By Shermain Bique-Charles
The Leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP) has officially delivered his party’s proposal for a stimulus and relief package to the Office of the Prime Minister.
The package, according to Harold Lovell, outlined several measures to address the current crisis in Antigua and Barbuda, caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The proposal covers a period of six months with a review at the end of the fifth month.
A monthly $500 income subsidy for six months, for landlords with tenants who lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic is just one of the many proposals suggested by the UPP.
The party also wants unemployed tenants to be protected from eviction during the stimulus period.
“A letter from former employers would be required to ensure that only those legitimately entitled to this relief will benefit. Payment of a monthly stipend of $500 for displaced service sector workers, including LIAT and hotel workers, for six months,” the proposal suggested.
It also put forward an immediate injection of $20 million into the Social Security Scheme to put a stop to the late payments to pensioners as part of the package, which the UPP said “would be in addition to the regular contributions of approximately $2.3 million monthly from Central Government and $1.2 million monthly due from statutory corporations”.
The main opposition party is also proposing that the government continue the fuel subsidy for buses and taxis and immediately reduce fuel prices at the pump to $11.00 per gallon for gasoline and $10.80 for diesel.
And where children and education are concerned, the UPP wants the government to partner with the private sector to share the burden to provide free internet in homes of children and teachers to facilitate remote learning.
The provision of laptops for teachers and students in primary and secondary schools, subscription for online supplemental education to help those who would have fallen behind, because of the disruption in in-person schooling, counselling/therapy for teachers and students and frontline workers, and to create at least 50 digital hotspots in communities around Antigua and Barbuda, were also some of the suggestions to help students and teachers during the pandemic.
Cutting all work permit fees in half to ensure that those workers who are currently unemployed but must still maintain their work permits are in a better position to renew such permits, was also proposed.
“Immediately amending the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Code so that work permits will be applicable to position or job title and not to the employer, so a person would not have to apply for a new work permit incurring a new fee if he/she changes employer,” was also another suggestion.
The UPP estimated that this programme will cost the Treasury 2.5% of GDP, which they said is significantly below the norm.
Some of the suggestions outlined in the UPP stimulus and relief package have already been implemented by the state to include the extension of the Dollar Barrel Initiative, the granting of duty-free concessions on all Covid-19 related items, and negotiating with financial institutions.