Wed | Apr 1, 2020

Budget without hope, Phillips tells Regional Council

Published:Thursday | February 27, 2020 | 12:16 AM

People’s National Party (PNP) President Dr Peter Phillips has criticised the $853-million Budget for 2020-21 as offering Jamaicans no hope that major crises facing the nation will be meaningfully tackled.

Speaking at the Regional Executive Council meeting for PNP Region Three at Jacisera Park, St Andrew, on Sunday, Phillips said that the allocation to the Ministry of National security was less this year than for the previous term.

Nominally, the Government carved out $1.7 billion more for the Ministry of National Security for fiscal year 2020-21 compared to the allocation the previous year, but capital spending will fall by $4 billion.

“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,” said the party president.

“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.”

Phillips, who is also the leader of the Opposition, said that the Ministry of Education’s budget for the new fiscal year did not keep pace with inflation in real terms.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has been allocated $117 billion for recurrent expenses and $1.4 billion for capital spending.

The party president also chastised the Government for engaging in gimmickry while failing to curb a spike in violent crime.

Murders have risen by 10 per cent year-on-year, with homicides topping 210 up to midnight Tuesday. At least six people were killed on Tuesday, with all but one murder occurring in police divisions under states of emergency.

Though most divisions under SOEs have seen a fall in murders, violent crime has surged in others.

Phillips also castigated the Holness administration for not putting a lid on a spate of violent incidents in Jamaican schools, with videos going viral of fights among students. Several teachers, principals and deans of discipline have also come under attack from students and parents.

“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,” he lamented.

The PNP president said that the education system needed urgent attention with hundreds of teachers leaving the classroom annually. Almost 400 have exited since last September.

“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,” Phillips told supporters.