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Audley says Gov't hiding arrears

Published:Wednesday | April 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter

Opposition spokesman on Finance Audley Shaw has accused the Government of stuffing its bills into "the arrears bag", giving the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the impression it is living within its means.

Shaw yesterday took a swipe at his counterpart, Dr Peter Phillips, challenging the accuracy of his statement when he said: "By living within our means, the country maintained a primary surplus of 7.5 per cent but was also able to achieve a fiscal surplus. Our revenues covered all recurrent expenditure, including interest costs."

Responding to this comment during his contribution to the 2014-2015 Budget Debate in Gordon House yesterday, Shaw said: "No, Minister. Revenues do not cover all recurrent expenditure, not when this Government has arrears of $47.87 billion or $51.92 billion owing to businesses and individuals. By your own figures, $4.1 billion occurred in the last 90 days."

Arrears ignored

Shaw stressed that the expenditure budget had been prepared ignoring the build-up of arrears or late payments.

He questioned: "Why is the IMF turning a blind eye to this worsening situation?"

He said: "This failure, which is now in many cases in excess of 365 days, is wreaking havoc with the ability of small businesses to be able to afford to remain as suppliers to the Government."

And Shaw castigated the South East Regional Health Authority (SERHA) for not paying over sums deducted from public servants' salaries to insurance companies, credit unions, and financial institutions.

"Payments have not been made, in some instances, from October last year. So this is almost six months' arrears for those people, placing their credit and their welfare on the line."

He also reported that members of the medical profession only received part payment of their salaries in March this year. He said gratuities due for over one year had not been paid.