Former Finance Minister in the Government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Nazim Burke is predicting tough times ahead for many Grenadians during the upcoming year.
Burke who appeared on a recent talk show programme said that the lowering of the Income Tax Threshold to $3,000.00 per month by government will negatively impact ordinary families who are earning between $3,000.00 and $5,000.00 a month.
“I am seeing this year (2014) … to be a very difficult and hard year for Grenadians. Many of them will be deprived of basic necessities… Times are going to be hard,” he told the host of the programme.
Burke, the Deputy Political Leader of Congress, said his party believes that the ten-month old New National Party (NNP) administration of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell lowered the threshold to affect mainly the middle-income people in the country out of the belief that this class of voters does not support his party.
“This is an act of economic revenge against them (middle class), but it is short-sighted because at the end of the day if these people are not afforded an opportunity to live, then the rest of the country is going to suffer,” he remarked.
Burke who is a Senator in the Upper House of Parliament announced that all 15 Parliamentarians in the elected house under the total command of NNP will now be receiving a huge constituency allowance from what previously existed.
He said that each Member of Parliament will receive an additional $10,287.00 each month through what is now called “Strengthening Parliamentary Representation.”
Sen. Burke said it is mind-boggling how the government can make such a provision when it is saying that it has to cut waste and reduce expenditure in keeping with a soon-to-be-implemented Structural Adjustment Programme
The former Finance Minister also delved into the increase in salary of Government Ministers.
He stated that two Senior Ministers whom he identified as Education Minister, Anthony Boatswain, and the Economic Development Minister, Oliver Joseph, along with all of the Government Senators have not given up the increase that they recently took although Dr. Mitchell has gone on record telling the nation that the ministers have decided to forego the increase.
Burke drew the host of the programme to the Budget document, which shows the two ministers, and the six Parliamentary Representatives who will be receiving the six percent increase in salaries this year.
“We felt that this notion of shared sacrifice was again a sham by the government, when you consider that at the same time that the Prime Minister is calling on the nation to make the shared sacrifice for the country, he and his ministers were prepared to take a six percent increase in salaries for themselves,” he said.
The former Finance minister also addressed the national debt for which $280m has been allocated in the budget to pay to creditors.
He indicated that due to the extensive borrowing from 1995 when Dr. Mitchell first came to office, the national debt now standing at EC$2.4 billion is now turning out to be a total disaster for Grenada.
He reported that in 1995, the island’s debt stock was $372.4M, moved up to $549M by 2000, one year later in 2001 it increased further to $579.8M, and by 2002 it went up to $876M.
The Mitchell government has often been accused of borrowing and spending lavishly on several loss-making projects like the Call Centre with a family concern, the Garden Group of small hotels in the south of the island, and millions in guarantees given to U.S investor E.J Miller for the Ritz Carlton hotel at Mt. Hartman, and the Marketing & National Importing Board (MNIB) project in the Lagoon Road in St. George’s.