EDITOR: I look forward to listening to the budget debate every year and would like to be rewarded with a spirited, lively discourse on realistic expectations for this financial year. Our parliament is not a rum shop and measures must be put in place to ensure that in the future we operate in the finest traditions of Western Democracies.
Firstly, we need a commitment from the Speaker to be fair. The rules of the House should be administered without fear or favour. The Speaker should be a neutral person and must be committed even to allow a motion of no confidence in the government to be debated and disposed of with the possibility of its removal. The Speaker must command the respect of members of both sides of the house.
Members of the house need to give the Speaker due respect.
The Minister of Finance needs to present a realistic budget based on data supplied by the audited financial report for the previous financial year. Other essential reports, such as the poverty assessment, are also critical. Accurate employment records and our rate of implantation of capital projects will be critical. Without accurate information the budget debate will lack authenticity.
The permanent secretaries who are the accounting officers should be empowered to provide the information that the finance minister needs. We cannot have a situation where every year our audited accounts for the previous financial year are not available. How would we know what the public debt is and what taxes to reduce or impose? As it stands now we are operating in the dark and moving not knowing where we are going.
The collection of outstanding taxes is another sore point. Too often we hear of large companies owing large sums of money. Our system of collection needs to be strengthened. At the same time the government must pay what it owes businesses. It is unreasonable to expect payment from them when government owes them large sums of money. Individuals too must pay what they owe.
National Insurance Services, and Vinlec must not be seen as government entities and should have neutral Boards to safeguard their integrity.
Income tax should be paid by everyone. It will teach us all to be responsible and accountable. Constituency development fund managed by each representative in parliament needs to feature in the budget. It is unfair to constituents that only the government side determines how all our taxes are expended. “No taxation without representation,” is true to our situation.
Many of our roads need to be widened and maintained. This is urgent and should be a priority. A good road network is essential for economic progress. National security must occupy our focus. We need adequately trained literate police who will live and work among the population and prevent and solve crimes.
Unemployment is a major cause of crime and our schools must be geared to training our people to fill the available jobs and to create their own.
Since our parliament is not a rum shop, we must stop the fighting and settle down to do the people’s business. This includes paying our taxes and bills, having our accounts audited every year, creating a climate conducive for investment, building and repairing our roads, and educating our people to be productive in a safe environment.
Anthony G. Stewart, PhD