Former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell says that the COVID-19 stimulus package approved by Parliament should be “subsidising the people that need help”.
In March, Parliament approved an EC$69 million fiscal package in response to the economic fallout from the pandemic.
“… at this COVID time, we should be subsidising the people that need help — the barbers who have not made a dollar, the hairdressers, the people who run the little health spas and what have you; and the people who trying to do things in their homes in the kitchen, making their jams and the jellies, etc.
“These are the kinds of people we should be helping. We should be helping those who are suffering,” Sir James said on Boom FM on Tuesday.
Sir James was asked his view on the Promoting Youth Micro Enterprises (PRYME) Programme, through which the government gives grants to start-ups and existing business.
PRYME is primarily focused on persons 18 to 40 years old, but this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the government is giving PRYME+ grants to persons 40 and older.
“Listen, what I have to say about that, it is sad that in this moment of crisis, that there is not a parliamentary committee of oversight of using the taxpayers’ money,” he said.
“I’m talking again, about subsidies. One of the most brilliant things that the government could have done with all this money they get in from the World Bank etc. and so on is to cut down the price of VINLEC,” he said, referring to electricity.
“Not giving a sheet of lumber and galvanize; cut down the price of VINLEC and that will help everybody everywhere.
“Look at the charges that you are given; stockpile medicines in the hospital, improve the equipment, etc. It’s a question — same what Dr. Friday is talking about — priority in the use of government money,” he said, referring to Opposition Leader Godwin Friday.
“We have got to be sensitive to that. Are we getting the best? Let’s face it, the middle class is having a rough time; stores closing, businesses closing; where are the young people going to go?” he said.
“Well, if the pot is big enough, it should do both,” he said.
“But you can’t be saying you going to start developing businesses when businesses are closing. What are the reasons why businesses are closing? What is the reason? Analysis. Find out the reason why businesses are closing. Why is there increasing poverty? Why is there that we have developing now what I call a barrel culture? “Everybody bringing in things from — cheap and down in the street, and nobody going into a store to look for shampoo anymore. And it means less employment in the stores. And it means this is increasing poverty where everybody is scrambling to make a dollar. Is the economy expanded on that? Can I support a situation where the economy is not expanding?” Sir James said.