New Democratic Party’s Senator Israel Bruce voiced concerns during the 2020 Budget Debates relating to the financing of some government policies particularly the mandates delegated to the Ministry of National Mobilization, Social Development, Family, Gender Affairs, Persons with Disabilities and Youth.

Although he expressed his delight at reading of some proposed initiatives the lack, in some cases, or the insufficient provision of, in other cases, necessary resources to execute those plans was the central theme of his 45 minutes presentation. Bruce, in his characteristic courtroom style, sought to dismantle the government’s claim that Budget 2020 was people centred.

Amongst the underfunded initiatives that he claimed to have noticed in the Ministry’s portfolio was the possibly defunct Community Development Unit – from which he said community based organisations, such as one to which he belonged in his formative years, benefitted greatly.
He noted that “one of the key programme strategic activities for 2020 as proposed under Community Development & Co-operatives” was the Ministry’s objective “to facilitate educational sessions of group dynamics to benefit 12 community based organisations by June 2020.” Bruce then said “I don’t know, having looked at the budgetary allocations for the particular line items in the Ministry, that I am seeing an adequate allocation that would allow the Ministry to properly and effectively deliver all of which it says it hopes to deliver.”


He noted that “one of the key programme strategic activities for 2020 as proposed under Community Development & Co-operatives” was the Ministry’s objective “to facilitate educational sessions of group dynamics to benefit 12 community based organisations by June 2020.” Bruce then said “I don’t know, having looked at the budgetary allocations for the particular line items in the Ministry, that I am seeing an adequate allocation that would allow the Ministry to properly and effectively deliver all of which it says it hopes to deliver.”

The South Central Windward Member of Parliament hopeful then turned his attention to the Ministry’s year old (at least) promise to resurrect the National Youth Council. Bruce pointed out what appeared to be a grant that was set aside to help with that resurrection. This year, he claimed, it does not appear as if those monies were dispersed so they have again been re-deployed as another subvention of the same amount.

“So there’s an allocation of $3600 in 2019 but by way of the reporting mechanism there’s nothing to suggest that anything was done with regards to the revitalization of the NYC and I notice that for 2020 the same amount of $3600 has been allocated again.”

Bruce claimed to having not seen “in the policy document of the government any framework whatsoever to bring into reality the revitalization of the National Youth Council in St. Vincent & the Grenadines.” He further suggested that the Gonsalves led government is again trying to hoodwink the nation’s youth with claims of having their interests at heart. He named Education Minister St. Clair Prince and National Mobilization Ministry’s Fredrick Stephenson, as past members of the NYC in an effort to underpin the Council’s importance as an integral partner in youth development.

He named Education Minister St. Clair Prince and National Mobilization Ministry’s Fredrick Stephenson, as past members of the NYC in an effort to underpin the Council’s importance as an integral partner in youth development.

Senator Bruce skirted House rules to name several Vincentians across the mainland who have “benefited from this organisation” to further cement his point. “If we are serious about the revitalization of that organisation I ask the Honourable Minister to ensure that the necessary framework – and if you have to ask for more resources to be allocated, ask! Because I don’t see the resource allocation nor the framework to allow to achieve what I consider to be a noble objective as established by the Ministry.”

The Senator then pondered aloud whether the government thinks about communities like his hometown Lauders when they meet to decide how and where tax dollars are spent. This he raised in support of his plea to the respective authorities to pay attention to the facilities where communities across the country gather from time to time. “Right in my community of Lauders, Mr Speaker, if you were to look at what now passes for a community centre, Mr Speaker, you would embarrassed… It is in an absolute state of dilapidation.” The lawman, naming several other locations across the country also said, “in Largo Height, Mr Speaker, the community centre or facility there is in such a rundown state Mr. Speaker. That facility used to be used for registration for identification cards.

It is in such a poor state now Mr Speaker… that they have to use the police station to assist with the registration for identification cards.”
The lawman, naming several other locations across the country also said, “in Largo Height, Mr Speaker, the community centre or facility there is in such a rundown state Mr. Speaker. That facility used to be used for registration for identification cards.

It is in such a poor state now Mr Speaker… that they have to use the police station to assist with the registration for identification cards.”

In the wake of what some describe as being a spike in gender based violence occurring here, the NDP Senator also called out the Ministry, which is under South Windward’s MP Fredrick Stephenson’s stewardship, on its approach to the issue. He highlighted the apparent lack of urgency in establishing “victim support groups,” for women in the main, across the country.

“The timeline that is identified for this particular strategic intervention – I say Mr Speaker time is not on our hand and Dec 2020 as the timeline to establish victim support groups sends a wrong message to our women who are victims of violent attacks,” the Senator said.

He warned that to wait so long to implement that “strategic intervention” could mean “many more women may fall victim to violent activities or violent attacks” before the support group is established to serve at risk women.

Bruce further proposed immediate inter-ministerial teamwork to fast track a ‘concept to completion’ discussion that would in turn enable conflict resolution training to be provided as part of local schools’ curriculum. This training, he posits, should start as early as kindergarten if possible. “We [must] find ways of communicating to our children that every time you have a conflict that it must not be resolved in a violent and attacking way… I am saying that we need an intervention here and now and not wait until December 2020.”

This training, he posits, should start as early as kindergarten if possible. “We [must] find ways of communicating to our children that every time you have a conflict that it must not be resolved in a violent and attacking way… I am saying that we need an intervention here and now and not wait until December 2020.”

And families with disabled relatives are supposedly in a quandary as per their source of much needed assistance. This Senator Bruce alleges as he claimed to not be “seeing that level of seriousness either from a programmatic standpoint or from a financial allocation standpoint. I am seeing nothing that suggests that you are serious about dealing with people with disabilities.”

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