PEP is not closing, emphasises Prime Minister Douglas: Chides the Opposition

Basseterre, St. Kitts (April 10, 2014) — Project Manager of the People Employment Programme (PEP) Mr Geoffrey Hanley has hailed Prime Minister the Rt Hon Dr Denzil Douglas’ reassurance to the public that the programme is not closing.

Speaking Tuesday April 8 on his live radio broadcast hosted by Press Secretary Mr Erasmus Williams on the national ZIZ Broadcasting Radio and relayed by other radio stations in the Federation, Prime Minister Douglas criticised the opposition for spreading rumours about the programme which was launched in December 2012.

“When the opposition is unable to say something complimentary about anything that the government is doing, it simply seeks to propagandise, create falsehoods and bring wrong impressions to the people to undermine their confidence in the government,” said Dr Douglas.

The Prime Minister was responding to the programme’s first caller, a lady, who after congratulating him on his 25 years as a parliamentarian, stated: “I am calling to ask you a question. I am hearing from the general public that the PEP programme is closing. Do you have any word on that?”

In reply, the Prime Minister said: “I want to thank our first caller asking about whether there is any truth in the rumour that the PEP programme is closing, and I answer with a very strong voice that the PEP programme is not closing.”

He explained that the People Employment Programme was one of the programmes that the government introduced with the support of the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) in 2012. Another programme provided support for first time home owners who needed to have some collateral support, which they may not have had in seeking support from the banks for mortgages and the SIDF provided that.

Small hotels that needed to be refurbished were provided support in the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis, while agricultural farmers were supported as the country’s economy advanced from what had been subsistence agriculture over the years to commercial agriculture which is sustainable.

“One of the important programmes that they also supported the government on was how can we provide some support for the large hundreds of young people who we did not want to continue in a life of drift and antisocial behaviour,” observed the Prime Minister.

“How can we get them gainfully employed; how can we teach them new skills; how can we help to create and sustain the creativities that they had within them; how can we do these things? And so the SIDF came up with the People Employment Programme with the assistance of the government.”

As the programme continues to train people in new skills and matching other with the various employers, the Prime Minister however cautioned those persons who are abusing the programme by not working while they continue to receive their paycheques on a weekly basis.

“These things must come to an end,” advised Dr Douglas. “Those who are attempting to abuse the PEP, yes they naturally will be removed from the PEP.

“If you want to learn a new skill, if you want to take up a new career path while you would have been laid off from one job and you want to go into another job, the PEP is the place for you to go to, to learn that new skill and assist you in your new career path.

“I just want to say to this caller, the PEP continues.”

Project Manager Mr Geoffrey Hanley in a direct response to the Prime Minister’s concern on those persons who are abusing the programme said that members of his staff at the PEP Secretariat in Heritage House, Dorset, and in the Nevis office have been working diligently to eradicate those irregularities to ensure that PEP carries out its mandate in an open manner.

“We would have in the past spoken of those we term as ‘double dippers’ who come to the PEP and collect weekly paycheques while they are employed elsewhere,” said Mr Hanley. “We have taken a tough stand on such persons as the programme aims at assisting those with real needs.”

He too criticised the opposition which has been saying that the wages paid by the PEP were too low and he wondered what was better, them earning the minimum wage while training either in classrooms and on the jobs through the PEP, or being without a salary at all and doing nothing at home.

“Our politicians need to come out better and tell the many people who have responded to PEP’s calling what they have to offer them when they incite them saying that the salary is too low,” said Mr Hanley. “It was heart warming for me on Wednesday April 9 to hear one of the news reporters from a popular radio station putting it to PEP workers that the salary was too low. They responded by saying that they were happy with PEP as it gave them something to do.”

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