Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Keith Mitchell has defended the fiscal relief package he is offering to the people of Grenada.
In his budget statement to the Lower House of Parliament on December 9th, Dr. Mitchell announced a number of relief measures which will take effect in 2017.
These include a tax registration amnesty, a tax filing amnesty for the annual stamp tax, a two-dollar reduction in the price of the 20-pound LPG cooking gas, and a 5% reduction in personal income tax.
However, a number of people opposed to Dr. Mitchell’s economic policies believe the 2017 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure is an election budget by the Grenadian leader as part of his legacy to win a record 5th term in office.
In wrapping up the debate on the budget in Parliament last week Tuesday, Dr. Mitchell charged that those who want to know if indeed it is an election budget should have voted “yes” to the Constitutional Bill seeing a “Fixed Date for General Elections.”
“They voted no and they say they win, and now they want to know whether this is an election budget. Well they have decided that they want one person to have the date of the elections in his pocket so they should not be now asking for election date,” he said.
This is clearly directed at the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and others in the society who did not give outright support to the seven bills in the November 24 Referendum vote to change the Grenada Constitution.
All the bills were rejected in which some observers regard as a protest vote by the electorate against some of the actions of the Mitchell-led government since sweeping the polls in 2013.
General Elections are constitutionally due in Grenada 2018 but some political pundits are predicting a poll sometime before August 2017.
Dr. Mitchell also used the closing of the debate in Parliament to defend his action to pay monies due to public officers.
In his budget statement, the Minister of Finance announced that his government is working on a one-off payment agreement to every public servant who would have served a substantial portion of the period 2013-16 in recognition of their contribution and shared sacrifice during the life of the three-year Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).
He said the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration had promised that when the benefits of the programme are being realised the people should also share in it.
“All the government is doing is meeting its fundamental commitment that it made to the public officers and to the workers of the country,” he remarked.
The Prime Minister stressed that instead of praising government for providing help to so many people, the opponents are criticizing it.
Dr. Mitchell said the government and the Ministry of Finance Staff have done their work on the calculations of the estimated impact of the measures on the country’s fiscal situation in order to make the payments.
“After carefully assessing it, we felt we can do it and not injure our programme, and our obligation to the Fiscal Responsibility Act,” he said.
“So what we are doing, as much as we can give back to the workers, it is in our interest and in the interest of the country to have the workers having as much money in their pockets because they would then turn around and do a lot more things for themselves and their family,” he added.
In the face of criticisms that the NNP regime did not deliver on its promise to build a New Economy” as part of the campaign pledges in the last general election, PM Mitchell alluded to what the new economy is all about as advocated by his Economic Advisor, Dr. Patrick Antoine.
He said that the Fiscal Responsibility Act along with the Debt Sustainability Act are dimensions of the new economy under the NNP government.