Spicemas 2019 is over and the NDC congratulates all the winners. The NDC especially recognises and congratulates Black Wizard on him celebrating 50 years in Calypso. His contribution over the years has been and continues to be invaluable.
From all reports, there was an increase in visitors to our shores for the carnival. For this, credit must be given to our artistes and cultural ambassadors who by their achievements, continue to give Grenada prominence on the global carnival stage. The economy would no doubt have received a much-needed boost.
We trust that the Spicemas Corporation will conduct the necessary carnival review so that much-needed improvements can be made to the various components of carnival especially pan and mas.
Panorama needs to once again share the same ‘big stage’ as the other components of carnival. The incomplete, uncovered platform for a stage on which steel bands had to compete, was just a disgrace. Pan is an equal component of carnival just as calypso and soca and must be treated as such.
There must also be a thorough review of the criteria for mas bands parading the carnival venue. People purchasing costumes must be protected so that they do not run the risk of paying for costumes they never receive. Sadly, this happened to many people this year. It reflects badly not just on the culprits but on the overall image of our Spicemas.
While Grenadians revelled in Spicemas, government quietly went to parliament and admitted that 7 months into the year, its EC$1.1 billion 2019 Budget is a bust. Just a few hours before the start of Soca Monarch on Friday, 9 August 2019, when he thought no one was paying attention, Keith Mitchell, Minister of Finance and the ‘one mathematician in the town’, tabled the Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2019 asking for parliamentary approval of an additional $9,967,790 in spending for 2019.
Don’t get us wrong, NDC appreciates that governments regularly seek parliamentary approval to supplement their budgetary estimates. However, this usually happens towards the end of the fiscal year, not just over halfway in.
Supplementary appropriations are sometimes needed when capital programmes of government were not sufficiently developed to be properly estimated for at the time of preparing the main budget. Other times, emergency situations warrant unforeseen additional spending and supplementary appropriations are needed.
The 2019 Supplementary Appropriation Bill comes much earlier in the year than normal. A properly prepared budget should not burst 7 in months. We note that only a small fraction, $775,840, of the additional sums estimated, is allocated for capital expenditure. The rest is for recurrent expenditure which suggests incompetence in preparing the initial estimates or mismanagement of allocated funds, resulting in overspending.
The incompetence and/or mismanagement that resulted in this busted budget operate on several levels. First, it points to the inability of the cabinet to ensure that realistic targets are set when estimating the expenditure for the various ministries and government departments. Second, it suggests mismanagement of public funds by overspending in some areas. For example, in the main budget, the office of the Prime Minister already was allocated an unusually large sum. For what then does his office need an additional $200,000?
Recently, the Prime Minister bragged that although there is a law which says that police officers are not to be paid salary in lieu of vacation, he decided to break that law and pay his favoured police officers over $250,000 salary in lieu of vacation. He did this because he doesn’t trust anyone, including the Commissioner of Police, to provide suitable replacements in his security detail while some take their vacation which by law they must. This is just one clear example of wrongdoing and mismanagement of public funds that helped to burst the 2019 budget resulting in more expense on the taxpayers of Grenada.
On the same day, last Friday, 9 August, parliament also authorised the Minister of Finance to borrow $118,800,000 (one hundred and eighteen million dollars) to meet our expenses for the period July to December 2019. The Minister of Finance keeps saddling the people with more debt while he refuses to tell us what our total national debt is.
The timing of this sitting of parliament to deal with this most important money bill we have no doubt was deliberately set in the hope that no one would be paying attention.
In recent months we have had one corruption and mismanagement scandal after the next. In all instances, the result is very costly for the people of Grenada either in hard dollars and cents or in damage to our country’s reputation. It is, therefore, our collective duty to remain vigilant especially since our Lower House of Parliament comprise only ‘yes’ men and women and the Senate is usually a rubber-stamping exercise.
That’s why carnival or not, we must continue to mind our business because as Black Wizard reminds us, “when de carnival over we still need a brighter day [and]….our problems won’t go away”.