Referring to Douglas’ spending as “squandermania”, Harris said that the country is in need of good fiscal governance.
“We will want as part of the good governance agenda to look at legislation with respect to balanced projects because this is critical. We have a situation where between 1995-2007, the prime minister, Dr. Douglas chalked up a deficit spending in the tune of over 700 million dollars, so you see how significant that deficit spending was in relation to a public sector debt we were told was somewhere in the region of 2.7 billion dollars, so nearly a third of that by and large came from deficit spending year after year,” said Harris, leader of the recently formed People’s Labour Party (PLP).
Harris said that in terms of government spending Prime Minister Douglas would have to account for what happened under his stewardship.
“I am not sure what he will give as reasons for this deficit. He will tell you hurricanes; he will tell you all manner of things; it depends on the day and the type of moon, you will get a different story, but the truth is to have that deficit over such a sustained period speaks to fiscal indiscipline and irresponsibility,” said Harris, who was Minister of Finance from 2008-2009.
“I could remember Albert Edwards, the then Director of Audit during this period, making highlights of the fact that we were chalking up this level of indebtedness that has brought us to a level of unsustainability,” Harris said.
Harris said that for the two year period that he was Minister of Finance, the country made a surplus for the first time since 1995.
“In 2008, the country made a surplus for the first time since 1995 of 131 million dollars and for the second year in which I had responsibility as the Minister of Finance the country made another surplus of 141 million dollars,” he said.
“It is important to note that we made that surplus in 2009 notwithstanding that we paid a retroactive increase to civil servants in September of 2009 of 10 percent, and that also we paid civil servants in December 2009 a double salary so there were some significant and unused payments because they are not normal each year and still we were able to meet that deficit.
“When the prime minister took over the following year, we went back again into a deficit spending of about 11 million dollars albeit by that time the Citizenship by Investment Programme had taken off and so we had this bonanza coming into the treasury,” Harris said.
Harris said that the PLP will introduce fiscal discipline into the country.
“We have to re-introduce fiscal discipline into the country. The kind of ‘squandermania’ that we are now seeing where suddenly money is being found to do all manner of things really reflects a policy in congruence because on one hand you tell us that the IMF (International Monetary Fund) requires you to cut back on expenditure and on the other we are seeing this reckless spending,” he said.
The PLP was launched on June 17th of this year as an alternative to the St. Kitts Nevis Labour Party. Harris was fired as a government minister by Prime Minister Douglas and Sam Condor, former deputy prime minister and deputy leader of PLP, resigned over fundamental issues of governance with Prime Minister Douglas. Since then heated exchanges of accusations and counter-accusations have taken place between them in the media and on the political platform.
“This wanton ‘squandermania’; this doing of things without having regard as to how they are going to impact on future development was a signal element of the callous mismanagement of the country by the prime minister. For him, it was always about the next election rather than the development of the next generation, so he was short-term opportunistically.
“Now we are paying for the folly of his ways. We are paying for it with the lost reputation of a country that has defaulted on its bond. We are paying for it by the fact that we had to go to the IMF for a bailout,” Harris said.
“The prime minister is not concerned about long term development of the country. The prime minister is concerned with political opportunism,” he added.