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The Independence ‘Budget 2014’


Tue Nov 11, 2014

Editor: “Bonus, bonus!” Each year, a large number of Vincentians anticipate the annual Independence address, not for its uplifting speech making to the nation and its accordant patriotic colours and military drill, but for the usual ‘goodies’ that the populace has come to expect.{{more}} While recently, the bonus feature has now disappeared as a sound economic handout or hand-up according to one’s political ideology, address after address continues to leave out one important detail and of which also, the general public fails to ask: “How are we going to pay for it all?”

The announcement that the Government will increase the salaries of part-time workers such as cleaners and kitchen staff, consult on the possibility of raising the minimum wage and improving working conditions, the EC $50 million facelift, six million dollars in building materials, a further six million dollars to the Farmers Support Company, alongside the usual Christmas barrel concessions programme are all commendable announcements tailored for the ever needy “working class.”

Further, the news that the Government is negotiating a facility [loan] of EC$80 million to repair secondary, village and feeder roads across the country will be welcome relief for all end users. Implementation of this road programme, along with current works along the South Leeward highway, the continuation of the construction of the Argyle international airport and the ongoing disaster relief efforts should work to stimulate the local economy in the short term.

However, the reality of a deficit of implementation capacity and tight fiscal revenues lead the informed householder to muse how the incumbent ULP government is going to pay for all these new programmes and projects while meeting its current demands.

In fact, this trend of using the Independence address as a platform for political grandstanding should cease. Each year after the exercise at Victoria Park, the average Vincentian leaves the venue discussing what was included and what was missing from the address, as it pertains to their economic and material wealth, rather than an overarching debate on lifting the consciousness of being a ‘true Vincy.’ How much longer can we sell and resell the annual duty free barrel concessions and road cleaning programmes? Any real economic analysis will prove that these almost negligibly assist the productive middle class and its impact on the poor is a type of drug, creating an illusion of economic potency.

The poor and working class require jobs that they can build their lives around. Any future Independence address or budget must bring to the public jobs that are of a sufficiency of quality and permanency where they can participate in economic activities throughout the year. Addresses must be focussed on income generating projects rather than populist expenditures. This charade where Prime Ministers and members of government tap their shoulders in self-aggrandisement when they wrap programmes and policies in accompanying words and terms like ‘disabled, elderly, youths’ to avoid any form of economic scrutiny does little to find those best practices and measures that will offer stability to lives and a foundation for a much more truer economic take-off.

Now though that the “silly season” draws nigh, with stakes higher than ever before, the battle to win both hearts and votes will offer up more verbosity. The 2015 budget for sure will be an important prelude.

Adaiah Providence-Culzac