Still tough road ahead
The 2013 election is now over and the votes have been counted, disappointments and jubilation expressed and we have begun to return to normalcy.
The Prime Minister is busy choosing his Cabinet and in due course the senators will be chosen and the debate on the annual Estimates of Government Revenue and Expenditure will begin.
This year that debate will have a certain edge, not only because of the changed composition of the House of Assembly with such strong numbers in Opposition, but moreso because the challenges are still strong and the fiscal landscape still so difficult that major and painful decisions will have to be made, not only to contain the deficit but also to seek to get some growth going.
It will not be an easy task since the policy positions designed to get the economy moving by releasing money into the society through tax relief and measures of that kind are not, it would appear, acceptable to the new Government. It now appears from statements made during the campaign that the Medium Term Fiscal Strategy will remain the core financial policy of the new Freundel Stuart administration.
We wish the new administration well, confident that while they will bend their minds and hands to the tasks at hand, we recognize that those tasks will be fraught with difficulty and pregnant with danger at every turn. Some time last year, for instance, Minister of Finance Mr Chris Sinckler told us of the Government’s monthly borrowings to help pay civil servants’ wages.
Obviously, this is not a sustainable policy, and it is a matter that has to be tackled head-on. However one applies a solution, there will be some outcry since either jobs may have to go or taxation will have to be increased. It may amount to Hobson’s choice!
We await the publication of the annual Estimates since this will give some clue to the Government’s approach; and we anticipate and hope there will be vigorous debate during the lead-up to the Budget.
We need to have the most careful scrutiny of the Government’s proposals, for although the electorate has spoken, the Opposition has a duty to the country to set out as fully as possible the clearest statement of its alternative policies.
Particularly at this time, the Government, empowered by the people’s approval, must be allowed to get on with the execution of its policies, but at the same time the alternative policies must be properly canvassed so that the public is always aware of the policies and any questions which may affect their efficacy.
The stakes are too high for other than the fullest and widest possible analysis of any proposals, and if during the past administration there was a certain hesitancy to change policies, there should be no such hesitancy if it becomes clear that such a change of approach will enure to the public good.
The Government’s majority is wafer-thin and much skill will be required in time tabling the business of Parliament. A premium will be placed on the punctuality and attendance of Members of Parliament from both sides since the Government will always be exposed to a defeat on the floor of the House, thereby forcing a general election long before the expiration of the mandated five-year term of office.
It will be an interesting time in our public affairs with a certain urgency attendant upon every action of the administration. We cannot over-emphasize the need for timely action, and attention to national affairs both by the Government and the Opposition as they both approach the critical role of hammering out that core of economic and financial decisions and policies that will move the country forward.
The result of the elections will not solve the problems which exist; but with the people’s mandate the new administration can now feel it can tackle these issues with renewed vigour and determination.