Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves delivers his Independence Address at Victoria Park on Tuesday. (iWN photo)

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves used his Independence Address, on Tuesday (today), to restate old promises — some unfulfilled after years — and to make new ones, nine days before Vincentians go to the polls.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is celebrating its 41st anniversary of independence from Britain, and a small crowd turned out at Victoria Park to witness the military parade in celebration of the event.

Just four guards of honour were on parade at the scaled-down event where temperature checks, facemasks, and hand sanitisation protocol were implemented, and many of the uniformed bodies across the country were excluded. 

The highlight to the prime minister’s speech, as has become the norm over the past few years, was his announcement of “goodies” for various categories of citizens. In the Nov. 5 vote, Vincentians will to decide whether to return Gonsalves and his Unity Labour Party (ULP) to office for a fifth consecutive five-year term or to replace them with the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP).

Governor General Dame Susan Dougan inspects one of the guards. (iWN photo)

Gonsalves told the parade and media audiences:

“First, as of January 1, 2021, provision will be made in our Budget to ensure the appointment of all public servants who are university graduates as we have been doing year by year for all the graduate teachers. This initiative will benefit directly over 100 persons,” Gonsalves told the parade and media audiences.

The announcement was an echo of one he made in 2018, when he said that 120 graduate teachers who obtained their university degrees between 2013 and 2015 would be appointed in January 2019.

“And in January 2020, the remainder of the graduate teachers will be appointed as such. Thereafter, they will be appointed as a matter of course,” the prime minister had said in the 2018 Independence Address.

But head of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers’ Union, Oswald Robinson told iWitness News on Tuesday that no graduate teachers were appointed this year, even as a number of them are awaiting appointment.

He further said that there are over 50 senior qualified assistant teachers, some of whom have been waiting for 15 or as many as 20 years, to be appointed, even as they should have been so appointed after 10 years. 

Gonsalves further said that come January 2021, all persons employed in the Public Service who are paid as temporary workers will be appointed permanently, so long as they have the entry qualifications for the public service.

“This is a complicated but just exercise. It is the right thing to do and it will be done,” he said.

The prime minister further said that his government has “recognised that a wrong, of sorts, was done to some former nursing assistants who retired before Oct. 27 2015, when nursing assistants were accorded pensionable status.

“I am correcting this. Thus, all former nursing assistants, who retired before Oct. 27, 2005 will begin to receive their pension from the Consolidated Fund in accord with an effective date Jan. 1, 2021. The pandemic of COVID-19 has brought this vexing matter to the fore.”

COVID-19 protocols were in effect at the parade. (iWN photo)

The fourth “announcement” was a restatement of the decision of the government, repeated over the past few months, that persons on Public Assistance (welfare) will receive an increase of EC$25 in their monthly payments, beginning Jan. 1, 2021.

“Those under 65 years, who currently receive $250 monthly, will receive $275 and those 65 years and over will have their Public Assistance rise from $275 to $300 monthly. This is in keeping with our government’s policy to strengthen the social safety net for the poor and the elderly,” the prime minister said.

He also restated his government’s policy that 600 persons who were added to a special COVID list for a $200 monthly payment up to the end of December 2020 will be made permanent on the Public Assistance list from January 2021.

“Our government will continue to protect and uplift the elderly poor,” Gonsalves said. 

The prime minister further announced that casual, temporary or part time non-unionised workers across the central government will receive up to a further 25% increase on their wages from Jan. 1, 2021.

“This measure will provide further support to an often forgotten but important group of workers,” Gonsalves said.

He further said that his government has devised a full programme “to assist in protecting and uplifting another important but oft forgotten group — domestic employees in households.

“These employees, mainly women, deserve our full support in every material particular, legal and otherwise. The year 2021 will be proclaimed by my government as the year of the oft forgotten casual and domestic worker.”

At the July 2019 launch of Renewal @40, Gonsalves said he was going to insist that the Ministry of Labour carry out a survey on the condition of domestic workers in SVG.

A section of the audience at the parade. (iWN photo)

Lower student loan interest rate

And, on Tuesday, in the face of a promise by the NDP to reduce immediately from 8.5% to 4.5%, interest on economically disadvantaged student loans, Gonsalves announced that from the academic year 2021 to 2022, interest on new and student loans, including those with interest arrears, will be reduced to 6%.

He said this is in accordance with “the amended sustainable metrics from the National Insurance Services regarding the investment of the NIS funds on this portfolio”.

He further restated his government’s wavier of interest on existing loans, for one year from Oct. 1 2020 to Aug. 31 2021.

“This will cost the government in excess of $2 million,” the prime minister said, adding, “This interest waiver, not a moratorium, and a reduction of interest are measures designed to alleviate hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He said that the 2020 actuarial review of the NIS is expected to be concluded before the end of the year.

