Senate approves 2019/20 Budget

Opposition hammers Government on corruption

By Balford Henry
Senior staff reporter

Saturday, March 23, 2019

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THE Senate yesterday gave the 2019/20 estimates of expenditure the final stamp of approval, after a lengthy debate at Gordon House.

Unlike the debate in the House of Representatives last week, when Government members were enthusiastically thumping the desk as Minister of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke announced improved spending on social and economic issues as well as “give back” to taxpayers, this time the Opposition waged a relentless attack on corruption which effectively ignored the budget goodies.

The debate lasted more than three hours, primarily due to Opposition senators K D Knight and Lambert Brown's prolonged scolding of the Government on the reports about corrupt practices affecting both the Petrojam oil refinery, and the sudden departure of Minister of Education, Youth and Information Ruel Reid, late this week.

Senator Knight insisted that the Government would have to go, and criticised the suggestion from Government Senator Pearnel Charles Jnr that the budget signalled that “a new Jamaica is emerging”.

“This Government has to go. It has to go, and it is going to go in one of two ways: It is either going to remove itself, or the people going to remove it,” Knight said.

“It is not even like Robin Hood: Robin Hood robbed from the rich to give to the poor, but these people are robbing from the poor to enrich themselves,” he claimed.

After Government Senator Charles Sinclair raised a point of order, Knight explained that he was not only addressing public officials from the Jamaica Labour Party on corrupt practices, but also from his own People's National Party.

He was supported by Brown, who insisted that there were more issues involving the departure of the former education minister, which were in the public domain and which Prime Minister Andrew Holness would have to address if the matter is to go to rest.

“JAG Smith shouldn't have to be the last one to go to prison,” Brown insisted.

However, Government senators Sinclair, Aubyn Hill and Kavan Gayle joined with Charles in insisting that yesterday's debate was not to deal with the issue of corruption, but the budget and its promise for creating a better Jamaica.

The Government senators insisted that the country was moving in the right direction, in terms of improving the economy and creating a better climate for growth and development, while trying to address other issues such as corruption.

“This is the emergence of a new Jamaica,” Senator Charles said, noting that domestic interest rates were at levels never before experienced in Jamaica, as the Bank of Jamaica lowered its policy rates four times down for 2018/19.

“These record low interest rates are allowing individuals and Jamaican businesses to borrow, so that they can accomplish their goals and their dreams,” Senator Charles said.

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