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The NDP’s boycott of Parliament – a missed opportunity

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Protests against the 2015 general elections notwithstanding, the New Democratic Party (NDP) is missing a real opportunity by not turning up to Parliament to debate the 2016 Budget.

The Leader of the Opposition reiterated his party’s position yesterday and said in a few days time, the Opposition members of the House would present their alternative Budget — outside of Parliament.{{more}}

Having the Government side speak to the Budget at one venue, then days later, the Opposition respond at another venue defeats the whole purpose of the exercise and short-changes the general public. The presentation of the Budget is expected to be a debate, designed so that Opposition members can immediately challenge Government members and draw to the attention of the public, shortcomings in the proposals and presentations of the Government Ministers.

Yesterday, for example, the Prime Minister, in his Budget address, announced several new revenue measures, including removing several basic food items from the zero-rated and exempt VAT lists. This is one area in which the Opposition could have gone to town on the Government, as during the recent election campaign, the NDP had promised to do the very opposite — add over 100 items to the list of items that do not attract VAT.

The Opposition members could have hammered the Government about the ever shifting completion date of the Argyle International Airport and the failure by the Government after all these years, to lay in the House, audited financials from the International Airport Development Company.

Mr Eustace and his team could have grilled the Government side about where are the growth areas in the Budget and what are the projects that will provide jobs.

As Queen’s Counsel Parnel Campbell pointed out last week, it is a contradiction for the Opposition to ask the public to elect them to the House of Parliament and then refuse to attend because of their protest action. One fails to see how staying away from Parliament will further the objective of the Opposition to remove the Unity Labour Party administration from Government. Rather, the absence of the NDP members gives the Government side a free pass, with no challenge to whatever they choose to present to Parliament.

That, to us, presents a grave disservice to the people of this country.

The Leader of the Opposition indicated in his radio address yesterday that his party will attempt to have live coverage of their alternative Budget presentation on more than one radio station to ensure they reach as wide an audience as possible. The widest and most attentive audience would have been the one they would have had, had they debated in Parliament. Anything else is a mere mockery of the system.

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