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Opposition Leader Godwin Friday responds to the Budget in Parliament on Tuesday. (iWN photo)
Opposition Leader Godwin Friday responds to the Budget in Parliament on Tuesday. (iWN photo)
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Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday, on Tuesday, said that while the 2019 budget was “old wine in new bottles”, Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves did not bother to change the vessels this year.

 “It’s old bottles this time, because there’s a lot of repetition from what was in the last year’s budget — and I didn’t really realise to what extent until I had a look at both of them last night. As you might imagine, I didn’t sleep,” he said as he began the debate on the EC$1.2 million fiscal package.

The budget is the largest ever presented to Parliament but Friday said that is “a big fat lie” because of the heavy capital spending for which the government had budgeted, although the source of revenue had not been identified.

The opposition leader accused the finance minister of making “promise after promise that he knows full well he will not keep”.

He said that the biggest of these promises is that the government would spend EC$311 million on capital projects.

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“Even he thought that was reaching a bit far,” Friday said, noting that the minister had spoken about a shortage of skilled personnel and aggregates for construction.

“… but also because they don’t have the money,” Friday said, adding that during the debate of the estimates two weeks ago, he noted a gap of $205 million in capital receipts, which the government calls ‘other receipts’.

The opposition leader said that the finance minister does not know where the money for that shortfall is going to come from.

“So many promises and it seems to me that the minister’s aim is to reinvent St. Vincent and the Grenadines this year — in a single year.

“In other words, what he and his predecessor failed to do in nearly 20 years in government — 20 years in power, some would say 20 long wasted years — and I might agree with that — he is telling us now, Mr. Speaker, and he wants us to believe that he will accomplish this, this year.

“Were it not so serious a matter, Mr. Speaker, it would be funny because I found myself, quite frankly, not being able to resist it. I was chuckling — quietly, of course, to maintain the decorum of the house,” the opposition leader said.

Parlaiment gallery
Some of the few persons in the Stranger’s Gallery as Friday responded to the Budget. (iWN photo)

Friday said Gonsalves was obviously throwing a jab at him when the finance minister said in the budget speech that some lawmakers had described the 2019 fiscal package as “old wine in new bottles”.

“The minister boasts of his … billion-dollar budget — Billion Dollar Man $1.2 billion almost — which is over $100, nearly $120 million bigger than last year’s.

So, this is, as I said in the previous debate, is clearly an election budget, but the minister doesn’t care much or at all where the money is coming from.”

Friday said this is clear because the figures in the estimate show that the minister doesn’t know where he’s going to get $205.3 million.

“He simply does not know where this chunk of his prepared proposed expenditure [is coming from] for all the programmes and all the wonderful things that he’s promising to do to reinvent St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 2020; he doesn’t know where that large chunk of money is coming from. It’s a lot of money for a poor country — 17% of the overall budget and he doesn’t know where it’s coming from.”

He said that the sum under other receipts is 40.5% of the proposed total of the capital receipts of $506.3 million.

“That’s a big hole. It is bigger than most of the potholes — and some of them I show you a little later on — …  that the Minister of Transport has fixed from time to time.

“You can’t dispute, Mr. Speaker that he doesn’t know where this money’s coming from. It’s simply an indisputable fact. And I wish he would spend time explaining why this is in the budget, why it is presented year after year.”

Camillo Gonsalves
Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, right, laughs during a lighter moment during the debate on Tuesday. Minister of Education St. Clair “Jimmy” Prince is at left. (iWN photo)

Friday said that if the minister knew where the funds would come from, he would specify it in the budget.

“You’d be obliged to say that I’m getting the money from here and from there and put it there. Otherwise, it would be more dishonest than the practice that is being carried out here by putting it in as though it’s realisable.

“So we have that as an overall context in which to judge the credibility of the minister when he presented his budget, and when he will come back to wrap up. And the other members on the other side, I’m sure when they all get up to speak, they will present their own ministries, hoping that what is allocated to them in the line items of the estimates will actually come.

“But in a sense, when they get up, they all will be playing musical chairs because somebody is not going to get what they are promised, or more than one of them, perhaps, all of them because they’re not going to be able to have the money to do it,” Friday said.

The debate continues today (Wednesday).

