Opposition Leader Jamale Pringle has chastised the Government for abusing the food-distribution programme by asking recipients to present their Voter Identification Cards. He made the accusations during Thursday’s debate on the Social Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
Yesterday, March 25, Pringle told the Lower House that many residents are suffering, especially those who have lost jobs as a result of the pandemic.
However, the Government is making it onerous for them to access much-needed assistance, since many persons are turned off by the political approach, he says.
Pringle adds that his constituents – the people of All Saints East and St. Luke – are among those suffering; however, it has been more than a year since the Government has offered assistance by way of food vouchers.
The Opposition Leader says the Administration should stop using the programme as a political tool.
He says that residents are not comfortable with the manner in which the programme is being run.
Health Minister Molwyn Joseph and Social Transformation Minister Dean Jonas both denied the allegations made by Pringle, with Jonas claiming that Pringle refused to take part in the distribution exercise when asked.
Jonas says the Permanent Secretary in his Ministry explained that the identification presented by persons accepting the food vouchers is for proper checks and balances to be done.
In an apparent attempt at justification, Jonas also displayed a photograph of the United Progressive Party’s Welfare Officer, Gladys Potter, distributing food vouchers, and referred to it as treating.
Asking whether other members of the society had benefited from the voucher programme – or only supporters of the UPP – Jonas said Pringle’s accusations were hypocritical.
In response, Pringle recalled the island-wide floods of last November in which many families were displaced and lost household items. He says affected persons in his constituency have not received proper assistance up to now.
Meanwhile, Barbuda MP Trevor Walker corroborated Pringle’s accusations, saying that – even over on the sister island – he had heard of the political maipulation of the food vouchers.
REAL News reported on this issue in February, when several St. George residents lodged the complaint – with photos – that the assistance program was being politicized.