The EC$25 increase in the monthly Public Assistance that the government is proposing to give from January will boost expenditure, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said on Monday.
Gonsalves recently announced the increase at an election campaign rally of his Unity Labour Party.
Currently, some 5,500 persons are on the Public Assistance roll, Gonsalves said.
Persons under the age of 65 on the Public Assistance roll get EC$200 per month while those over 65 get EC$220.
The EC$25 dollar increase will amount to an additional EC$137,000 per month, or EC$1.65 million per year.
General elections are expected by year-end and some political observers have suggested that the promise is intended to boost the government’s chances at the polls as it seeks a fourth consecutive term in office.
However, they have also questioned how the government will be able to finance the increase in light of its inability to meet some of its recurrent commitments, including salary increases for public servants since 2011.
Asked at a press conference how the increase in the welfare payment will be financed and what impact it will have on the fiscal resources of the state, Gonsalves said:
“It is going to increase expenditure. If you have five thousand and something people who get public assistance, you just multiply it by $25 and you see the extent of the increase. And I feel we can manage it.”
Gonsalves said most of the people who get the money are elderly, but there are some students who receive Public Assistance.
Gonsalves said that including Public Assistance, the National Insurance Services, and other state agencies, about 10,000 persons get some form of state assistance.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines has a population of around 106,000.