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EDITORIAL: Debate should focus on our economy

mialisafenty, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Debate should focus on our economy

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DURING THIS WEEK, the House of Assembly will debate the annual Estimates.
Politics will, therefore, be in the air, and the listening public should get some further idea of how the Government proposes to influence where the economy goes.
The Estimates is part of the Appropriation Bill and the debate is the only debate specified by the Constitution, and flows naturally from the need to get that bill passed so it becomes law as the Appropriation Act with the estimates embedded therein.
An Estimates debate is always important, and places the Government of the day under an inescapable obligation to discuss the economy and the various departments of government and so to account for its stewardship.
The debate should be an occasion for serious analysis of our economic journey.
So often in the past, raw unadulterated politics has dominated the debate, with point-scoring back and across the chamber, obscuring what should have been keen discussion about future policy and accountability for past action.
The public interest demands something vastly different this year. The dismissal of some 3 000 public officers is a serious matter at any time, and the Stuart administration must “feel the heat” at Estimates time to explain and justify such harsh action.
Explanation is not enough, because if spending is that much higher than revenue, there will be a deficit that has to be tackled. Justification speaks to the government’s policy choices which have produced the much higher spending in the face of estimated revenues.
We are celebrating a democracy that has emerged out of the crucible of British and colonial politics of the 17th century, and if we are true to the spirit of the deeper democracy which we have now made it to be, then there should be a full-scale debate on the policy choices for the future made by Government in these estimates. Anything less will not suffice.
The Opposition must come fully prepared to debate the issues. We expect that their experience as former ministers, in some cases, will allow them to unmask any inconsistencies in the documents; and with all hands on deck, the government should face its sternest test. That is how the system best works.
We expect that some part of the debate will touch on Minister Estwick’s concerns, but however important that might be, the debate must not get sidetracked.
The debate is mainly about the Government’s answering questions about the people’s grievances, before the House approves the Estimates for the coming year.
For one reason or other, this debate can significantly help to shape and probably define the economic future of this country and its people. The past year has not been easy.
Jobs have been cut and, among other things, students will from later this year have to partly pay their way through the University of the West Indies.
It is not business as usual, and this year’s Estimates debate places the task on our Parliament to hammer out policies of economic recovery on the anvil of rational debate and sensible pragmatic programmes. Hardly have the stakes been higher.