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Government to present EC$208m Supplementary Appropriation Bill

Government to present EC$208m Supplementary Appropriation Bill


A supplementary Appropriation Bill to sanction payments of EC$208 million (US$77 million) from the Consolidated Fund, mainly for the construction of the international airport at Argyle, will be presented in Parliament on Thursday.{{more}}

The Bill, cited as the Supplementary Appropriation (No. 4) Act of 2013, allocates $204,799,800 to provide funds to continue work on the construction of the Argyle international airport.

$3,500,000 for additional funds to meet the debt service costs associated with the new borrowings of $148,699,800 for the construction of the Argyle international airport are also provided for.

Of the $204,799,800, $56,100,000 was raised from the sale of Government assets, that is 40 acres of land on Canouan and $2.5 million from the sale of shares in the Bank of St Vincent and the Grenadines (BOSVG).

$107,200,000 of the funds were raised from a loan from the Alba Bank of Venezuela, while $26,800,000 was raised from the Mega International Commercial Bank Co Ltd of the Republic of China on Taiwan and $14,699,800 was raised from a loan from the Bank of Nova Scotia in Canada.

Leader of the Opposition Arhnim Eustace is, however, alarmed at the Bill, saying that when he received the document yesterday (Monday), it “nearly shocked the life out of” him.

“When I looked at it, I really couldn’t believe it,” he said.

“Today I saw the largest appropriation in my 15 years of Parliament in St Vincent and the Grenadines and that amount is for $208 million,” Eustace explained.

Eustace was speaking yesterday on the New Times Radio Programme on Nice Radio.

He said the 2013 budget was EC$799.1 million, and the addition $208 million would push the budgeted figure over the $900 million mark.

“You know I was so shocked when I saw this, I thought it was $208,000 but it is $208 million,” Eustace said.

“None of these were put in the budget; they are now being put as supplementary to the budget…so what’s the point of our budget really?” Eustace questioned.

“So, we have to spend an additional $208 million, every cent of which goes to the airport including interest – you see where we are?”

The Leader of the Opposition said that he has been talking about the finances of the country for some time, but there are some who do not want to hear.

Eustace explained that other areas were being deprived of funding, for example health care.

“You can’t meet your other expenses, including people’s wages sometimes, like the irrigation workers, but you voting an additional $208 million for the airport only, including interest,” Eustace said.

He said that the majority of the funding was coming in the form of loans, except those proceeds that will be collected from the sale of lands.

Eustace added that he did not know the terms of the loans, saying that other than the interest rates from the Alba Bank, the other loans from the other two commercial banks were not going to be soft loans.

“So, that means that the national debt will increase – where are we going really?”

He said that he understood that the airport needed financing, but when it was considered that the initial estimated cost was $480 million, the cost had doubled that already.

There also needed to be some balance in the allocation of money, he said.

“The priority in everything is in the airport, even at the expense of people’s basic wages,” Eustace continued.

He accused the government of running out of ideas and said that the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) had the solution to the country’s financial problems.

However, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, speaking to SEARCHLIGHT yesterday from Antigua and Barbuda, said that the money coming in for the completion of the airport project needed to be appropriated.

“I just can’t transfer it to the government by way of special warrant,” he explained.

The Prime Minister said before the change to the financial administration act, “pretty much anything” could be done with special warrants, but he stopped all that.

“I have to have an Appropriation Bill because the numbers are too large,” Gonsalves said.

The Prime Minister explained that during the presentation of the Estimates in January, he had said that it would require an additional US$80 million (EC$215 million) to complete the airport, but the monetary amounts could not be included in the Appropriation Bill then, because he was not sure of the sources of the money.

He said funds had been promised, but now that there was confirmation, the sums had to be budgeted for.

He said there is a possibility that all the funds appropriated will not be used this year.

If this is the case, the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance said then the remaining funds will be put into the 2014 budget.

Gonsalves said the interest rate to be paid on the loan from Alba had terms of 2 per cent for 20 years, while that from the Bank of Nova Scotia was 4.25 per cent, “if my memory serves me correctly.”

He, however, said all the details of the three loans will be given when Parliament meets on Thursday.

The Finance sub-Committee of the House is expected to meet today to discuss the supplementary Appropriation Bill.(DD)