Incumbent MP for Central Kingstown, St. Clair Leacock has suggested that the government should not have been surprised by the data in a leaked report showing that between 2008 and 2018, poverty in St. Vincent and the Grenadines had moved from 30.2% to 36.1% in the population.
According to the report, which was leaked to the main opposition New Democratic Party, which gave it to the media on Wednesday, during the same period, the indigence level had moved from 2.9% to 11.3% in the country of 110,000 people.
Leacock, speaking at a virtual public meeting on Thursday, noted that in addition to the poor and indigent poor, Gonsalves had previously spoken of a category of poor in SVG – the “genteel poor”.
“He came to the parliament waxing warm and you know how he spins and twists as the lie weighs down his shoulder and highlights his deceit in his eyes. And with draconian tongue, he says to us, ‘You know, honourable members and friends, there is a category of people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, they once used to able to cut their lawn, drive their cars, attend social events, enjoy a good and decent life.
“‘Today, — and he’s boasting you know — ‘They can no longer do that. They can no longer cut their lawns, they can’t change the tyres on their cars, they have to drive on the donut, they are in tattered clothing’ — and some of the injections are my interpretation of what he’s saying,” Leacock told the event, which was broadcast on social media.
“And he says, ‘Think about it, these sets of people who were yesterday middle class, they now constitute, in St. Vincent, the genteel poor.’
“So he recognised and acknowledged that people who were once middle class, their lives have so deteriorated that we are not just indigent poor and poor, but now the genteel poor. That is, the middle class that has receded to be unable to look after themselves,” said Leacock, who is seeking re-election to a third term as MP for Central Kingstown.
“And, shamelessly, he proclaims, ‘You know, this is an unusual phenomenon you know. I think only St. Vincent has it. The University of the West Indies probably should come here and study this phenomenon.’
“But what they have to study, they don’t have to study the genteel poor. They have to study Ralph and they would understand why we have genteel poor, because we have an economy that is fundamentally a mirage.”
Leacock said this is why it is important to have in the NDP’s team, economist Dwight Fitzgerald Bramble, the party’s candidate for East Kingstown, incumbent MP for West Kingstown, Daniel Cummings, and engineer, and social scientist Godwin Friday, leader of the opposition and incumbent MP for the Northern Grenadines.
“Because we have to fix it and we have to fix it with honesty, earnesty (sic) and sincerity. But most importantly, we must fix it with practical know- how,” Leacock said.
“I make no bones about it. The Unity Labour Party has been living a lie.
“I don’t even want to talk about what I am seeing and hearing now, the propaganda, the untruths, dishonesties, the misrepresentations, the character assassinations, the intimidation, the fear, and the despair. I speak solely on evidential evidence. Just another reason they should go and go fast,” he said mentioning the 2014 audit report, the latest year for which one is available.
In that report, the Director of Audit noted that much of the money budgeted for capital projects was not spent.
Leacock said this strengthens the case for his proposed constituency development fund.
The 2018 Poverty Assessment Report should have been completed since March 2019 and the opposition had made a number of attempts since last year to get the government to release the data.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told Community College students on Friday that the study is incomplete and the data leaked to the opposition was never sent to him.