At the risk of being asked to declare whether we are patriotic or enemies of the state, The Gavel is today calling attention to the shambolic state of our public finances and the lacklustre manner in which the Parliament has been attending to the people's business.
No wonder we are most disappointed in the delay in the tabling of the first Supplementary Budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, as a most indicative pointer as to the state of the country's finances.
This revised Budget, which the Government had said would have been tabled last week, will be laid on the table of the House on Tuesday, Phillip Paulwell, the Leader of Government Business, has stated.
We can't wait to see the revised Budget, and we hope Dr Peter Phillips, the minister of finance and the public service, will take the opportunity to tell the country why he and members of the Cabinet seem bent on breaking Einstein's golden rule - doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results. The last time we checked, any expectation of achieving different results was called lunacy.
Phillips, with the benefit of all the figures before him, has committed to raising the country's primary surplus in the next Budget from six per cent this year, which will be missed, to 7.5 per cent.
RUNNING BEHIND PROJECTION
Now, considering the fact that the latest data out of the finance ministry are showing revenue running $14.5 billion behind projection, seeking to further burden Jamaicans with a combination of more taxes and reduced government spending next year is almshouse business.
Let us recall that Parliament last year heaped $23 billion in new taxes on the backs of Jamaicans. And if the Government is to increase the primary surplus from 6.3 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 7.5 per cent next fiscal year, it would mean moving from $83 billion to nearly $100 billion.
Let us also place into context the fact that at the end of December 2012, the primary surplus was $39 billion, $6.7 billion behind the $45.811 budgeted target.
This all seems like a recipe for higher poverty rates, and perhaps social upheaval.
While the warning bells of an economic tsunami are going off, the Economy and Production Committee of the House has fallen asleep.
We had so much hope that Gregory Mair's chairmanship would have led to the committee doing some work at last. But aside from one housekeeping meeting, it has been postponement after postponement. Perhaps we thought too highly of Mair, as his shoulders are not even strong enough to carry scrap metal.
And it is not just the Economy and Production Committee that's wasting time. We see where the tax committee has remained comatose, notwithstanding the same Parliament amending the rules to include that committee in the budgetary process.
REPORTING ON TAX MEASURES
Under the revised Standing Orders, the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) has been mandated to receive a mid-year report on medium-term economic programmes that must be tabled by the minister of finance.
Having received the report from the minister, the PAAC, not later than February 1 each year, must report its findings to the Committee on Tax Measures.
The Committee on Tax Measures is empowered to invite stakeholders to make presentations before it. A report must be sent to the entire House by March 1 each year.
It is now February 4 and no such report has reached the PAAC. Yet, Phillips will, in April, if the Budget is not late again, read out a list of taxes to be imposed on Jamaicans, and the Parliament will vote for it, even not knowing how taxes performed in the just-concluded fiscal year.
The state of the people's business cries out for attention and the Parliament is falling down on the job.
Send feedback to email@example.com.