The government is sensitive to the needs of the self-employed, Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris said at the “Leadership Matters” virtual townhall meeting, reminding there is assistance for them at Social Security when responding to a question of how the self-employed will make ends meet during the 14-day curfew mandated by the government.
Prime Minister Harris stated what is “critically important at this juncture is saving lives.”
“It is alright to say I want to go on the road to sell something to earn a living and at the end of the day your life could be shortened,” he said. “The bills that you have now to face up to and to pay as a result of you going outside to ply your trade would become unbearable for you. So, we see this as an inconvenience and we accept that. It is a sacrifice which each of us must make for a better life thereafter.”
Thus, the prime minister asks for all self-employed persons to make a sacrifice in the first instance for 14 days.
“For 14 days stay at home for as much as possible and if you were to do that a full life may be guaranteed to you,” he said. “I don’t think we can compare a sacrifice for a temporary period of 14 days for a lifetime of better health of safety and security.”
There are some things on which you cannot place a monetary value, he added.
“We can make some money today and tomorrow the money disappears in meeting the consequences of our participation,” he said.
The government has been sensitive to the problems which every citizen and resident will face, said the prime minister. He added that that is why they have announced the largest and the most comprehensive stimulus package ever that responds to the needs of farmers, fishers, self-employed, taxi-men and vendors of fruits and vegetables.
Prime Minister Harris said the government has set aside millions of dollars to be able to assist those self-employed persons registered with the Social Security Board in earning at least $1000 per month as part of the stimulus package.
“At least you can keep your head above water. At least you could respond to the basic needs for food,” he said. “We have done this like no other government in the region has done to ensure that our people emerge from this pandemic at a better place ready to continue to engage the world and to do business that would take St. Kitts and Nevis to a higher level and a new level of growth and development.”
Farmers and Fishers Asked to Contact Commissioner of Police for Lockdown Waivers
The regulations put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, by and large, make provisions for the Commissioner of Police to exercise a discretion with respect to any activity in which someone wants to engage, including farming and fishing, The prime minister said in response to a question during the townhall meeting.
The caller asked what provisions are in place for farmers to attend to their crops and livestock in spite of the 24 hour and 14-day curfew.
“In relation to the farmers and fishers this is an important concern because food security is very important,” said the prime minister. “What we did say on Saturday is that a person who is not specifically covered by any of the sections and who wants to have a waiver, that person would be required to apply to the Commissioner of Police and of course the Commissioner of Police would exercise his discretion in the particular circumstances.”
Prime Minister Harris stressed the regulations are put in place to contain the spread of the virus.
“We are operating in abnormal times and so the same patterns of work, for example, that we have become accustomed to, we cannot continue to do things the same way in a changed world,” he said, adding patterns of farming will have to undergo changes as persons “have to respect that in normal times certain things, which were advisable, could not in abnormal, turbulent times be acceptable anymore.”
Prime Minister Harris said he understands it is difficult for the farmers and fishers and “a special carve out may need to be made for these people.”
“Again, they will have to speak with the Commissioner of Police who will make a determination with respect to any variation in time that is to be granted to that particular category of workers and important groups,” he said, urging sensitivity as “once we continue down the road of making exception after exception, then the elements, which we are attempting to have, the social distancing, the physical distancing, the as it were minimizing of interactions between people outside of their households, all these things could be lost.”
“While we understand and are sensitive to the unique situations of farmers and fishers, we have to again look at the big picture in terms of implications for the country as a whole. The truth is for 14 days all our lives are going to be disoriented in some manner as it is all over the world,” he added.“We are asking persons to be sensitive to the fact that we are going to have to make changes in the way business is done, in the way we organize ourselves. But we are going to be very sensitive and clearly we are going to be prepared to address unique circumstances that may arise and that is why the regulations SR&O No 9 would make provisions for the Commissioner of Police to exercise a particular discretion.”