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Budget debate postponed in St Vincent

Budget debate postponed in St Vincent
Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves. (GP)

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KINGSTOWN, St Vincent – Parliament has suspended until Friday, the debate on the EC$1.3 billion (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) budget after Health Minister, St Clair “Jimmy” Prince, became the eighth government legislator to test positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves, who presented the fiscal package on Monday, is among those who have also tested positive for the virus and with Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves himself awaiting the results of a PCR test, he was forced to suspend the debate.

Earlier, the opposition legislators had called for the suspension of the debate for five days because of the COVID-19 cases, but Prime Minister Gonsalves rejected the proposal, citing the need for the budget to be passed as soon as possible, even though over the past two years, the budget was approved in the month of February.

Gonsalves announced the latest round of COVID infections within his administration after the Parliament had resumed following the two hour luncheon break.

Opposition Leader Godwin Friday delivered his response to the budget Wednesday morning, and opposition lawmakers did not return to the chamber after lunch.

Three opposition lawmakers, who are either unvaccinated or have not disclosed their vaccination status, were ordered, on Wednesday, to isolate for five days, having been present in the Chamber on Monday, when the Finance Minister delivered the budget.

The government has said that all of its MPs are vaccinated against the virus that has killed 85 people and infected 6 562 others since March 2020.

Opposition legislator, St Clair Leacock, said that the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Simone Keizer-Beache had ordered PCR tests for everyone who was in the Assembly Chamber.

“What happened is that after the Parliament resumed at 5:30 p.m. (local time)  he (Prime Minister Gonsalves) said that in the luncheon break, Jimmy Prince, who had tested negative this morning, out of an abundance of caution, went back and had a PCR test done.

“And the government fast forwarded the PCR process … which confirmed that Jimmy Prince was now positive,” Leacock said, adding that “as a consequences, the chief medical officer is now advising all members who were in Parliament this morning when Jimmy Prince was present should now take PCR tests before our resumption”. (CMC)