2020 Budget is a Big Fat Lie – Opposition Leader
Opposition leader Dr Godwin Friday says that the government doesn’t have the money to execute the EC$1,186,351,151 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure presented for this fiscal year.
Friday was the first to rise in Parliament to respond to the figures quoted in the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for 2020 presented by finance minister Camillo Gonsalves on Wednesday.
The amount was approved by parliamentarians late Wednesday night, but not before an extensive debate from both sides of the House.
Friday, in his contribution said that the budget for 2020 is significantly larger than what it was in 2019.
“Does it mean that the minister will spend or even intend to spend EC$1.2 billion in 2020 or is this just, to use the most charitable term, an unrealistic wish or a fantasy? Or less generous terms, but perhaps more accurate to say that this budget continues the big fat lie that this government has perpetrated on the people year after year because what we see here is a continuation of the same pattern that we have all become familiar with in this House,” the opposition leader said.
He said that while the Estimates reflect that the government intends to spend the money, with EC$310 million being allocated to capital projects, it is clear that they cannot achieve the goal they have set.
And Friday said that this is because “they do not have 1.2 billion to spend and they know it, yet they put it in the budget. If the record of the past years of this government in this office is to be relied upon, that is a safe observation to make Mr Speaker, that they don’t have the money to do it, they will not do it and for what its worth, they never intended to do it”.
The opposition leader noted that this is the second year that the country has had a billion-dollar budget, which has significantly and quickly grown over the years, particularly between 2019 and 2020.
In his debate, he dissected where the money to execute the plans in the Estimates were coming from.
He noted that tax revenue was listed at EC$585.6 million and non-tax revenue at EC$94.4 million, bringing the current revenue to EC$680,039,100.
Friday also mentioned capital receipts where grants account for EC$60.6 million, external loans of EC$118.4 million and local loans of about EC$72 million.
And the opposition leader said that the problematic part of the document is that capital receipts amount to over EC$205 million this year.
He said that the minister would not be aware of that particular source of funding when the budget is prepared so “everything else is lumped under other receipts to balance the budget,” in the hopes that the category will be filled.
“So why continue to inflate the budget, why say you have a billion dollar budget if you know you are EC$200 million short?,” Friday questioned. “In 2013, Mr Speaker, other receipts amounted to 113.6 million, then in 2015, it went up to 124 million. In 2018, 160 million and I said last year, 198 and and now 205. Its now 7 million more. So as the deficit gets bigger, the lie gets bigger and the question is why.”
He proffered that things that haven’t been delivered during this government’s time in office continue to reappear in the budget and they suddenly want people to believe that they have the money to execute those projects.
Terrance Ollivierre, parliamentary representative for the Southern Grenadines, Daniel Cummings, parliamentary representative for West Kingstown, Roland ‘Patel’ Matthews, parliamentary representative for North Leeward and Senators Kay Bacchus-Baptiste and Israel Bruce all made contributions to the debate on Wednesday.
So did Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and health minister, Luke Browne.
The 2020 Budget address will take place on Monday, January 27 at the House of Assembly.