Opposition lawmaker Daniel Cummings is calling on the government to release the latest poverty assessment report, saying that if the government does not publish the data, he would.
“I am eagerly waiting for this so called government to make public the report done on the poverty assessment. That information is information that the people of this country need to have,” Cummings said on Wednesday on his weekly radio programme.
“The work was not done for and on behalf of the ULP party. It was done for and on behalf of the people of this country. And as such, we have a right to have access to that information,” the West Kingstown parliamentary representative said.
Cummings’ comments on his New Democratic Party (NDP) programme on Nice Radio are his latest attempt to get the government to release the data.
The overall objective of the poverty assessment is to update living conditions statistics and to recommend policies, strategies, action plans and projects that will reduce the extent and severity of poverty.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines has not had a poverty assessment since after the global financial crisis more than a decade ago.
Nine months ago, in response to a question in Parliament, Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves said his government was yet to complete the latest poverty assessment, the result of which should have been published since March 2019.
In his comments on Wednesday, Cummings suggested that the government does not want to release the data because they are not favourable.
“The simple reality is the people on the ground know the condition under which they live. We who feel it know it. Everywhere you go in this country, the level of poverty is frightening.
“With the limited resources we have and as much as we try to help people in getting simple things like getting their kids ready for school, no matter how much we can put our hands on, it is but a virtual drop in the ocean because there are so many parents who do not have the means.
“What is even worse, there are so many parents who complain that they’ve been to Social Welfare, they have been repeatedly to them, they are telling them come back and come back and come back. And still they are getting no help, no help because they themselves obviously cannot cope with the large numbers of parents who cannot afford to send their children back to school.”
The opposition politician said there are situations where registering a child in a school requires several hundred dollars, with the figure not including the cost of books, uniforms, or other school supplies.
“… and these are largely parents who although they have a little partial or short term job, it can hardly put a meal on the table. This is the crying shame that we find throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with few exceptions.
“And this is why I want the government to come clean and give that report, to tell us what is the state of poverty throughout the country.”
He asked whether there was a difference between the level of poverty in Colonarie and Park Hill, two villages in North Central Windward, which Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves represents in Parliament, and North Windward and North Leeward and even in Kingstown.
“Tell the people; come clean [on] what the poverty assessment report says. How does the level of poverty in 2018 compare with the level of poverty in 1998, 20 years after?
“Tell the people what the ULP government has done to the level of poverty in this country. Talk to us. Don’t push it under the rug because I say again, if you don’t tell the people, Daniel Cummings will.’
Cummings said he was “being generous” to the government.
“I am giving you time because you know when I disclose the information, you will put your hand on your head and bawl. The people must know the information. You have it; you have been hiding it, you have been lying in Parliament; as minister of finance, you refuse to give the information,” he said.