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Gonsalves to SVGTU – I am trying my best

Gonsalves to SVGTU – I am trying my best

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“I am not saying that you don’t deserve it; what I’m saying is that the country can’t afford it… I know I can’t make $25 million.”

This was the response of Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, as he once again addressed the salary increase and one-off compensation demands {{more}}made by the St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union (SVGTU).

Giving remarks at the RSVG Police Force Non- Commissioned Officers’ Conference last Wednesday at the Methodist Church Hall, Gonsalves said: “I assure you that I am trying my best to see what I could do.”

The Prime Minister expressed thanks to the public servants in the country who have, thus far, not been “militant and demanding salary increases, when you know there are difficult situations.

“I want to tell you I appreciate that…”

Gonsalves recalled that the call for compensation initially came to him as a “back of the envelope” proposition, which was “that those above a particular level should get half month, and those below that level should get a month, and it would be good if you could consider it tax-free,” to which he replied: “Put it in writing.”

“The cost is $25 million… that’s the cost of a one-off payment.”

Gonsalves, who is also the Minister of Finance, explained that if $25 million was procured to satisfy the demand, public servants may not be able to get their next salary.

He, however, stated that 60 per cent of public servants have received an increment that amounts to between two and two and a half per cent of their salaries.

“When persons say there’s no increase for the last so many years, that relates to the 40 per cent, maybe 45 per cent, but not to everybody, because there is an increment! You know that and I know that!”

The Prime Minister refuted statements that he doesn’t go through the numbers, insisting that he went through them on every occasion.

“I go through the macro numbers for every category of revenue and expenditure every time!” he asserted.

The Prime Minister pointed out that there are persons who are still without their housing recovery from flooding caused by the trough system of December 2013; and that he finds money for persons to study.

“I bring the officials from the… office of the Director General of Finance and Planning… If you want even more details, set up a meeting with them… go with them and see what areas you think that I could cut or save.”

Additionally, Gonsalves rebutted criticisms he has been receiving for employing both a communications director and a press secretary.

“How can you reasonably tell me in this age of modern information communications that I can’t have a communications director at the Office of the Prime Minister, and I can’t have a press secretary? You just want everybody to ‘murder’ me with words and I don’t have anybody to coordinate any response? Isn’t political communication a function of the political system? Once you accept it… you have to accept those.”

He further noted that even if he was to do away with both those positions, their salaries would amount to a “hill of beans,” in comparison to the $25 million in compensation that the SVGTU is demanding. (AS)

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