Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday says he was close to tears most of the time as he walked through Kingstown on Monday.
The number of persons conducting business in the nation’s capital has dropped significantly amidst fears over the COVID-19 virus, eight cases of which have been confirmed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The contribution that we’re making here is intended to solve problems. We are in uncharted territory,” Friday said as he began the debate on the EC$74 million fiscal package Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves persuaded lawmakers to approve.
“I walked around Kingstown yesterday, and for most of the time, to be honest, I was close to tears. When we see how difficult it’s going to be for people to make ends meet, the conditions under which this virus has put us as a society, the way in which we respond to one another.
“We have to pull together and put the resources in place to help the people who are hurting — those people in the informal sectors, the vendors on the street, the minibus operators, are going to lose incomes,” Friday said.
In his speech, the opposition leader called on the government to fast track the implementation of the capital budget that lawmakers approved in February before the pandemic was declared.
Friday said that in doing this, the government could then redirect capital spending in the supplementary budget to social support, such as helping persons with “paying their rent, supplemented incomes, helping to pay their electricity bills”.
The opposition leader noted that Gonsalves had noted the impact of the pandemic on the tourism sector, which was immediately impacted.
“There’s some allocation for workers who were employed, who were laid off, but have nothing. You acknowledge your hardship that the hotels and guesthouses will be feeling but I heard nothing specific as to what will be done to assist those persons.
“Will there be a reduction in the electricity bill? Is there something that can be done to actually assist? Or should be done to assist the hoteliers, the hotel operators, the guesthouse owners, as well as the employees who have been affected?”
Friday said that the same obtained with respect to the initiative in the agricultural sector.
He said the move by the government to provide fishing boats to persons in that sector intended to boost production in the long run is not a bad policy.
“In general, you want to enhance food security. The question is how we are going to achieve this now and at the same time manage the situation with respect to those people who are hurting.”