Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Gov't could face obstacle in getting approval for budget

Published:Monday | March 13, 2017 | 3:04 PM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, accompanied by his wife and other members of parliament, enters the Parliament building.

The Andrew Holness administration could run into difficulties to get parliamentary approval for the budget for the 2017/2018 fiscal year.

That is because of the absence of St Andrew North Western Member of Parliament Derrick Smith, who is ill and overseas.

A source in the Jamaica Labour Party told The Gleaner that while Smith is "recovering well", his return to the House of Representatives has not been confirmed.

The source, however, says the return is expected "shortly".

The debate on the Appropriation Bill (the budget) is scheduled to end March 22 and under fiscal rules, the budget must be passed by April 1.

If Smith remains absent, that reduces the Government's number to 31- the same as the Opposition. However, only 30 members of the government would be allowed to vote as the house speaker, under the standing orders, is only permitted to a cast vote to break a tie.

The Opposition People's National Party has described the tax package to fund the budget as "unconscionable and a betrayal of the trust of the people in their Government".

That posture has led to questions about whether the Opposition will call for a divide and possibly prevent approval of the Budget.

Phillip Paulwell, the leader of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives, told The Gleaner this afternoon that the issue will be discussed at a meeting, now under way, of Opposition members of parliament.