December 7, 2012
Budget reflects tough times

Fri, Dec 7, 2012

The Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue presented to Parliament by Prime Minister Dr. The Hon Ralph Gonsalves earlier this week reflect the tough times that the people of this country are enduring. Not that we are in any unique situation in this regard, for most of our neighbours face a similar predicament, a consequence of the global economic crisis.{{more}}

The Estimates also indicate the fiscal tightropes that governments must walk in guiding their economies and providing for the needs of their citizens. Indeed even in highly developed economies like those of the United States of America and the United Kingdom, their governments too are having difficulty balancing the books. One has only got to follow the tussle between the Obama administration and Congress in the USA over the so-called “fiscal cliff”, or note Britain’s Chancellor being forced to admit that his country will not get out of a deficit situation until 2018, to grasp the nature of the international crisis.

The Estimates show expenditure of just under EC$800 million for 2013; $622 million on recurrent expenditure and $177 million in capital expenditure with increases held to a minimum and reductions in some areas. It demonstrates restraint and however one wishes to look at it, a certain degree of that dreaded term, “austerity”. Yet it is heartening to note that in spite of these difficulties, the Government is not abandoning its social responsibilities to the poor and most vulnerable sectors.

Inevitably, sacrifices are involved, and many persons, already feeling the pinch, are not going to be happy. This is especially so since the current administration, even when admitting difficulties, has tried to keep a positive spin on events and can be accused of being almost over-generous at times in the “packages” dished out at Independence and Christmas seasons over the years.

The Opposition, as oppositions do, has been quick to pounce on the difficulties and to blame the Government for the state of affairs. It has branded the Budget one of “austerity” and called on the administration to admit this.

Politics aside, while the situation in SVG may not be as bad as in some neighbouring countries, it nevertheless is cause for concern. SEARCHLIGHT has time and again lamented the lack of a national consensus on important issues which affect all sections of our population. Kickstarting the national economy, “holding strain” in difficult times and the need to accept sacrifices in order to prepare for a brighter future call for that level of national commitment.

We can only hope that with the Budget Debate one month away, our parliamentarians will use the Christmas break for sober reflection on the way forward. It was encouraging to hear Dr. the Hon. Godwin Friday, deputizing for the Leader of the Opposition, promise in the debate on the Estimates, to not only oppose but to propose, to put forward ideas which can help to chart a safe course through the difficult economic waters. We look forward to this and would urge the Government to be open to any positive suggestions in this regard.