FRIDAY JUNE 07, 2013; KINGSTOWN, SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES – Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace on Thursday has accused the Dr. Ralph Gonsalves-led Government of increasing the island’s budget making Caribbean News.
Speaking in Parliament last Thursday Eustace stated, “What we are saying is that we are in fact increasing the budget passed less than six months ago by 26 per cent. And we are saying the airport is all-important. It is as if nothing else matters. All of us know there are debt implications.”
The Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Parliament was debating an EC$208 million Supplementary Appropriations Bill, of which the House must give approval for borrowing EC$148.7 million of the EC$208 million.
Eustace admitted that some comments about the airport are deemed “unpatriotic”, Opposition lawmakers will continue to speak, because they have an obligation to speak about the whole development of the country.
He said there are many areas in which the nation is lacking, and the airport is not the “panacea for our development.”
The Opposition Leader characterized the Government’s approach to building the Argyle international airport to a one-lane track on which there are 12 runners.
This is being done when so much is being allocated to one project to the neglect of other areas, the Government is “barking up the wrong tree. All the others must wait.”
According to the former Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, decisions must be made in the context of the economic reality and added that the bill will increase the 2013 Budget from EC$799 million to EC$1 billion.
He then pointed out that the Government had taken a policy position to reduce spending on some items: “some of which are vital. We are not to comment. We are not to have any way about that. Well, we have to; it is our job to do so. We cannot always see eye-to-eye and agree with you.
“We cannot ignore the economic reality. Mr. Speaker, there are so many people in this country who are finding it so hard to live, so hard to pay their water bill, so hard to pay their electricity bill, so hard to buy food. … but we (the Government) have one priority: the airport. But we have other priorities.
“Things are indeed difficult, brought on, in part, by your own mismanagement.”
Eustace questioned the Government’s course of action and its plans to stimulate the economy. When the government can find EC$208 million only for the airport, he wondered about the farmers.
“But they contribute to stimulating growth in our economy. The whole agricultural sector contributes to that,” stated Eustace adding that that EC$10 million could have been spent on capital projects to bring back that industry.
“I say that strategy needs to be re-examined, but the minute you raise a question is that you don’t want the airport. You are not supposed to raise any questions. … I am urging the government to take a more holistic approach to the development of the economy,” Eustace went on to state.