Debates on Dominica's 1996/97 Budget

Opposition Leader says 1996/97 Budget is vague and empty

Dominica's Opposition leader Rosie Douglas, responding to the 1996/97 Budget, wants Finance Minister Julius Timothy to explain what he considers several unclear areas in the EC$333 million "so called" IMF budget presented to parliament by the Minister, on Wednesday 24 June, 1996. He labeled the 1996/97 fiscal package as vague, lacking any real plan to get the economy moving.

"This budget doesn't say enough. In fact, it says very we are going to stimulate the economy...without the stimulation of the economy, we will be in problems with the IMF and...with everybody," Douglas said in his hour long presentation.

The Dominica Government in February this year, negotiated a US$7 million structural adjustment programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), that Finance Minister Timothy in his presentation of the budget, said is aimed at "setting an approach to a consensus driven, homegrown...adjustment programme." He projected an $18 million increase in recurrent revenues for the new fiscal year. The IMF is demanding a cut back on spending and an increase in revenue by $9 million.

Mr. Douglas believes bold and innovative action is necessary to correct the island's fiscal imbalances. The fiscal deficit on recurrent spending is $12 million. He is not confident that the James Administration is prepared to satisfy the IMF and the Dominican people in its budget.

Prime minister Edison James told Parliament in his presentation, that the Finance Minister has presented a realistic budget and a home grown one at that Mr. James said it was also a budget with the blessing of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"It is a feature of the environment in which we operate now that most of the aid donors want to know that you have the IMF blessing on your aid programmes in order for them to come in and assist you," he said.

Attorney General Anthony Laronde

The Dominica Government is taking steps to deal with complains that the legal system here is not equip to handle the backlog of cases in the magistrates court, and the long wait for certificate(s) and others, at the registrar. In effort to address the public complains, the government has to appointment two registrars and a deputy registrar who will also serve as a magistrate.

These were among plans announced by Attorney General Anthony Laronde, during his continuation of debate on the 1996-97 budget in Parliament on Thursday. He in-spite of past attempts to address the problem by increasing the courts sessions held in rural courts, this did little to improve the situation, since the serious clog in the system was mainly in the Roseau courts and to a lesser extent the Saint Joseph court. "Other steps which are being taken to alleviate the backlog problem is the setting up of three functional magistrates court in Roseau, and increasing the magistracy to include four qualified magistrates," said Mr. Laronde.

The Attorney-General added that assistance is also being sought from the Australian government for two retired judges, while government was paying its debts in order to be able to apply to the Chief Justice for the appointment of an additional judge to Dominica. He also disclosed plans for the computerisation of the magistrate court and the office of the Director of Public Prosecution. "Repair work on the rural courts is another area expected to receive attention," said the Anthony General.

Mr. Laronde explained that these developments were all in aid of improved operations of the legal system office arrangements and accommodation for the Director of Public Prosecutions. In aid of the work load at the Registry, Mister Laronde said a computerisation project has been put back on stream there, and with government plans to go into areas like offshore banking, the addition of another registrar will be necessary.

Hon. Urban Baron

Calling for bold action to deal with Dominica's economic problems, and uplift the country, was Opposition Parliamentarian Urban Baron as take government to task on aspects of the budget which he believes does not add up. In his contributing to the Budget Debate on Thursday, he said that the government's 1996-'97 estimates, lacked cohesion. However, he gave support for aspects of government spending for purposes such as the provision of additional magistrates, but the M.P. said he required an explanation for government's spending in other areas.

The MP for the Petite Savanne Constituency Urban Baron, complained that projections for capital projects were vague, and gave the government some suggestions to deal with this problem. He said that were the clearing of a backlog of re-funds to tax payers by the Inland Revenue Department, and for farmers income to be made tax- free with the suspension of the banana levy.

Citing what he saw as discrepancies in the budget, Mr. Baron said he did not believe that the measures proposed would allow government to achieve fiscal balance but instead continue to affect the country's chances for obtaining 'concessionary' lending.

While he complimented government for the start of work on the Petite Savanne-Delice road, as a plus for his constituency, Mr. Baron said this meant that farmers from the areas were looking forward to the development of the Bay-oil industry. He called on government to put the Bay-oil industry on a sound footing, and appealed for management and market assistance through to the Dominica Essential Oil and Spices Cooperative and to explore the possibility of the production of finished products from bay- oil such as soaps and perfumes. "River works, public conveniences, roads, water supplies and other areas in my constituency requiring urgent attention the MP said.

