Government committed to creating employment opportunities for Vincentians

The Government also remains committed to seeking and creating employment opportunities for Vincentians around the world. As will be explained throughout this Budget debate, scores of Vincentian nurses are about to begin work in the United Kingdom, joining hundreds of their countrymen and women who serve in the British armed forces.

Employment of Vincentians on cruise ships continues to be the source of the second-highest aggregate number of jobs for our nationals after the state sector of the central government and public enterprises. The Ministry of Labour has positioned Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as the leading OECS provider of employees to the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, while also creating opportunities for security and construction personnel across the region.

We remain resolute in our stout defence and advocacy for our local farmers and traffickers who sell Vincentian agricultural products to neighbouring countries.

Small businesses, microenterprises, entrepreneurs and self-employed Vincentians can find ample support for their ambitions in Budget 2020. So too can individuals seeking internships, training, or higher education. If you are a small business seeking financing, the Eastern Caribbean Partial Credit Guarantee Corporation can help. If you are a young entrepreneur, the $2.4 million programme for Promoting Youth Microenterprises (PRYME) can provide you with a cash grant. If you are a farmer or fisher, $1 million in soft loans are available under the Farmers’ Support Revolving Fund.

If your business involves technology, CARCIP grants are on offer. If you seek vocational training or certification, the Ministry of Education, the Zero Hunger Trust Fund, the Skills for Youth Employment (SKYE) and Youth and Adult Training (YATE) programmes stand ready to assist. If you seek to make yourself more marketable through tertiary education, the Government is offering more scholarships and assistance than ever before. If you seek internships or practical job experience, over 700 positions in the SET and YES programmes are on offer this year.

In 2020, the Government kept its 2019 pledge to increase public sector salaries by a further two per cent. Inclusive of a retroactive one per cent increase from July 2018, and a 1.5% raise in January 2019, this year’s two per cent salary hike means that public sector workers start 2020 with a salary 4.5% over the 2018 baseline – not including the usual increments, which, in the aggregate, amount to another two per cent on the salaries of public servants.

2020 marks the third consecutive year that the Government has raised salaries, or lowered taxes, or both. Further, this year, there is a 25% of increase in salaries for a range of non-unionised minor-salaried workers, including part-time workers such as cleaners and janitors. No part-time worker will receive less than $400 monthly. As such, all such workers will earn wages above the minimum hourly rate for casual workers.

Domestic workers, who are overwhelmingly women, are particularly vulnerable and often subject to humiliating working conditions and economic marginalisation. A review is being done of their condition through the Ministry of Labour with the aim of ensuring practical correctives. Meanwhile, this Government urges employers of domestic workers to treat their employees better, cease the unwarranted abuse of these household workers, and make sure that they are registered and paid up at the NIS.

Within the parameters of our fiscal realities and those of our recently published Fiscal Responsibility Framework, we will continue to seek opportunities to improve the conditions of workers. The examples of this commitment are numerous: Today, 237 Government officers are off on study leave. Budget 2020 provides resources to operationalize our recent Occupational Safety and Health Act. Similarly, Budget 2020 allocates resources to the enhancement and retrofitting of office space for a number of departments, increasing the comfort and safety of employees.

This is a Labour Government! Much more remains to be done but we are doing more and more!

Cumulatively, there are unprecedented opportunities available to spur job creation and improve work conditions. We are under no illusions about our continuing serious challenges with unemployment, underemployment and informal sector employment. We will continue to work hard to overcome these challenges. However, the data show that, despite difficulties, it has never been a better time to be a Vincentian worker. Budget 2020 is a manifestation of our continued commitment to improve job prospects for all.