January 12, 2007
PM blames opposition for the nation’s debt

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves took a snipe at the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) on Sunday, January 14, 2007, blaming them for contributing hugely to the country’s billion-dollar debt. But as the nation digests the discussion which spanned four hours, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace has put Vincentians on guard that come next Tuesday they will be getting a comprehensive response from his party.

Sunday’s discussion with the Prime Minister, via a radio programme broadcast live on WeFM, the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) and HitzFm, drew national interest throughout the country. It was moderated by Cecil Ryan, Philbert ‘Pee’ John and Marlon Stevenson.{{more}}

Discussing the country’s overall debt Prime Minister Gonsalves said he wanted to put at bay “foolish things talked about the debt”.

The Prime Minister accused the Opposition Leader of lying about the true figure of the country’s debt that was left when the NDP vacated office in 2001. Dr Gonsalves told Vincentians that Eustace claims the debt stood at $502 million when in essence the debt was $640.67 million.

According to the Prime Minister the debt now stands at $1.062 billion but warned against addressing the debt purely on an arithmetical basis. He said when dealing with this debt partly incurred by the NDP an overall economic strategy must be put in place, as well as a fiscal approach which would facilitate development at the same time remaining prudent.

He charged that while the (NDP) is seeking to imprison in a colonial economy, the Unity Labor Party (ULP) is seeking to build a modern post colonial economy which is national and regional.

When contacted on the issue, Eustace said that efforts to give a full response to the Prime Minister’s discussion were hampered this week due to interruption of the electricity supply on Wednesday. He said on Tuesday, January 16, when the response is made at a press conference, equipment will be put in place to facilitate calls from the public.

On the other hand, Dr Gonsalves blamed the NDP for taking the country’s debt to $640 million. He said you minus this from $1.062 billion one would only get $400 million, which should be the true debt of the ULP to date.

Dr Gonsalves said the debt for St.Vincent and the Grenadines skyrocketed to $608.45 million in 1999, “the largest jump in the history of this country that is when the government of St.Vincent and the Grenadines acquired the Ottley Hall debt under Mr. Eustace’s watch”.”

He said at that point the debt of GDP began to expand beyond the benchmark.

“The particular benchmark which is now being set is that we will seek over the medium term which is a 20 year period to see if we can bring it down,” said Dr.Gonsalves.

The Prime Minister said that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is satisfied that St.Vincent and the Grenadines has a debt management strategy which once followed, the country will be fine. He noted that the IMF is asking that the government prioritize its capital projects and monitor its recurrent expenditure.