With no representatives sitting in Parliament among elected officials, the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has made its first official reaction to the 2013 budget as presented a week ago by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Keith Mitchell.
The NDC which failed to win any of the fifteen seats in the February 19 general elections raised questions about the jobs promised by Mitchell’s New National Party (NNP) when in opposition based on the amount of foreign investors it claimed that it had lined up to come into the country.
Following is the full text of the release put out by Congress on the 2013 budget.
We, the members of the National Democratic Congress, have studied the Budget Presentation and are here to provide preliminary comments at this time.
After 4 ½ years of RIGOROUS OPPOSITION ANALYSIS, the current Government was fully apprised of the economic situation. NDC sees the 2013 Budget as NOT IN KEEPING with the ELECTION CAMPAIGN RHETORIC put on by the New National Party.
What we are witnessing NOW is a POOR ATTEMPT to face up to the current fiscal reality which EXISTED since before.
According to the NNP during their campaign, Investors were LINED UP to come into Grenada. Despite the indication that this is a HOLDING Budget, we EXPECTED a LISTING of NEW Projects and programmes from these investors who were LINED UP.
Yet, the Budget has not identified WHO these Investors are, except for the Major Projects.
NDC wants to make it clear that 6 out of the 9 major projects and programmes in the Capital Investment of $264 million were projects SECURED and APPROVED by the NDC Administration.
FOLKS, SIX OUT OF THE NINE.
Growth of the Economy is a noble national objective. JOBS, JOBS, JOBS is the government’s chant. None-the-less, the Budget as presented
does not show a clear path to sustained Job Creation. No clear indications have been given in this Budget.
In the area of YOUTH Unemployment: To the NDC, the promise of Jobs, particularly for the youth, remains elusive – hard to pin down.
As an example, the former Youth Upliftment Programme of the NDC employed 1500 young persons. This NEW IMANI programme proposes to employ 2000 persons. This means that ONLY 500 ADDITIONAL jobs will becreated and NOT 2000 as PROCLAIMED in the Budget presentation.
In regards to the Construction Stimulus: This is MERELY A CONTINUATION of the NDC initiative. Recall that the NDC REDUCED the VAT on construction items from 15% to 7.5%.
The NEW proposal in the budget is to further reduce it from 7.5% to 5%, which is only a 2.5% decrease as opposed to the NDC’s reduction of 7.5%.
On the matter of the huge Financing Gap of $154 million: The Budget OFFERS NO SPECIFICS as to HOW the Gap will be financed. NOT A SINGLE INDICATION is given in the Presentation.
On the issue of the Free School Books Programme: This was a flagship programme of the NDC. What a TRAGIC LOSS! How can NNP JUSTIFY DISCRIMINATING AGAINST POOR AND WORKING CLASS PARENTS who make the GREAT SACRIFICE to educate their children in private schools? A CHILD IS A CHILD.
On the matter of the Recurrent Account Surplus of $32.9M presented in the Budget: HOW EXACTLY is this surplus to be derived? The Budget does not show ANY EVIDENCE that this is REALISTIC.
The Fiscal Profile as presented DOES NOT SHOW ANY SIGNIFICANT CHANGE to that of the NDC Administration. So, in the context of this NEW ECONOMY, we await the MASSIVE Economic Growth which will result in JOBS, JOBS, JOBS.
On the issue of CASINO Gambling: First, we heard VERY LITTLE from the NNP and the Leader of the Opposition over the past 3 years on that matter. Secondly, we heard NOTHING about the introduction of Casino Gambling during their FOUR-AND-A-HALF-YEARS POLITICAL CAMPAIGN.
However, in the Throne Speech it was announced that the Government would introduce Casino gambling for VISITORS ONLY.
The NDC’s position is to “let the people’s voice be heard” on that matter – and we, the NDC will RESPECT the population’s decisions.
On the matter of the Citizenship by Investment: The NDC supports this initiative in principle; however, we recommend CONSIDERATION of a superior model to the previous “Sale of Passport” model which CAUSED, AND IS STILL CAUSING Grenadians, great grief.
NDC stands prepared, as a responsible Party to APPLAUD efforts we deem worthwhile; criticise programmes and plans we deem NOT TO BE IN THE BEST INTEREST of the Grenadian people; and to provide ideas and suggestions to IMPROVE AND ENHANCE the well-being of Grenadians, at home and abroad.
NDC calls on the people of Grenada to be aware of all these issues, analyse them and be objective.