Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has advised overseas based sympathizers who want to support friends and relatives in the ongoing La Soufriere explosive eruptions to make use of the locally available money transfer services as they attempt to reach out in solidarity, instead of possibly inundating the local customs with individual care packages.
“Do not send little individual packages and so on, it creates a lot of problems at the Port at the moment. What you do, you’re overseas [and] you want to help people? Send the money through Western Union … and we’re going to urge Western Union to keep … operating their services – well all [of] the money services because you’d have your ID card with you in the shelter….” Dr. Gonsalves said.
He further exhorted the Vincentian Diaspora “to work in groups,” a movement he said was already underway in New York City. This cooperative approach, PM Gonsalves posited, would provide the necessary “volume” that would “make things easier for us.”
The Vincentian Prime Minister expanded on his proffered counsel while responding to a listener’s query regarding the possible the continuation of his Cabinet’s duty free concessions on imported barrels and packages policy. The initiative was re-introduced in May last year as one measure meant to help cushion the COVID-19 economic fallout. It should have expired on August 31, 2020 and was restricted to three pieces per household.
He said, “concessions continue but I am urging people, ‘do this thing in a coordinated manner where you’re coming from: in New York or Miami or wherever.’ You don’t want, at this time, where we are having lots of vessels coming with lots of stuff to unload to be dealing with a multiplicity of small quantities with other things.”
He further highlighted Dominica’s experience following a particularly devastating disaster as one rationale behind his advice.
“You’d remember a vessel from Trinidad [carried] a lot of individual packages [from] enthusiastic Dominicans and so on and other Trinidadians; they were waiting for about a week in the harbor in Roseau before they could actually be cleared.
“Some of the stuff even spoilt. Because – look there are systems and we have to work the systems and your good intentions, we appreciate and your help.
“But from a management stand point – disaster management – we have to make sure we are efficient at the port. It’s as simple as that in terms of what we are moving.”
Even as Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves shared this advice early Monday morning, scores of Vincentians gathered outside two branches of the local Moneygram and Western Union agents. Others have reported using locally developed fin-tech applications Squeeze Cash and PaySwif to digitally manage their local and international money transfer needs using only their mobile phones.