Barrels of Joy at Parliament

There may have been no holly hanging on the doors or mistletoe dangling from the ceiling, but there sure was a whole lot of kissing and making up in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, imagined, perceived or real.
The occasion was the sitting of the House of Assembly where papers were laid and bills presented by the Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony and the Minister for Commerce, Emma Hippolyte, all in Christmas paper I must say. But there was hardly any debate, argument or the usual “maipwis,” “mauvais lang” and finger pointing associated with the “honourable” House in these parts. Instead, with the exception of one “amendment” being deferred, the proceedings contained a few friendly jokes particularly by the representative for Central Castries Richard Frederick and ended with Christmas salutations from the Prime Minister.
Too bad no one appealed for a gift of better acoustics and a PA system for the “House.”
Among the motions which got the “I’s” approval were amendments to the Value Added Tax to allow for more items to be included on the construction stimulus package, as well as the exemption of certain agricultural inputs and computer related items. The nod was also given for the authorization for the Minister of Finance to borrow by means of advances sums not exceeding thirty-five million dollars from commercial banks. These sums shall be charged upon and paid out of the Consolidated Fund.
Then there were the bills on the “Distribution and Price of Goods” amendment and the banking amendment, the only one deferred following a query from Frederick. The kind of stuff the average person hardly understands in any case. There was a slight back and forth on it, with the Central Castries MP taking issue with the wording in the explanation. After the Prime Minister agreed to defer, Frederick chided “we shall not give the AG any flack.” “On this occasion,” said the Prime Minister, to which they both chuckled.
And whilst there were no pork barrel bills on Tuesday, the much anticipated “Christmas Barrel” subject which brings real relief to many families here especially in this season of hard guavas and VAT, was also tabled. With just twenty seven days to go before Christmas, the exemption from tax on such barrels from friends and families overseas is for a limited period commencing November 15, 2012 and terminating on January 31, 2013. These barrels should contain unsolicited personal items including food, clothing, toys and household items and limited to two barrels per household. Electronic items and items for commercial use are not included and the value must not exceed EC$2,500 for each barrel.
Bills, VAT, Barrels and the “I’s have it” aside, the Prime Minister then went on to wish officers and clerks of parliament a wonderful and joyous Christmas before the day’s session was brought to a close. Noting the absence of the leader of the opposition Stevenson King, he offered his Christmas greeting to the former Prime Minister and his family. Strangely the absence of Minister of Infrastructure and ports Philip J Pierre who was hospitalized last Wednesday, was not mentioned.
“Of course to the members of the opposition I want to also wish on behalf the Government side and to extend Christmas greetings to each and every one,” Dr Anthony said Tuesday.
“And to the Micoud South MP, we have occasion to share pleasantries and to understand that we are neighbours in every sense of the word. We have developed an excellent rapport and I hope I have the opportunity to see him in the same place not necessarily, at the same time next year, so that we can exchange personal views,” said Dr Anthony who represents Vieux Fort south. “I want to extend the same goodwill to every member of the opposition and hope that during this season, we can put our differences aside for a few moments, for few days and embrace each other because in this island we are basically one family despite all the differences that we may have and the
differences of course that exists between us…” “Just for a few days,” blurted Richard Frederick.
“No I think I clarify by adding beyond a few days,” Anthony responded. “And better days,” Frederick interjected with a chuckle. “And also to say to members of the opposition that they too should not be afraid to share in the better days,” Dr Anthony replied with a laugh adding “we would like you to be part of the better days as we celebrate together with each other.”
Noting that the cooperation received Tuesday may not necessarily be enjoyed at the next sitting Dr Anthony indicated that it was still a wonderful way to close the year. “Because here we are today finding common ground on things that touch the lives of the people of Saint Lucia,” he stated. AT that point he went on to thank his own members and wished them a joyous and wonderful Christmas
before the speaker called for the motion to close the session.
The friendly exchanges continued even after the formal session ended with no one seemingly in a hurry to leave the house. Not too sure if they were all waiting for someone to bring out the sorrel, VAT (the one that’s 40 proof) and ham, their gifts from Santa, a few red envelopes or just happy
for a morning away
from the grind of their Government offices and constituency offices. There the demands are not so easily brushed aside by a simple salutation of “God rest ye Merry Gentlemen.”

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