Minister Of Finance Julius Timothy

Finance Minister Julius Timothy on Friday 12 July, wound up debate on the 1996-'97 national budget providing some details on industrial and hotel development projects, as he ending three days of contributions to the debate by parliamentarians, Mr. Timothy said among hotel developments which had been approved in the past year included a nineteen room guest house in Roseau, a thirty-two room hotel at Picard Portsmouth, a twelve room Sunset Bay Club at Batalie, a twelve-unit villa facility, a five room guest house at Picard, and an eleven unit Appartel at Canefield.

In the industrial sector, the Minister listed the Winera carton manufacturing plant at Jimmit now in operation, the expansion of Nature Island Foods, Tropicrafts screen printing operations and watersports business Rent-a-Jet.

The Finance Minister said extension of concessions had been granted to a number of institutions for a various purposes including the acquisition of equipment, refurbishing and extensions. He summarised the developments saying "within the last year a lot was achieved in the hotel and industry fabric of the country," and added that new businesses, including ambitious ones in the informatics sector were expected to come on stream in the coming year.

The Minister pointed to developments in the industrial sector include the, "The Companies Act" to be operational by August first and the taxation of real estate activities. He said the level of economic development depends on the level of development in the banana industry, and that farmers confidence had been restored together with several access road developments planned government was making more land available to farmers.

Prime Minister Edison James

"A home-grown budget which has the blessings of the I.M.F." and the successful implementation of which will require political stability and the cooperation of all Dominicans, says Prime Minister Edison James on Friday 12, as he outlined some of the planned programmes for the various government departments which fall under his responsibility. He said in the area of training and establishment, people are at the heart of development and some 195 public officers had received training during the course of the past year.

Computer training, stenotyping, auditing, finance and public sector management are some of the area which received advance training. He added that there was an identified weakness in middle management of the public service which government intends to work on. The PM went to say that there was intervention on a timely basis where there was the possibility of things going out of hand.

The Prime Minister told Parliament that foreign policy has to be reviewed because of global changes taken place. In addition foreign policy also has to be driven by trade and investment considerations.

According to Mr. James, non-Commonwealth countries are an important source of funding, with the European Union being a major source of financial assistance. Government has taken decisions to strengthen Dominica's position in Europe and Washington, and an ambassador functionary will be appointed in Washington who will also serve Dominica at the O.A.S., said the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister said, in Dominica, the government was seeking to restructure and strengthen government's position for external relations. Because importance will have to be placed on a relationship with Asia, and two persons were being sent to Taiwan on scholarships for studies in Chinese language and Asian Affairs.

At the regional level, the Dominica Prime Minister said there is a new determination to achieve a single market and economy within the shortest possible time and the need to inform people of the details and requirements. Government along with its counterparts will be embarking on a public information exercise, he said.

In terms of police and security, "there will be training of additional police and work will be done on the Portsmouth police station and equipping of the fire service will be addressed" says Mr. James.

Hon. Charles Maynard

When Opposition Parliamentarian Charles Maynard took the floor for his contribution on the debate, he urged that fellow parliamentarians should develop a greater degree of camaraderie. He said all parliamentarians had contributed to a poor public image of the House and of politicians in general, and would like see personal attacks by parliamentarians on each other cease. He emphases that the country requires all the talent it can get.

Turning his comments to the budget, Mr. Maynard said he would like to see a budget which reflects the real situation. "realistically not everything that was budgeted for would materialize and that as far as budgets go, it was a usual occurrence to see measures and projects repeated in budgets, he said.

Mr. Maynard who is the Parliamentary Representative for the Soufriere Constituency, commenting on the implementation of user fees, said, the intention was to have that system work along with a National Health Insurance programme. He believed this was necessary because of anticipated collection difficulties.

The hospital user fees were first introduced under the Freedom Party Government, but was never implemented. It became law on 1st July, 1996 under the United Workers Party Government.

According to Mr. Maynard, with a National Health Insurance Scheme, the burden of payment would not directly fall on individuals but would be shared. He added that he would like to see a direct relationship between the user fees collected and the Ministry of Health.

Mr. Maynard ended his contribution by reminding Parliament that is his constituency, the Soufriere-Scott's Head road was in need of urgent attention.

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Created: Tuesday, July 23, 1996, 7:51:44 AM Last Updated: Tuesday, July 23, 1996, 7:51:44 AM