(CIBS) By Ashford Peters) – The government said recently that since 2014 it has raised $33 million in disaster contingency fund from added one percent VAT and tax levy on cell phone services but many have asked where is the money.
With St Vincent and the Grenadines having confirmed its first case of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 11th, 2020, and which as at Tuesday stood at seven cases, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves had been proposing intra-regional travel in an attempt to benefit from the tourist dollar trickling down.
The Prime Minister’s proposal, however, amounted to naught as hotels across the country became empty or very close to empty.
Despite numerous calls by the leadership of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) and others to close the borders so as to minimize the risk of the virus being imported, the Prime Minister left the borders open.
Calls were made for a state of emergency and curfew to be imposed but Prime Minister ignored those calls. What he said in response to various calls, even the call to close the school, pointed to the state of the economy and people’s financial position.
On the calls to close the borders at the time Trinidad and Tobago closed theirs, Dr Gonsalves said that twin-island Republic did not have tourism as a major contributor to its economy. He said that country could close its borders early because it has a war chest kind of reserve because of oil.
On the matter of closing schools earlier than the one week ahead of the Easter vacation, the government highlighted the issue where over 7,000 students were on school feeding programme. The question was raised as to whether it was expected that those meals would be delivered by package to the individual homes.
Responding to the proposed imposing state of emergency, Dr Gonsalves said last Friday: “Some people want me to lock down St Vincent and the Grenadines right now. Now, that situation may arise. Now, I want to say this to you and I want it to sink in. Maybe the journalists here and Ralph and Simone and Luke, we might have food in our fridges or in our cupboards to last us for three, four days, maybe. But a lot of people in this country has food in their fridges or in their cupboards for one or two days.
“They also have to work every day – somebody who’s cutting somebody’s yard. They cut yours today, mine tomorrow; they work day by day to make a dollar to feed themselves and their family. United States of America can give everybody one thousand dollars, you know. I can’t do that.
So that is one issue which I want people to bear in mind.”
There are over 6,000 persons on the country’s public assistance programme, popularly called “poor relief.”