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Opposition Leader Godwin Friday. (iWN file photo)
Opposition Leader Godwin Friday. (iWN file photo)
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Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday has described the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for 2020 as part of the government’s “continuing process of promising, failing to deliver”.

On Wednesday, Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves asked lawmakers to approve an EC$1,186,351,151 fiscal package, for 2020, which will pave the way for the presentation of the Budget Address next Monday.

The 2020 estimates are greater by 11.2% than the budget Parliament approved for 2019.

But Friday pointed out that in 2019, the estimates also went over the EC$1 billion mark to EC$1.067 billion.

“It’s growing bigger faster. So it’s very clear to me, and it would be to most people in this country, that the minister and the government, they are responding to the fact that we are in an election year. This is an election budget. We are now permanently the billion-dollar budget,” the opposition leader said.

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Friday noted that the EC$5,076.3 million capital budget includes other capital receipts of EC$205.3 million.

The opposition leader said that debt and salaries consume more than half of government revenue, adding that because of the way the budget is formulated, the Tourism Authority gets half of what is budgeted.

“So what we have here, Mr. Speaker, in general terms, is a continuing process of promising, failing to deliver,” Friday said.

“It is a modus operandus of this government in that they are consistent. But the people of this country have come to the point where they are sick and tired of being taken for granted, where, when their support is needed at election time, some brand new shiny object is waved in front of them to dazzle and bamboozle and at the end of the day, it turns out to be razzmatazz and of little substance.”

Friday said that that sort of “synclinal politics” has no place in a modern St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

He said that the opposition is advocating a people-centred approach to governance.

This approach, Friday said, begins with people and not what is required by the government “to win favour and to show how great you are, what mighty works I have made and the lives of the people remains the same or gets worse.

“And when the minister outlines all these things he is going to do, I say we wait and see but I can predict …” Friday said.

He said including the other receipts figure is “pure deceit” and, therefore, money is not spent to do essential things, like fixing potholes and providing essential services.

“That’s why it takes a whole year for the Minister of Health — and I am sure he was asking the Minister of Finance for that money — to buy the air conditioner for the sterilisation department. It took a whole year to get that before it was repaired.”

He said people complain about lack of supplies at the hospital.

“You have to carry all your supplies like you going camping when you go to the hospital and these are things that result directly from the government promising certain things, don’t have any money and they’re squeezing someone else to get it from.

“And all of this is happening while we have the pressure to pay back our mounting debt, which is squeezing, limiting the ability of the minister of finance to do things.”

Friday questioned the real meaning of the budget for the country.

“Does it mean that the minister will spend or even intend to spend $1.2 billion in 2020 or is this just, to use the most charitable term, an unrealistic wish or a fantasy, or, less generous terms but perhaps more accurate, to say that the budget continues the big fat lies that this government has perpetrated on the people year after year?”

‘a continuation of the same pattern’

The opposition leader said that the figures are “a continuation of the same pattern that we are all familiar with in this House”.

He noted that the government has budgeted EC$320 million for capital spending.

“But they know that they will not and cannot execute that. They cannot achieve that. This is because they do not have $1.2 billion to spend and they know it, yet they put it in the budget,” he said.

He said that if the record of the past years of the government is relied on, his is a safe prediction to make.

“They do not have the money to do it, they will not do it, and what is worse, they never intended to do it.”

In looking at the source of funds, including tax revenue of EC$585.6 million, and EC$94.3 million for a current revenue total EC$680 million, Friday made certain observations.

Capital receipt is made of grants of EC$60.6 million, external loans of EC$118.4 million and local loan of about EC$74 million.

There is also capital revenue largely from land sales of about EC$3 million. There is also a budget support loan of EC$46.9 million.

Friday noted the finance minister’s explanation that the budget support loan came from the International Development Association, which is affiliated with the World Bank, and has an interest rate 0.5% and a long-term repayment period.

Added to that, there are other capital receipts of EC$205.3 million, bringing the total to EC$5,076.3 million.

Friday said the problematic component of this is capital receipts of over EC$205 million.

“And the history has been that that money, as the minister himself pointed out, you will collect 3 and 4%, most of the time, under 10%,” Friday said.

However, in 2019, there seems to have been a boon, “where the  government claims that it received $160 million in other receipts. It didn’t say exactly where that came from,” Friday said, adding that, in the document, it is listed under domestic source of funding.

“But I find it difficult to imagine that we could raise $160 million domestically,” Friday said and asked for an explanation of the source.

“How do we suddenly go from hardly ever receiving any funds in this category to $160 million and what is the likelihood that this continues to be the happy circumstance that every year, at the preparation of the budget, the minister would not be aware of this source of funding, so, therefore, everything else is lumped under other receipts to balance the budget in the hope that during the year something would come up and fill that category.”

Friday said that in the purest sense, other receipts “is a balancing device, it is an accounting device to make the budget add up because the minister can’t present a budget where on the face of it he cannot execute what he is doing.

“So leave it up to us and others who may have a better understanding than the general public of how these things work to say ‘you see that category of other receipts, it doesn’t mean that the government has the money’.

“That means that they don’t know if they have the money and so when they tell you they are going to spend $1.2 billion, don’t believe it because they don’t even know where the money is coming from. Because if they knew where it is coming from it would be specified in the estimates.”

The opposition leader said what it means is that potholes will get bigger and more numerous because if the government want to execute some of the projects in the budget and they don’t have the money, they would have to take it from elsewhere.

