KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace is not buying Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves’ statement that the disconnection of government telephones last week because of non-payment had nothing to do with the government’s ability to meet is financial obligations.
“Whether the Prime Minister wants to admit it or not, that’s a matter for him. They don’t have enough money to make the payments,” Eustace said on radio late Tuesday night.
Eustace recounted his Feb. 14, 2010 statement that the Unity Labour Party government, because of its mismanagement of the nation’s financial resources, would come to the point where government telephones would be disconnected.
Eustace said that the government has not paid the wages or monies owed to a number of government workers and institution and private sector entities “because the government does not have the money”.
He said that the EC$101 million deficit in this year’s budget was a red flag for difficult economic times this year.
“And we knew and we spoke about it, that we were going to have these problems of payments during the course of the year and that is what is happening. Let’s not fool ourselves with it. We are not collecting enough revenue to pay those expenditure,” said Eustace a former prime minister and minister of finance.
He said that even where the government is trying to say that the EC$101 million shortfall will come from other receipts, those sources of financing do not generate that much money. As a consequence, Eustace said, the government would, from time to time, be unable to pay certain bills
“And that is what is happening with those telephones. The money is not there to pay the full amount that is due,” he said.
According to Gonsalves, the disconnection of government telephone by telecommunications provider LIME for 24-hours last week resulted from public servants not paying enough attention to the timely payment of the government’s telephone bills.
“I want to say emphatically this is not about a shortage or absence of resources to pay any telephone bills. I want to put that on the marker,” Gonsalves, who is also the Finance Minister, said at a press briefing.
And while he said that the state owes LIME EC$1.1 million rather than the EC$2.6 million the company claims, Gonsalves’ statement that the government pays about EC$300,000 for telephone each month suggests that some bills have not been paid for at least three months.