The policy of the Unity Labour Party sees the government spending significantly less than is stated in the capital budget has led to a new subculture of crime as a consequence of “hopelessness, despair, disbelieve, distrust in what obtains”, says opposition lawmaker, St. Clair Leacock.
“Too many of our people, young men in particular, have come to the conclusion I am not going to go through what my brother and sister went through with their nine, 10 CXCs and can’t get a job for the last five, six, 10 years and have to be begging, scrunting (scrounging), prostituting, or turning to alternative lifestyles,” the Central Kingstown Member of Parliament told a town hall meeting held by his New Democratic Party in New York last weekend.
He said that these young men have concluded that they are “not going to allow my mother to suffer one more day with the indignity of not being able to wear a new dress or feed my younger brother.
“Or for some men, I can’t tolerate the fact that I have lost my woman to a van driver or somebody else who has greater access to cash and then be belittled the way I have to be living,” Leacock said.
He said such people say they have no problem with the NDP but can’t wait for the party to solve their problems “of hunger, of unhappiness, of a no future.
“‘Leh me try a shortcut,’” he said, citing their reasoning.
“That shortcut includes, ‘Leh me eat ah food.’ That shortcut includes gi’ me now. I’ll pay the price,” he said, referring to a decision to engage in criminal activity.
“And I hear that. I hear that, sometimes in a frightening way, going through St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
He said he has heard young men said that if they are given $50, they would go and “buss a shot” or if they had money they would buy two bullets and commit this or that crime.
In advancing his thesis, Leacock said the 2004-2005 report of the Director of Audit said finance for capital projects was not always forthcoming.
“In other words, the government telling lies,” Leacock said.
He further quoted the report as saying that this means that adequate funds were not raised to finance and execute a number of projects included in the capital budget for the financial years.
“That is that they’re promising things that they can’t [deliver],” he said, adding that the report said that the government should consider reviewing the total estimates for capital expenditure since these large shortfalls in capital revenue have implications for the credibility of the capital budget.
“In other words, if you keep telling lies so, people would not be able to believe you. You are misleading and fooling the people. And, regrettably, a significant number of people who are getting right up to the cliff save and except for jumping off. We have to save them …”
Leacock, a vice-president of the NDP, said that in the 2008 report, the Director of Audit said he had not been able to obtain sufficient appropriate evidence to provide a basis for an audit opinion.
“‘Accordingly, I do not express an opinion on the financial statements’,” he quoted the report as saying.
“For an auditor to audit the statements, she has — or he — to depend on the statement made by the accountant general. The auditor says that what had been prepared and submitted are not dependable upon which I can offer an opinion. That’s an irresponsible government that is functioning and misleading too significant a portion of our people that we have a well-run and well-managed country.”
Leacock said that he has repeatedly said that if SVG were a private firm, Gonsalves and company would have been fired a long time ago.
The Central Kingstown MP said he was appalled to have received an estimate in Parliament and had to wait until the International Monetary Fund visited a month or two after and asked why EC$112 million owed to Venezuela was left out of the Budget.
“The government had to come back and correct that error.
“The point I am making is that even our professionals are so paralysed that they are prepared to mislead the Parliament with inaccurate data. That’s serious. That’s the country in which we are operating? I am happy that we can be unapologetic about it,” Leacock said, adding that he had challenged Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves in Parliament and in his media and campaign appearances on the PetroCaribe issues.
He said he repeatedly stated that if the Unity Labour Party had lost the last elections, they could have been charged with misbehaviour in public office for unlawfully spending the nation’s money.
“He never was able to take me to court once. The first thing he did after the election was to come to the Parliament to correct it, retroactively. And I am speaking about expending over one hundred and something million dollars.”
Leacock said the ULP administration cannot put their hands in the air and say they are clean as regards the spending of the nation’s money.
He said that in 2010, the Director of Audit was of the opinion that the financial statement presented for audit did not in all material respects represent the financial position of the government of SVG as of Dec 31, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2010.
“So, six years after this had been pointed out, no correction in the way we are doing the nation’s business.”
And Leacock said that in 2011, the Director of Audit raised questions regarding special warrants.
He said that since 2015, no supplementary budgets have been brought to Parliament to account for monies spent in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 without the Parliament’s approval.
“So the government is in breach of the appropriate sections of the law that I do not want to detail, [burden] you with at this time.”
He said that the 2012 report, the most recent Director of Audit said the capital revenue for that year was an estimated EC$286 million to finance capital revenue of EC$184 million and to realise a surplus of EC$102 million.
“Now, if you have a house to build that costs you $184 million, you would go and raise $286? You would raise what you need… But they are telling us it was estimated at 286, but they’re only going to spend 184 but taking the other 100 to help on the recurrent side.”
“He calls this Gonzinomics,” Leacock said, referring to the prime minister and added that the Director of Audit further stated that the initial capital budget was increased by another EC$3 million and the surplus was reduced to EC$98 million.”
She says, however, the financial statement shows that only EC$107 million was raised overall and the five sources of capital revenue were less than estimated.
Leacock said that the ULP has been closed to EC$2 billion short on what they said they would have raised to do capital projects.
“But you may want to forgive that to say that is only a judgement call, an estimate, but I am putting it to you tonight and to my dear ULP friends, that even on the recurrent side — that is what you’re supposed to put towards the hospitals, the schools, the police, social services, transfers to tourism and so on and so forth — government balancing the books by spending 10 per cent less than they put on paper.”
He said this amounts to a shortfall of over $500 million over the last 15 years that has not been spent.
Leacock said he has taken the time to go through the statistics because he is “of the view that the crime and violence that we are witnessing in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not coincidental or incidental or by chance”.