Senator warns expenditure is not growth!

Senator Ubaldus Raymond

Under the ruling of Senate President Claudius Francis, the Senate considered a number of Papers laid by the Minister for Legal Affairs, Home Affairs and National Security and Leader of Government Business and the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Business Development, Investment and Consumer Affairs on Monday.
Among the motions moved by Senator Victor La Corbiniere was that Parliament authorizes the Minister for Finance to borrow an amount not exceeding the equivalent of US$6,233,000.00 from the Caribbean Development Bank to assist Government in financing the improvement of access to basic infrastructure and services for residents under the Program for the Regularization of Unplanned Development (PROUD) Settlement Project.
The Leader of Government Business also presented the Appropriation Bill 2012/2013 to the Senate. Each senator was allocated 45 minutes to speak on the Bill.
Senator Ubladus Raymond began the debate by declaring his full support for the Prime Minister’s Budget for the fiscal year. He highlighted some of what he thinks were extraordinary plans by the government to improve the economy of St Lucia and the overall GDP. But while commending the government for, according to him, a “great plan to create jobs and jobs and more jobs,” Raymond also cautioned his Government and other Governments to come that while GDP will show how well the economy is doing, it does not necessarily show how well the lives of people are enhanced.
“We have been hiding for too long Mr President, behind GDP growth which in most cases does not benefit a wide cross section of our society. Yet, Mr President, with our current ad hoc developmental strategy, it is possible that we can achieve growth without achieving development. A well thought vision plan will ensure that development will be supported by economic growth,” said Raymond, who was also a candidate for the Labour Party in last year’s elections.
He went on to explain that governments in the past, including the current have been spending too little on capital expenditure while the recurrent expenditure keeps growing each year. Raymond says capital expenditure is what grows a country and governments need to spend more in that category while exploring ways to decrease the recurrent expenditure.
“What I did was to go ahead and compare the proportion of capital expenditures to that of total expenditures and Mr President, we are in a bad state in this country—let’s assume Government does not spend any money on capital expenditure . . . no repairing of roads, no building of schools; this country or any country will fail miserably.
“Over the last seven years, government only spent between 33 and 38 percent on total expenditure on capital projects. In other words, Government spends about 70 percent of its total expenditure on recurrent expenditure. Recurrent expenditure is not a growth factor in this country, capital expenditure is the growth factor but yet still we have such a high recurrent expenditure in this country and such a low capital expenditure,” said Raymond.
Dr Stephen King, who also stood in support of the Appropriation Bill, began his presentation with a fiery start. King stated that the education is one of the most important sectors as we focus on our development and according to him, the education policy of the Budget is one that is headed in the right direction as far as early childhood education is concerned.
“Ministry of Education must ensure that we utilize and further develop programmes like roving caregivers; we must maximize the use of community facilities and schools to teach parenting and support parents from the time of conception. Our health services need to partner to bring their knowledge and skills to bear. The community needs to clean up the environment so that the children are not exposed to vulgarity and violence and that families, pregnant women, mothers and children are given the necessary love and support,” said King.
The Independent Senator indicated that he supports the zoning of schools. He says zoning is good for the community however, he believes the schools must operate at the appropriate level and have the requisite resources. He also shared his belief that the process of zoning should not apply to Denominational schools such as the St Mary’s College, St Joseph’s Convent and Seventh Day Adventist schools.
“We need to have a clearly articulated policy on these schools that allows us to support the schools with public funds but allows these schools the freedom to develop in a complementary manner, including academic excellence and their religious curriculum. Our policy should also articulate how the private schools should operate in the mutual interest of state, school and student.”
King says the CARE schools and NSDC need to be integrated into the education system, “such that our students have multiple options and pathways which include the necessary bridges between the various schools and training centers.”
Referring to the Government’s proposal to bring A Levels to secondary schools, King says this would not be in the best interest of students and the country as a whole and in his opinion, an unwise move.
“A levels and CAPE are college or university level programmes; that is they are tertiary and not secondary. The SALCC has been a success in many ways especially in improving performance of students and providing more access to A Levels; we have progressed from 49 students with a 49% pass rate in 1976 to 222 students with a pass rate of 72% in 2011; that is no mean achievement.
“The amount of resources that are necessary to make secondary schools CAPE ready is considerable, in terms of infrastructure and for teaching staff. Further recent discussions with an American University indicate that they will not accept CAPE or A Levels from secondary schools but will accept from a Community College,” he said.
While supporting the introduction of VAT, King cautioned the issue of avoiding double taxation from stock on hand during the transition period is a serious one.
“The Chamber proposes that Government considers giving consumption tax credit to business with stock on hand, this strategy is worthy of consideration. There are also concerns about the capacity of the Government machinery to handle VAT returns and the policing of the VAT system which will involve over 8000 registered businesses; these must be addressed if VAT is to reap the rewards that it could.”
As he approached the end of his presentation, King questioned the Government’s policy on Constitutional Reform: “I listened to the budget and did not hear about constitutional reform, where is this? Is the Government in this financial year allocating resources to make sure that we bring the constitutional reform process to fruition? It is time. If we are talking about modernization we must address our constitution to ensure that it offers the protections that we want to see, while allowing us to be more agile and flexible to maneuver, and ensuring a deeper and more genuine democracy that maximizes the participation of all people in the affairs of the country.
“For us to be a successful state it these issues and therefore constitutional reform must be addressed. For us to be successful on the global market we need to use our smallness to our advantage, our constitution and the rest of the legislation, regulation and policies that emanate from rethinking our Governance can give us the opportunity to be a modern small globally competitive state.”

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