Poverty in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 2018 stood at 36.1%, up from 30.2% of the population 10 years earlier, an opposition politician said Friday night, citing data he said the government has refused to release for three years.
Daniel Cummings, incumbent parliamentary representative for West Kingstown, disclosed the figure at a New Democratic Party (NDP) public meeting in Sion Hill.
This means that poverty in the country was 0.1 percentage point higher than in 1998, the last assessment before the Unity Labour Party administration came to office in March 2001.
Cummings said that the data shows that while poverty had more than doubled in Barrouallie in the decade ending 2018, standing at 60%, it had fallen by 25% in Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves’ home village of Colonarie.
“When I tell them read the poverty assessment report, they ain’t bothering with me. You see how much time I give them. I say to Ralph Gonsalves and company, tell the people how you have impoverished this country and they’re not listening to me,” said Cummings, who had used parliament and public statements since 2019 in an effort to get the government to release the data.
“Tonight, I want to read to you some information which would give you a little clue about poverty in this country. When I tell them read; you know they ain’t bother with me because they don’t understand this man,” Cummings said.
He said that when the NDP did the poverty assessment in 1998, the level of poverty was about 36%.
“Behold, these jokers came into office and they did the poverty assessment in 2008,” he said of the ULP.
“When they did it in 2008, they made big brag about how they brought it down to 30.2% — 30.2 persons out of every 100 were below the poverty line.”
Cummings, however, noted that while the ULP bragged, the assessment has to be done every 10 years.
“… they did that assessment in 2018. You know what that means? We didn’t have any COVID. They were preparing for elections, they were doing all the things, saying they doing everything they can, fooling and bribing you,” Cummings said.
“But when the study was done and the report came in, lo and behold, my brothers and sisters, what you think they reach to in 2018, they moved from 30.2 to 36.1,” he said, reiterating that the assessment was done before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cummings further stated:
“But I want to tell you something. While poverty went up substantially, there are some statistics you want to hear. For example, in the district of Barrouallie, poverty was at 28.5% in 2008.
“In 2018, poverty in Barrouallie more than doubled to a whopping 60-plus per cent — six, zero,” Cummings said.
“In other words, 60 out of every 100 persons in Barrouallie under the poverty line under Ralph and company. That is what they’re hiding.
“But ah go tell yo’ something. There is a place called Colonarie, where fu he (his) people dey. And when you go through this country you know, you have people from Park Hill and Colonarie all over the place working because one man putting them to work,” Cummings said, referring to two communities in North Central Windward, which Gonsalves has been representing in Parliament for 25 years.
“And while the rest of the country struggling with increased, massive poverty, up there, under daddy, they reduced, they cut down, they brought down, they tear down poverty in Colonarie by almost 25% — 24.8% reduction of poverty in Colonarie,” Cummings said.
“In other words, only people from fu he constituency could get wuk fuh do (get work). Colonarie, not even the whole constituency; certain place. That is one of the reasons why they burying the report.
“But I have it and I still telling them there is more to come. Tell them, tell the people why they tek fuh we (take our) money and do a report and don’t want tell we what they discovered. They’re wicked, they’re wutliss (worthless), and they’re bad for this country. Tell them bring the whole report because when I bring it, all hell will break lose,” Cummings said.
Cummings released what he said are the poverty figure almost five weeks after he threatened the government to release the data or he would.
The report should have been published in March 2019 and Cummings, who is chair of the NDP, had used Parliament to try to get the government to release the data from the 2018 report.
In December 2019, with the report then almost two years behind schedule, Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, responding to a question from Cummings, told Parliament that the data was still being analysed. 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.