Doubt over payment of salaries, pensions in coming months

By Demion McTair. Updated 10:38 p.m., Wednesday, April 7, 2021, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).

Kingstown, St. Vincent: If the country does not build herd immunity and get back to normal economic activity soon, the government could fall short of the revenue needed to meet its commitments to pensioners and public sector workers.

According to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, speaking on NBC Radio on Wednesday, April 7, “the way things are going, there may well be in one or two months, sometime, if things continue with the straightened economic circumstances, that the government may not have the 30 million dollars every month to pay civil servants and to pay the NIS contributions… and to pay salaries and wages”.

We have held the thing through all kinds of difficulties , bit I’m telling you there’s a real pressure on,” Dr. Gonsalves said.

The prime minister said that government’s revenue collections for January, 2021 fell by 15 million dollars.

He said the government was able to recoup in the February because “there were couple big ailing land holding licenses transactions down in Mustique,” from which the government collected some revenue.

Due to the pandemic, some sectors such as tourism and hospitality were hard hit, with the government having to provide millions in unemployment benefits for hundreds of workers who lost their jobs or lost income due to the closure of hundreds of businesses.

With the advent of Covid-19 vaccines, the government is aiming for at least a 70-percent Covid-19 immunization rate among members of the population to achieve some level of herd immunity.

According to prime minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, once herd immunity is achieved, some level of normalcy can be regained, and it can help to stimulate more economic activity.

The Covid-19 vaccination rate among Vincentians, however, has been slow with just about 11 percent of the population being vaccinated.

In the civil service, which has about 8,000 employees, including daily paid and other non-pensionable workers, the current rates are low.

As of April 3, 2021, some 331 teachers, out of about 1,800 had taken a government-approved Covid-19 vaccine. This represents about 17-percent.

 Some 450 health workers of about 2,000 have so far been vaccinated, a rate of about 22-percent, the highest vaccination rate for all groups.

Overall, nearly 12,000 Covid-19 shots have so far been administered to people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Some members of the public have been questioning the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine amid reports in the international news media surrounding some concerns with the vaccine.

The AstraZeneca is the more readily available of the two government-approved vaccines in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with the Russian Sputnik being the only other alternative.

Local and international health officials have maintained that the vaccines are safe.

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