Commentary

Part 2: The 2020 Budget – What are we to expect in the New Year?

“Grenada’s fiscal performance continues to be strong“, says the Minister of Finance, regarding fiscal performance. However, a different picture emerges when we examine the numbers for the first half of the year, January to June 2019.

We must look at the numbers for January to June, 2019 only, because these are the only available statistics, even though the agreement with the IMF requires Government to publish, monthly fiscal summaries. We believe that they have not done so because they want the freedom to make pronouncements in the Budget that cannot be tested or verified.

According to the budget statement, Grenada received $183.7 million in grants in 2019. However, the numbers for January to June show that at the end of June only $31.2m or 16% was received. Is the Minister of Finance telling us that while we could only collect $31.2m in the first half of the year, we were able to collect $152.5m in the second half?

Because the fiscal summaries for July to December were not published, we cannot verify the figures given in the Budget, they are therefore totally unreliable. This doesn’t paint a picture of a country that international agencies are eager to give money because of good economic management as we are told.

Similarly, Government says its targeted spending in 2019 for capital expenditure (projects) was $196.4m but it fell short and spent only $100.5m. However, the available figures show that by the end of June 2019, only $23.7m was spent. Is it reasonable to expect that between July and December 2019 they would find a way to spend another $76.8m? Once again, the figures in the Budget statement are exposed as unreliable.

It is important to note that in any economy, it is the capital projects that generate employment. The Minister announced that unemployment has dropped from 40% in 2013 (a lie long debunked) to 15% in 2019. If Capital expenditure is shrinking and implementation rate is only 51%, where are these people working to account for the fall in unemployment? This smacks of gimmickry.

On Grenada’s International Trade position, according to the Budget Statement, today we import $634.1m worth of goods. Our food import bill alone amounts to $120.4m and our fuel bill is $108.9m. On the other hand, we export just $47.4m of goods. Our trade deficit is therefore $586.7m. How does all of this add up to a booming economy and good management of the economy? The truth is, the Minister of Finance’s performance is poor.

The economic situation in the country is being promoted as prosperous, but in reality most of us are going through very difficult times. Most families are struggling to meet their basic needs and are literally living from hand to mouth. Begging is far too common. We hear about big land sales and multi-million dollar projects but none of this seems to find its way to trickle down into the hands of the population.

We have poor support services in health. Basic health needs such as dental care cannot be accessed by the poor and vulnerable. Some have to resort to tooth extractions rather than filling, thereby affecting the most basic of human needs, that of eating. Our roads have reached a new level of deterioration. They are collapsing and slipping everywhere; potholes damaging peoples’ vehicles are common place.

Our Agriculture is at an all-time low. We are under-performing in terms of exports in cocoa, nutmeg and soursop, because Government is not providing the necessary support to farmers. We’ve lost all the progressive levels that we strove for in education such as the School Book Program, student small loan for TAMCC to make sure everybody has access, refunding parents CXC fees if students get 8 or more passes to help out a little, now nothing!

Our focus needs to be on training our people, high-end skills, niche markets and our natural assets like our agricultural crops.

All Grenadians should be able to access health care services without being impoverished. We therefore welcome the initiative that is finally coming on stream with Grenadian Dr. Kester Nedd and JIPA. This was an initiative the NDC government started since 2011 and should have been way more advanced by now.

It means National Health Insurance, but must carry with it Primary Health Care initiatives and the new hospital recommended by PAHO/WHO along with some other initiatives.

We remind our people that in office, the NDC completed 17 out of the 21 steps outlined as necessary, by the World Bank body International Finance Cooperation (IFC) to build the hospital with teaching facilities. Ground breaking was to take place in June 2013, but we lost the election in February 2013.   There is no good reason why this government did not pursue this initiative. The truth is they do not care about you.

Our Party Leader, Sister Franka Bernardine, Deputy Chairman, Brother Kennedy Roberts and Senator Ron Redhead participated in the recent NHI conference at Radisson Hotel and gave the assurance that NDC will support the efforts of JIPA, Dr. Nedd and the Government to design an NHI plan that will be an integral part of Universal Health Care.

NDC remains committed to strengthening our institutions in the interest of all our people.

(The above was submitted by the main opposition National Democratic Congress, headed by former Education Minister Franka Alexis-Bernardine)

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