It appears there’s heightened interest in these things, judging by the reaction to our first publication. Before we continue here, let’s make a slight correction to the previous publication. The amount listed to be granted from the Office of the Prime Minister to the NBC is not $180,000 as previously stated. It is instead $575,000. SVG Broadcasting gets EC $120,000. Garifuna Community Radio gets EC$8,000. While at it, SVG Community college gets EC$15.5 million. These are listed as grants.
Another thing: while you focus on the salary of the Elections Supervisor, perhaps a bigger focus and more scrutiny should be applied to the relationship between that office and the Ministry of National Security that is catering to its financial affairs. Considering the recent judgment against the government, where the judge reminded you that constitutionally INDEPENDENT institutions like the Public and Police Service Commissions are NOT supposed to take direction from any minister, maybe your duty is to ensure that there is absolutely no bridge between the Ministry of National Security and the Electoral Office, other than the financials. The office of the Supervisor of Elections, like the commissions, should always be independent.
Also, for those who might want to suggest that the salary listed in this year’s Estimates was an error, you must know that it is consistent with the 2022 estimates.
In any case, we continue:
We stated last time that your total national debt is about EC$2.1 billion, but did you know that the debt to GDP is 83.7%? What this means is that if the country makes $10, more than $8 must go towards paying for loans. You get to keep the remaining one dollar and change. If the country makes $100, $83.70 will go towards paying loans. You get to keep $16.30. It means you probably have to keep borrowing to keep your head above water. Perhaps you should be glad though. At the end of 2021, it was 97.9%. Perhaps the Petrocaribe debt forgiveness contributed to this reduction in GDP ratio. Petrocaribe debt was EC$109.5 million.
Anyhow, did you know that you are still paying down on a loan from the Caribbean Development Bank for hurricane Lenny? “Lefthand Lenny” was in 1999. You have an outstanding amount of $416,914. Some among us often speak about not wanting to leave debt for children and grandchildren to pay; or they may speak about mortgaging the future of the next generation. This is a clear example of what that could mean. The amounts that are currently being accumulated in loans, since you’ve been asleep, may have to be repaid by your children and grandchildren, like how you are still paying for this Lenny loan and others that might have been before it.
For example, you also still have over EC$16 million outstanding that you borrowed to support LIAT. The new port project is nearly EC$70 million. You owe EC$20 million for UWI open campus development. In all, you owe the Caribbean Development Bank in excess of EC$414 million. Since you are still paying for hurricane Lenny, perhaps your grandchildren will finish these.
To the World Bank, you still owe on a loan for Hurricane Tomas. That’s over EC$10 million. All in all, you owe the World Bank EC$587.5 million.
Last time, we spoke about the overdraft amount that the Kingstown Town Board has at the Bank of SVG. Did you know that the Post Office has an even larger amount of EC$1.3 million at 10.5% interest? There’s another amount in overdraft attached to the Accountant General in the amount of EC$68 million, at 8% interest. If you didn’t know, overdraft usually attract higher interest rates. While we’re on the Post Office, did you know that 79,726 MoneyGram transactions were received in 2021 at the Post Office? That’s the number of transactions; not dollar amount. 6,614 were sent.
Did you know that 450 new applications were made for Public Assistance in 2022, through the end of September? In total, 4,800 people are on Public Assistance. 2,812 are persons 65 and older. 850 students received support for uniforms, meals and transportation in that same time.
We touched on the Office of the Prime Minister last time, but did you also know that the office is expected to collect EC$15.2 million in alien land holding license fees? It also expects EC$2.5 million in permits (residential and work) and citizenship fees. Also, we mentioned last time that EC$700,000 is catered for international travel by the Office of the Prime Minister, but did you know that there’s EC$164,250 catered for local travel? By comparison, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has EC$230,000 for international, and EC$227,736 for local.
We mentioned the outstanding amount of EC$35.4 million owing to the NIS, but did you know it used to be higher? At the end of 2021, you owed EC$50.8 million to the NIS.
We counted at least nine boards, like the Firearms License Board. Did you know there is a Private Investigator and Security Guard board? The Public Assistance Board gets EC$108,000 in allowances for this year. The Accreditation Board gets EC$42,000.
As we stated previously, written words are sometimes used to hide things. The Estimates document is over 850 pages, but you the taxpayers ought to be more familiar with your affairs. It is your responsibility to know. The financial responsibility of the country is your responsibility. The government is just managing it.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].