6 replies on “2020 Budget is old wine in old bottles – Opposition Leader”

  1. People of SVG read this article (above) twice and digest what Dr. Friday’s concerns are here.
    People of SVG Big Belly Gonsalves is the furthest thing from Jesus Christ. He is just a dirty politician who will do anything to stay in power and continue to live as an evil Emperor while close to half of the people (50%) live below the poverty line. Living on under 5 dollars a day. You can’t buy an ice-cream for your kid or the toy that it wants. Do your kids finishing high school have the opportunity to get higher education.
    Don’t believe the hype. Make an inventory of your life, E.g. Can you afford to go on vacation, with your family, this year? People of SVG this billion dollars tune does not pass the smell test and is nothing but an act and grandstanding. The billion-dollar budget presentation was only lacking the fanfare and the fat lady singing at the end to mimic a credible circus act. People of SVG look ahead past ULP. People of SVG are you satisfied with the quality of your life? Do you have a job? Can you realize your dream of building a house? It is not going to happen under ULP. I know that some have had the opportunity to study in Taiwan and Cuba and speak Mandarin and Spanish but it is not about you alone think about the tens of thousand whose chances are more limited. Your success is not because of ULP it is because of your god given talents your discipline and perseverance. Not BBG.

  2. So Mr. Friday, if you have plan to do something in a budget and you was not able to accomplish that plan, is it wrong to put the same thing in another budget?

    1. Billy Bub, they do it with every budget. Because big budgets gives the people the view that they are doing all those things when they are not. The people then forget when they do not do what they promised, its simply done to fool the people prior to an election. Wavering voters may well believe the tripe and vote for them on the strength of the promises in the budget.

  3. The long and the short of it all, whatever this self-imposed snivelling little Gonsalves rogue call these increased money-take from our pockets, it is all just yet more and more TAX take by another name, no matter how he disguises then and no matter whatever name he chooses to calls these money increases.

    In the end we will all be paying more and more money out of our pockets. Money that so many here just do not have. This squeeze will be hard felt by many here. Those who earn little and those who have no jobs at all.

    Yet another opportunity lost by this no hope Government to create a vibrant jobs creating economy. One where the private sector could be enticed and encouraged into many start-ups. The Soviets and the Chinese abandoned unworkable socialism yet the ways of Cuba and Venezuela straddles the many potholed roads of SVG.

  4. A woman in her forties whom I happen to know, as she does not live too far from our house. She works in a general store in Kingstown, as a Store Assistant. In this she works at five and a half full days per week and for a weekly wage of just EC$100. Needless to say, from that paltry sum, all she can afford is her daily lunch, but for breakfast and evening meal her father still provide assistance.

    In the circumstance, with all these swinging hike in revenue raising, on the part of this incompetent government of ours, one must pity this poor woman, should she have cause to use any of these government services that are now the subject of those revenue hikes by government.

    One further wonders, at what point this heartless regime will begin to take stock of its past failed economic policies and the harm that it has done and thus continue to do, to the economic fabric of this small nation of ours where unemployment for so many is now the norm.

    That the Ralph Gonsalves’s family commitment to the Cuban/Venezuelan system of government, irrespective of the harm that they are causing to the nation, and which continues to take us into more and more beggary, is very self-evident.

    This state of extreme poverty of course, does not affect neither the Gonsalves family nor those close to them, so why therefore would they do other than what they have always done, in order to satisfy the gross misplaced ego of this family. A family who have imposed themselves upon us as an imperial misguided royal family, and we their hapless subjects.

    See the continuing contradictions inherent in this socialist system when Money talks in Cuba!

    And see too, how Socialism always “Leads to Suffering and NOT Sustainability” as was inevitable in the Venezuela of today.

    As the Malaysians put their past head of state and his wife on trial for looting the country, and with the Angolans likewise seeking to clawback funds from the daughter of their past president, should we not be asking ourselves, for the sake of sanity and prosperity in this nation, how long before we free ourselves from this terrible monstrosity that is the Gonsalves regime?

  5. Why do so many Vincentians decry education here and why are so many individual here remain so doltish? Again I put it to you fellow readers.

    As the Malaysians put their past head of state and his wife on trial for looting the country, and with the Angolans likewise seeking to clawback funds from the daughter of their past president, should we not be asking ourselves, for the sake of sanity and prosperity in this nation, how long before we free ourselves from this terrible monstrosity that is the Gonsalves regime?

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