By Kiana Wilburg
A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) Shadow Finance Minister, Carl Greenidge has categorically stated
that his coalition is “not the least bit interested” in talks with the government, specifically, Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh, on budget 2015.
Dr. Singh had disclosed in September that budget preparations are moving apace; this is in spite of the high possibility of looming general elections.
The joint political opposition- APNU and the Alliance for Change -had indicated that while the Finance Minister may be moving ahead as though “business is normal”, Dr. Singh did not reach out to the opposition, expressing an interest in consultation.
Yesterday, Greenidge revealed that he is aware that there may have been some form of contact with APNU that he was not initially informed of, to have talks on budget 2015. However, the financial point man has made it clear that he is not interested in talks on the budget unless Dr. Singh agrees to the opposition’s proposed formula for consultations on future budget preparations.
The former Finance Minister sought to make clear that his position on the budget which he communicated to his Opposition leader, David Granger, is informed by two reasons.
“The first being the fact that if you are fully supporting the No-Confidence Motion then what’s the sense or logic in discussing the budget, especially since we are looking to get it passed before month end. Secondly, the budget preparations would have already started since the June –July period and at this time, in October, I don’t believe that we can have talks on the budget 2015, talks that will amount to anything effective and significant.
The whole point of having a formula for discussing future budgets is to ensure that when the teams of the parties meet, the talks would not simply be mere talks, but it would amount to something substantial and the opposition’s input can be reflected in the budget. We must avoid sterile talks, hence there was a proposed format and Dr. Singh is yet to agree to that. I am saying that unless he agrees to that structure then there is no clear guarantee that those talks would be fruitful,” Greenidge lamented.
The shadow Finance Minister said that he does not believe that the public should misconstrue its position on the budget. He said that the opposition is supposed to have an input in the budget and called for there to be constitutional arrangements in place to ensure that it is a requirement.
He said too that he does not believe that there is any indication that the APNU is backing off of the No-Confidence Motion, “for any such move would certainly hinder the opposition coalition.”
Greenidge also asserted that he has noted the People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) attempts at several diversions from the Motion such as “threats to expose skeletons of opposition party members and attempts to misconstrue the circumstances under which the motion could be moved. The PPP is prepared to do anything to avoid this motion.”
He added, “What the PPP feels it can do is to meet with individual members and speak with them in an independent manner. They want to attack the centre by bribing those on the edges…But I have made my decision on this very clearly to my coalition. I don’t see talks on the 2015 budget happening for its too far gone for any meaningful discussion to happen. It would be a pointless exercise.”
Given some of the well-known “clashes” over the budget in the past, opposition members had told this publication that it would have been expected that the government would be wise enough to ensure consultations this time around.
Greenidge had said too that government promised to have a committee review and make recommendations on the VAT and the equitable sharing of the tax burden, as well as ensure the submission, by November 2012, of recommendations to prevent the collapse of the National Insurance Scheme. But these promises are yet to be honoured.
Greenidge insists that if any fruitful discussion is to take place, then the government must also honour its financial obligations in this regard.
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