TWO contrasting stories in today’s Tribune show how people living in the same country can be worlds apart.
On one hand, we have the delays in implementation of social services support for those in the greatest need.
In today’s Tribune Business section, Fidelity Bank chief executive Gowon Bowe has warned that the government should “naturally expect the criticism” after a delay in launching its RISE programme.
The goal of the programme was to help out those most in need after the government changed its approach to VAT.
On coming into office, the government reduced VAT across the board to ten percent – but removed the exemption on breadbasket items.
The idea was suggested that increased social services support would help to cushion the impact of the tax changes for breadbasket items – literally people’s daily bread.
But the programme has not been launched yet – with Minister of Social Services Obie Wilchcombe saying at the end of last month that the launch was still two months away.
Two months might not sound long in government, but it’s a long time for those trying to put food on their table day in, day out.
As Mr Bowe says in today’s story: “When VAT was reintroduced on a broader base, really the persons that needed those benefits have effectively been penalised for the better part of nine months because the cost of items went up for them, but the needed assistance has not been implemented.
“Maybe they could have been forgiven for a month, maybe a quarter, but now it’s three quarters - you cannot dismiss the cries of people in need.”
We did say two stories, however. The other shoe to drop is the rocketing travel expenditure for our flyaway government leaders.
The government’s travel spending went over its Budget allocation by 11.1 percent.
The Ministry of Finance’s report for the full 2021-22 fiscal year revealed travel spending and subsistence payments went up by more than two-thirds year-on-year.
Now, granted, the previous year saw continuing limits on travel because of COVID restrictions – but that doesn’t explain why the government has bust its own Budget estimations.
It doesn’t look good, however, especially when contrasted with the lack of financial support for those at the sharp end.
Is this a government for all? Or a government far distant from those on the breadline and in need of help?
Now, of course, there will be lots of political noise around such a situation – but the solution is simple. Deliver the help that was promised – and get on with it.
People will rightly be angry if they are left waiting on government help while watching their parliamentary representatives jetting off around the world.
No one made the government change its tax structure – that was this administration’s idea. It should have been prepared for it, in all facets, and at all levels of society.
Leaving those who are struggling the most to find a way to get by while the government busies itself setting up a programme is unconscionable. If the safety net wasn’t in place, why did the government make the change instead of waiting?
More importantly, how much longer must people wait for the government to give the support it pledged?
People need help, and the clock is ticking.