Thu | Sep 24, 2020

Letter of the Day | Another failing Budget. Sigh!

Published:Tuesday | March 24, 2020 | 12:29 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

WE OFTEN talk about a national Budget as a moral document. It is one that outlines the priorities of a country. If we are planning on ending poverty, advancing economic opportunities, addressing income inequalities, salaries, housing and employment in Jamaica, our Budget ought to reflect those values.

A Budget is a powerful tool. It affects the lives of every Jamaican citizen. Sadly, this current administration has failed to adequately prepare a serious and impactful Budget for our citizens in this beloved country, Jamaica.

As I listened to Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, I laud his efforts in bringing down the general consumption tax by 1.5 per cent. This is commendable and citizens wish to even see it being even lower.

I also praise his efforts in giving students who may borrow funds from the Students’ Loan Bureau adequate time for repayment after graduation. Such a move deserves commendations. However, that still does not adequately solve the problems of our students who cannot find a guarantor. Behind this curtain, I say abolish the guarantor system completely!

THE WEAKNESSES

While having a few strengths, the weaknesses in the Budget far outweigh them. A serious analysis of the Budget sees a blind eye being turned on our teachers, doctors, police, tertiary students, our farmers, small and medium-sized enterprises and, even more painfully, our citizens who find it most difficult to survive in such stifling economy.

The Government has boasted in its 2016 campaign manifesto that Jamaica will achieve five per cent growth in four years. Have we buried that growth? Or is it still forthcoming? We are now in year four – fiscal year 2020-21. The Budget presented by this administration is out of touch with the growth realities of Jamaica, which only experience 1.5 per cent growth in year four. This is way beyond the country’s capacity to grow, yet there was a hype around Jamaica achieving five per cent growth in four years.

The Budget does not adequately address Jamaica’s crime rate that has been plaguing our country, despite us being told that citizens could have slept with their doors opened.

BLINDED AREAS

The current Budget does not address areas such as:

1. The overcrowded and underequipped health system. It is evident that the Budget was prepared without consideration for this coronavirus crisis.

2. The surging food prices becoming increasingly unaffordable.

3. Rising petrol prices.

4. Real unemployment (the majority of those unemployed are within the BPO and construction sectors, or those engaged in car washing, street sweeping, vending and window-wiping).

5. Corruption, including nepotism and cronyism.

6. Crime and violence.

7. High levels of tertiary dropouts among students due to account arrears.

8. Environment and climate change.

9. Agriculture and commerce.

It is evidently clear that this administration’s Budget does not adequately reflect those urgent areas that need serious addressing. It is also clear that the Budget is another failing one! The Budget does not lend hope to the marginalised. It does not lend hope to the tertiary students. It does not lend hope for the emerging professionals. It does not offer true relief for the poor and less privileged.

There is a better way that provides meaningful, inclusive growth! There’s a better way!

DYLAN ASHMAN

dylan_ashman@yahoo.com