The parliamentary opposition, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) yesterday continued its boycott of the National Assembly.
Many had expected that the party would have attended the sitting, in light of the
fact that its members identified for Parliament, together with members of the Government side, had on Wednesday attended a briefing at Parliament Building.
The PPP/C’s attendance of that briefing, according to aspiring Member of Parliament, Charles Ramson Junior, represented the party’s willingness to “take up our seats, to conform to parliamentary norms, rules, procedures, etc.”
He however disclosed yesterday that a decision was made by the party to not attend yesterday’s sitting. “In terms of actually taking up our seats from today (yesterday) it has been decided by our party that it is not going to do it today (yesterday).”
While intimating that the General Secretary of the Party, Clement Rohee, would be the most suitable person to comment on the reason for the continued boycott, Ramson did observe that “when you look at the Order Paper it doesn’t deal with anything of national importance that requires input to the degree that it is absolutely crucial that we attend.”
This issue was not addressed at a PPP press briefing yesterday.
Ramson however, intimated that “our first sitting is probably going to be when the budget is laid…”
His remarks were forthcoming as he, along with yet another would-be parliamentarian for the PPP/C, Gillian Burton, and other party supporters picketed outside the Brickdam, Georgetown, Ministry of Education.
The reason for the picket, Ramson said, was to voice concerns about Government’s decision to stop the $10,000 “Because We Care” cash grant which was afforded to public school children.
According to him, the availability of the grant, which was implemented last year by the PPP/C while in Government, was one that served to help reduce the financial burden of vulnerable families.
“We believe that the $10,000 grant is an important contribution to the most vulnerable people of our society, giving them an opportunity to send their kids to school without having to worry about finding additional money…it was all part of a combination of initiatives which included the uniform grant, school meals for parents who are the least able to afford to send their kids to school,” underscored Ramson.
He went on to slam Government’s “fiscally unsustainable” rationale for halting the programme and also shared his conviction that the ideal approach should have been to continue the programme until the completion of a means test to ascertain who needed the financial support the most.
“Not only was it (the decision to stop the programme) too abrupt, but it was inconsiderate, because you are not caring about the people…while you set up a programme what happens to those people? It is not the doctors and the lawyers and the businessmen that are accessing their programmes, it is the (single) mother who has four kids…”
In light of the fact that “children are the future of our country” Ramson yesterday dared the ruling A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change coalition to “put your money where your mouth is.”
At the time of picketing, Ramson displayed a placard which stated “extravagant living for the big ones – cruel denial of $10,000 for the children.”
In offering an explanation for the slogan, Ramson stressed that “we don’t want a Government that just says we are going to take care of what we can when we can. We want a Government that takes care of the poor.”
He noted too that while it is good to see people living well, “their (Government) lifestyle is extravagant when you compare it to the ones that are very poor…and those are the ones that actually need it (the cash grant)…”
Government had qualified its decision to put a hold on the cash grant initiative in order to facilitate a review of its viability. This was in light of the Government’s claims that there were three critical flaws associated with it, including: a lack of monitoring and evaluation, the fact that it was economically unsustainable and that it pressured the existing human resource capacity.
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