Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves has declared that Vincentians are much better off now than they were prior to the advent of the Unity Labour Party at the helm of government.
This conclusion was made last Thursday, January 12, as Gonsalves closed off the debate on the 2023, $1.45 billion Budget that was presented in Parliament on Monday, January, 9, by Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Camillo Gonsalves.
The Prime Minister said he could affirm as a fact, that “ this country today, and the citizens, are far better off than in 2001 when we came to office.”
Giving what he considers to be some critical indicators of this, Gonsalves recalled that in 2000, before the ULP formed government, the GDP was under EC$1 million.
However, by 2019, before the COVID- 19 pandemic, and the volcanic eruptions in 2021, the GDP (value created from goods and services produced by a country) had risen to $2.33 billion.
Gonsalves explained that it is because Vincentians are better off why the per capita income on an average has increased.
He also pointed out that if the economic situation is to be measured by the purchasing power parity, in relation to other OECS States and Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines is second only to Grenada in this regard.
The two states with the highest purchasing power parity were Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines, with 116% and 107% respectively.
The prime minister said, “using a measure which is more realistic… you see the extent of the improvement of the quality of the earnings of the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines as a whole.”
Additionally, he commented that ,”we are in the high human development category, as measured by the United Nations Development Programme…our real position has been sustained and enhanced.”
In terms of job creation, Gonsalves said, “the people who are actively registered at the NIS, paying contributions, we increased by thirteen thousand.”
He said in 2000, there were 30,385 active employees registered with the NIS, and by the end of 2020, this number had jumped to 43,307.”
The prime minister also pointed out that there are many persons who are self employed, but are not registered with the NIS.
He averages that at present, there are about 52,000 persons who are gainfully employed in SVG.
In this regard, an unemployed person is an able bodied person who is looking for work, but cannot find work.
“Some not looking, and some so frustrated in looking, that they stop looking,” he said.
The prime minister considers the unemployment figures projected by the opposition New Democratic Party, as “just pure rubbish.”
He mentioned salary increases for public servants, increases in the minimum wage and other things, as having enhanced the position of workers in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“You think that the policemen and the civil servants, who in 2007 we increased their salaries…by 7%, through reclassification, they going back to the early days of NDP captivity?
“You think that the workers want to go back to Egyptian captivity?” he questioned, drawing Biblical reference to the people of Israel who were in bondage in Egypt for hundreds of years.
In those days, an officer who just joined the police force got just about $800 per month in salary.
The Prime Minister also spoke about the increase in the money paid out as public assistance, as proof that Vincentians are better off.
He said under the New Democratic Party (NDP) administration, public assistance was just $50 but now, it stands at $300.
Under the ULP, nursing assistants are better trained and are now pensionable, he pointed out.
At present, persons under the age of 30 are able to buy or build their own homes with government’s 100% mortgage, he added.
Gonsalves said in the past “grown men and women were renting up to 50 years old, some of them squeezing up with they mammy and daddy.”
The poverty level once stood at 37%, but by 2009, he said it had been reduced to 30%.
The Prime Minister also noted that indigence has also been reduced from 26%, and is now under 3%.