By Demion McTair. Updated 11:11 a.m., Wednesday April 29, 2020, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).
Kingstown, St. Vincent (ONE NEWS SVG) – Minister of Finance in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Camillo Gonsalves said the government does “not see the necessity” of salary cuts at this time.
Speaking at a press conference, the minister acknowledged the fiscal situation happening in other regional countries which have been taking measures regarding salaries of public sector workers, due to dwindling revenues as the Covid-19 pandemic prevails.
But, he said that based on projections, the government is not planning to cut salaries at this time.
Responding to a Journalist’s question about how long St. Vincent and the Grenadines will be able to sustain salary payments, the finance minister said: “We have a salary bill about $30 million dollars a month that the government pays to public sector workers. You will have heard that conversations have began in other jurisdictions in our region about various forms of salary adjustment”.
“Some people are talking salary cuts, some people are talking layoffs, some people are talking well we give you a part of your money as cash now, and we’ll give you a part as a bond that you can cash in a year’s time or in two-year’s time. We don’t believe at this point that any of that is necessary in the context of St. Vincent and the Grenadines” – he added.
The Minister said: “we’ve have done some projections and we don’t see at this time the necessity of that type of action. We think that there are enough levers that we have to pull, enough pots of emergency resources available still, including at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank that we think we will be able to access to ride out the storm”.
“It’s difficult to answer the question how many more months can you continue because like this, will not be like this in a month’s time or two months time… We are hoping that this thing is bottoming out and that there would be a gradual re-opening of economies and a gradual increase in economic activity, but we don’t have a projection any time now for making any imposition of that sort on our civil servants”.
The minister said, however, that the occurrence of natural disaster could change things.
“The reason I couch it in that sort of language is because we are entering the hurricane season and the big variable is a weather event that could push us further back, God forbid . So. failing that type of activity, a hurricane or something, a natural disaster, I think we’ll be able to get through this pandemic without resorting to those sorts of activities. But, there’s a wild card and that wild card is climate change and so I make provision….” the fiance minister said.
The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines recently passed a Stimulus package which the minister said is roughly about 4 percent the country’s GDP.
The measure is expected to provide some defense from the economic fallout the Covid-19 pandemic is causing.
The finance minister said, however that contraction in the economy is expected, with bleak projections for the already hard-hit tourism industry.
“This is going to be a bleak year for arrivals in St. Vincent” – the minister said.
As it relates to ongoing infrastructure projects, he said some of them have stalled, while others have reduced in pace and number of employees.
Delay of 6-months on the works on some capital projects is projected due to the inability of on-site engineers, he said.
“We had predicted one of the most robust capital works program in our budget. We have to scale back that” – the minister added.
One News SVG will update more.