Dr Ralph Gonsalves
August 19, 2022
Gonsalves rubbishes suggestions made by Opposition Leader to ease cost of living

In dissecting the Opposition leader’s suggestions to the Government to ease cost of living, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has concluded “it’s a pity that I have to take my time to read this kinda garbage.”

“I tell you my opinion of Friday, as somebody who understands fiscal matters, is a number approaching zero,” Gonsalves said at a press conference on Tuesday, referring to Dr Godwin Friday, the President of the New Democratic Party(NDP) and the Leader of the Opposition.

“I want to meet head on some suggestions made by the Leader of the Opposition,” Gonsalves indicated, pulling out a transcribed copy of the NDP president’s speech to the nation that was delivered on August 11.

The Prime Minister said that “a lot” of the speech speaks about the recent Unity Labour Party’s(ULP) convention.

“Apparently the NDP is in a state of apoplexy because they have to face Ralph, they have to face the Comrade, God willing, in 2025 or whenever the next elections are called,” he claimed.

“I could understand why. If I beat you five time in a row, chances are I’ll beat you six. If I a betting man I’ll bet on the man who beat you five times already,” he said.

The Prime Minister then turned to claims about housing. He challenged the NDP to show “one single house that y’all build for any poor person” for the period of time they were in power, and countered that the ULP has built “thousands”.

The first of Friday’s “proposals of folly”, as Gonsalves referred to them, is to reduce the Value Added Tax(VAT) from 16 to 13 per cent.

The Prime Minister posited that every percentage point of this is equal to 12 million dollars, and therefore this proposal would mean a reduction of 36 million dollars on an annualized basis.

The repeal on the Customs Service Charge that the Opposition Leader has suggested will mean eight million for every percentage point, and therefore $16 million, the Prime Minister further submitted.

Friday also said that the support programs to lower income families should be expanded.

“Well he hasn’t mentioned that we are the only Government that ever borrowed money, 13 million dollars from the World Bank, and give people a card. Widen the social safety net in every respect,” Gonsalves argued.

He said that the NDP leader also asked that support be based on need and not political favour.

“We’re not the ones responsible for distributing the stuff, that’s the public servants. So cut the crap out nuh Friday, cut the crap out. Cut it out, just stop the foolishness,” the Prime Minister noted.

To the NDP’s suggestion that there be duty free concessions on minivans, buses and taxis, Gonsalves pointed out that they hadn’t said by how much.

According to the Prime Minister’s calculations, “If you want to do it by 50 per cent across the board that number would be maybe 30 million dollars.”

“I have to borrow money to fix the roads because what we collect for vehicles is not enough to fix the roads, but you still want to give more. What is the matter with these people? You think Vincentians are ignorant,” he said.

There was also a suggestion by the opposition leader to cap the fuel surcharge to stem the increasing St Vincent Electricity Services Ltd (VINLEC) bills.

Gonsalves again argued that Friday did not say by how much, but used numbers given of previous fuel surcharges.

“For every percentage point of the fuel surcharge, on a monthly basis, is $65,000. You multiply that by 44 cents you get 2.86 million,” he said, and “34.3 million annually.”

The Prime Minister concluded that total calculations of the Opposition’s “giveaways” would come up to $120 million.

“For every month I have to find $30 million dollars to pay civil servants, police, teachers, nurses, doctors. So it’s between three to four months’ salary Friday wants to give away and he ain’t tell you how he going mek it up.”

“They have any understanding what Government is? They want to have chaos in the country? Where by their fiscal measures civil servants will not be able to get their salaries,” he posited.