EDITORIAL: All eyes on Parliament this week
IN what promises to be a very intense debate in Parliament this week, the House of Assembly will be debating Government’s revenue and expenditure programme for the forthcoming financial year 2017/2018. The session will start when the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, The Honourable Christopher Sinckler, introduces the Appropriations Bill that will set the stage for the debate. It will definitely be the last such debate before Barbadians go to the polls early next year to cast their ballot for a new Government, and it is hoped that this week’s session and the exchanges will bring positive results for Barbados.
Exercises like the one that will take place this week, provide opportunities for members of both sides (Government and the Opposition) to argue what they think is necessary for carrying Barbados forward, what ought not be done or where priority needs to be placed in order to improve the economy and the way how business is conducted in Barbados.
Mr. Sinckler will be giving his take on how the Estimates will be programmed to do the things the Government believes is necessary to correct certain shortcomings within the economy. He will be detailing just how Government will go about collecting the $2.9 billion in revenues that are necessary to fund, for the most part, the $4.5 billion in spending earmarked for the coming year. Equally important will be the measures to finance the shortfall of $1.5 billion (between revenues and expenditure).
This will be the seventh occasion Mr. Sinckler will be presenting the Barbados Estimates and no doubt will be fully aware that what he will be presenting must be appropriate for the job at hand. Other people, including those outside of Parliament, and those who have a vested interest in seeing Barbados overcome it current predicament, will be paying attention. With the current slowdown in growth – 1.6 per cent economic growth last year – and the low economic activity, the Minister’s task therefore will be to indicate how all of these things can possibly be achieved.
Other Cabinet colleagues are also expected to give their voice on the proposals in addition to a report on their portfolio.
With the full debate starting in earnest once Mr. Sinckler completes his presentation, it will be the turn of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) to have its say through its Leader, Ms. Mia Mottley. Ms Mottley is no stranger to these debates and what we can say is that she will be giving some momentum to the proceedings. We can also say with some degree of certainty that her job will entail among other things picking apart the Estimates, raising shortcomings as she sees them, and detailing whether in the present circumstances the Government’s projections are realistic. She will have help from her Parliamentary colleagues to maintain whatever position the BLP adopts. All of this will add to the intensity of the proceedings.
However, in as much as the back and forth usually takes place on occasions like these, this paper has long canvassed the idea that where both parties are having it out, there should be time for positive and sensible debate. There is too much at stake and Barbados must at the end of the day must be the winner. That should be the ultimate goal.