For the opposition, there is no doubt that greatest priority must be given to the motion while the government is of the firm belief that the budget must be allowed to go to the floor of the legislature, ahead of the motion against the administration.
Prime Minister Dr. Douglas, who is also the Minister of Finance, revealed on Wednesday that his Financial Secretary has already informed him that all arrangements are just about completed for the budget to be ready in a matter of days.
“I am informed by my Financial Secretary just yesterday (Tuesday 5th March) that we are almost at the point of bringing this budget…having the budget readied to be brought to the parliament. And as soon as that is going to be ready, am sure that maybe within a week or so, I should be able to announce as the usual order is, when the budget will be presented,” said Dr. Douglas.
“I want to emphasize that we must have authority to spend money that we are collecting and we must have authority to collect money that we intend to spend.”
But he admitted that he is not certain what would be the outcome of a motion of no confidence, but he would hate to take the country into a situation where money is going to be required for “that situation” and the parliament has not properly met to give authority for the spending of such monies.
He therefore suggested that no major activity for this fiscal year can be pursued unless the appropriate authority has been received. The deadline for the presentation of the budget ran out at the end of February, but government is still allowed to spend 1/3 of what it last had authority to disburse, but there still remains some opportunity for the presentation. However, if not completed by the end of April, Government will be totally barred from collecting and spending taxes in the country.
The Prime Minister in early December last year, had cancelled a scheduled sitting of the Assembly, which was expected to debate the budget, but leader of the opposition People’s Action Movement, Mr. Shawn Richards argued that that was only done after the Prime Minister realized that his budget did not have had enough votes to gain passage.
Four opposition members representing the People’s Action Movement and the Concerned Citizens Movement were certain that two members from the government benches were ready to vote against the budget.
However Douglas had explained that his delay was caused by the failure of those two members of his party, who had not attended a pre-budget meeting and was therefore not available to indicate their final thoughts on the draft financial instrument. This view was disputed later on by former Senior Minister, Dr. Timothy Harris who said in a media interview that there is no such requirement for budget preparations and that all the input that was needed was already provided and that the budget was already printed and completed.
So with all that in the past, the Minister of Finance has now explained that the latest delay was due to the fact that the budget presentation had to be re-written.
“It had to be re-written naturally. The budget presentation has had to be re-written. A number of activities that we had identified in the budget for 2013 are already being rolled out, (and) I can’t be reading a budget that says this will be done, when in fact it is being done; o it has to be rewritten, the language has to be changed and that is being done as I speak to you.”
The opposition has not yet given any indication as to what would be its course of action if the financial Bill is in fact taken to parliament ahead of the motion.