Closing of the 2012/2013 Budget Debate by Dr. Peter Phillips


INTRODUCTION

Mr. Speaker, we have come to the end of our budget process which began on May 10th with the presentation of the Estimates of Expenditure. Let me thank all who contributed to the Debate which I opened on May 24th, 2012.

This budget process has been predictably difficult coming as it does at this time of crisis. We have heard the comments from my colleagues inside Parliament and from Jamaicans of all walks of life.  Some more shrill than others, some more understanding of the predicament that the country faces and some, I must say quite frankly, were more concerned with self than with the national interest.  

I will certainly be taking on board all the comments and suggestions that recognize the nature of the crisis that we are in and the kind of action that is required to take us out. In the final analysis Jamaica can only be saved by collective effort and we must use every opportunity to begin building national consensus.

Mr. Speaker, the burden of my presentation was to bring to the attention of every Jamaican the fact that we are in a DEEP CRISIS, and it will take a paradigm shift in how we conduct our business as a nation. And it will take a sustained effort to take us out of this crisis. For example, it is a sad commentary on our collective efforts to resolve national issues, that some 40 years after the first oil price shock in 1973, we are still reliant on a volatile supply of oil to produce 95% of our energy. 

Let me once again remind all in this Honourable House and the country at large, that our present debt stock of US$8.6 Billion or J$1.7 Trillion is UNTENABLE.

 

As I stated before, Mr. Speaker, this means that every man, woman and child in Jamaica, including the newly born owe approximately $600,000.00 each. Mr. Speaker, I think we should recognize that the build up of debt over the years is a reflection in large measure of the deficiencies of our politics.

Mr. Speaker, it could be said that except for the sterling efforts made in the early 1990s and again in the early part of this century, to pay down the debt, the political system as a whole has not demonstrated the resolve required to reduce Jamaica’s national debt to manageable levels.

As a consequence, Mr. Speaker, our per capita income, i.e., GDP per capita, is today the same as it was in 1973.  Over the past forty years, the economy has grown at an average rate of less than 1 per cent per annum.  In effect, we have lost four decades and we have sought to compensate for our failure to achieve effective growth with an insatiable appetite for borrowing.  So while our per capita GDP is the same as it was in 1973, our debt to GDP has grown seven times; that is, 700% – Debt to GDP was 18% in 1973 – today it is 128% of GDP. 

Mr. Speaker, despite a few positive indications, particularly from the Opposition Spokesman on Finance, we still have not grasped the opportunity in this House to face squarely the predicament of the country. 

 

APPROPRIATIONS IN AID

It is against this background that I welcome the proposal from the Opposition Spokesman on Finance with regard to the Appropriations in Aid. I am in agreement with his observation that at the present time there are too many funds operating outside of the purview of the Consolidated Fund. Mr. Speaker, my own view is that the PAAC should be asked to examine their operations and make recommendations to the House as to how these can be rationalized.

Having made such a positive contribution I was somewhat disappointed to hear the Opposition Spokesman on Finance express the view that he is not obligated to provide alternatives. But the truth Mr. Speaker is that we will sink together if we do not collectively find alternatives to the way we have been conducting our affairs. Somewhere along the line the Parliament as a whole, will find that it is imperative to find common cause in moving our debt on a downward path if we are to survive as a country.

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