Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony on Tuesday sought the approval of Parliament to raise the sum not exceeding EC$250,000,000.00 by issue of savings bonds for financing the 2012/2013 Budget and for debt refinancing.
According to the Prime Minister, Section 3 of the National Savings and Development Bonds Act under the authority of Parliament, the Minister with responsibility for finance may raise by issue of Savings Bonds inside and outside of St Lucia, money up to the amount of EC$1.4 billion for financing such capital or other expenditure and for such debt refinancing as he may determine.
In response to the request, Opposition member for Castries Central, Richard Frederick was the first to get the ball rolling as he stood up with much enthusiasm like a lone warrior prepared to take on an army. Frederick begun by quoting Dr Anthony’s Budget address:
“The business of government cannot be based on decisions taken as a gamble. The business of government cannot be about self-service. On the contrary, the business of the government must be measured, it must be grounded in purposeful, prudent and well informed decision making . . . Between the years 2003 and 2006/7, the budget was premised on planned recurrent deficit.”
Frederick went on to say that the current Prime Minister is the only Minister of Finance since independence who has promised a budget on planned deficit. He added that such a budget would plunge the country into serious problems in the future.
The Castries MP went on to accuse the current administration of surpassing its budget figures for the financial year, 2012/2013.
“Parliament approved borrowing EC$430 million; we borrowed EC$949 in five years but Parliament approved $430 million for this year alone . . . In his last Budget address, Mr Speaker, not this one, the one before that, in 2006/2007, this Minister of Finance again borrowed in excess of $400 million. So he holds the record in borrowing,” said Frederick while highlighting figures borrowed from March this year until August, “Between March and August of this year, Mr Speaker, you will not believe that we have already borrowed an excess of EC$469 million. On March 20th, $15 million on one hand and another $5 million on the other and another US$4.8 million on the other hand.
“May 8th, $35 million, July, $135 million, they call it $136; today, $250 million and another US$6 million which is $16.2 million totaling $469 million in just five months,” explained the Castries MP.
Frederick further stated that this figure exceeds the Budget figures approved by Parliament in April and questioned where further financing will be obtained for the remainder of the year.
He then bashed the Kenny Anthony Administration for an excessive spending policy, highlighting hiring of consultants and permanent secretaries attached to various ministries including the Office of the Prime Minister.
Tuesday morning’s sitting was nothing short of an entertainment theater where laughter was the only noise coming from either side of the table. PM Anthony together with Philip J Pierre could not help but laugh-out-loud as Frederick continued to highlight what he claimed was the unnecessary hiring of public servants in some of the ministries.
Frederick even hinted that the current Minister for Tourism Lorne Theophilus could possibly be replaced shortly in what may be a Cabinet reshuffle.
“This Administration, Mr Speaker, has 15 ministries. There is the Attorney General’s Chambers plus another Ministry of Legal Affairs. What was wrong with fusing the two . . . why wasn’t she just made Minister for Legal Affairs?
“Then Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister in his Office has PS Economic Affairs, he has CabSec, he has PS Finance, PS Special Initiatives; all of them, grade what, not one, two, three or four but 20, 21. And we want to cure deficit, which deficit?
“Mr Speaker, in the Creative Arts Ministry, I hear of an Advisor or Consultant. I was wondering, what’s going on. In fact, my instructions are that the Minister attempted to resist and because of that, my further instruction is that he is earmarked for replacement but I’m not even going there,” said Frederick.
All eyes were fixed on Theophilus as Frederick continued his entertaining address hinting that there may have even been “trouble” in the camp which led to the resignation of as he puts it, “the great economist, Ubaldus Raymond.”
“Mr Speaker, the very things I said in this Honourable House, Dr Ubaldus reiterated it in the Senate. He said borrowing money is not growth and Mr Speaker, I have a copy of what he said in the STAR issue of August 4th, 2012, I could make it a document of the House but I just want to read what Mr Ubaldus Raymond said, he said, ‘Recurrent expenditure is not a growth factor in this country. Capital expenditure is the growth factor but yet we still have high recurrent expenditure and such low capital expenditure in this country.’ I did not say it, your economist Dr Ubaldus Raymond . . . and I
have every regard for him in terms of his expertise in economics.
“Mr Speaker, Dr Raymond said I am not going to be part of this where you are going to borrow money to pay your recurrent expenditure and so Mr Speaker, he did the wise thing.”
In his address, Frederick was asked on two occasions to withdraw statements made in the House. The Speaker of the House, Peter Foster said he will not tolerate such words as ‘crap’ in the House nor would he tolerate anyone calling a Member a liar. Frederick had earlier indirectly stated that Dr Anthony was the biggest liar to ever seat in the chair of the Prime Minister.
The other contributions to the House for the most part tackled the issues of who borrowed more and in what space of time.
Not surprisingly the MPs were in agreement that they all understood the need to borrow. Meanwhile MP for Micoud North Gayle Rigobert reminded all that no matter which government is in power it is the citizens of St Lucia who have to bear the burden of heavy borrowing.
More on her contribution in Saturday’s STAR.