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.
I hope that the less fortunate among us who, unfortunately, have to depend on State welfare don’t sell their vote for $25 EC and some lumber that the tax money which you don’t have will have to pay for later. Your vote is worth much more than $25 dollars. That extra $25 may not last longer than the month after elections if the ULP wins.
We are all in this together. The unemployed, the van drivers, the teachers and other public servants, the fast food, hotel and store workers. We are in this together. We are all scrunting and catching we tail. Don’t allow yourself to be used for political ends. If we had a competent government in the first place you would have St least had greater hope of finding a job. Don’t be divided for the sake of 25 dollars.
These 5,500 plus family translate to over 12,000 votes, a great investment return for the ULP.
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