Government should have acted sooner, says Bush

| 03/11/2008

(CNS): Following announcements, first reported on CNS, of a recruitment freeze in the civil service and a need to cut government spending because of a projected short fall of CI$15 million in the 2008/2009 fiscal year, the Leader of the Opposition has said the government should have been looking to cut back on spending more than eight months ago and that the country needs to see more detailed information on where cutbacks will be made to deal with the revenue shortfalls.

“It is regretful, that they rejected my proposal to take this type of action over eight months ago and we are now likely that much worse off because they did not react early enough” said McKeeva Bush.

The Leader of the United Democratic party said that while he wanted to cooperate with the government in times of crisis, he expressed regret that his private member’s motion back in February of this year for the Government to consider such cutbacks was rejected outright by Kurt Tibbetts, the current Leader of Government Business.

“It goes to show that the government needs to restrain itself from politicising every motion brought before the honourable Legislative Assembly and take things based on the merits of the actual proposal being made” he added.

Bush raised the issue of the global crisis as it was unfolding early in the year and proposed in the Legislative Assembly that cutbacks be implemented. Records in the Hansard, the parliamentary documentation of proceedings in the LA, shows that his suggestion was flatly rejected by the government at the time. As a result, the opposition leader suggests, government may have committed itself to certain projects that are impossible to reverse at this stage.

Bush is also calling for more information on where the cuts are being made, as soon as this is determined. “It is important that the opposition and the public in general, obtain full information from the government so that they can better understand the fiscal position,” he added. “We need to better understand the areas that will be affected. Are we sure that certain important public services will not suffer? And how will this cut impact our current effort to borrow the additional approximately 180 million? Should we even be borrowing at this stage?” he asked.

He said as a result it was very important to see the $1.5 billion in financial accounts that are in arrears than at the present. “We need to better understand the state of the country’s financials over the past few years in order to properly analyse the implications of the present crisis”, argued Bush. “The government has promised to sort out these delayed accounts but we are no where closer to getting them and they have become even more important given the economic crisis we are currently facing.”

The Public Accounts Committee was supposed to meet to assess a report by the Auditor General, Dan Duguay which revealed the significant delay in accounting for government spending over the last four years in September. The meeting was postponed however and is now expected to meet in November.

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