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Commentary: Law and Politics: A budget of nearly one billion
Published on December 17, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Lloyd Noel

The 2014 Budget, or Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, delivered by the PM as minister of finance on Tuesday, December 10, provided for total expenditure of nearly $934 million – just $66 million short of one billion.

Lloyd Noel is a former attorney general of Grenada, prominent attorney at law and political commentator
The figures quoted by the minister to have arrived at that total were very impressive and, if the powers-that-be can achieve that landmark, then their clean-sweep victory at the polls would be fully justified for their very first year in control.

Where the funds would be coming from is a different matter, but am sure we will be hearing a lot more of that aspect, as the months go by in the Fiscal Year 2014.

With no opposition in the Lower House of Parliament to even question the figures, the motion for approval would have been a mere formality.

And even the few voices in the Upper House or Senate, which would raise some concerns about those figures, would make no telling difference to the final approval.

The increased taxes or duties listed by the minister to raise the required government revenue to meet the increased expenditures he quoted for next year, so as to arrive at a balanced budget, will not be easy to achieve in the economic conditions existing in our tri-island state.

The unemployment situation is alarmingly very high, and I cannot see things improving in the near future to help in the collection of some more taxes and duties.

A whole lot of jobs have to be provided to get the many thousands back to work and earning some wages to look after their families and be able to pay the taxes and duties that the Budget is aiming at.

The people now employed and paying taxes, even in cases where they will have to pay more, will make no big difference to the collection of additional revenue.

And as for those who are unemployed and own their homes, the increase in property taxes will only make things more difficult for them to make financial ends meet.

A lot of the PM’s Budget speech was as though he was campaigning and scoring points on the NDC about things the party did not do while in government and what he plans to do in the coming months.

But as a few guys stopped me to air their views on the speech, their take was that they heard the same things before the elections in February, and coming up to almost a year in control, they have not seen any improvement in the conditions that existed before February.

Their conclusion was that they have very little hopes things would get any better, based on the figures handed down by the PM as finance minister because he was saying nothing different from what he said before February this year, and he gave no indication of where those millions would be coming from in support of his Budget.

I had to agree with them and I told them so, but I also added that they should not give up all their hopes – because things may change for some better days in the months ahead.

But as I listened to some of the supporting speeches from a few ministers, so far as the Budget pertained to their ministry for the year ahead, and I could not resist the feelings that they, like the PM before them, were simply dishing out figures and carrying on about projects in their respective constituencies, without having given very much thought to the reality of what they were saying.

True enough they sounded impressive and knowledgeable about the bad conditions in their neck of the woods, as it were, but they were not coming through with practical solutions to help solve the problems their people are facing, nor where the Budget millions will be coming from to help their people.

So as we go into the last few days before Christmas Day dawns on our people, the surrounding areas are rather quiet as well as the business places, because sales are very slow, with so many people not working and earning any wages for a very long time.

Where this nearly one billion dollars will be coming from to do the many things the minister outlined only time and the actual outcome will determine and reveal, but as things appear at this stage it all looks very unlikely and beyond the controllers’ ability to achieve in the Budget year 2014.

Whether the Budget will help provide the jobs the minister has forecasted, only time will tell but, judging from the promises made before the elections, of thousands of jobs coming on stream from foreign investors lining up to come aboard and start up new businesses, but none has been realised thus far, the recent promises and predictions do not look any better.

I heard some news item that the current controllers had been responsible for the Sandals Hotel coming to Grenada, but that was not so. The NDC entered the agreement with Sandals and work actually started in 2012 before the elections in February 2013.

The news now is that three hotels are ready to come on the island to start up their business, once the premises are ready for operation. It sounds very promising and looks good for the New Year.

But the ole talk that the de-bushing program should be discontinued and those many needy workers be sent home with no hope of any future employment in that program.

The controllers must not even consider the idea, because a whole lot of their own supporters depend on that means of employment to care for their families.

And those workers are both young and old folks who perform a useful service in their communities.

This being my last article before Xmas 2013, I wish all those who read my views most weeks the very best and good health for Xmas and the New Year.
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