by Linda Straker
- 4th Session of 10th Parliament opened Friday, 9 October 2020
- Medium-term priorities include continued investment in agriculture and light manufacturing sectors
- Annual estimate of expenditure and revenue will be delivered in November
Fiscal discipline and job creations are priorities for government for the upcoming parliamentary year, while in the current Covid-19 context there are 8 areas which will be the priorities in the medium-term.
“The reinvigoration of our main engines of growth, supported by efforts to boost our competitiveness, diversify our export base, and create sustainable jobs,” Head of State, Governor-General, Dame Cécile La Grenade, announced when she delivered the traditional Throne Speech during the ceremonial opening of the 4th Session of the 10th Parliament on Friday, 9 October 2020.
The speech is the occasion on which the Governor-General presents government’s broad plan and programme for the upcoming parliamentary year, while the annual budget provides a complete breakdown of the fiscal situation.
Elaborating on the medium-term expectation, she said that government will be continued with investment in the health and education of our people as well as continued investment in leveraging information and communications technology (ICT).
The other medium-term priorities for the upcoming parliamentary year will be “The continued investment in agriculture and the light manufacturing sector to boost food and nutrition security and to reduce our huge food import bill, and the rehabilitation and maintenance of our road network and other physical infrastructure,” she said told the joint session of the Houses of Parliament.
Sharing more on the plan, the Governor-General said that government will continue efforts to build resilience against external shocks such as global public health emergencies, continue protection and empowerment of the poor and vulnerable among us, as well as continue efforts to protect environmental assets, from human and climate change impacts.
She announced that in the short-term, government faced an agonising choice with the measures put in place to contain and control the spread of Covid-19 which entered the country during the first quarter of 2020.
Explaining that the choice was either to leave the economy closed to prevent the virus from once again reaching our shores or reopen the economy in the face of increasing infection around the world, she said that by keeping the borders closed, the country runs the risk of irreversible damage to the local economy.
“We also stand to lose many of the hard-won gains we achieved in recent years. For example, the spike in unemployment triggered by the pandemic could be prolonged; our fiscal situation could go into crisis, and our economic recovery could be slow and painful. These are outcomes that we do not want. It is clear therefore that we cannot keep our economy closed indefinitely,” she said.
Warning that the country must be mindful of the tremendous risks of reopening in a carefree manner, she said that government’s immediate priority is to carefully reopen the economy while taking every precaution to safeguard the health of our citizens.
“Achieving the appropriate balance is extremely critical as the virus continues to rage in other parts of the world, including in neighbouring countries and in our major tourism source markets,” she told parliamentarians.
In the area of fiscal discipline, she said that over the past months, government has been able to meet all of its basic obligations in a timely manner, including expenditure on salaries, pensions and assistance to the needy, while continuing to provide support to those directly affected by the pandemic.
“This attests to the sound nature of the fiscal policy pursued by my government in recent years. Fiscal discipline will therefore continue to be a priority for my government going forward. However, to support the economic recovery in the period ahead, my government will extend the invocation of the escape clause under the Fiscal Responsibility Law to the end of 2021, to allow for additional recovery spending. Once the recovery process is on a sound footing, my government reaffirms its commitment to return to the rules and targets under the Fiscal Responsibility Law,” she said.
The theme for the new session of parliament is “Towards Vision 2035: Recovery, Transformation, and Resilience.” The annual Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure will also be delivered under that theme in November.