By Demion McTair. Updated 11:11 p.m., Thursday, July 9, 2020, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).
Kingstown, St. Vincent (ONE NEWS SVG) – Former Prime Minister and Founder of the New Democratic Party (NDP), Sir James Mitchell says that the government’s public health response to the COVID-19 situation is being “pretty well handled”, but he criticized the government’s economic response.
He said on the Tuesday, July 7 edition of the OMG Morning Show on BOOM 106.9, that “in terms of making sure we keep track of the people infected and isolating people, and seeing that people are tested etc”, he thinks the situation is being pretty well handled by the government.
“I was fascinated that last week, or week before, I went to Mustique, I got off the ferry like everybody else and all the workers returning to Mustique were tested and I like that, and I wish we could do more of that to make sure the moment you see any problem in any area, go through and test” – Sir James said.
“I was quite happy to go through and be tested along with the other workers to enter Mustique, because Mustique, it values its reputation and we need to value the reputation of St. Vincent and I think we have succeeded in being in the British classification, a country that you could travel to” the former prime minister said.
But, while the government came in for commendation for its public health response to COVID-19, Sir James had a different view on the economic response by the government, saying the government could have prioritized use of public funds by allocating it in areas where it is needed the most.
“One of the most brilliant things the government could have done with all this money they getting from the World Bank and etc and so on is to cut down the price of VINLEC, not giving a sheet of lumber and galvanize. Cut down the price of VINLEC and that will help everybody everywhere,” the former prime minister said.
“Look at the charges that you are given. Stock pile medicine in the hospital, improve the equipment etc. It’s a question, it’s the same what Dr. Friday is talking about: priority in the use of government money. We have got to be sensitive to that,” – he added.
The former prime minister said “Let’s face it, the middle class is having a rough time. Stores closing, businesses closing, where are the young people going to go?”.
On June 22, finance minister, Camillo Gonsalves said data from the National Insurance Services (NIS), indicate that 395 businesses have partially or completely shut down since the 1st of March 2020″.
Gonsalves said that a total of 2,596 Vincentians are currently receiving income support through either the Displacement Supplementary Income or the Unemployment Benefit Program.
The 2,596 represents some 82 percent of the 3,164 claims that have been filed to date, Gonsalves said in Parliament in on June 22.
Some of the other beneficiaries of other stimulus initiatives include minibus operators, contributory and non-contributory pensioners, and persons in the informal sector.