Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
IN HIS usual animated style, Opposition Spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw yesterday said his counterpart, Dr Peter Phillips, was "tinkering and fiddling" with the business of the country, charging that he had failed to pursue courageous fundamental and game-changing action" that was needed to take Jamaica forward at this time.
Earlier, Shaw's commendation of Phillips' "fairly accurate analysis" of the economic plight facing the country appeared to have taken some by surprise, as parliamentarians paused, in a moment of silence, to hear his succeeding comments.
Shaw wasted no time in critiquing the finance minister's Budget Debate presentation, arguing that Phillips should know that good doctors not only diagnosed a problem but were also expected to prescribe the right medicine.
In his contribution to the 2012-2013 Budget Debate in Gordon House yesterday, Shaw charged that the finance minister defined the problem but went on to prescribe "half-measures and vague timelines for achieving critical benchmarks".
He accused the Portia Simpson Miller administration of failing to produce a coherent plan to achieve gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
Phillips, in making his opening presentation to the Budget Debate last week, said the administration was targeting a one per cent growth for the current fiscal year. For the medium term, growth numbers were set to move up to just under two per cent.
"For instance, on tax and pension reform, he promised that these are to be brought to Parliament 'before we rise for the summer recess, to be deliberated on'," Shaw pointed out yesterday.
However, he reasoned that after a nearly two-month delay in the start of the Budget Debate, the administration should have tabled a white paper on tax reform, allowing it to take centrestage in the current debate.
He said the Government has instead fed the country with a "buffet-style helping" of a few selected items from the tax reform proposals.
The opposition spokesman on finance said bold decisions could have garnered economic stimulus. However, he argued that the administration has not presented a stimulus Budget but has unleashed "potential toxic shocks to remaining sectors of the economy that have been the lifeblood of our economic recovery including tourism, agriculture, small businesses telecommunications and business process outsourcing."