The budget that the Unity Labour Party will ask Parliament to approve in January will try to “ease some of the burdens on business” but will not be a gimmick Budget.
That’s the word from the newly minted Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves, when asked on Thursday what type of fiscal package his first budget will be.
“Well, it’s not a budget from me. It’s a budget from the government. It’s a collaborative process and we are currently in the midst of that collaboration, we are in the midst of consultation with each individual ministry to discuss their priorities, both spending priorities and revenue priorities,” Gonsalves told iWitness News at Argyle International Airport.
“I think that the Prime Minister and former Finance Minister has laid a very solid foundation for further development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and I think that there are some things, some innovations that I hope will find favour with the wider cabinet to ease some of the burdens on business, to foster greater economic growth and job creation, but the specifics are still being discussed at the Cabinet level and I think it’s a little premature to discuss them publicly.”
The younger Gonsalves took over from his father, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, to become only the second person to serve as Finance Minister since the Unity Labour Party administration came to office in 2001.
Camillo became a minister and senator in the ULP administration in 2013, before winning the East St. George seat in the 2015 election.
The minister spoke of “easing” at a time when there are speculations that he will give a very sugary budget that includes reduced taxes.
“I don’t know where that view comes from. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is out of the darkest patch that the region was in post-crisis but, as the prime minister is fond of saying, we are not out the woods yet,” said Camillo, who is also Minister of Economic Development and Sustainable Development.
“So it I will be a continuation of many of the prudent yet enterprising policies that the former finance minister put in place.
“We will evaluate where we are, we think there are some reasons for optimism and we want that optimism to be passed on to the Vincentian population but there are some areas we have to be particularly cautious about. So there is no sugary budget, there is no sweet budget, there is no gimmick budget.”
Asked if there will be an election budget, he said, “Well, I don’t call elections. The disadvantage that the prime minister has is that he can’t pass an election budget because he is not a finance minister.”
There have been some speculations that the ULP is preparing for earlier elections amidst on-going legal challenges by the main opposition New Democratic Party to the results of the December 2015 general election.
The NDP has secured a number of significant victories in that legal saga and the High Court is expected to rule in January or February on an application by one of two petitioners to inspect ballots and other documents used in Central Leeward during the 2015 vote.
If the court rules against the ULP, the party, which has a single seat majority in the 15-member parliament could be forced to return to the polls.
Speculations of early elections are also fuelled by the party’s long-announced leadership transition, which is expected to take place ahead of the next elections, constitutionally due by March 2021.