The government says it expects that it will have issued about 10,000 bank cards for social welfare programmes by 2025, Minister of National Mobilisation, Dr. Orando Brewster has told Parliament.
This means that about 10% of the population of St. Vincent and the Grenadines will be receiving some sort of government support by then.
Brewster told the Budget Debate that the government is reviewing the “Poor Relief” social welfare programme, and has suspected new application until February.
This includes making payment to recipients of Poor Relief through bank cards.
The minister said that in addition to eliminating the need for people to queue up in unfavourable weather, the bank cards will also reduce the cost of making the pay-outs.
“… the envelope that we had when we deal with the Poor Relief section of Public Assistance, annually, our ministry would spend over $100,000 to transport the cash and so on and to have the police and so on when we are administering Poor Relief,” Brewster said.
He said using bank cards will reduce the annual expenses from EC$100,000 to EC$16,000.
“If that is not development, I don’t know what — from over 100,000 to 16,000,” Brewster said, adding, “It means that there is more money to go to the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised.”
Brewster said that in 2022, his ministry started the process of the transition from cash to card.
“And I want to mention a few things. Because by 2023 to 2025, we are expecting to have over 10,000 cards in circulation here in our country. And it will not be only for the Poor Relief aspect of Public Assistance.
“I’ll draw a reference. If you come to the ministry and you’re a client — I really don’t like to use the term client of the ministry — and from time to time you would get assistance, once you have one of these cards, you do not have to come in again, fill out the form and all the formalities.”
He said that the ministry would just remit the money to the account linked to the card.
“So, you don’t have to come and sit down and wait and spend time there in the ministry,” Brewster said.
The Minister thanked the state-owned Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines “for being a part of this process in the whole aspect of modernising our social services here in St. Vincent.
“At the Cabinet level, we took some decisions in 2022. And I want to mention them here today. First, we are going to place a temporary hold an all boards’ approval for the Poor Relief aspect of our social services.”
He said this commenced on Dec. 8, 2022 and will run until Feb. 24, 2023.
“We are doing this in order to revamp and revise our Poor Relief aspect of Public Assistance. And in doing so, we are not shutting the door close and saying if you come and you have a genuine need and you’re a candidate to be placed on poor relief, we are not taking you,” Brewster told Parliament.
He said that in the interim, the ministry “will do emergency grants and have them on a temporary grant until we have done our work in the ministry.
“And, hopefully by the end of February, we would have persons who are taken on the interim or the transitional support to be placed on the Poor Relief programme.”
The minister continues:
“We have looked at the list of recipients who are placed in Poor Relief and there are still some shortcomings and we have to tackle that issue. Because, if we are moving ahead with a modern system, we must have all the right parts for it to work to the best. So, we are going to be conducting some household assessments during that period.”
The minister said that while its decision is pending, 368 Poor Relief beneficiaries would be on a pilot programme.
“So, the 368 recipients would receive their money through the Bank of St. Vincent and Ministry of national mobilisation bankcard,” Brewster said.
As the government moves in this direction, it would behoove them to ensure that all citizens of the country have reasonable access to SVG banking services, which is currently not the case. Residents of Mayreau, for example, cannot access banking services without a costly and time-consuming journey to Union Island. The burdensome financial and social cost is something that social welfare recipients can least afford. C’mon, folks. Let’s wake up and realize the practical realities of these policies on residents of the Grenadines, not just on residents of the mainland.
Life-time in office guarantee. Lard help us. Such scale of Unproductivity well soon send svg down d drain.
Don’t b surprise if this is a tactic to hide recipients whose only qualification is d color read.
Factories no longer add virtue to economies, is how long u stay in power by what ever means.
Ok Mr., Brewster, then use the same banking system for all Vincentians, so they don’t have to travel to Kingstown to pay bills. SVG is an island of long lines – people waiting in lines for money or to pay water, electric and tax bills. Folks should be able to pay those bill at any and all banks using their account numbers that will show up on the record to prove whose bill it is when the money is transferred to the government’s account.
Transfer payments can also be done via the Internet, so folks don’t have to leave their homes to pay bills. I’d like to transfer payments to VINLEC, the water system and the telephone system, instead of travelling to SVG, or asking or sending money for anybody to pay it for me. The days of Columbus are long gone and it takes only a mouse click to accomplish many of these transactions.
I hope you are listening because what you are proposing is only for those folks who you want to pass tax money to and does not include the majority of Vincentians.
Ah so much people on poor relief? like svg truly in extreme poverty ?
Can’t believe that these people are seeing this as progress sorry thing is the poor people who is the beneficiary will think that this is the best thing to happen to them soon Vincentian won’t want to work for their own bread. That’s what the government is trying to do. Provide a little token for everyone so that they can be in power forever.
This government is so proud to give these numbers for the amount of people that is on poor relief people you all can’t see something is wrong. And they make it look like the money is coming from them vincentians this your own monenies that they take from you as tax gosh man
What a clueless shameless gov’t and the fools can’t discern 5hat something is seriously wrong with this.
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