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Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace, centre, and other members of the NDP visit North Windward after the Christmas disaster.(IWN file photo)
Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace, centre, and other members of the NDP visit North Windward after the Christmas disaster.(IWN file photo)
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Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace says that lawmakers will today begin debating the 2014 Budget “in somewhat of a blind way” because they do not know the impact of the Christmas floods on the Estimates they approved in December.

On Dec. 9, Parliament approved Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for 2014 totalling EC$911.57 million.

The floods and landslides over the Christmas holidays left EC$353 million in damage, according to preliminary estimates, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has said.

Eustace, an economist, speaking on radio on Monday, said he believes today’s budget presentation will be unusual.

“Because the storm did much damage, it means that a lot of the figures which were decided and approved on the ninth of December will change,” Eustace said.

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He, however, noted that these changes would be reflected in supplementary estimates, which will come to Parliament later this year.

“So, there a lot of areas of the estimates which we don’t know this evening,” Eustace said.

“When he (the Prime Minister) makes what I expect to be a long presentation in Parliament today, we will have to wait until the end of the week for a Budget to be approved, we will be doing that in somewhat of a blind way, because we don’t know all the impact it (the weather system) has on the Estimates,” Eustace said.

He, however, pointed out that if a Budget is not approved by the end of this month, the Government would not have the right to spend money as of Feb. 1.

“The other day in the United States, when you had the shutdown, that is what we will be having if we don’t have a budget approved before the end of the month,” Eustace said.

He, however, said that even if a budget is approved, lawmakers still would not know the impact on the Budget and the economy of having to present a Budget without having any new estimates.

Eustace said that while he expects that the Prime Minister will give “a long description” of what the Government proposes to do about the storm, lawmakers will have no document before them which says how the Estimates are changed.

“So, it will be very difficult to debate that issue without the figures to show how the Estimates are changed,” Eustace said.

Eustace also said that he is awaiting the Budget Address to see what figure the Prime Minister will quote or the loss and damage resulting from the storm.

Gonsalves has quoted preliminary estimates of EC$353 million.

“I don’t know how that was calculated. I really don’t know,” Eustace said.

“I Don’t believe the cost of rehabilitation or the cost of building back what we lost and so on will cost 353 million; but there may be some methodology or some method they are using that I don’t know about, although sometimes people calculate the lost that you had and then add on to it the money you have to repair it,” Eustace said.

He further said that his evening exercise will not say if and how the economy is expected to grow this year, since supplementary estimates will have to speak to changes to allocations to the various sectors of the economy.

A trough system on Christmas Eve triggered floods and landslides in various parts of St. Vincent, resulting in damage to houses, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, and agriculture.

Also, nine persons died and three are missing.

4 replies on “MPs entering Budget Debate ‘in somewhat of a blind way’”

  1. Ralph has been setting a trap from day one. He kept giving figures about the disaster even before an investigation was started. This buildup was for a tax increase, probably to help complete the airport. If the NDP refuses to go along with Papa lies, without proper documentation and data, then he will paint a picture that NDP doesn’t care about the people who suffered in the disaster.
    I believe he should produce the evidence to prove the figures he’s been spouting are accurate, before the opposition sign on the dotted line. He’s such a stranger to the truth for so long that no one should accept his word, without proper data.

  2. I was looking at a video where the opposition walked out of parliament, because the government ministers didn’t come prepared to make a presentation, with data to revamp the 2013 budget. In my previous document; I indicated that the opposition should not sign on the dotted line, until they are satisfied with the figures presented.
    Well it appears that no presentations were made by the government side, yet they wanted the opposition to respond. But why should they set the agenda for this debate? It now appears that Ralph has nothing to present, but bogus figures he had been pulling out of a hat, like a magician.
    There is figure for forestry: What constitute forestry and where did he get those figures? Is he talking of replanting tree that were washed away? There is no way he or his agents can have a proper assessment of the damage done by the flood in less than 2 – 3 months.
    He also pitched in a figure of rebuilding the homes that were destroyed and relocating people to safer areas, although no place is safe when we are talking about landslides. Incidentally there are people without shelter after Tomas and the way this government operates, there will be many more people still in limbo from this disaster.
    Neither Ralph nor his ministers were prepared for this debate. They want the opposition to make the case, so they can then criticize what the opposition had to say. Well the opposition is not the government and they were correct in refusing to take the bait.
    Nice try Ralph, but you’ve lost this one.

  3. The NDP just blew a great opportunity to show the nation and the world its ability to lead SVG in the 21st Century. Walking out the parliament was a reflection of serious comedy within the NDP.

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