Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves addresses the ULP rally in Campden Park on Saturday. (Photo: Lance Neverson/Facebook)

Almost 6,000 persons, or nearly 6 per cent of the population of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, receive public assistance, money given to poor persons monthly, commonly referred to as “poor relief”.

“This year, we are spending nearly 18 million dollars on public assistance … I have nearly 6,000 persons on Public Assistance,” Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said Saturday night at the launch of the online version of his Unity Labour Party’s election manifesto.

Gonsalves quoted the figure as he outlined social programmes that he claimed Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace will cut if the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) is elected to office.

“He (Eustace) said that is too much money,” Gonsalves said in reference to the EC$18 million spent annually on Public Assistance.

“Well, if you want to cut public assistance for the poor or children of the poor, you would come and tell me you could win election in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the year 2015?” Gonsalves said.

“Listen to me, listen to me. It is easy to cut it by half you know. You know why it reached that figure? Two reasons: first of all, the population of the elderly has increased and many of them didn’t work enough before to get the NIS contributions and because of universal secondary education, a lot of poor persons’ children had to go to secondary school and I need to help them to go to secondary school, so I have to give them some public assistance. That’s why the number is almost 6,000,” said Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance.

He said that NDP candidate for West St. George, Julian “Jules” Ferdinand, said in a video   advertisement that the NDP is not about giving citizens public assistance.

“Well, for heaven’s sake, Mr. Ferdinand could be comfortable and talk like that in his house, with his retirement benefit from ECGC — and I am not envious of him for all his wealth, for all his comfort, I am happy for him and all his family.

“But why, if you are so comfortable, you would want to deny a minimum comfort to the poor and the working people and the children so they could get a little public assistance?

“We increased not only the number but the amount for public assistance: from $50 to $220 for those who are over 65 and to $200 for those who are under 65.

“And come January, I am going to increase it by a further $25, which would cost a further $1.5 million more.

“Rather than cut it, I am going to increase it because everyone tells us who studies our economy and we say so, that we are going to have modest economic growth and the poor must get something out of the growth,” Gonsalves said.

Speaking at an NDP rally in Bequia Saturday night, Eustace said that his party is not interested in reducing the Public assistance roll for the sake of doing so.

He, however, said that an NDP administration will focus on creating jobs and thereby reducing the need for persons to receive hand-outs from the state.

“There are several people in this country who are suffering day after day to meet the most basic needs for themselves and their families,” Eustace said.

“And we have to improve the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, whether through the private sector and also through government to ensure that less people find themselves in that position,” Eustace said.

“That, for me, is the most important thing that this party could do — to build back the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines so that people, all people, particularly the poorer people in our country, have the opportunity to have decent standard of living. And that is what I am committing myself and our team to do, with your help,” he said.

Gonsalves said earlier this year that in addition to the persons on the Public Assistance roll, some 4,000 persons receive some sort of welfare benefit.

7 replies on “‘I have nearly 6,000 persons on Public Assistance’ — Gonsalves ”

  1. Shame on you, Prime Minister, for boasting about your efforts to increase the number of people who are dependent on you for handouts, including many who are young and able-bodied, people who would be obliged to try harder to uplift themselves if not for a dependency-creating policy based solely on increasing the number of people who will vote for your party on election day.

    Why not try reducing import duties and the VAT, on the one hand, and stimulating economic growth by making SVG an attractive place to invest in job-creation endeavours?

  2. Dr. Dexter Lewis says:

    C-ben, Reducing VAT, or reducing import duty, or reducing the cost of gasoline, or reducing the cost of electricity will all go to create MORE economic activity and create more jobs for the poor.

    Unfortunately. Gonsalves has no understanding of any of that.

    If you are one of his friends or family, ah, then he knows how to find you a “job”

    1. Dr, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again according to the “Hippocrates Oath”… “to uphold specific ethical standards”, you’re the lowest, Dr Lewis!

  3. That’s right Comrade, keep them poor and needy because they are voting cattle, that’s all they are good for to you! Keep them on your purse string and don’t make them let go because without you they will suffer and die, while you, your family and those around you flourish with wealth. They are lazy, they do not want to work or see themselves out of poverty so continue to use them as your foot stool, because if Vincentians are foolish enough to make you constantly use them like property and you can make them feel as if you’re doing them a favor, then continue to wheel your web of deceit in front of their faces like magic!

    Vincentians, when have we lost our way? When have we become so dependent on government and handouts? We used to be so proud a people. As my uncle used to say: We may be hungry but we nah starve! What happened to our self reliance, our dignity, our pride and our independence, did we just sell them for 30 pieces of silver for a quick fix of empty promises, galvanize, cement and lumber? Those materials thing we used to go down to Corea’s and buy cash and still have money in the bank. What happened to us?

    I am a proud Vincentian, proud of my country and my rich up bringing, and no one is going to fool me the way Ralph Gonsalves is fooling the Vincentian public, treating them as his puppets for his own political ambitions. It’s time for Vincentians to wakeup and see what is really going on in our country. You must realize that we, the people, are the bosses of the politicians and not politicians the bosses of us. God bless!

  4. Well this have to be the only country in the world that pride itself on putting people on poor relief. What a man what a people what a country if they put in back into power.

  5. C.ben-David the cunumunu, it is not a boast; it’s an acknowledgement that this ULP government care about the poor. They call it “LOVE”, something that you don’t know about…”LABOUR LOVE”!

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