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The high cost of living is an issue which continues to afflict all sectors of our society. Unfortunately in response to this global phenomenon, our Prime Minister as the captain of our economy has put his hands up and surrendered to the possibility of solutions.
Like a defeated captain he has abandoned ship and told us to all perish under the weight of rising cost of living.
When asked about the possibility of relief from the global inflation problem, the Prime Minister indicated that nothing can be done to curb the current situation of rising living expenses.
In an earlier public showing the Prime Minister outlined the sum total of his economic plan (“eat more green figs”).
This is simply not good enough, frankly unacceptable, and confirms widespread suspicions that this government is without answers to the many issues that you the people of St. Lucia care about.
While the Prime Minister and his cabinet remain clueless about finding solutions to global inflation and its effects on us, many Caribbean leaders are announcing measures to bring relief to their citizens. Our neighboring islands understand how this difficult economic situation is wreaking havoc on our pockets and challenges our very survival.
The United workers party is therefore proposing a six point plan to ease the pain that you the people feel as a result of this volatile time in our country:
1) The United Workers party sounds an urgent call for the government to continue and expand on the Electricity Bill Support Initiative that we carried out at the height of the COVID 19 pandemic as many were without work and income. By reinstating this program and making it available to more vulnerable households, pain will be relieved on many families.
2) Extend a helping hand to our farmers and provide seeds,fertilizer and Animal feed to bolster local livestock and crop production. However production must be complimented by guaranteeing markets for farmers so that there is confidence to go out and produce. It is our firm view that the produce from farmers should be purchased by the government and distributed to vulnerable households.
3) Reduce the VAT rate NOW and add more items to the list of exempt and Zero rated items basket. Conduct the necessary research and implement measures to give the people relief. Relief at the supermarkets, relief at the drugstores, relief at the cooking gas vendor. St. Lucian’s will be reminded that it was a manifesto policy of the United Workers Party to reduce VAT from 12.5% to 10%. A high VAT rate continues to be a major contributor to the rising cost of everyday household commodities. Mr. Prime Minister, Reduce VAT immediately.
Simply putting our hands- up, and saying “nothing can be done” is not an option. We also call on the government to implement these additional three measures immediately to ease the pain immediately:
4) Maintain the current price for a gallon of gasoline fuel at the gas stations. The Government must not allow the price of gas to exceed the current price. This will allow the price of transportation, locally manufactured goods and other related commodities to remain stable.
5) Scrap the recent increases in the 20 LBS and 22LBS cylinder of LPG cooking gas and reinstate the original price. The current increases only add to the burdensome high inflation which continues to pressure many vulnerable households.
6) Make good on the promised $1,500 income support to many small businesses and self employed individuals. These include: vendors, taxi drivers, fishermen, and several others. The former United Workers Party Administration mobilized income support for 11,000 registered workers and 6, 000 additional self employed persons from a wide range of sectors.
This allowed many families to survive at a worst economic time than at present. Therefore, suggestions by the current Prime Minister that nothing can be done to ease the pain on the poor and vulnerable is simply unacceptable.
The road to economic recovery is a long journey that requires help for the vulnerable along the way. As they continue to give incentives to big hotels and other large companies, the government tax relief must also filter down to ordinary consumers. Mr. Prime Minister as celebrated calypsonian Ashanti would say: “ Bring di Prices Down.”