The Opposition New Democratic Party has tabled a motion, asking Parliament to establish a broad-based task force to help the government develop policies in response to the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Opposition Leader Godwin Friday tabled the motion, which is on the order paper for today (Monday’s) meeting of Parliament, the second since the first case of the viral illness was confirmed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on March 11.
Friday’s motion on the COVID-19 pandemic and the management of the economic and social consequences of the pandemic says that the quality of life in SVG has deteriorated over the last two decades.
It states that employment for young people coming out of school is seldom available and business activity and the economy have suffered from the arbitrary rule of the Unity Labour Party government.
Friday further says that economic activity has further suffered severely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the government has a practice of distributing aid and government resources on a partisan political basis.
“… in order to ensure transparent and effective use of relief funds it is essential that all international aid and all funds approved by Parliament for COVID-19 relief be managed by a permanent select committee of Parliament,” he said.
On March 26, Parliament approved, with opposition support, an EC$69 million COVID-19 stimulus package, which the opposition said should be placed under the oversight of a bipartisan committee of the national assembly.
In his motion, Friday said that to promote “full, effective and speedy recovery from the COVID-19 crisis it is beneficial, practical and sensible to involve persons from various sectors of the economy and civil society who bring insight, experience and expertise that would help the government to fashion meaningful and effective policies and measures to promote and achieve economic and social recovery from the crisis”.
He is asking lawmakers to pass a resolution that Parliament establish a permanent select committee of the House to supervise and report on the use of funds voted by Parliament for COVID-19 relief.
The opposition leader’s motion is also asking that the Government “establish a broad-based task force that involves persons from various sectors of the economy and civil society who would bring insight, experience and expertise that would help the government to fashion meaningful and effective policies and measures to aid and achieve economic and social recovery from the crisis”.
At the last meeting of Parliament, Friday invoked a little-used standing order to force Parliament to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, thereby allowing the opposition leader to address lawmakers on the matter.
It is said that it was the first time that Standing Order 14 was used in about two decades, and Friday’s invocation of it seemed to have caught the government off-guard.