Gov’t brings constituency fund through back door – Leacock

(iWitness News): Central Kingstown representative St. Clair Leacock says the Unity Labour Party administration is implementing his much-touted constituency Development Fund concept, despite their expressed opposition.

Leacock has suggested that such a fund be set up to finance small projects in constituencies, saying that their execution could help with unemployment, while facilitating infrastructural development.

“Mr. Minister of Finance, it’s not my prerogative to be in the business of the Unity Labour Party but we have to be striving for efficiency and effectiveness,” Leacock said in the Budget Debate.

He said that Opposition leader Godwin Friday had asked him to examine the budgetary provisions for the Ministry of Urban Development.

Leacock said this is an important ministry, “largely because it deals with infrastructure and construction, construction being one of our greatest drivers of job creation in our economy; nobody can fault that.”

“When I looked at page 501 in the Budget and I saw and heard the honourable minister speaking about local government, I put my hand over my mouth and then moved it over my head and bawled.

“Because I want to know if this is the same government that says not over their dead body they would ever subscribe to the notion of a constituency development [fund]. But here it is,” Leacock said.

He said that the fiscal package speaks to establishing “local government services to cover the entire country by establishing four new offices at Sandy Bay, Stubbs, Fountain and Questelles.”

“And now he wants to go on to bring some of them to Canouan and other places,” Leacock said.

He said that the ministry’s summary by programme “stole the cake.”

This is a ministry that recurrent budget is $12 million. But of the 12 million, 6 million is a grant to the Argyle International Airport. So you have a ministry with a $6 million recurrent budget with forty employees, less people than a staff nurse is responsible for, or the superintendent of prisons, or the Fire Department or the Coast Guard; transmission, distribution, generation — several departments, hundreds in St. Vincent and the Grenadines run departments in excess of those numbers and they don’t need a permanent secretary and all of this paraphernalia,” Leacock said.

“This ministry could have been amalgamated with others because when you go and look at the capital side of the programme, page 736, first of all, we established Argyle International Airport as a stand-alone entity, but through the backdoor, central government is still funding it…

“You would have thought that they’d begin to do some of those dynamics for themselves,” he said of the airport, which began operating four years ago this Sunday.

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