PM disappointed with Opposition’s contribution to Budget Debate
January 22, 2013
PM disappointed with Opposition’s contribution to Budget Debate

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves says that he is disappointed with the level of the contribution by members of the opposition to the Budget Debate last week.{{more}}

Gonsalves, during his response last Friday to the debate, which began on January 14, said that he had set out to provide a compelling developmental narrative, which included decades of reflection on development economics, development policy making, actual experiences and our own condition.

“And I was hoping that the debate would have been properly joined on these fundamental matters; unfortunately that did not happen,” Gonsalves said.

He added that Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace, sought to trivialise the debate.

“That Sir Ralph had come in on his white horse to set everything right in 2001 — in other words a kind of attempted humour, which fell flat on a serious matter; that I had come in on a white horse,” the prime minister said.

But Gonsalves fired back saying that while this sort of treatment of serious issues may be acceptable in juvenile communities, it was not accepted in a serious law-making institution like Parliament.

Other members of the opposition echoed sentiments similar to their leader’s, Gonsalves said.

Eustace, when he spoke on Wednesday had said that the prime minister started his presentation by going back 50 years.

Eustace added that at the pinnacle of Gonsalves’ arrogance, the prime minister said the work of the early economists, did not provide for any growth.

“But then in 2001, in come Knight Gonsalves on his white horse to change the state of affairs,” Eustace said.

“Sir Ralph” had come to save the population, Eustace said, adding that the prime minister instead led the country into four years of negative growth and became the first leader to establish a $1 billion nation debt.

(Regional and international agencies have said that the Vincentian economy grew by less than 1 per cent in 2011, after three years of decline.)

Therefore, Gonsalves was not in a position to cast a dark shadow on the likes of Sir Arthur Lewis and William Demas, some of the region’s well-known economists, Eustace said.

However, the prime minister responded, saying that he didn’t say that he had no regard for the Caribbean economists he had mentioned in his Budget Address.

“I would say this to put to rest the facile posturing by the Leader of the Opposition to make a joke or to sneer at all this,” Gonsalves said.

And so he explained that he studied some of Sir Arthur Lewis’ work during his years at the University of the West Indies and also some work by William Demas.

“I have used Demas’ book so often that the cover is no longer dogeared; it has come off.”

Gonsalves added that he has been a student of some of the other outstanding economists, including Lloyd Best and that during his tenure as lecturer at Cave Hill Campus in Barbados, his office was next to that of Sir Arthur.

“Could you imagine having a man like him next to you? Money can’t pay for that learning,” the prime minister said. (DD)