To ease the squeeze

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It was quite a press conference mounted by the United Progressive Party (UPP) yesterday morning, and once again, the party of ideas and initiatives to move Antiguans and Barbudans forward, did not fail to deliver. Seems, while the incumbency is mired in internecine wrangling [See MP Asot Michael’s latest court victory over the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP)], and totally bereft of anything of substance, the UPP is on a roll. The momentum is with the UPP, while the ABLP is a spent force. They have NOTHING to offer.

The UPP is ready, indeed, has been ready for the bell to sound, and for the election to be called. The frustrated citizens of this fair State are quite eager for the polls to open so that we can finally cast our ballots to rid ourselves of the millstone about our necks. With the legion of broken promises, the half-truths and lies, the ugly and distasteful ‘cussin’ and maligning of those with whom they disagree, it is manifest that the political dialogue has been coarsened. What a low-down, dirty shame! Mercifully, we have had enough of that cheap, unstatesmanlike politics, and we will take steps to rid ourselves of that sort.

Anyway, coming on the heels of the conclusion to its hugely successful Small Business Pull-up initiative, the aforementioned UPP’s press conference saw a timely call for the government to step up and do right by the people. Said the political leader in his opening remarks, “We are here to place on the table recommendations for relief, recovery and shared prosperity. We say that where there is a ‘you’, there is a ‘way.’ So let us work together to fix the jobs, the water, and the cost of living.” Indeed! These are three of the most vexing areas in our precipitous decline as a nation. Not to mention the horrible roads, the unfinished bridges and culverts, the lack of proper street lighting, the failure to fix the LIAT problem, and the ongoing impasse with public servants and their remuneration.  Ask the Clarevue workers. Ask the Fiennes workers. Ask the contractors. They’ll all tell you of the straightened conditions under which they are working, and the penury in which they find themselves. It is not a pretty picture, and Antiguans and Barbudans are ready for an easement To date, only a handful of the chosen few, those in high places, are experiencing any prosperity. The rest of us? Well, crappo smoke our pipes.

Mr Lovell cited the many occasions in recent times when He of a High Place boasted about monies that were to become available from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the US$200 million bond, and so on and so forth, and Lovell called on His Highness to, in light of the improved access to funds, “immediately extend the (Antigua Barbuda Sales Tax) ABST relief to four consecutive weekends.”  It is a welcome call to struggling Antiguans and Barbudans. How could a government that is supposedly on a sounder financial footing be so very stingy with the ABST relief for 2022 – one measly week-end for Christmas? Talk about a lump of coal in our stockings. Sigh!

Another welcome call by the UPP was for this ‘poor-boast’ Administration to reduce the current unconscionable price of gasoline ($15.54) by $3.04 to its pre-Russia/Ukraine war level of $12.50. The people are bawlin for relief, and this ‘deaf, blind and dumb’ Administration continues to see and hear no evil in its “failure to provide any relief or any stimulus to the people of this nation, at a time when we are witnessing the low prices of crude on the world market.” A similar call was made for a reduction in the cost of diesel.  How can this Administration not see the incongruence in falling crude prices on the world market, and continued sky-high prices at the local pump? Help us, Lawd!

On the question of remuneration for government workers, the UPP Political Leader declared, “The government workers have been crying out since 2018 for a salary increase and for back pay, which is due to them. We challenge the Labour Party government to match the 17% increase given under the UPP Administration during our time in office. And we roundly condemn the paltry offer of a total of 7% offered by the government to public servants. This represents a mere 2% on the interim increase of 5%, which was granted in 2018.” Hmmmm!This is a heartless Administration that will make-up story to suit its agenda, even as it jerks around the workers.  Its spin on the ‘protracted negotiating process’ ought not to be believed.

Actually, the UPP is suggesting that, “the government immediately pay the back pay, which is due, and which is not dependent on the negotiating process.” The UPP is also calling on this Administration, which has a nasty habit of welching on its debts, to pay “Vendors and service providers at least 50% of what is owed to them.” And let us not forget Carnival entertainers and winners. Last we heard, they too were bawlin for their money. Chupz!

Of course, the festering LIAT impasses continues, and the former workers, over four hundred of them, bawl. So too, the Caribbean Airport Services (CAS) workers, over sixty of them. They are crying for upwards of EC$2 million in severance owed to them. The political leader is urging the Administration to make these folks whole. Come up with a workable plan, and dialogue with them and their representatives in good faith.Not cuss them off, andmake offers that they supposedly can’t refuse.This is not Don Corleone! At least, the government should not be making like La Cosa Nostra, giving workers ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ ultimatums.

In so many areas where Antiguans and Barbudans are feeling the squeeze, the UPP is calling on the Administration to do right by us.  It cannot be that those in high places are doing well, while everybody else is catching hell. . . . The UPP press conference struck the right notes.  [To be continued]

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