Stimulus package must meet the needs for COVID-19 – Dr Friday
The New Democratic Party (NDP) is hoping to address the specific financial measures the government has proposed and make additional recommendations when Parliament meets next Tuesday, April 7.
In a radio address to the nation Wednesday night, Leader of the Opposition Dr Godwin Friday said that any economic stimulus package outlined by the government must meet the needs of the COVID-19 crisis.
He said that the situation requires a comprehensive and detailed assessment of our present circumstances, including our shortcomings to meet the growing demands of the pandemic.
“For example, I believe that self-employed persons who have lost their incomes must be also be given financial support.
“Many people in the informal sector will also need income assistance and must be considered likewise,” Friday said.
He added that one measure that can provide relief to all persons would be to reduce the cost of electricity by 25 per cent for a specific period.
“I have recommended to the government that the stimulus package designed specifically for COVID-19 relief be placed under oversight of a select committee of Parliament. This will inspire confidence that the funds would reach those most affected by the crisis and it will signal to external donors that suitable measures are in place to ensure accountability. I hope this recommendation is adopted,” the opposition leader said.
He added that the economic plight needs constant monitoring and adjustment of relief measures from time to time and while our first concern must be to protect life and health, we also have to look after the financial and material needs of our people and help them to manage for some time.
“With the travel industry now at a standstill, our tourism sector has suffered a severe blow and it may get worse. This means difficult times are ahead for those who earn their living directly or indirectly from tourism.”
The president of the New Democratic Party said that governments in CARICOM and other parts of the world, have put in place various economic stimulus packages to help people employed in the tourism sector and other severely impacted groups.
“Those who are directly affected financially by loss of jobs or businesses need assurance from government that they will receive financial assistance.
“Banks and other financial institutions here and elsewhere in the currency union have offered relief through deferred loan payments and waiver of fees for six months.
“Those who wish to use these provisions should be enabled to do so. Financial institutions and the government should make the necessary information available to them,” said the parliamentary representative for the Northern Grenadines.
The government has announced several measures being taken by local financial institutions to help persons, but the opposition leader believes it is not enough to merely announce the measures, but systems should be in place to help people who need them to have access to them.
Friday also noted that he is impressed to hear from the government that the National Insurance Services (NIS) will play a role by providing unemployment benefits.