United Progressive Party Leader Harold Lovell said:
“Well, our position is that the $0.80 is really inadequate. It’s really, really inadequate.
The rate of inflation since the last review until the present time has been something like 20%.
Prices have gone up by over 20% between 2013 and the present time. Now, giving a 10% increase simply means that you are not putting people back even to where they were.
We’re not talking about improving anybody’s standard of living and conditions of life. We are even worse off than we were in 2013.
And that has to be addressed.
But you see, the argument is being framed in a way that leaves out the role that the government has played in popularizing the business community and making it difficult for the business community to survive in a situation like this.
So you hear the argument that the business community is arguing that an increase above the going to lead to job losses and so on.
Now, if we look at the situation as it is now, and we expect it to continue like under the Labor Party, where there is no support for the business sector, then we have a problem.
But what we are saying is this, the government is largely responsible for the condition in which a lot of the businesses find themselves in problems and some have gone out for business.
I keep on saying it, and I make it a point every program to bring it up, the government owes, I know one security company, the one to go on Harriet, $4 million plus.
Now, when you owe a business $4 million plus, that’s just one, and they owe everybody around the country.
So a lot of businesses simply cannot stand on their feet and they’re choking because of the amount of money that this government, in a very wicked way has just allowed to accumulate.
When you look at the revenues for 2022, the amount that is owed to local vendors and suppliers, last year when they produced the accounts in the estimates, it was something like $25 million that was owed. And today it is $163,000,000 that is owed.
So that money is what is keeping a lot of businesses from rising and getting ahead. So when you put the minimum wage [at $0.80], I understand why they would argue. But what we say now, what the country needs is a fresh start.
And we’ve spoken about the first Start initiative. And this First Start Initiative means that early in a UPP term, we will bring everybody together, all the people who are owed, and we are going to work out a plan with each of them.
You see how it is now, the government will owe you money and you don’t hear anything.
You go to the treasury, you try to get paid, and they just tell you not ready yet.
You come back the following week, not ready yet.
We have to put an end to that. Not only is it disrespectful, it does not allow for a recovery of the business sector.
And so we say what we would do is call everybody in if, for example, the government owes a business place $100,000 argument and you can’t pay all one time because we’re being realistic.
But what you do, you set up a schedule and you say, look, we’re going to pay you, let’s say, half now and then the balance, we will pay you over a period of time, and over that period of time, we will pay you interest at a half yearly rate or quarterly rate or whatever rate we agree upon.
But we give you something because that’s money that you’re losing and we’re going to pay you interest on the money in the meantime until we liquidate the full amount.
So that way we’re going to manage the repayment schedule of the funds that are owed to the local business sector because that’s very important.
If we do not fix the problem with the local business sector, we cannot fix the problem with job creation on. It has to be done.
It has to be done whereby we help the business sector to recover. Government is the biggest player in the economy.
Government is the biggest debtor in the economy owing just about every business place in the island.”
LISTEN TO LOVELL HERE:
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