Kingstown – Opposition Leader Godwin Friday appealed to the government of St Vincent & the Grenadines to pay urgent attention to the “cost of living crisis”, especially as school is about to open.
Friday said some people do now know where to turn to get what they need especially with the reopening of school around the corner.
He urged Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and his administration to “do more to assist people to cope with the rising costs of everyday goods – food, clothing, building materials – so that they can see the light at the end of the tunnel; that they have some hope”.
“This is such a serious matter for people now,” Friday said during his weekly programme on NICE Radio. “Every day, I see people who are finding it so difficult. The circumstances are grave in their homes because you can’t put nothing on the table for your children.”
In a national address last month, Friday outlined the opposition New Democratic Party’s proposal to help people cope with the rising cost of living.
But Gonsalves rubbished his suggestions, saying that the country did not have the money to cover the ideas put forward and noted the assistance already being given to residents.
But Friday said: “When people lose hope, all kinds of things suffer as a consequence, and we have … to have a sense that there’s a plan for us to go forward.”
The Opposition Leader said while people were struggling to make ends meet, the government was announcing appointments and talking about money to fund projects.
“How is this going to make life better for the people in the country?” he said. “How are they going to alleviate the current hardship that people are feeling with respect to their grocery bills, electricity bills, cooking gas bills – the ordinary things that people do from day to day and they’re finding it now beyond their reach?
“When that is beyond their reach, then it means that our country, our society is going backward, we’re going in the wrong direction.”
Friday said that SVG residents get the lowest wages and pay the highest taxes among the nations of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and the country also has the highest youth unemployment.
“And yet you have a situation where there are jobs being created and projects,” Friday said. “Foreign workers are getting jobs that really ought to be going to our local people.”
The Opposition Leader said that he had expressed concern about foreigners employed on the construction of the Beaches Resort at Buccament Bay.
Although Friday acknowledged the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the April 2021 eruption of La Soufriere volcano, he said there was “a lot of assistance that was provided that should have been delivered already to the people who have been affected, so that they can then start living, pick up their lives again”.
“Spend the money so that the people can benefit from it, and that they can continue with their productive lives,” he said. “While they are on hold, they are suffering as a family, but the economy overall suffers as well.”
Friday said the government could assist people if it managed its finances in such a way that it has a surplus.