After four years in office, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Timothy Harris has failed to keep his promise that the $500 to PAP recipients will be accessed by debit cards.
Cheques were issued on Saturday, February 2, from the Inland Revenue Department when banks were closed.
Last December 24, 2018 when eligible persons lined up in Independence Square – a former slave market – those who received checks after 12 noon could not cash them until December 27, as banks closed at 12 noon.
At the ceremony, Prime Minister Harris and other ministers who spoke promised that the persons would receive debit cards to access the January 2019 payment.
No payment was made by the end of January. However on February 1, 2019, Dr. Harris’ government issued a statement informing persons that the checks can be collected at the Inland Revenue Department on Saturday 2, February 2019.
“Beneficiaries are further asked to provide their banking information such as the name of the banks and bank account number in order to facilitate the timely disbursement of benefits for the month of February,” said the statement.
Asking beneficiaries on Saturday to provide banking information runs counter to earlier statements by Dr. Harris that all the relevant information was obtained earlier.
Dr. Harris first informed the country that payments would be made via voucher. It later changed to a debit card to be issued by the St. Kitts-based Caribbean Credit Card Corporation (4Cs) at Bladens Development.
“A debit card payment system that can only be used with approved vendors is scheduled to go into effect at the end of January or early February according to Prime Minister and Minister of Sustainable Development, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris,” said a press release issued on November 22, 2018 by the Press Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister.
According to reliable information, the Government intended to make the first payment in September 2018 as part of the 35th Anniversary of Independence. It was later pushed back to October and then November, but these deadlines were not met.
In an October 12, 2018, Harris’ PLP issued a statement that “Dr. Harris has announced that pay outs of the highly anticipated $500 monthly support through Team Unity Administration’s Poverty Alleviation Programme will begin next month, November.”
“My expectation is that by next month (November) we should be able to start the actual pay out to those who are qualified,” said Dr Harris.
“We have completed the collection of data and the relevant people at the Statistics Department and Social Development are doing the necessary verifications,” Dr. Harris is further quoted in his PLP statement.
“The Prime Minister advised that the view given to him was that before the end of this month, October, his administration will be able to come back to say that of all the thousands of persons who have applied, that a particular number would have satisfied the criteria that was established. The Administration would as result, come the month of November, begin to pay persons as promised the $500 monthly top up,” the PLP statement further quoted Dr. Harris.