Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
A statement by Progressive Virgin Islands Movement’s (PVIM) District Five candidate, Wade Smith, about the use of district allocations has resulted in heavy criticisms by candidates of the National Democratic Party (NDP), who have referred to the PVIM as “out of touch.”
On February 19, during a rally at Purcell Estate, Mr. Smith said that the district allocations of $125,000 to each District Representative have over the last 24 years only benefitted select individuals and families, and that the monies should benefit the entire Territory.
According to Mr. Smith, “Each representative has received approximately $125,000 annually, totaling $1.625 million combined for our representatives,” monies that he said are at their disposal.
“Maybe it is time to reevaluate the district allocations and redistribute those funds to the Government Departments that require it to carry out their functions, specifically Social Development, who has the expertise to assess the social needs of our residents,” he suggested.
The suggestion has sparked vexation in the National Democratic Party (NDP) camp, who lambasted the PVIM for being “out of touch,” especially as it relates to the purpose of the district allocations and the needs of the community.
During a rally last night, February 20 on Hope Hill, NDP At-Large candidate, Mrs. Sandy Harrigan-Underhill pointed out that indeed the funds are used for select individuals and families—however, it is used for the vulnerable and less fortunate members and families within the districts.
“District allocations help persons to buy medication. District allocations help people who cannot afford to buy food, put food on the table. District allocations help people who cannot afford to pay their light bill and their phone bills and their water bills to pay their bills,” she stated passionately.
She continued, “District allocations help families who are struggling with special needs, who have an extra economic struggle or challenge. It helps them to survive daily.”
“It shows you how out of touch our opponents are. It’s unfortunate that some of them are rather privileged so they have no idea what the common man feels or what he needs. And these are things that we need to be concerned about. These are things that matter to us,” the candidate stated.
She conceded that some attention needs to be paid to the spending of the allocations, however, not in the way that the PVIM candidate is suggesting.
“I am not saying that it doesn’t need tightening up and the spending doesn’t need accountability, but getting rid of district allocations? How out of touch are you?” she questioned.
As she closed her remarks on the issue, she urged voters to take these issues into consideration, telling them not to vote for personalities, but to instead, “Vote your conscience, vote for country.”
Meanwhile, NDP Chairman, Hon. Myron Walwyn, who has served as an At-Large Representative over the past eight years, sought to clarify district allocations.
“Each District Representative gets $125,000 a year. The At-Large members get $150,000 per year. That money is designed to help to take care of your district, to take care of the people in your district. It is not designed, or the purpose for it not is not for capital expenditure, because there is separate money for that,” he stated.
“That $125,000, most of us, including myself, I use that money and I give it to the less fortunate people in the community,” he divulged.
The aspiring Premier disclosed that often time, persons are so dependent on the assistance that they—the representatives—receive gentle reminders from the beneficiaries when the funds are late to arrive.
“If you do not get down between the community, you would not know that there are little pockets of poverty in this country…Even as we build the country, there are some people who have a difficulty getting by,” he lamented.
The district allocations, he stressed, plays an important role in helping the people who have difficulties making ends meet.
“You cannot build a community and leave your most vulnerable people behind,” he emphasised.
Reflecting on the PVIM candidate’s utterances, he said, “I am indeed very troubled. You have to elect people who love people. But the PVM team is saying when they get to office, they ae going to discontinue that money that we give to help the seniors. Those are a bunch of people who are totally out of touch with what is happening in the country.”
Speaking to the voters, he reminded of the society’s vulnerable, and less fortunate, declaring, “A vote for the PVM is a vote against them.”