.

Gonsalves expressed hope that the vast majority of teachers and public servants “will see the reasonableness of what I am talking about, and at the same time, I reaffirm that I am trying my best to see what I can do, but not that.

“You can’t afford that,” he said.

“If you do that, you will have to dismantle, not just tinker here and there, you will have to dismantle some whole programmes — Home Help for the Elderly, you will have to slash by half the Public Assistance programme, you will have to slash people going off to university and so on and so forth … You will have to tell people on the SET programme we can’t deal with you anymore,” he said.

Public Relations Officer of the Teachers’ Union, Wendy Bynoe, suggested, on Sunday, that the government re-channel some of its resources to make the payment, which she said will act as an economic stimulus.

But Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, said Bynoe’s suggestion  “doesn’t even deserve a serious discussion.

“… And they know that that is a flimsy argument. I’ve seen it said — equally flimsy — that I’m borrowing money to do this, borrowing money to do that, why I can’t borrow money to pay the public servants.”

Parliament on Monday passed, without opposition support, a bill authorising the government to borrow US$16 million to go towards the completion of the EC$729 million airport at Argyle, which has missed completion deadlines annually since 2011.

The loan this week brings to approximately EC$263 million, the amount of money that the government has borrowed since June 2013 for the airport, which it says will be completed by the end of this year — a timeline that the opposition has dismissed as an election gimmick.

“So you borrow money to finish the airport or build a bridge which has collapsed or that I must borrow the money to pay the public servants rather than build the bridge at Caratal or the one at Byera or do the one at Grand Sable?” Gonsalves said.

“All we need is a discussion by the populace as to what is possible in the circumstance … and I am available to discuss any serious proposal,” he said.

8 replies on “PM announces increase in ‘Poor Relief’ but says he can’t afford unions’ wage proposal”

  1. This man is obviously a devoted student of Macchiavelli. If you keep them downtrodden, oppressed and hopeless then they would be eternally grateful for whatever little crumbs you throw to them. Do we want increased poor relief or do we want more jobs, enterprise and businesses? Do we want dependence or independence?

    If Vincentians fall for this dotishness then we certainly deserve what we get.

    1. The downtrodden masses will likely fall for this again proving once more that we get the government we deserve.

      1. Absolutely right. I believe that Vincentians are an intelligent people but when it comes to real issues and politics it is as if the majority have a portion of their brains missing, it is that portion that are not reading these comments. it must be true:

        Vincentians can pick bananas but they can’t pick leaders.

        If they could Ivan O’Neal would be PM.

  2. It does not matter Comrade, you got to go! PERIOD! Increase public assistance instead of providing jobs? This way the people can always be at your mercy and you are the only hope they have to survive. Then you would turn around and remind them that is the Comrade who putting bread on your table and without you they can’t survive. What happened to teaching a man to fish instead of giving him one? Comrade only you, your family and those around should enjoy the bounties of this country. The rest of us should die or settle for the scraps that only you can offer. You can’t afford to pay the teachers and public servants their reasonable demand of a one month salary, therefore you know they will vote against you. In order to make for those lost public servants vote, you prey on the poor people of this country telling them that you increasing the poor relief payment but $25, not immediately but they will have wait until January 2016. Why until January 2016 Comrade? Fool ah talk but nah fool ah listen. You are a disgrace to this country and should be ashamed to be called a Vincentian. SVG, we are not fools…use your own eyes and brains and see and understand what is happening in our country. If you can’t do that then may heaven help us. But God ah sleep!

  3. Increase Poor relief just in time for elections and see if that would help. You could give away cars and trucks, and even houses but Vincentians are still going to vote you out. When you done you could “Run with Jomo” to get away from what is coming your way.

  4. That is how he see Vincentians.give them a little something election time and expect them to vote for him.He has all kind of excuses now but in 2001 he pushed the teachers to block road.They claim the economy is much better now under the ULP so how come he cant pay the teachers the money.

  5. People on poor relief don’t work but they are getting an increase. Meanwhile those who are working are told “not a cent”. And to think many people are getting down on teachers and public servants shows how dumb ULP supporters have become. They have been at the trough too long.

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