IMF official shuts down opposition critics of PEP programme

Basseterre, St. Kitts (CUOPM) – The Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) is giving thumbs up to the home-grown St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Government’s People’s Empowerment Programme (PEP).

Dwyer Astaphan
Dwyer Astaphan

The endorsement of the PEP programme by the IMF flies in the face of the programme’s local critics – Dwyer Astaphan, Silvene Henry and Vernon Harris – all political activists affiliated to the opposition grouping led by Dr. Timothy Harris and whose criticism points clearly at politiking..

Deputy Director, Western Hemisphere Department Adrienne Cheasty has stated categorically that the IMF does not see the government-supported People’s Empowerment Program (PEP) as a temporary employment measure, but rather as a long term investment to strengthen the labour force in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Cheasty, responding to a question from WINN FM about the measures taken by the Labour Government of Prime Minister the Right Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas said the PEP programme is a permanent investment that has strengthened the labour force and reduce employment in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Silvene Henry
Silvene Henry

“I don’t think measures taken by the (St. Kitts and Nevis) government to address the unemployment challenge were short term and unsustainable.  I believe he’s talking about training programmes, and these are permanent investments even if they finish, because you strengthen the labour force…in general it’s been impressive the turnaround in St. Kitts, and the improvement in the finances and in growth is a strong supporter for reducing unemployment,” she told WINNFM at a press conference in Washington attended by several reporters from around the world.

The IMF reported that the St. Kitts and Nevis economy grew by 1.7 percent in 2013 and is projected to grow between 2.5 and 3.5 percent in 2014.

There was a 10.2 percent growth in employment during the first half of 2013.

The PEP funded by the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) is considered a major part of that growth and has been criticized by Opposition politicians and the politically aligned pundits as an election ploy by Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas.

The critics also do not see the programme as sustainable. However the Prime Minister has assured that the PEP is not closing down and has noted that efforts are being made to make it a permanent programme.

Vernon Harris
Vernon Harris

Despite the 10.2 percent growth in employment, Sylvine Henry told WINNFM that the PEP programme is not growing the economy and is unsustainable, so says retired Government Statistician turned Social Commentator Sylvine Henry.

Following Prime Minister Denzil Douglas’ defense of the Peoples Empowerment Programme last week Tuesday, Operation Rescue’s Dwyer Astaphan, who is also an activist for the PLP, took aim at PEP on his own radio programme.

The former government minister says temporary work for the unemployed is not good enough.

WINNFM describing Vernon Harris as an avowed critic of the prime minister, reports Harris as saying that he does not see the latest IMF report translated into productive areas.

He also questioned whether there was any real increase in employment, in agriculture or in fisheries.

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