After complaining for many years about the manner in which Districts represented by Opposition members were treated newly appointed Minister for Finance Hon. Andrew Fahie made additional allocation for district use in the 2019 budget. However, at least two members of the Opposition have announced that the announced allocation was nothing new.
In his budget address the Premier emphasized the District funding addition stating “you’re welcome” after he announced that Government was making funding available for each of the nine districts. The Premier told the House that this funding will go directly to development within the Districts and that all nine of the Districts will receive the same level of funding. “This allocation is separate from the district allocation administered through the House of Assembly,” he added.
However, both Second District Representative, Hon. Melvin “Mitch” Turnbull, and Leader of the Opposition and Eighth District Representative, Hon. Marlon Penn seemed unimpressed by the announcement.
Speaking to reporters after the budget address Hon. Turnbull said: “For the last three and a half years all Districts have received the same allocation so there is nothing new…”
When asked how he felt about the announcement of development allotment for the Districts Hon. Penn said that the announcement was not factual. “That is not accurate because (in) every budget there has always been money in the allocation appropriated for Districts. In actuality last budget cycle we had almost over $400,000 allocated to each District; so that’s not totally accurate. It’s something that’s always been happening over the last eight budgets that I have witnessed under NDP.”
Hon. Penn further added that he was going to watch as time goes on: “I will see, I will see how much. I understand its only $200,000 and the last budget cycle we had almost $400,000 so it’s not accurate it’s something that we have always had.”
Following the views of the two opposition members the media returned to the Premier to query further about the announcement. The Premier explained that the money is not an additional fund. What he said, is that it is different than the District Allocation fund that is administered through the House of Assembly. This new announcement Hon. Fahie noted is development money inside of the District Representatives’ constituency, which is administered through Ministry of Works.
In further explaining Hon. Fahie pointed out that indeed there were times when each Districts were given the same allocation, but he said that they were not treated the same.
“The truth of the matter is that there were times in the budget when we all had the same amount of money allotted to us but we were not treated the same. This one now they have a little more than what they used to be allotted to as District representatives.”
Further the Premier said that he has instructed his Ministers to be respectful with their dealing with Opposition members: “I have instructed the Ministers to respect the District Representatives so that all can get the same treatment, because I will not do the opposition what the immediate former government did to me. It is not right. When people are elected they are elected to represent the people of their constituency and whatever funds are available to the constituency they are supposed to have access to it.”
As it relates to the Opposition being unimpressed, Hon. Fahie said: “I wont blame the Opposition for saying it is not quite so. They are from the former government so they are not going to agree to anything I say just about or hardly anything and that’s their prerogative. That’s part of being in the Opposition.”