Despite the coronavirus pandemic, government revenue in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 2020 continues to be higher than in 2019, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said this week as he released the data for September.
Gonsalves, speaking on the National Broadcasting Corporation, said that SVG has bucked the trend among it Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States counterparts.
“Declines have been, as a consequence of COVID, in all the OECS countries save and except St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a decline of between 25 and 65 per cent,” the prime minister said.
“We have seen, year-on-year, thus far, an increase in our revenues at the central government and also in grants,” Gonsalves said Wednesday on his weekly appearance on the National Broadcasting Corporation.
Gonsalves said at the end of August, revenue and grants had increased by 3.4% compared to the same period the previous year.
“I am pleased to report to you that by September 30, year-on-year, comparing this year with last year, total revenue and grants are up 8.5% and current revenue up 3.4%.”
The prime minister said that in 2019, the figure was EC$431 million, compared to EC$468 million, as at Sept. 30, 2020.
Current revenue at the end of September 2019 was EC$415 million, compared to EC$430 million this year.
Expenditure, however, was increasing faster than revenue.
“But that’s understandable because we have to put special measures in place to hold the things together in going forward,” Gonsalves said.
Total expenditure had increased by 17% during the same period.
Of that amount, current expenditure went up by 6.1% and capital expenditure by 122%.
“When you hear people say they see construction going up all over the country and all kind a projects and so on and so forth, that’s not election year,” Gonsalves said.
“That’s what had been planned in the normal course of our capital programme but we went to Parliament on April 7 with a special salvation package for COVID and you see it reflected in the outturn. It’s not a mystery you know.”
Total expenditure had increased from EC$498 million from the end of September 2019 to EC$584 million during the same period of 2020.
Current expenditure moved from EC$451 million to EC$479 million in 2020.
Capital expenditure moved from EC$47 million to EC$105 million.
“The deficit is higher this year by $13 million, from 46 to 39 [million]. But that deficit is financed by cheap money, which we have borrowed.
“You have in the time of difficulty, you can’t have austerity but what is interesting, up to last month, the current account deficit would have been 17 million more than last year. Now at the end of this month, it’s 30 [million] more, and, by December, it will go down and if you notice what we have done …
‘not out of the woods’
He however, warned that this does not mean that the country is “out of the woods”.
“Far from it. But nobody can dispute that St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in the time of COVID, is performing better than any other country in the OECS, in the currency union, both in terms of growth performance and very much so in terms of government revenue.”
He said there was global decline of some 5% with some of the larger economies declining far more than that.
“The airline industry is practically closed and you have to have airlines to move people, tourists, but, I repeat, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in terms of economic growth, is doing better than any other country in the OECS, and, indeed, better than Barbados, and better then Trinidad and better than Jamaica. I am talking about the numbers, the real situation, and similarly, the fiscal situation.
“So these elections were called at a time of COVID when we are holding things together, stabilising it and going forward.”
Vincentians will go to the polls on Nov. 5, as Gonsalves seeks a fifth consecutive term in office at the helm of his Unity Labour Party administration.
He said that the opposition is saying nothing about the performance of the economy during COVID “and how we have held things together and going forward”.
Gonsalves said that former prime minister and founder of the main opposition New Democratic Party, Sir James Mitchell had commented that the country has handled COVID well “though he says he had come up with the slogan ‘Me too fed up ah Ralph’.
“Yo’ fed up ah me for what? For winning all the time? That is the only reason you can be fed up, which has been a prolonged period; we hold it better than any other country in the region.”