Opposition leader Philip J. Pierre says the Saint Lucia government has been caught with its pants down and completely unprepared for the challenges of a post Covid-19 era.
“To this day we have not established adequate protocols for the reopening of our borders and continue to be under an unnecessary state of Emergency,” he told the House of Assembly while responding to this week’s budget presentation by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) leader asserted that the State of Emergency is destroying the businesses of restaurants which rely on late evening footfall traffic.
“And as if this was not enough punishment on hard working Saint Lucians, they are about to impose punitive taxes on the self-employed like mechanics and charcoal makers attempting to make a living in the most challenging times,” Pierre lamented.
“Saint Lucia, like many other Caribbean countries have been spared the worst of the health crisis, with no deaths and a relatively low level of infection rate. In that regard, we have been fortunate in the region,” Pierre told the house.
He again expressed thanks and appreciation to all health workers and first responders who are working diligently during these difficult times.
At the same time, the SLP leader explained that a government of his party would have ensured that the required resources are available, particularly personal protective equipment, especially as the country begins reopening its borders to countries which have had higher levels of infection rates.
He stated that the budget should have dealt with the realities of Saint Lucia’s position post COVID-19 and should have been designed to ease the hardship on the single mothers, the unemployed, the small business owners, the vendors, the taxi drivers and minibus drivers.
Pierre observed that the IMF made available to the government of Saint Lucia $76M for income support, health related initiatives and improving livelihoods.
He explained that a labour administration would not have re-purposed funds from the Climate Adaptation fund but instead take advantage of the IMF interest fee loan to provide $15M worth of assistance to Small and Medium Size Enterprises.
“An SLP government would make available $5M of assistance to vendors and other micro business so that they would be able to feed their families during this time of low economic activity. These vendors could be identified by their payments of vending fees to town and village councils,” Pierre stated.
“An SLP government would understand the contribution made by health care workers, nurses, doctors, first responders with a bonus of $1.2M as an expression of gratitude for their services,” the opposition leader told the house.
He also asserted that an SLP government would support our creative industry and media workers who are unemployed because of the closure of hotel and other places of entertainment by giving a grant of $3M.
He said that an SLP government would prepare the country for the proposed re-opening of the borders by obtaining temperature testing equipment and Rapid COVID testing apparatus, and proposed an initial amount of $5M.
Pierre also said that the small hotel and ancillary hotel sector should receive a grant of $10M, while the minibus sector would be assisted with fuel vouchers valued at $3M, with fishers being issued with fuel vouchers valued at $3M.
In addition, the SLP leader gave details of relief assistance to the most vulnerable, disabled and needy, as well as those who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19.