It is rather ironic that in the midst of all the talk of austerity and the need for urgent belt-tightening in the various government departments and agencies that the government continues to engage in a seemingly unfettered spending spree.
Many, including the opposition, have already expressed their disgust over the 50 percent increase in salaries of some Ministers who were in office less than three months, the $1.2 billion Durban Park Stadium, the millions spent on a drug bond that was not needed and the paying of tuition fees in the amount of $11 million for two public officials.
The public believed that the government has strayed from its manifesto and its campaign promise of being a good steward of the taxpayers’ money. They also believe that the President and his cabinet should lead by example and end the wasteful spending that they have foisted on the nation. This happening at the same time the government is closing several sugar estates and putting thousands of sugar workers on the breadline.
But if the people thought that such extravagant spending was bad enough, they ought to know that government has made a public spectacle of itself with the rental of a house for $500,000 per month for a Minister. Except for a few, everyone else in the government, including the Minister of State who has been the chief spoke person for the government on most issues has remained silent.
Unfortunately, ministerial perks and benefits, especially their frequent overseas trips during the past two years have severely strained the country’s finances.
Its foreign reserves and foreign earnings have been reduced due to low production and an increase in imports. This contradicts the criticisms levelled against the last administration by this government when it was in opposition. This fact could tarnish the government’s image and cause the people to lose confidence in it.
We are under no illusion that the government should stop spending altogether, or everything should come to a screeching halt. However,the government should be mindful of the fact that the nation’s economy is in dire straits, its GDP has declined, imports have increased while exports have decreased and its steep in debt is humongous.
Except for the mining sector, production in the other sectors has fallen sharply, which means that the reckless spending of the taxpayers’ money could place the nation in treacherous waters.
It simply does not help matters for the government to continue to borrow and pile up more debt at this stage. A careful look at the 2017-2018 estimates shows that the government will spend more than 60 percent of its GDP to service the national debt.
As recent as last year, the IMF had warned the government that increase public spending will leave very little room for public investment, which means there will not be enough funds to improve education, provide adequate health care or social services to the people.
The government seems to believe that the money from oil will be its saving grace. But it is perhaps delusional for anyone to count their chickens before they are hatched. The issue is not about the amount of revenue from oil, but when it will be received and how it will be spent. If the government truly has the nation’s interest at heart, then it should make every effort to reducespending and lower the huge debt which is stifling growth.
Lest we forget, in December 2014, President Granger, then the leader of the opposition sought court action to prevent the last administration from spending money on programmes that were not authorized by Parliament. But his government has spent billions of dollars on the D’Urban Park Stadium and on the importation of drugs without authorization from Parliament.
In these difficult times when the livelihood of many, especially the poor are seriously threatened, the government should take a more cautious path in regards to spending or else we as a nation will be doomed.
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