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PM’s call for lower interest rates hypocritical – Dr Friday

PM’s call for lower interest rates hypocritical – Dr Friday

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An opposition legislator has described as “hypocritical”, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves’ recent call for a commercial bank operating here to reduce its interest rate here as it had done in St Lucia.{{more}}

The Gonsalves government wasted an opportunity to give the Vincentian economy a boost when it bought US$2 million in building supplies from a Jamaican firm, rather than from local merchants, Northern Grenadines representative Dr Godwin Friday said.

Friday also said the EC$5 million the Gonsalves government allowed Grenada to access from a sub-regional fund, could have been used to pay increases owed to Vincentian public servants, thereby revving up the sputtering local economy.

CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank this month announced reduced interest rates in St Lucia, as part of the Dr Kenny Anthony government-led “Construction Stimulus Programme”.

The 18-month initiative, implemented in conjunction with the private sector, offers St Lucians what their government says is “a once in a lifetime opportunity to build or renovate for commercial or residential purposes at concessionary rates” until February 2014.

Under the programme, St Lucians are offered reductions in the price of building materials, removal of stamp duty, improved access to land, access to low-cost financing, and reduction in legal fees.

Gonsalves said earlier this month that FirstCaribbean should offer in Kingstown the same interest rate as in Castries.

The bank announced last week interest rates of 5.99 per cent for customers building homes for the first time.

The rate is fixed for three years, for new construction or construction already in progress.

Gonsalves applauded the initiative, saying interest rates in the region, particularly within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, have been too high.

But Friday criticised Gonsalves’ statement on the bank’s offer to St Lucians.

“… it’s kinda hypocritical on the part of the prime minister to say ‘You guys do it, but I have some tools I could have used myself, but I am not using it’,” said Friday, a vice-president of the New Democratic Party.

He said Gonsalves rather “take the money and put it in the hands of [Grenadian] civil servants to stimulate their economy than for us to do it here”.

The prime minister “rather go and buy something in Jamaica for a little less, perhaps, than … buy it here from the manufacturers here where the money can circulate…” Friday further said.

“These are things you do to stimulate our economy,” the opposition legislator said.

Friday said the Vincentian economy has “reached a crisis point” after four years of economic decline.

The government, citing the East Caribbean Central Bank, has said that the economy grew last year after three years of economic decline.

But the opposition said the International Monetary Fund said there was a fourth straight year of no growth.

“What has the government said that they are doing about the economy?” Friday said.

“The only person talking about the economy day after day is [Opposition Leader] Arnhim Eustace. And that is the most critical problem this country has,” he added. (kentonchance@searchlight.vc)

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