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PM says economy in good shape

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He made a list, checked it twice; and Dr Ralph Gonsalves has determined that the Opposition’s concerns about the economy are unfounded, and simply not nice.{{more}}

As he gave the closing statement to signal the end of the 2008 budget debate, Dr Gonsalves described the presentations made by the opposition as “dispirited”, “the worse in parliamentary history”, suggesting that even the New Democratic Party’s supporters are “alarmed at their incompetence.”

He then went on to show how the NDP’s questions about the true state of the economy were in his mind, unfounded and ill-informed. He listed what he considered to be key indicators that suggested that the economy is sailing in calm waters, with a clear vision of where it is going, and how it intends to get there.

One such indicator he identified was the growing list of active employees registered on the National Insurance Services (NIS), which has jumped from 28,526 in 2000 to 37,000 in 2006.

“In the seven years since we have been in office, we have increased the number of active employees on the NIS by 8474,” he said.

This must be added, he suggested, to the number of bus drivers, domestic workers, fishermen, and construction workers, who may not have signed up with the NIS.

Regarding the business sector, he noted that the number of active employers have also increased by over 400 between the years 2000 and 2006, according to NIS records.

Another sign of this economic stability, Dr Gonsalves pointed out, is the increasing number of vehicles that have crowded the country’s streets. Numbers indicate that during the government’s time in office, the number has increased to approximately 22,000, from just about 7,000.

There has also been a sharp increase in the number of active cell phones on the market, with about 100,000, an enormous increase from the 4,000 that were in service in 2001.

According to Dr Gonsalves, the significant increases in the number of mobile phones and vehicles on the road show that people have much more money at their disposal.

“The simple fact is this, that the Opposition, including the leader of the Opposition, has no answer to this most creative budget. So the Leader of the Opposition found himself all at sea,” Dr Gonsalves jabbed at one stage of his presentation.

Continuing his list of economic stability and growth indicators, Dr Gonsalves noted that the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as a proportion of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has steadily increased.

In 2000 the FDI was 11.3 per cent of GDP, while in 2004 it was 16 per cent and in 2006, 22 per cent.

This, he says, must be considered on the back drop of the fact that the GDP has increased from about 950 million to approximately 1.5 billion over the same period of time, putting more value to the percentage increase.

Dr Gonsalves also pointed to the buzz of excitement in Kingstown, saying that a lot of shopping was taking place, even before public servants received their December pay packet, which would include the retroactive reclassification monies, and Christmas bonus payment.

Regarding the public debt, which was again the centre piece of the Opposition Leader’s budget presentation, Dr Gonsalves tried to put it into the perspective of the OECS. It shows St Vincent and the Grenadines as having the lowest debt to GDP ratio amongst the member countries.

St Kitts leads the list with a debt to GDP ratio of 177.97 percent, which drew many whistles of alarm in the strangers’ gallery when Dr Gonsalves quoted the figure. Grenada was next with 111.3 per cent, followed by Dominica at 111.17 and Antigua and Barbuda at 108.93 per cent.

St Lucia at 71.36 per cent is next, with St Vincent and the Grenadines showing the best rating of 66 per cent as of December this year.

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