Addressing the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the Prime Minister defended the controversial Land for Debt Swap involving 1200 acres of state land to ease the $900 million owed to National Bank.
“I want to emphasize that the Debt for Land Swap will reduce the Debt to GDP Ratio even further to well under 100 percent, and create even more fiscal space so that we can accelerate growth-related development initiatives while modernizing and strengthening our social safety net programmes.”
Dr. Douglas said the land identified for the Swap was carefully chosen, and would not affect land policy and housing projects.
He said government would give priority to nationals in the sale of the lands.
“Not a square foot of the land will be sold to non-nationals until nationals have been given a fair chance to acquire these lands. In addition, in allocating the lands, due regard will be taken of the intended use of the land, with a view towards ensuring that our people, our own people enjoy maximum benefits and advantages from the allocation of such lands.”
Dr. Douglas addressed the matter of the No Confidence Motion from the Opposition that is reportedly before the Parliament.
“There are three draft resolutions of No Confidence in the government in circulation in our Federation, and we expect that these issues will be addressed in accordance with the Constitution and with the relevant statute…I emphasize, in any event I do not intend to allow any uncertainty surrounding these issues to drag on indefinitely and to erode investor confidence in this our proud and progressive Federation.”
Asked about the No Confidence Motion during the Question and Answer segment, the Prime Minister suggested that there were equally important matters that in his opinion would have to come before the Parliament first.
“There is a procedure that has to be followed here. The government has sought legal advice at the highest level as to how to proceed in terms of when to proceed to deal with this matter. As far as I’m concerned the Budget was a matter that had been set down for the Parliament before the Motion of No Confidence which only came in last week actually. Because two weeks ago when we thought there was a Motion, there was no Motion! None whatsoever,” he said.
“…And so if there is a Motion now to be heard, it will have to wait in line with what is the calendar of the House that is before the Speaker of the House. The Motion of No Confidence is very very important in our Parliamentary democracy system, so it has to be heard and it should be heard expeditiously, but there are other matters that have been set down of equal importance, one of which was the Budget.”
The Prime Minister gave an almost 30 minute-long presentation, and then spent over an hour interacting with the more than 80 guests attending the Chamber of Industry and Commerce’s Quarterly Luncheon held at the Ocean Terrace Inn on Tuesday afternoon.
Members of the opposition People’s Action Movement (PAM) were among the guests at the Chamber’s luncheon and Mr. Lindsay Grant and Parliamentarian Eugene Hamilton posed questions of their own to the Prime Minister. The exchanges were heated and blunt.
The PAM’s Leader Mr. Shawn Richards reported that the Prime Minister was trying to give the wrong impression about the Motion of No Confidence and had contradicted how the Land for Debt Swap was being handled.