During the debate in the Upper House of Parliament, several Senators rejected many aspects of the Billion-Dollar Budget which was presented for the fiscal year 2015 by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Keith Mitchell.
The senators, mainly on the opposition side, branded it as “a recycled budget” of the ruling New National Party (NNP)which took office in February 2013.
Leader of the main Opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), senator Nazim Burke who was highly critical of the package told the Upper House that the person who delivered the budget can best be described as a messenger without a creditable message.
Sen. Burke, who served as Finance Minister in the 2008-13 term in office of Congress, charged that no human being who is in touch with reality should represent such a budget to the house.
He said the budget does not only represent a gross insult to the intelligence and good judgement of the people of Grenada, but brings a sense of regret and shame to islanders.
“What we were represented with is a recurrent budget that really does not deviate very much year to year,” he remarked.
According to the former Finance Minister, the capital budget package shows that the country was represented with “a weak, cut and paste job, which he said was “symptomatic of the bewilderment, and the incompetence’ that have paralysed the NNP Government since it came into office nearly two years ago.
Sen. Burke also blasted the budget as one that offers no new or innovative approaches, or solutions to the problems facing the country.
“Instead it was nothing more than a deceitful package of recycled promises and phrases designed to pull the wool over the eyes of the poorest, most uneducated, most disadvantaged, and most venerable members of the Grenadian society,” he said.
The NDC leader spoke of Grenada being perched on the brink of an economic catastrophe and that he has noticed that government was not paying its debt to several creditors.
According to Sen. Burke, over $70M of the national debt have not been paid at this time by the Mitchell government.
In his budget presentation, PM Mitchell announced that contrary to opinion in some quarters government had paid over $EC200 million in debts in the past year.
Opposition Senator Dr. George Vincent who is the Chairman of the congress party, said the 2015 budget was not different from the document that was presented by the Minister of Finance in both 2013 and 2014 and amounted to a classic exercise in deception.
Dr. Vincent argued that the budget lacks a coherent strategy that is supported by programs for the transformation to a new economic as planned by the NNP in the 2013 election campaign.
He told the Senate that the 2015 budget as presented by the NNP regime lacked a well defined economy strategy to transform the Grenadian economy.
“In the three documents we have been presented since this (NNP) Government (came into office in 2013), we have seen (they) look like pies in the sky, “he said.
The opposition senator noted that from during the presentation of the 2013 budget, the people of Grenada was introduced to the concept of “the new economy” by the Minister of Finance.
He added that in the 2014 budget, the term “building the new economy through higher production and sacrifice for the benefit for all” was used then and the new economy was once again promoted as top priority for the Government in 2015.
Dr. Vincent argued that the 3-year Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) as introduced by the Mitchell government was destroying the middle income and lower income families in the country and helping to further choke the economy.
He adopted as part of his presentation a statement issued by the newly formed Taxpayers Association of Grenada (TAG) which said that “the present economic policies would lead to bankruptcies with immediate effect of increasing unemployment and fiscal and social instability that would kill the country completely”.
Although the labour movement pledge support for some aspects of the 2015 budget, it was felt that there was not a strong and compelling tone emphasising the challenges the people of Grenada face and the need for them to engage in greater entrepreneurship to create livelihoods as well as jobs.
Sen. Raymond Robert who is the voice of labour in the Upper House of Parliament accused Dr. Mitchell of creating a culture of dependency with the presentation of the 2015 budget.
He said the Labour Movement strongly doubt that the people will experience “the good times” in the near future as the reality seems to be more hard times for working people, as well as possible job losses and new taxes.
Sen. Roberts described 2014 as a disaster for workers with hundreds losing their jobs including those in the banking industry and several other businesses.
He said that unless government delivers on the promise of 3500 jobs made in the 2015 budget he feared that many Grenadians will fall into deeper poverty in the coming years.
The representative of the Grenada Trade Union Council (GTUC) reminded the Upper House that it was important for the nation to understand how the economy reached in its current dire position.
He recalled that in1995 when the NNP under Dr. Mitchell came into office, the labour movement had engaged the administration and warned back then that putting the personal income tax threshold at $60,000 was a bad idea.
He said “the lone Mathematician in this country Dr. Keith Mitchell” ignored rational opinion from labour and also the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial institutions and tinkered with the income tax.
The reality, according to Sen. Roberts is that the severe consequences of the actions of former Mitchell governments have now fallen on the working people of Grenada.
“We in labour recognise the great challenge (facing us), but much of what we are experiencing today … is self-inflicted and that was during the period of 1995 to 2008 – spending on very unproductive areas”, he told the Senate sitting.