For many years Grenadians have regarded the annual Estimates of revenue and Expenditure with diminishing enthusiasm regarding it as little more than a flamboyantly prepared wish list.
Regardless to which political party or administration occupies the seat of power, a majority of locals think the document, popularly referred to, as the budget is simply an optimistic ramble through an economic maze that the authorities have no reasonable hope of successfully negotiating.
People derisively scoff at the fact that these governments never achieve the level of income that they project and so never have any chance of fulfilling close to all of what they promise they would. Therefore the credibility of the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure often boils down to how eloquently it is articulated and how captivating the “things we will do” are.
The 2017 budget was set to be delivered today (Friday 9 2016) and leading up to it many have been wondering if it would be just another exercise in posture and bravado that has no real base in reality and sincere intentions. It surely was encouraging to hear Prime Minister Keith Mitchell say a couple weeks before that for the first time in his thirty something years as a parliamentarian in Grenada, a government has achieved and surpassed its revenue estimates. This is certainly good news and something his administration can justifiably pound its chest at since achieving the revenue estimates is the only way that the expenditure estimates could also be accomplished.
Some hold that if the government had not achieved its revenue expectations considering all of the increased and additional taxes, duties and levies it has imposed it would have been a true travesty. In their view that was the only way the feat could have been accomplished and the jury is still out on whether that bodes well for the national economy or not.
Those trained in economics argue about whether increased revenue superimposed against reduced economic power of the individual citizen, paints a positive picture of overall economic development for the country. This however will remain an issue of debate until the long-term effects can be recognized. What has remained an enduring concern however as has been the case with all other administrations, is whether whatever revenue was raised over the period under consideration was used to execute programmes and projects promised. Many will be asking whether some of the commitments made have been given any further consideration in the ensuing period of whether the same promises and commitments would have been made for this cycle.
Certainly hundreds of affected persons would recall the following declaration and would be anxious for an update; “our Government remains very concerned about the hardship being experienced by policyholders of BAICO and CLICO who are yet to recover their investments. At this time, we are especially concerned about senior citizens whose pensions are not being paid at the time they are most in need…
…We will continue to work with regional Governments on this issue and will complete Phase III and commence Phase IV as soon as more funds are available. In this regard, I have already raised this issue with the new Government of Trinidad and Tobago. Furthermore, having passed the Plan of Arrangement Law, we expect an additional payout to BAICO policyholders in 2016…
…As a Government, we will do all in our power to address this major issue.” Agriculture being as important as all sectors agree it is one that would also be asking what has been achieved in that area comparative to what was promised.
Last year’s estimates promised; “the Farm Labour Programme will resume in early 2016. The sum of $500,000 has been allocated. Government will continue to support the development of high demand crops such as sour sop. In this regard, the sum of $500,000 has been earmarked.
Mr. Speaker, the plague of Sargassum seaweed in the Caribbean has adversely impacted the livelihoods of our fishermen. In collaboration with regional partners, efforts are now underway to develop early warning systems, mitigation plans and to explore commercial options (agricultural and medical) for the Sargassum seaweed…
…Greater attention will be given to improving fish quality control and post-harvest technology to enhance returns from the industry and maintain Grenada’s fish export status to the European Union. This effort will include more stringent measures for licensing. We are also working to enhance our fish export product and secure more airlift for our cargo and fish exports through an equipment upgrade at the Airport.
Undoubtedly, some efforts have been made regarding the fishing sector and there have been some positive efforts in certain aspects of agriculture but would the people be satisfied with what has been accomplished? One can only hope that the 2017 estimates is a positive and practical document and does not entail too much of what was in the previous one.