Douglas: Too many persons not benefitting from the stimulus package; No payroll support, no grants for small businesses

Basseterre, St Kitts, April 29, 2020 – Former St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister the Right Hon Dr Denzil Douglas is disappointed by the response of the Timothy Harris-led administration to the economic impact of COVID-19 on the people.

Dr Douglas told listeners to his weekly radio programme “Ask the Leader” on Tuesday night that too many people are not receiving the relief they need.

“The commitment of EC$15 million made by the St Christopher and Nevis Social Security to its registered contributors does not go far enough. We are hearing that many persons who have had their social security payments deducted have not been into social security fund and are being denied access to the funds. Something must be done and they must not be the losers and they must be included,” said Dr Douglas, who pointed out that from a recent statement by Dr Harris only 1,000 persons have received assistance thus far up up to EC$1,000 per month which is nowhere near what is necessary to bring meaningful assistance to the thousands of people who have been displaced and forced out of work by this crisis.

“Many persons have not received the full amount that they expected. Many have applied and have been denied for reasons that are unclear. $1,000 is not enough to meet the needs of our people when they are not earning any income whatsoever,” said Dr Douglas.

The former prime minister and minister of finance noted that only 4,000 persons have received $500 under the Povery Alleviation Programme (PAP.)

“From inception, the Prime Minister has always indicated that the PAP was reaching some 4,000 persons. What about the new applications from those who have been thrown into the breadline after being impoverished b this crisis? What of these new people, when Harris has said that he has put an additional $5 million into the PAP specifically for them? If the PAP has received an additional $5 million, then an additional 3,000 persons in addition to the 4,000 persons should be receiving this assistance for at least the next three months,” said Dr Douglas.

He further noted that it does not make sense to say that $5 million that has been put in the PAP as part of the COVID-19 stimulus response if the very same 4,000 persons will be getting the new injection of $5 million.

He said this was disturbing when you consider that prior to this crisis the disbursement of the PAP was fraught with corruption and discrimination by the Prime Minister’s own admission that he had to close down the programme and start all over again.

Dr Douglas noted that the periods of lockdown is having a severe impact on non-essential businesses and very little has been done to assist.

“No payroll support, no grants or interest-free loans to help to tide them over. The only assistance the government has announced is a reduction of the unincorporated tax from four to two percent and corporated business tax from 33 to 25 percent, which are taxes on gross and on profit. Everything that they have announced is a “pay later programme” which does not bring any relief to people to give them a chance to survive and speedily get back on their feet after this crisis passes,” Dr Douglas reiterated.