The Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government has made an amendment to the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2015 to allow for more intense monitoring of the fiscal situation in Grenada.
Leader of Government Business in the Lower House, Works Minister, Gregory Bowen, who presented the amendment said that it will also guarantee the further independence of the committee that will be charged with the responsibility of having oversight of spending by the Ministry of Finance.
Addressing a sitting of Parliament last Thursday at the Trade Centre at Morne Rouge in Grand Anse, Minister Bowen said the amended bill will ensure that the government and the Ministry of Finance in particular continue on the path of fiscal prudence so that the gains that were made under the Structural Adjustment Programme would not deteriorate.
According to the senior government minister, the Fiscal Oversight Committee which has been in place since 2015 will be enhanced to meet the objectives of the bill.
He said the committee which consisted of three members will have an additional two and will now be tasked with the responsibility of becoming a watchdog body over the Ministry of Finance.
“The Fiscal Responsibility Oversight Committee shall consist of five members when previously it consisted of three members Mr. Speaker and it says how they shall be appointed. They will be recommended by the Committee of Privileges of the House of Representatives and then that recommendation will be submitted to the Governor General for an appointment, Mr. Speaker”, he told Parliament.
“…We are now proposing that in the case of four members, (they) must have knowledge in one of the areas, we believe that we should get four and each one of them should have knowledge in one of the areas in Accounting, Business Management, Public Administration, and Law – so ideally, you will get one with expertise in law but one is missing. The amendment now provides for this one person to be versed in Economics to be recommended by the Eastern Caribbean Development Bank…”, he said.
Grenada’s Fiscal Responsibility Act is similar in scope to the one in Jamaica which was dictated by the Washington-based Internationaacl Monetary Fund (IMF) as part of that country’s programme with the institution.
Minister Bowen pointed out that the enlarged committee will now be given a three month timeframe to come up with a report on the running of the Ministry of Finance.
“We have this committee and now we giving them a deadline – three months and you must provide the report otherwise they could take a whole year and within that year all that they are trying to prevent could happen – expenditure could go haywire etc, so they must report within three months…” he said.
The Leader of Government Business stressed that the Fiscal Responsibility Oversight Committee will prove to the naysayers that Grenada can control its expenditure.
He dropped hints that Grenada was urged to make the change to the act by the IMF.
He said: “I do not believe that the financial institutions and some of us put great trust in having such a committee, one because our numbers are small, and two because they believe the capacity does not reside in the totality of the House because everyone is involved in governance.
“It’s a case where you have the one party with all the seats in the House but if that only were the case Mr. Speaker, I see reason but in discussing with the IMF and the other institutions, many of them, their consultants, do not believe that we have the integrity among ourselves to watch and to demand that the Ministry of Finance do certain things. They do not believe it, they figure (we) will get into cahoots…we’ll just spend, spend, spend…”, he added.
Minister Bowen disclosed government is expected to foot the bill for the work of the Fiscal Oversight Committee from the Consolidated Fund.
The Mitchell-led administration was forced to enter into a structural adjustment programme with the IMF in 2014 in order to arrest a severe fiscal problem including a huge national debt.