The main Opposition New National Party (NNP) has placed on record its dissatisfaction that the Ministry of Finance has not made available the hard copies of the $1.3 billion budget statement presented in Parliament on Monday by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dickon Mitchell, as traditionally done by past administrations.
In expressing its disappointment, the NNP which is headed by former Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell said that the non-availability of the “Hard Copy” of the document was inhibiting its ability to respond properly and fittingly in the short term to the 2023 Budget Speech.
This was the controversial issue raised by NNP Labour Relations Officer, Pastor Winston Garraway, the former Minister for National Disaster Management when he appeared as a guest on Monday night’s “Beyond the Headlines” programme on the Grenada Broadcasting Network (GBN) with Host, Pastor Stephenson Worme.
This week’s discussions surrounded the plans, and policies of the 5-month-old National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration in St. George’s, as announced by the new Prime Minister and Finance Minister Dickon Mitchell in his maiden budget address to Parliament under the theme, “Vision 2035 people-centered transformation laying the foundation for resilience, empowerment and growth.”
Garraway, after agreeing to appear as a guest on the weekly programme, when asked to comment on the 2023 budget, opted to read out a party statement, which cited a lack of courtesy on the part of the new Congress administration, which has only issued electronic soft copies of both the budget speech and the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure.
The NNP statement reads as follows: “The New National Party notes with concern the non-delivery of the hard copies of the 2023 budget statement after today’s presentation. This document traditionally is presented to all members of Parliament and then the general public immediately after the presentation of the statement by the Minister of Finance.
This is the first instance in modern memory where this has not been done as such members of the New National Party team have been restricted in their ability to respond in a proper and fitting manner in the short term to the Budget statement.
While a digital copy was circulated before 4 p.m. this afternoon, and this is based solely on the interjection by the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition at the end of the sitting, it does not allow our team at the time to scrutinise the 80 plus pages of information from a lengthy presentation and respond in short order to what have been many requests by the media for comments on said document.
The New National Party is prepared after the receipt of the document and it is studied to be involved in any forum to discuss the said document. Before this, we are not in a position to give justice and to do justice to the nation and the nation’s people in providing information on a document that we do not have sight of in its entirety.”
So, as such, we are not able to proceed any further in this discussion tonight…” Garraway told the programme host as he read the contents of the statement.
However, Pastor Worme, criticised the approach of the former junior government Minister in dealing with the issue, contending that if it was an issue of protocol he should have ventilated his position to the programme producers instead of appearing on the programme.
“My contention is, Dr. Garraway that you could have ventilated to our producers before the programme ,that look, we have not received important documentation and as a result, we can’t appear on the programme, and I think that that’s more protocol in my humble opinion than what we got here tonight. I think it’s a little shabby, just as you say that it wasn’t a protocol thing to do.”
“I think it’s a little shabby too, that you got on to the programme, and then you say well we cannot do anything on the programme. I think it should have been done before if we are talking about being protocol in procedures. I don’t think that was protocol. So, two (2) wrongs don’t make a right.”
However, Pastor Garraway responded by stating that he “differs” with the analysis of the host and the grounds that “primarily because we are talking about the governance of the country – it’s not about your feeling and my feeling – this is about the representation of people and if I was to send a statement, whoever is gonna read it would not convey what I’ve just said.”
“The important thing here is to say to the nation that we are prepared to make a meaningful contribution to any discussion as it relates to the Budget. Given that we do not have the document and we were not given ample time to do an analysis of it, it doesn’t really augur well for meaningful discussion,” he added.
THE NEW TODAY sought clarity on the matter and was able to get in touch with Garraway on Tuesday, however he said that “this is a party statement” and directed our news desk to the NNP Head Office.
Contact was then made with the NNP’s Public Relations Officer Emmalin Pierre, who took time while off the island to explain the genesis of the statement but the phone call was interrupted and THE NEW TODAY was not able to make further contact with the former Education Minister.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the Standing Order of the House has been amended to provide for the electronic dissemination of documents, and that the Parliament Office has not issued paper documents for some time now.
The absence of a printed copy of the budget presentation was one of the issues raised by Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Mitchell at the end of Monday’s sitting, when he rose “on a point of order” to indicate his expectation of getting the printed 2023 budget document.
“Usually at the end of this we would have hard copies provided to members … by the Minister of Finance, I will look forward to that,” Dr. Mitchell informed the House.
Former Opposition Senator, Dr. Tessa St Cyr has been shedding light on the issue of the move towards a paperless Parliament.
In a posting, she said: “There was an amendment to the Standing Orders of both the House of Representatives and the Senate to allow for the circulation of documents digitally. When I challenged this in the Senate, considering the size of the budget document, then Sen. Winston Garraway chastised me saying I am a Public Health professional and I am requesting a hard copy… trees matter to public health!!
“The Standing Orders subcommittees of both houses, led by the then members of the NNP administration, presented the motion. And guess what, the ayes had it, the ayes did have it!! Siddung and tek dat!! Allu dig allu own hole!! If allu ent believe me, check the Hansard records!!
#WhatGoesAroundComesBackAroundVeryHard. Bye for now ah going and read the awesome budget document DIGITALLY and ah wearing meh glasses!!”