“I am hopeful that the review will recommend an increase of the minimum pension at the NIS which recommendation I will accept,” Gonsalves said of the NIS, which has not increased pensions in years.

10 replies on “PM restates old promises, makes new ones in Independence Address”

  1. So, the SVG Labour Union has urged its public sector workers and workers generally to vote out of office the Ralph Gonsalves family run United labour Party on the grounds of its gross abuse of worker’s rights over the past twenty years that the Gonsalves have held power.

    […]

    However, when the family circle says that you are just no good, you really are truly no good indeed for sure! What further evidence does anyone need as proof that the Gonsalves are just rotten and are no good for SVG?

    https://www.iwnsvg.com/2020/10/27/union-urges-public-sector-workers-to-vote-out-ulp/

    The Gonsalves for sure are truly a bunch of self-serving individuals who have been using Vincentians for far too long and its time for them to hit the Road and beat a path to CUBA, VENEZUELA or perhaps North Korea.

    Time for Vincentians to say “so-long dreads find some others to abuse” to this rotten bunch of hypocrites who like past oppressors, have been using and abusing Vincentians for far too long, as if past slavery was not enough. But now we now have the Ralph Gonsalves and his family to contend with!

    God help us!

  2. The wage bill must be contain in order for the government to access the he IMF monenies that were requested in May 2020. The only way to offset these new increases will be to add at least a 0.5 to Vat.
    A lot of demands have been been placed on the NIS, those increases in the number of permanent workers and appointments of graduate teacher cannot offset the depleting funds. This money has to come from somewhere. Existing tax payers! We have already seen the shrinking of the middle class. These middle class now only have a massive house that is draining their finances. Wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of these houses start getting foresale signs as these owners try to contain their debt. What a mess!

  3. My people do not believe these talks, ask your self, why now? Why now? You have been neglected and disrespected for years by these people. Take what they give to you and vote them out, they only want you to vote for them so they can continue disrespecting you.

  4. Nathan 'Jolly' Green says:

    But it should have all been done ten years ago, whatever is done now can never catch up for the past lost.

    They have failed the people, it is time for a change, Vincentians deserve better.

  5. Government in Office cease on Nomination Day. New slates sign up to run on a particular day.

    When Election is call and when Nominations is over and each Individual sign to run in their selected Constituency, it simple means that Government in Office (body) should be Over also.

    How comes that Dr Ralphie is still acting as the Prime Minister and using all of our Resources and Tax money to campaign, using our National Media, givlng gifts, bribing School Children and etcs.

    I called on those men who is the watchdog to intervene for it is unfair to the Citizens who is not supporting ULP .The ULP is not a Government it is Political Party at this time if elected again they can form back.

    The Governmental affairs are in the hands of Head Of State Ms Dougan, Civil Servants and Commissioner of Police.

    The Prime Minister Ship and Cabinet came to end on 10/20/20.

    Why on this Independence Day we have to listen to political garbage and promises for 20yrs from man whose Party sign integrity paper .

    Can the two Opposition Parties get the same Airtime to address Nation on Independence for it is not to late and the way forward for SVG , and this will equalize all .It is call Fairness.

    I call on media house also to question our leaders and lawyers if after Nomination day who is in control of SVG?

    As a Tax Payer I object for any using our funds to campaign if then all should have the same funding.
    Ralphie, Jamaica government just give out about 45,000 Tablet. No bribing it for the Children education.

    I just wondering if he does BUY his way out in every thing or trying to in those that are still pending ? Just asking!.

    My to cents

    1. Percival Thomas says:

      I think the country must have a PM at all times. So Gonsalves would be PM until Friday takes over. It seems that is what most people that have posted here want.
      I think he is a politically dead man walking. With just a few more days. as PM. Then he can’t do any more harm to Vincentians. And if he tries to do any unlawful thing while in opposition we will have him arrested this time. He blocked the road last time and got away with it.

    2. Percival Thomas says:

      About eight posts here and not one supports the PM. If we VOTE like this on 5 November. Vincentians all over the world would be the happiest people in the world.

  6. Promise us the sun, promise us the moon, promise us a week end trip.to mars , where were you all those years? “why at this time? We tired of the lies, wickedness, victimisation, corruption,, time for you to rest yourself , look after your health,

  7. Nathan 'Jolly' Green says:

    Mr MAC, I had a big mac last week it was delicious, I would like to congratulate your company on its wonderful range of burgers.

    You see folks when someone as prestigious as Big Mac speaks out against the comrade all is lost for him.

    Vincentians deserve better, time for them to go, vote NDP for a better life and a better burger.

    Want jobs, vote them out is the only way to achieve that.

Comments are closed.