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Debate on Estimates postponed

Debate on Estimates postponed

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The debate on the Estimates and Budget for 2013 have been postponed to dates to be announced.{{more}}

The estimate of income and expenditure for 2013 was scheduled to be laid in Parliament tomorrow — Wednesday — while the Budget Address was carded for next Monday.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said at a press briefing yesterday said that difficulties in the physical production of the Estimates document were among reasons for his decision.

He also said he would be attending the funeral of George Stilson Fraser, commonly known as “Stilly”, Wednesday afternoon.

“We will go to the House as usual for the proclamation and I suspect the questions from the previous period will be on the Order Paper. Those can be dealt with and then we’ll have the date for the actual debate of the Estimates at a later date,” Gonsalves said.

He added that he was trying to reach Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace to let him know of his decision.

“I don’t want because of a difficulty in the physical production — they would be reaching the Honourable members this (Monday) afternoon at 3.

“Clearly it’s unacceptable to have them handed at 3 and have the debate fully on Wednesday,” the prime minister said, adding that when he first became a member of the House he got the document on the very day of the presentation.

“But this is a government voted for good governance. I want us, when we having the debate, we have a debate based on the numbers there, not what people imagine them to be,” Gonsalves said.

The prime minister said he would prefer to allow for all Members of Parliament to have the opportunity to study the document, adding that he did not think that Thursday would have been sufficient time either.

He said Friday would not be feasible, since some lawmakers are Seventh-day Adventists and have to leave before 6 p.m. for the observance of the Sabbath.

He further said lawmakers might request the weekend to look over the document.

“We can’t have the Estimates debate on Wednesday and most likely it will be next week,” Gonsalves said.

He said that he will announce the date tomorrow, but will first have to discuss it with the Speaker of the House, Hendrick Alexander.

And, around midday yesterday, Eustace, who is nursing an injured shoulder, spoke on the “New Times” radio programme via telephone.

He said opposition parliamentarians were yet to receive copies of the Estimates.

“It is unfair as an opposition party not to be able to go through the Estimates in detail before we go into the Parliament of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Or we can’t do our duty to the public of St Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said.

“So, I expect some adjustments in the date for Parliament and I’ll have to play my own position — health wise — on a day-by-day basis,” said Eustace, who was released from hospital on Sunday, after spending five days there.

Eustace said the prime minister telephoned on Sunday, just after he was released from the hospital and enquired about the meeting on the Estimates.

Eustace said he told Gonsalves that he was yet to receive the document.

“And as you know the Estimates is a document 700 pages long and if we are going to have to debate that, we need some time to do so,” Eustace said.

The leader of the opposition added that he was waiting for the prime minister to confirm the time for the debate.

“I will have to give my own views,” Eustace said, adding that it had been a difficult time for him and he was trying to cope.

The injury he sustained to his shoulder during the march and rally on November 8 may affect his participation, one way or the other, in the Estimates and the budget, Eustace said.

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