December 14, 2007
Arnhim Eustace: We can’t borrow forever!

There is no doubt what Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace is most concerned about: $1.162 billion, which represents this country’s national debt, as of September 30th this year.

As he made his response to the budget presentation by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Eustace suggested that there is a desperate need for the government to put a brake on the public debt.{{more}}

Eustace said that while the government may have good intentions with the number of projects that it is undertaking, control must be exercised.

“We can’t borrow forever,” Eustace said.

Eustace said that some of the plans should be implemented at a slower rate, to stay within our budgetary constraints.

He said that during his New Democratic Party’s (NDP) 17 years in power, the debt grew at an average of $21 million per year, while under the Unity Labour Party (ULP), this number has ballooned to an average of $100 million per year.

He noted that the NDP’s debt average, which is considerable lower than the ULP’s also included the debt incurred for the failed Ottley Hall Marina project.

Eustace also chided the government for its attitude towards the International Monetary Fund (IMF), saying that while

he doesn’t agree with everything the IMF says, that body’s caution concerning the growing debt needs to be heeded by the government.

He suggested that at the rate the government is going, whatever relief the Ottley Hall debt forgiveness may have realized would be wiped out, with new debts in one year.

Regarding the Tourism sector, Eustace was very complimentary on the work by the government, but said that the increased numbers are mainly cruise arrivals, which doesn’t do much for the visitor spending; the key component in the tourism sector.

He said that much more needed to be done to stimulate tourist spending, so that the country could reap the full benefit of our tourism product.

He cited the need for more work to be done on tourist attractions as one of the ways this stimulation could take place.

Eustace also touched on the subject of economic growth, suggesting that while the country has seen some growth, indicators show that it isn’t as much as the government would want people to believe.

According to Eustace, in most sectors, including Agriculture, Tourism, and construction, St Vincent and the Grenadines’ growth rate is average, when compared to other countries in the OECS.

He again condemned the way that government managed the implementation of the Value Added Tax (VAT), saying that the measures announced by Dr Gonsalves during his budget presentation were a “convenient cover-up for the incompetence in which VAT was dealt with.” (KJ)