More focus should be placed on economic growth – Opposition Leader
December 13, 2013
More focus should be placed on economic growth – Opposition Leader

Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace is disappointed in the 2014 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure.{{more}}

On Tuesday, a majority of the Members of Parliament approved the 2014 Estimates, which totalled EC$911.57 million, but the Leader of the Opposition said, during the debate, that he thought that more focus should have been given to economic growth.

Drawing a parallel between the Estimates of 2010 and 2014, Eustace hinted that the government may have inflated the figures in the Estimates, as the next general elections are due in 2015.

“In 2010, an election was pending, the budget went from $750 million to $913.4 million,” he said.

However, in the years which followed, there was a steady decline, Eustace said.

“This year 2013, we had a budget of $799 million; now we have a sudden jump to $911.5 million.”

“We now put it down to bunching,” the Leader of the Opposition said.

He said the document containing the Estimates is a critical one which contained critical information. He however said the approach taken by the Government to the budget will not lead to economic growth.

“I have come to the conclusion that we will continue to differ and we will continue to have negative to no growth, based on this kind of approach,” Eustace said.

He said the Government instead needed to manage its resources and come up with solutions.

“You come to the Parliament with a big budget and that is supposed to give the impression that a lot of money is around? That we are moving on?”

In 2010, when there was a big budget, it was during a period when the country had low economic growth, Eustace said.

“The budget did nothing to change that – we are still in the same position today,” he continued.

He said the budgeted figure for 2014 was $911.57 million, however based on the projections indicated in the document, the figure was expected to decline through to 2016.

“So what are you really saying? What can we expect from you?” the Leader of the Opposition asked.

He explained that there is an increase in the increments, so it appears as though there was an increase in salaries; pension and National Insurance Services (NIS) payments are up $2 million; interest payments have not changed; goods and services were up a mere $1.2 million when compared to the 2013 figure and the amount of debt to be paid this year could not be ignored.

The recurrent expenditure and armortization and sinking fund amounts to $654.4 million, with the expenditure expected to be financed by recurrent revenue of $520.5 million.

According to the Leader of the Opposition, this difference of $133 million is something that could not be ignored.

“I’m worried because the things he said he is going to do, they are not going to get done,” Eustace said.

The Leader of the Opposition said there are one or two small projects that may get done, but the bigger capital projects would not be completed.

He also raised the issue of agriculture, saying that it appeared as though the situation with the banana industry will remain the same.

And unless the banana situation is properly addressed, St Vincent and the Grenadines would not have the sort of growth that was required, Eustace opined.

“This is a serious matter,” he said, adding that agriculture was one of the few sectors that will facilitate growth.

“We cannot let this sector die and invariably we need a more consistent approach to how we approach the banana industry,” Eustace said. (DD)