Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves can speak for four hours on the budget, although he is no longer Minister of Finance.
Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, pointed this out to members of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce at a luncheon on Thursday, at which he outlined the government’s focus for this year.
“I suspect that when Tony invited me today it was because he wanted to help you avoid the slow torture of having to listen to an entire budget address on the 5th of February. Because, as we know, these addresses, sometimes, extend for many, many hours,” Gonsalves said, referring to the invitation by Executive Director of the Chamber, Anthony Regisford to address the luncheon.
“And I have the further misfortune of telling you that under the rules of Parliament, the finance minister can speak for as long as he or she wants in the Budget Address but if the prime minister is not the finance minister, he gets an additional four hours as well,” the finance minister said to some light laughter.
“So, I apologise in advance for what we would be subjected to in a week’s time.”
He, however, said he would not bore the luncheon with a budget address or try to condense a budget address into a half hour address.
“I’ll speak to issues that I think are of particular importance and relevance to the chamber and I would encourage you, nonetheless to listen to the lengthy budget process on the 5th of February. There is an old adage that the devil lies in the details. However, in those same details are many opportunities for profit, investment and expansion buried in fiscal measures and economic minutia,” said Camillo, who was made Minister of Finance in November 2017, replacing his father, who held the post since the Unity Labour Party came to office in 2001.
Camillo, who has been a Member of Parliament since August 2013 — when he was appointed a senator and was elected Member of Parliament for East St. George in 2015 — will on Monday present to lawmakers the first ever Estimates of Income and Expenditure prepared under his leadership.
Once the Estimates are approved, as expected, it will pave the way for the Budget Debate, commencing on Feb. 5.
Leader of the Opposition, Godwin Friday, will also be allotted four hours during the budget debate.
Last February, Parliament approved an EC$976.4 million fiscal package for 2017, a 7 per cent increase over the 2016 budget.
The budget is financed by current revenue of EC$590.7 million and capital receipts of EC$368.2 million.
Recurrent expenditure, inclusive of Amortisation and Sinking Fund contributions accounted for EC$747.3 and capital expenditure of EC$229.5 million.