By Lloyd Noel
Our 2014 Budget has been in the news for many months now and, even before it was finally presented by the PM and finance minister, it had to be put off for four days or so because the PM was off the island.
Lloyd Noel is a former attorney general of Grenada, prominent attorney at law and political commentator
But whatever it may contain, after nearly one year since the all powerful controllers regained the reins of control, the coming New Year for which the income and expenditures are intended will not be an easy one.
We heard so much about that Budget in the last few months from those in control that there can be no excuses about the limitation of time for the preparation, so that whatever is contained therein must have been fully thought out and discussed by the group in charge and their advisers.
It has been noticeable, however, that in the last two months or so the chief economic advisor, Dr Patrick Antoine, seemed to have taken a backseat and the permanent secretary in the ministry of finance has been the main spokesman on the economy.
Whatever is the true position and the reason for the apparent change, time may tell in due course.
So much emphasis had been placed on that Budget in the months before the reading thereof that it left many wondering why it was so very important and what great benefits were to be expected – now it has been made public and will soon be passed through Parliament, we can only wait to see how effective it will be for the operation of the nation’s business in the year 2014 and beyond.
One aspect of the whole exercise that was made public even before the actual reading in Parliament was the issue of increased taxes on some salaries, but more importantly on lands and houses owned by our people up and down the Islands.
The concern of many owners who are unemployed is how they will be able to meet the additional financial burden if no employment is forthcoming sooner or later.
Time and the unfolding circumstances will determine as the months go by, but in the meantime a whole lot of folks are very concerned about the increases proposed and how they will meet the extras.
For a wide cross-section of the people, this Xmas season does not have the usual excitement and expectation of former years, and many are expressing their very serious disappointment about the actions and intention about the leader and party they so fully voted into office.
The party leadership and advisors must have their plans and objectives for the actions and decisions they are taking, but these will take some more time before the benefits will become available.
We have been hearing a lot of talk about the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), for example, so with the Budget now published we should be seeing some more details of that device, and in due course witnessing its success and how it will be beneficial to the economy.
The increases in taxes and duties and whatever else in the Budget will definitely have some burdensome effects on many families and individuals; because I cannot see salaries and wages going upwards in these times to meet those increases, nor the corresponding increases that will follow in the shops and business places that will have to bridge the gaps in their returns to make ends meet.
How the increased taxes or the SAP will help in providing the many needed jobs and employment opportunities in the immediate or distant future, only time and the reality will disclose in the months ahead. And if the months are going to be extended into years down the road, then our struggling people could have even harder times to put up with as the system determines.
On the issue of the stoppage of free Xmas barrels, one reader called me to suggest that all the families overseas have to do is send the cash to those at home.
While I am sure some dollars will be sent, I had to remind him that the costs of a lot of the barrels’ contents in the US and UK, will be a lot less in those countries and the dollars received will not be enough to make up the difference.
Whatever the new Budget is offering or providing for the needy, I do hope the framers remembered those deprived.
We are still waiting to hear about those promised overseas investors, who were expected to provide the many thousands of jobs for our people – maybe the new Budget will help in that area.
I heard on some report that the CCC roads maintenance project was having some problems and may be withdrawn.
During the recent two or three weeks, the de-bushing gangs were on the job, and in the last week they were on the roads again, so that there will be something in the kitty for the Xmas season.
I do hope the powers-that-be will be able to sort out the difference in the CCC program, so that those workers can look forward to a steady source of income in the New Year.
Goodness knows, they are a fairly large section of our unemployed people – and they have big families to support.
So now the much talked-about and anticipated Budget is a reality, we wait with bated breath to see how and where we going into the New Year 2014.