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MP for East Kingstown, Fitz Bramble speaking at the NDP's press conference in Kingstown on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024.
MP for East Kingstown, Fitz Bramble speaking at the NDP’s press conference in Kingstown on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024.
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The Unity Labour Party government has broken many of the promises in its 2013-2025 national development plan and when the minimum wage is increased to EC$50 this year, it would barely keep a family of three above the poverty line.

“This Unity Labour Party government, they have been taking this country for granted,” Opposition lawmaker, MP for East Kingstown, Fitz Bramble further said at a New Democratic Party (NDP) press conference in Kingstown on Wednesday. 

“They have been making promise after promise and they have failed to deliver,” he said, adding that the NDP has launched a tracker of the ULP’s “broken promises” to the Vincentian electorate.

“In fact, just recently in their 2020 manifesto, they have made over 100 promises and almost four years later, they have been unable or unwilling, quite contemptuously, to fulfil even a quarter of that manifesto, …  those 100 promises,” Bramble said.

He said a political party’s manifesto represents its commitment to the people and to guide and develop the country.

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Bramble said the ULP’s failure to keep its promises to the people extend beyond its manifesto to the National Economic and Social Development Plan 2013 to 2025, which was launched in October 2013 and was later tabled in Parliament. 

He said the ULP administration said the first objectives of the plan are to maintain strong macroeconomic fundamentals, increase national wealth and jobs creation.

“Have we increased our national wealth since 2013? I’d leave that answer to be determined by you,” Bramble said.

“It is no secret that the unemployment rate in our country has been the highest ever in the history of this country,” he said, adding that the government has not done a labour market survey in at least five years.

“So, the official statistic of our unemployment rate being about the high 20s to almost 30% could be quite well conservative. Youth unemployment is over 40%. And those are the official statistics,” he said.

He said he believed the government had not done a labour market survey for fear that it would reveal “the true extent of our unemployment rate in this country”.

Bramble said that in the 2013-2025 plan, the government also pledged to reduce poverty in keeping with the Sustainable Development Goals.

He said the last poverty report, which was done 16 years ago, determined that 30% of the population was living in poverty.

In October 2020, the NDP circulated to the media a leaked copy of the 2018 poverty assessment, which shows that between 2008 and 2018, poverty in St. Vincent and the Grenadines had moved from 30.2% to 36.1% of the population.

What’s more, the indigence level had moved from 2.9% to 11.3% in the country of 110,000 people.

Further, 45.4% of the population were at risk of sliding into poverty, down from 48.2% a decade earlier, the only category in which there was favourable movement.

The government then abandoned the poverty assessment, saying that the data was flawed.

$16 per person per day needed in 2008 to stay out of poverty

Bramble said that in 2008, it was determined that a person in SVG needs EC15 or $16, a day to be considered as living above the poverty line.

“What you could have gotten for $15 in 2008, you can’t even get anything close to that in 2024, when you factor in inflation, and other factors,” said Bramble, an economist. 

“So, it is conceivable and reasonable to say that in 2024, our poverty rate is way more than 30% in this country. … And when you factor in the level of unemployment, people who are not working, it is frightening, to say the least; frightening, to say the least.”

The government has announced that minimum wage in SVG will increase to EC$50 per day, or EC$1,000 a month in March.

Bramble, however, said that even with this increase, for a family of three, say a single parent with two children, the new minimum wage “puts you right back into the situation of poverty and extreme poverty.

“This is a very, very serious situation that we really need to hold this government accountable to. And that is why we are launching this broken-promise tracker so that the public, the citizens of St. Vincent and the Grenadines can continue to monitor and hold this government accountable to the broken promises.”

$1.1 billion in good imported, $93 million exported

He said that the government’s economic development plan, re-engineering economic growth, said the goal is to attain a strong and sustainable external trade position.

Bramble, however, said that in 2022, SVG had a trade deficit of over a billion dollars.

“… we spent about $1.1 billion on importing goods into this country. And we only earned $93 million from exporting goods out of this country.

“This is another very serious issue, because it points to several factors,” he said, adding that this means that the country was losing very valuable foreign exchange because most of the goods come from countries with stronger currencies.

“… when your level of export is less than $100 million in an economy which boasts a GDP of over $2 billion, it tells you that there is not much happening in the country in terms of economic activity,” Bramble said.

He said the government has broken even the promises to which it is legally bound in the plan, adding that the country is still waiting on the government to present its export strategy, which was to be implemented by 2015.

The lawmaker said the government had failed to reduce the debt to GDP ratio to 60%.

“Today, 11 years after that promise was made in this National Economic and Social Development Plan, our debt to GDP ratio is 85%.

“… it signals that, again, our level of economic activity is so poor, that we really don’t generate much compared to how much we are borrowing to take this country forward. And a lot of the borrowing is unsustainable.”

Bramble said it is safe to conclude that the government “really has no plan, this ULP government has no plan for the economy” even as Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has accused the NDP of stealing the ULP’s manifesto ideas when the opposition party talks about the four pillars of the economy. 

Bramble said that the NDP stands for “creating an economy where everyone has an opportunity to make a decent living.

“The New Democratic Party stands for an economy that values those who get up early, work hard and make a living,” he said.

“We believe in the New Democratic Party that we have to build an economy where everyone has the opportunity to contribute.”

He said the gap between the haves and the have nots is “a big ongoing concern…

“The gap between the rich and the poor is getting … bigger and bigger, almost by the day.

“And we are going to make sure, the New Democratic Party, that we will make progress on building an economy that delivers for all, we will focus on investing on the four pillars of our economy, … agriculture, tourism, the blue economy and the new economy.    

“… you don’t need to be an economist to understand, given our natural endowment, given our location, given what we have in terms of the knowledge, skills and resilience of our people, what it will take to take our country forward,” Bramble said.

2 replies on “2024 minimum wage barely keeps families above 2008 poverty line — Bramble”

  1. The people love it so. It’s so easier to bribe and FOOL them than is It to convince them. So very sad.

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