He said the 2020 fiscal package is effectively a deficit budget, adding that Other Receipts is 40% of the capital budget.

“Why continue to inflate the budget? Why say you have a billion-dollar budget if you know you are $200 million short?” Friday said.

He said that in 2013, the figure was EC$113.6 million, EC$154 million in 2015, EC$160 in 2018, EC$198 in 2019, and EC$205 in 2020.

“So as the deficit gets bigger, the lie gets bigger and the question is why? … and I will say, if you don’t want us to speak about this big fat lie, then don’t tell it.”

He said that opposition lawmakers have been asking the minister of finance over the years to stop telling people there is a large budget when the government does not have the money.

“And the temptation, of course, is great this year because they want to impress people,” he said, noting the upcoming general election.

“… and things that they ain’t deliver for the last four and a half years, suddenly they want you to believe they have the money, they have the intention and will deliver for you.”

He said the most cynical example of this is the athletics track, which the government is proposing to build 19 years after coming to office and promising to build a national stadium.

“And then all of a sudden, things getting hot, pressure mounting, so yes, we’re gonna deliver a track for the people. So they will put down a carpet and they will tell you ‘here we fulfil our promise’. We have the stadium that [Muammar] Gaddafi was supposed to have given money for so long ago. Another part of the big, fat lie.”  

The debate continues.

2 replies on “‘A continuing process of promising, failing to deliver’ — Friday”

  1. Now this is technically how you “win” an election!
    Expose all the lies and inconsistencies. I think that this election will be the same as the past elections…only…more of it: More promises to spend on projects we cannot afford, as the roads get worse and the people get poorer. I have heard that they promise to pass out more building materials than ever before. There will be more “inconsistencies” during the poll and the sad part is that from now on, the NDP cannot contest that! The ULP were allowed to drag out the court trial for years and millions of dollars that they know the NDP cannot afford! We all witnessed how the trial contesting the election was conducted and all the shocking facts that came out and all the shocking facts that were not allowed to come out or be part of the record is shameful for a country calling itself a democracy. All the many years it took to have the trial is shocking in itself!
    Emboldened, there will be even more inconsistencies in the coming election. This may be how to “win” an election, but even if they technically win, we will not experience a change of which party runs the government. The polls were not conducted properly in the past and they will not be conducted properly this time.
    We already know which party has embedded the most control of the Caribbean Judiciary. If any court decision goes the way the “power party” does not like, it will never be allowed to stand. I believe they would rather start a violent revolt rather than be taken from “power”.

  2. Quoting Dr Friday “debt and salaries consume more than half of government revenue.” But what else can we expect with these dunce fellows. They change the game and do the same. The result is the ever expanding state as with Cuba and Venezuela, leading to our decline after decline as they run out of other people’s money to spend. The Brazil example: and

    Henrik Jönsson reply to Francesca Fiorentini

    But why is the money the government receives not spent on fixing the potholes in the roads or providing essential services. It can easily be seen. Big government requires wages and even more wages so places like the Campden Park Clinic and hospitals will never get the spend. The facts of life!

    Just take a long hard look at the Gonsalves economic policy at work in Cuba where the Gonsalves have been taking the half-baked inspiration from. The place is falling apart and sinking fast into a pile of dusty bricks and blocks and rusting trucks and cars, while the elite drink their Champagne.

    Cuba is falling apart under the weight of its Marxist political economy while it’s Government pretend that the real world is another place other than the one that they inhabit with economic decline and stagnation as it profits from its doctors sent abroad to earn revenue.

    To quote Dr Friday again on the plight of one going hospital: “You have to carry all your supplies like you going camping when you go to the hospital and these are things that result directly from the government promising certain things, don’t have any money and they’re squeezing someone else to get it from”.

    Quoting Maggie Thatcher, the saviour of Britain some say, from the British misguided socialist experiment during her years in office quote; “The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money” and so we see there. No money equals no supplies.

    Margaret Thatcher saving the UK

    But as if the Government large wage bill was not enough there is also that servicing of the borrowings that this government is racking up and who knows what that amounts to without that “FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BILL” that our benevolent dictator, or should one rephrase that to malevolent government is keeping from us.

    Dr George Ayittey reminds us of the kind of people that we are dealing with when we allow these Champagne Socialist anyway near the reins of power. They stay there forever while taking the country to its knees.
    Dr George Ayittey on “Swiss Bank Socialist”

    One of the good attributes of us humans is that we keep records and the record of history is that all of the leaders foolish enough to have embarked on the Karl Marxian political economic doctrine had brought ruined to their country, be they in Africa, Europe ,Asia and here in the Caribbean.

    The majority saw good sense and found the wisdom to choose a different road in the end, but for Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela, wisdom has not prevailed. With this Gonsalves family in office in SVG, wisdom does not appear to be their strong point either or perhaps like the Castro’s and their African counterparts, the pecuniary benefits that they derive from their office, trumps the wellbeing of the people.

    This was not so in Sweden as Henrik Jönsson is apt to tell us. The British and the Swedish governments, during their period of experiment with socialism, did not seek or get Grant Aid, although the British had to go cap in hand to the IMF for a good size bailout package for their economy.

    Just how long can Vincentians rely of Grant Aid and remittance from expats to keep our dying economy afloat is hard to say. One thing is for certain however, is that we need to learn from history.

    Henrik Jönsson debunking the lies of the left on SWEDISH SOCIALISM:

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