Board of Guardians beneficiaries longing to see a cheque, while Port fees expected to be hiked soon

Beneficiaries of the Board of Guardians are lamenting the fact that they have not received their stipend for four months now.  

Several of them, elderly and impoverished, tell REAL News that January was the last time they received a cheque from the agency, and, at that time,  four months were being covered.

However,, they say, they were  contacted last week and invited to the office, where they were issued with four food vouchers, each valued at $50.  

The senior citizens claim they were told to “hold that until Government get some money and can start to pay again.”

While they are not ungrateful for the vouchers, they point out that they have needs other than food – in particular, medication that is not provided by the Medical Benefits Scheme.  Hence, their need for cash is real and urgent, they say.

Meanwhile, the manager of a service-oriented business is reporting to REAL News that the company’s customs broker has told her to prepare to pay more at the Port.

According to the manager, the broker says the Cabinet is considering the imposition of duty on quite a number of items that the United Progressive Party had deemed exempt.  

Hence, he reportedly told her to “brace yourself,” since the cost of clearing goods is expected to go up soon.

Twice recently, Finance Minister Gaston Browne hinted at an increase in taxes.  During the 2023 Budget Presentation, Browne noted that Antigua and Barbuda’s tax regime was lower than its neighbours and implied that this needed to be “corrected.”

Then, two weeks ago, in his Labour Day address, he warned public-sector workers that any unreasonable demands for salary increases would mean either retrenchment or an increase in taxes to compensate for the increase in Government’s expenditure.

It is clear that the Administration is feeling more than a financial pinch – making the allegation of increased Port fees quite credible.

The latest evidence of the cash crunch is the non-collection or late collection of garbage by the National Solid Waste Management Authority.  In some communities, household waste has not been picked up in three weeks.

Accordingly,  the size of the Government delegation to the recent coronation of the British monarchs – reportedly 22 persons – was highly criticized in some quarters as being “wasteful,” “poor boast” and a “joyride.”