“Things don’t add up,” this was the leitmotif of the responses of Members of the Opposition following Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith one hour 2015 Budget Estimates address.
The 2015 estimates were presented in the House of Assembly on 17 November under the theme– Strengthening Growth; Securing our Future; and Premier Smith announced “I hope you can agree that my Government has managed the affairs of our Territory well. We understood the needs of our people on the home front and fought hard to provide them with jobs and training opportunities…In the face of the global economic downturn which threatened our economy, we held the ship of state steady while making the tough decisions that returned solvency to our economy.”
However, Second District Representative and Chair of PEP, Hon. Alvin Christopher; and First District Representative, and VIP Member, Hon. Andrew Fahie did not agree with the Premier and offered that the economic prosperity that the Premier mentioned is not seen on the ground.
Hon. Fahie who was the first to speak to the media noted that “the accuracy of the figures will be tested during the Standing Finance Committee proceedings…I learned a long time ago that figures don’t lie so in the absence of these figures, true figures and accounting, it is always easy to paint whatever picture you want the public to be led to believe. The truth does not need anyone’s belief; as a result time will reveal such. Our people are suffering now more than ever, but the budget address has attempted to tell them otherwise.”
The VIP member was vexed by the statement that the NDP Government was burdened with financial obligations made by the previous administration. Mr. Fahie made his unhappiness about such statements known to the media. “The Premier himself confirmed to the House of Assembly earlier this year during the question and answer period through the figures he was mandated to supply that the figures revealed that the last administration did not leave the country broke nor did the last administration leave the country in a poor financial state.”
“These figures emphatically contradict the irresponsible political chatter [purporting]that the last administration left the country broke and in approximately $40M in the red…As stated before with the figures showing otherwise then it is safe to state that this action is irresponsible and merely political games aimed at trying to program the public’s mind in believing that his administration are financial saviours.”
The Opposition Member opined his disbelief that the NDP Government was able to fix the alleged financial mess caused by the previous (VIP) administration, and stated: “I say without fear of contradiction that no government in this present financial climate — which is riddled with challenges –can meet the finances of a country in a poor state as is being claimed continuously by the Premier and supposedly turn it around in two to three short years. The smallest of child would realize that something does not add up with this scenario.”
Hon. Fahie added that on 10 November in the House of Assembly, during the questions and answer period the Premier stated in his answer to a question posed to him that as of early November 2014 his Government had approximately $10M in the Consolidated Fund. Hon. Fahie said that the Premier also said that there were bills unpaid by his Government up to early June 2014, totaling over nine million dollars. This, Hon. Fahie said raises a major red flag given that so many vendors for many months remained unpaid. However, Hon. Fahie said that the Premier in the budget address has attempted to paint a different financial picture.
“Also the overspending of budget heads, and the reallocation of funds by his government all of which were not approved from the 2011, 2012, 2013 budgets that were passed by the House of Assembly remains unaccounted for even in this present budget. So I question the accuracy of the figures in the current budget…”
In reference to the Premier’s announcement that the BVI was restored to economic stability, Hon Fahie stated: “The country was never off track, government is a continuous machine, any government that comes in will meet bills; so that statement is a hand basket carrying water. The question is how much money you met…He forgot we had five storms, floods… and we still kept the ship on float… He did not have to deal with natural disasters,” Hon. Fahie said.
Chair of PEP, Hon. Christopher told the media: “The numbers in my view don’t really add up. After examination of the process that we are about to embark on in Standing Finance Committee we will see if they are in the best interest of the people…that is where the details lie, but the presentation was good.”
The Opposition Member stated that his concerns centre around the manner in which funds are being appropriated, and he questioned whether these appropriations will be able to jump start the economy. Hon. Christopher stated that some of the projects that were mentioned in the Budget had funds already approved by the House of Assembly. “We have not seen an improvement in the economy, [but]for the little man, they are still not working, the unemployed, are still crying out for help. What the government is proposing to do to get that started I haven’t heard the Premier say today….His budget address does not reflect the true picture of the country, on the ground,” Hon. Christopher stated.