The New Democratic Party says it will, on Monday, begin responding via NICE Radio to the EC$993,535,449 budget passed in Parliament on Tuesday without opposition support or contributions by any of the government lawmakers.
Opposition lawmakers walked out of Parliament on Monday when the budget was about to be presented and did not return for the debate.
They were protesting the decision of House Speaker Jomo Thomas to allow the government to amend their motion of no confidence against the government, which came up for debate last week Wednesday, two days after it was tabled.
Speaking at an NDP press conference in Kingstown on Wednesday, Opposition Leader Godwin Friday said he believes that the Vincentian public will take his party’s comments on the budget seriously.
“I think whenever the New Democratic Party, because we are a mass party, whenever we speak, what we say is taken seriously because we have the support of a large — I would say a majority of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. So I believe that what we say would be taken seriously,” Friday said.
It was noted to the opposition leader that none of the NDP lawmakers debated the budget in the Parliament.
“Which members of the government addressed the budget in the Parliament?” he responded, noting that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, had four hours to debate the budget — the same as the Leader of the Opposition.
Each minister had 75 minutes and every other Member of Parliament had 45 minutes, Friday further pointed out.
“So they had more time to present their budget for their constituents and for their ministries. They didn’t do it; they had the opportunity.
“I wish we had the power to determine the actions of the Members of Parliament more because they are saying because we weren’t present that they didn’t debate. So we determine whether the government presents their budget.”
Friday said that every time opposition lawmakers go to the budget debate the government asks them to support the fiscal package.
“So if we go in the House and we decide everything is hunky-dory, we like it, does that mean there would be no debate, no presentation of it? It’s ludicrous. They have an obligation to present what they are going to do in their ministries.
“In fact, if you read the budget document, you will see that the Minister of Finance makes reference to the ministers in the various ministries that they will say certain things about their ministries when they come to speak. So, how come the Minister of Finance now speaks for everybody?
“Sometimes, he can’t talk for himself but he speaks for everybody in the Budget,” Friday said.
He was making an apparent reference to the Minister’s refusal to comment on the on-going sex scandal in which former model said he cheated on his wife with her.
The finance minister had remained silent, ostensibly following the advice of his father, the prime minister, who, however, has been commenting robustly on the scandal.
Friday said that he was initially going to present to the nation on Wednesday, via radio, his response to the nation, but thought it more important to address via press conference first.
“I know that some persons were concerned about the position that we took not to debate the budget and I thought I had an obligation to come to the people and explain why we thought it was important on balance to take this decision,” he said of his decision to hold a press conference first.
He said the NDP is hoping that the presentation would begin on Monday.
“And these will be full-length presentations by all of the members,’ said NDP chairman Daniel Cummings, who is also Member of Parliament for West Kingstown.
Friday said that before beginning the budget response, NDP wants to make sure that the people have a chance to know that this is going to happen.
He said he is ready to make his presentation on the fiscal package.
“It’s critical that we do it in a serious way that it deserves. It is an important matter.”
Cummings said that it would not just be the Members of Parliament and the senators who will be making presentations, but also the NDP’s candidates and caretakers will be making presentations on constituency matters.
“So you have a wider production across the New Democratic Party and every constituency on what you can expect from and NDP government. And what we are presenting is an alternative to what passes for governance in this country in the form of the budget,” he said.
The 2018 budget is comprised of recurrent expenditure, inclusive of Amortisation and Sinking Fund Contributions of EC$776,879,739 and capital expenditure of EC$216,655,710.
The government is anticipating that the 2018 budget will be financed by current revenue of EC$620,658,138, and capital receipts of EC$371,877,312.
The 2018 current expenditure, exclusive of Amortisation and Sinking Fund Contribution amounts to EC$617,421,847.
Current revenue of EC$621,658,138 is expected to be collected in 2018.
There is a modest current account surplus of EC$4.2 million.
The EC$621 million in current revenue is 5.2 per cent or EC$30 million more than in 2017.