2020-21 budget hopeless, says Phillips


2020-21 budget hopeless, says Phillips

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

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Days before the Standing Finance Committee of Parliament is slated to begin its examination of the 2020-2021 Estimates of Expenditure, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips has signalled that his side of the aisle is not satisfied with the spending plans outlined by the Andrew Holness Administration.

Phillips, the president of the People's National Party (PNP), told cheering supporters on Sunday that the budget, recently tabled in Parliament, offers the country no hope that any of the major crises facing the nation will be tackled in any meaningful way.

Speaking at the PNP's Regional Three Executive Council meeting in St Andrew, Phillips noted that the allocation to the Ministry of National Security is less for the 2020/21 fiscal year than it was for last year.

“If you are seriously going to tackle crime it is going to need a sustained commitment of financial and human resources over many years for us to overcome the challenges of crime and violence engulfing the country.

“And we don't see any signs in the budget that the Government is aware that such a commitment is required, neither are we seeing any move to deal with crime on the social side,” said Phillips.

The budget for the new fiscal year sees just over $78 billion allocated for the housekeeping, or recurrent expenses, of the national security ministry, up from $76.2 billion last year.

But on the capital side the almost $20 billion allocated for last year has been reduced to $15.9 billion for 2020/2021. The big cut is in the amount allocated for military defence which moved from $12.5 billion in the revised estimated for the soon-to-end fiscal year to $9.1 billion in the new year, reflecting a reduction in the fixed assets to be purchased by the Jamaica Defence Force.

Phillips also told the Comrades that the budget for the Ministry of Education's is not in line with inflation in real terms as it is smaller this year than it was last year.

The education ministry is allocated $114 billion in the new estimates of expenditure for its recurrent expenditure, up from $109 billion this year, and $1.4 billion for its capital budget up from for $1.2 billion.

According to Phillips, there is nothing in the budget to give the nation a sense that all the major issues facing the country are going to be dealt with.

The Opposition leader charged that the Government continues to engage in gimmickry while blood continues to run day after day.

He urged Jamaicans to cooperate with the security forces, “as we must stand firmly against the virus of violence which has almost taken over our country and is showing up in our schools”.

Phillips added: “If you go to school as a teacher, you spend half your time dealing with violence. Who is going to want to teach? You fear for your own safety to go to school and when you get to school, you fear for your own safety again. And there is no reaction from the minister of education, who is the prime minister.

“You have a minister [in charge of education] in place with no power and the minister with the power is silent, and the teachers are leaving in droves,” charged Phillips.

He argued the education system needs urgent attention as hundreds of teachers have left the sector in a single year, and echoed concerns raised by president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association Owen Speid that many teachers who are now on leave are unlikely to return to the classrooms.

“It is a simple equation, if you have disciplined schools with disciplined students learning, you will have a disciplined society with smart workers able to deliver high-quality jobs, earning high-quality wages.

“Mark my word, what you are going see is a whole lot of 'bollo work' trying to buy an election rather than any effort to solve the problems of the country,” declared Phillips.

— Arthur Hall

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