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I consider it a special honour to have been asked by the Prime Minister to lead off the sectoral debate for the 2013/2014 fiscal year.

Let me acknowledge the contributions of the six speakers who spoke in the main debate which ended last week Wednesday. I must however make special mention of the two presentations by my colleague the Minister of Finance and Planning.

To use the farming analogy, he had a “hard row to hoe”. There could be no question that this was a difficult budget to craft, given the known needs of the society coupled with inadequate available resources, particularly in light of the pre-conditions to be satisfied for an IMF agreement. The challenge which I believe all members of this House recognize is that it is not simply about reaching an Agreement with the IMF and the passing of quarterly tests. That is a necessary condition for progress, but clearly it is not a sufficient one.

The real “Test” is stimulating real economic growth and increased employment.

The challenge is for all members of the Administration and indeed this Honourable House to fully recognize that the crisis is real and the fiscal constraint is also real. For our part we must all commit to getting maximum “bang for the buck” from the budget allocations, and from the work of the various public bodies with the clear objective of fostering economic growth and in so doing improve the lives of our citizens.

If any message should have come out of the presentation by my colleague Minister of Finance, it must be that the fiscal constraints are indeed real. The imperative of reducing the fiscal deficit has forced the Administration to take, simultaneously, two unpopular steps, namely: to significantly increase a wide range of taxes and to compress expenditure in several critical areas.

In terms of the compression of expenditure, most noteworthy is the agreement reached with public sector workers for zero increase over the next two years. As the Minister who, together with our late colleague, Danny Buchanan, engineered the first such agreement a decade ago, I realize the challenge, in advancing such a proposal, much less reaching an agreement.

Respect is due to the leaders of the public sector workers, as well as to the chief negotiator of the Administration – Minister with Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance.

From the point of view of the sector ministries, every one of us has been called on to make do with much less than we would have liked and much less that we could have efficiently expended…READ MORE

Download Minister of Transport, Works & Housing, Dr. the Hon Omar Davies’ speech here.