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Friday describes as ‘farcical’ government’s moves to get the 2022 budget passed

Friday describes as ‘farcical’ government’s moves to get the 2022 budget passed
Opposition Leader Dr Godwin Friday

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‘Farcical’ is the adjective used by Opposition Leader, Dr Godwin Friday to describe the manner in which this year’s $1.33 billion Budget was passed in the House of Assembly last week.

The Appropriation Bill approving the 2022 fiscal package was successfully passed on schedule last Friday evening, despite numerous delays due to Members of Parliament testing positive for COVID-19 infection.

By Wednesday, January 12, eight government members, including finance minister, Camillo Gonsalves had tested positive for the virus and were therefore unable to be present to participate in the debate.

Three members on the opposition side; parliamentary representative for East Kingstown, Fitzgerld Bramble, representative for the Southern Grenadines, Terrance Ollivierre and Senator Shevern John were also told that they had to isolate after apparently being exposed to Gonsalves, who delivered his Budget address on Monday, January 10 and tested positive for the corona virus on Tuesday morning.

“The point is that the situation was one that was unsafe, it was uncertain and it was one that called for — if you are a responsible person who considers COVID-19 a serious threat to the health and wellbeing of our people and to the progress of our economy, then you should do what is necessary,” he said.

“ Show that it’s serious. Adjourn Parliament until its safe for people to come back the following week as members were cleared and so forth to come out of isolation and our three members whom they had, the Speaker had said they couldn’t return for five days, that they could’ve returned on Monday, and then have the debate in an environment that was safe, and took the debate seriously,” Friday said on the New Times radio programme yesterday, January 17.

The opposition took the decision last week not to be present on Friday, January 14 for the debate, because of a situation they felt sought to exclude the opposition from the proceedings, especially when three of its members could not participate.

Friday also questioned the Prime Minister’s urgency to have the Budget passed ahead of this week, particularly since other Budget debates have taken place in February.

“What turned out there was farcical. You have a situation there where the government is presenting and you have senior ministers who are affected, whose ministries are the ones affected by COVID…Minister of Education, Minister of Health and you say you don’t want to hear from them during this Budget; given the fact that this presentation, five long, boring, tedious hours by the Minister of Finance, left so much unsaid, so much to be done, especially what was going to be happening going forward in education and in health?,” he questioned.

Friday, who is the president of the New Democratic Party (NDP), also said that Gonsalves’ presentation was “just fluff and self praise…and not dealing with the serious issues that are confronting the country”.

The party expressed these same sentiments in a release dated January 17.

“It disregarded the rights of Opposition members to contribute to the Budget debate – the most important debate in our parliament – and the right of the people of the country to have the benefit of those contributions. No good reason was given by Gonsalves for his refusal to suspend the debate as was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. The refusal to suspend parliament was a spiteful and blatant misuse of power. As in other things, it was Gonsalves’ way or the highway!,” the release said of the debate.

The release also stated that Opposition members will present their responses to the Budget presentation this week on Nice radio.

Senators Shevern John and Israel Bruce presented their arguments on radio last Thursday.

“The desperate and farcical manoeuvres by the Gonsalves and his ULP government has put our Parliament in a bad light and undermined our system of democracy. All people should rebuke and condemn them for it,” the NDP’s release stated.