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Friday says austerity measures being used in proposed budget

Friday says austerity measures being used in proposed budget

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The proposed budget is one where austerity measures are being utilized, but the actual word is not being used.{{more}}

This was how Dr Godwin Friday, Parliamentary Representative for the Northern Grenadines and Vice President of the New Democratic Party (NDP) responded to the 2013 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure on Tuesday.

“What it seems to me, from looking at the figures in the Estimates for 2013, is that it confirms what we have said – that this budget is one that recognizes the difficult circumstances,” said Friday, who was deputizing for the absent Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace.

“The Leader of the Opposition has educated this House and the nation about the nature of the budgetary exercise, where amounts are allocated on paper and they seem to balance, but in reality, we know that the various ministries will have to engage in some very difficult decision making to cut here and there,” he continued.

The deficit this year amounted to just about $113 million, he said, but over the years, this figure has been growing.

He said that the budget has now become an accounting exercise, because the government has not come anywhere close to recovering a million dollars in other receipts.

The continuing deficit is putting a squeeze on the various ministries because although moneys are allocated to various programmes on paper, the government still needs to find money to finance such programmes.

“And if you can’t, then it will result in some cuts and if you look at the Estimates you will see many of the ministries wherever there are local contributions to be made by the government to various programmes…there is a two million here, a five million there – all across the board there are cuts in the various programmes,” the deputy leader of the NDP said.

The external obligations still have to be met, Friday further explained.

But the time has to come soon, for the government to begin making the expenditure match the current revenue.

“The prime minister said that there is nothing wrong with running a deficit budget for a few years, but you know when you get into the habit it becomes a situation where it is very, very difficult to correct.

“Essentially what it means is more pain for our people and cuts in government services,” he said.

Friday commented on the issue of wages and salaries, saying that the amount allocated to this reflected the usual increments and the payment of the 1.5 per cent of the three owed to public servants.

“So, in effect there are no wage and salary increases,” Friday said.

And based on the projections for 2014, Friday said that public servants could also anticipate a wage freeze.

“So, at a time when many of the essential services of government have had to tighten their belts and people having to buy more medicine for themselves because the hospitals, clinics don’t have enough and students having to buy more books…at that time the public servants are also looking for no projected salary increases,” Friday said.

“So, Mr Speaker, what we have been talking about over the years you can be creative, but you can’t avoid the simple arithmetic of expenditure and revenue and this is where we are today.”

There are going to be a lot of challenges in the New Year he said.

“What we have had for the last four years is economic decline and that will start to bite,” Friday said. (DD)

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