The one-year old government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell is being urged to take measures that are under its control to cushion the economic pain of Grenadians through the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) that was introduced earlier this year.
Political Leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Senator Nazim Burke believes that government must be prepared to freeze certain things just as how public workers are being asked to take a wage freeze for the next three years.
The proposed wage freeze which is yet to be agreed upon by public sector unions is one of the austerity measures under the SAP that is to run until 2016.
Government has already lowered the income tax rate to $3000 a month, and is in the process of doubling the rate charges for property taxes.
“The solution to our problem does not lie in simply increasing taxation rates … on the population. They have had enough to carry already,’’ Sen. Burke said.
Sen. Burke who was a guest on the weekly NDC “Heartbeat Program” said any goods or services for which government has control it must agree to freeze the price during the same period it is asking the workers to have their salaries frozen.
Sen. Burke said government must also agree that there will be no new increases in existing taxes, levies, user fees during the three-year period of the SAP.
He also said the goods that are currently exempt and zero rated under the Value Added Tax (VAT) should remain just as they are.
He felt that too much is been asked of workers all at once and that there are some basic things the government must do if it is to win the confidence of the general public and to get Grenadians to accept the SAP which it is undertaking at this time.
Sen. Burke who is a former Minister of Finance noted that very little details are being diverge about what Grenadians will face under the SAP and called on government to explain what are the expected outcome of the programme.
He said it is also extremely important that government give a commitment to its employees that they will keep they jobs, and will not be sent home to be replaced by the Imani Trainees.
The new NDC Political Leader challenged the Mitchell administration and in particular the government ministers to lead by example in the call for shared sacrifices by the people.
He said the government ministers must agree to take a freeze in their salaries as well.
“You cannot be asking workers to take a freeze and to sign on to a freeze in their salaries, and at the same time you are increasing your salaries by 6%. Roll back that increase you gave yourself in the budget if you are asking the workers to take the freeze,’’ he remarked.
The NDC political leader once again made a passionate plea for pensioners not to be taxed.
He indicated that many of these people have to use their pension money which is the only source of revenue to purchase medication.
The NDC Political Leader was critical of the decision taken by government to roll back the concessions given to the Grenada Electricity Services Limited (GRENLEC) on the importation of oil and lubricants, and other supplies for its operations.
He felt that taking away the concessions from the lone power company will leave the company with no choice but to pass on the extra costs to consumers.
The former Finance Minister also quoted figures coming from Prime Minister Mitchell himself which indicated that 52.6% of the young people are unemployed, 32% of the workforce generally are unemployed, and 37.7 % of the population are living in poverty.
In addition, Sen. Burke warned that people’s expectations should not be raised falsely.
He said the NDC which lost the general elections last year had devised a plan for the development of the country which focused on the short, medium, and long term.
Congress is currently not represented in the elected House of Parliament due to its failure to win any of the 15 seats in the February 2013 general elections.