The recently elected opposition Member of Parliament for the St John’s Rural West constituency is re-iterating similar sentiments shared by his colleagues that the 2023 budget presentation is lacking improvements for the lives of ordinary citizens of Antigua and Barbuda.
Richard Lewis, in his maiden speech in parliament on Thursday, said the speech, presented by Prime Minister Gaston Browne spoke glowingly about economic growth in the country.
However, low-income earners are not experiencing that reality.
“If we are honest with ourselves, we will say that the poor and vulnerable are not feeling the growth that we are talking about. We have too many people in Antigua and Barbuda who are living from hand to mouth
“We all have a responsibility that these people get a hand up so that their lives can be better,” Lewis said during his contribution to the budget debate.
He went on to indicate that to better cater to the needs of the poor and vulnerable the government should look to increase the amount, people living below the poverty line can access, through the different social programs.
This includes the programs administered by the Board of Guardians and the Peoples Benefit Programme.
Lewis claimed that the latter program assists people earning less that ECD $800.
Those who quality received around ECD$250.00 per month.
The newly minted MP said this is woefully inadequate for families who may be struggling to make ends meet.
“I think it is time for us to revisit this and to look at raising it to at least ECD $1500 which is the minimum wage, so we peg it to minimum wage. There are lots of people who are out there suffering. They might be earning collectively in the household but are still finding it difficult,” Richards said.
“We have to look at those who need assistance, he stressed.
Similar sentiments were also shared on Thursday by opposition Leader Jamale Pringle who called for improvements to the way business is conducted in Antigua and Barbuda.